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Compassionate Communities

What is a Compassionate Community?

Compassionate Communities is an international movement which recognises that care for one another at times of crisis and loss is not simply a task solely for health and social services. Rather, it is everyone’s responsibility.

The Compassionate Communities approach builds capacity within individual communities to support people approaching the end of their lives. This public health approach not only applies to palliative care, but also ageing and all those living with a disability or a life-limiting condition.

Establishing a Compassionate Community requires a rethink about how care can be provided to people who are dying, with a focus on developing a network of care to support the person with a terminal illness and their carers.

The specifics of how a Compassionate Community works is different in every location, as the concept is tailored to harness existing resources and strengths to meet local needs.

What is PCWA’s role?

Each year, about 15,000 people die in our state, and it is estimated this number will almost double in the next 25 years. This will place increasing demand on the provision of end-of-life care, which can in part, be met by communities.

The Compassionate Communities movement is in its very early stages in WA, so our work is focussed on building capacity to help get the concept off the ground.

PCWA’s focus at this early stage is on:

  • identifying community groups and organisations that have a potential role in the movement and helping them to understand what they could do to support their community members at the end of life.
  • building partnerships between these community groups and organisations and enhancing partnerships that already exist.
  • coordinating training and professional development opportunities to support existing community projects and to build their capacity.

As Compassionate Communities are established, PCWA will:

  • help them develop and implement their own charter or guidelines, based on their individual community’s strengths, existing resources and needs.
  • showcase and link Compassionate Community projects, facilitating shared learning opportunities.
  • provide easy access to international and Australian resources to support the formation of Compassionate Communities in WA.

What has PCWA contributed so far?

As a champion, knowledge-base and steward of good practice, PCWA has contributed to developing local Compassionate Communities in the following ways:

  • Compassionate Communities Network WA

PCWA established the Compassionate Communities Network WA to champion and identify local opportunities for the development of compassionate communities. The network shares information and resources and supports communities that are interested in developing a whole-of-community, place-based approach to palliative and end-of-life care. Email Vicki Barry to become involved and subscribe to newsletters for regular updates.

  • Compassionate Communities Symposium

PCWA coordinated a regional Compassionate Communities Symposium in Bunbury and Perth in 2017 to generate local interest and build momentum in WA. The symposiums provided a shared understanding of the concept and key principles of Compassionate Communities for service providers, clinicians, practitioners, social workers, researchers, community development officers and educators across health, aged care, disability, government and community sector organisations.

  • Compassionate Communities masterclass

PCWA and The GroundSwell Project present this one-day Perth masterclass in Compassionate Communities on 1 June 2018. It features keynote speaker Dr Julian Abel, who is Director of Compassionate Communities UK. The event is designed for people who champion the Compassionate Community model and are well placed to take action.

  • Age Friendly Communities Professional Development Day

PCWA business development manager Vicki Barry presented on Compassionate Communities at the Age Friendly Communities Professional Development Day in Perth’s City of Melville, building local knowledge of the concept and the difference it can make.

What Compassionate Community projects are running in WA?

National projects

  • Greater Choice for At Home Palliative Care

The Country WA Primary Health Network is one of 10 PHNs implementing the Greater Choice for At Home Palliative Care measure.

About 90% of people at the end of life prefer to be cared for and to die comfortably at home. This federally funded project aims to improve coordination and integration of palliative care across primary, secondary, tertiary and community health services to support at home palliative care for those that choose it.

This project will enhance the informal care networks of people requiring palliative care and identify ways to connect formal health care services, information and social supports. It will identify the type of patients who may benefit from early engagement with palliative care, mapping their formal and informal networks and building community capacity to support people at the end-of-life.

  • National Compassionate Communities Forum

The South West Compassionate Community Network is one of eight national GroundBreaker communities which collectively form the National Compassionate Communities Forum. The forum will seek to explore the challenges, successes and viability of the Compassionate Communities approach in Australia. Email for further information.

Community-based projects

  • River Angels

Since September 2011 the River Angels has supported families affected by cancer who live in Margaret River. Local volunteers help with day-to-day living, assisting with cooking, cleaning, babysitting, gardening, ironing and handyman chores.


Our resources page has useful links and resources related to Compassionate Communities.

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