A chance to join Newcastle’s new compassionate community

LET'S TALK: Death doula Lola Rus-Hartland is encouraging residents to attend the Newcastle Compassionate Communities Forum. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts
LET'S TALK: Death doula Lola Rus-Hartland is encouraging residents to attend the Newcastle Compassionate Communities Forum. Picture: Ellie-Marie Watts

Lola Rus-Hartland is very familiar with death.

As one of the Hunter’s few death doulas, she has helped many people with the dying process by carrying out their final wishes and helping loved ones grieve and cope with the loss.

Slowly Ms Rus-Hartland is helping to show individuals and communities there are different ways to approach dying, that it does not have to be done in a hospital bed, and that people should not be afraid to talk about end of life.

“Death and dying has become institutionalised,” the Tenambit resident said. “We’re no longer familiar with it like we used to be, and people have a great fear about it.

“We’re now under the impression that there’s a cure or a solution for everything rather than embracing death as part of life.

“Because of this a lot of people are unprepared for it, or don’t plan for it. They don’t want to talk about it.”

To help spark conversations about death and dying, Ms Rus-Hartland has joined the Newcastle Compassionate Community and is inviting residents to join her.

Compassionate Communities is a global movement that promotes a community approach to end of life care –  where caring for one another at times of need, loss and/or crisis becomes the task and responsibility of everyone.

Supported by Primary Health Network Hunter New England and Central Coast, Newcastle was chosen by The Groundswell Project to become one of eight hubs to host the movement.

“Newcastle is known as a caring, resourceful community with a long history of successful partnerships across sectors of the community,” Holly Rankin-Smith from Groundswell Project said. 

“It's these features that really made Newcastle a stand out choice to be part of this.” 

"Death and dying has become institutionalised. We’re no longer familiar with it like we used to be, and people have a great fear about it."

"Death and dying has become institutionalised. We’re no longer familiar with it like we used to be, and people have a great fear about it."

The Newcastle Compassionate Community has rapidly gained support from groups such as Renew Newcastle, Cancer Council NSW, University of Newcastle, 

Newcastle Grief Collective, End of Life Care Services, John Hunter Hospital, Calvary Mater Newcastle and various other independent community members such as Ms Rus-Hartland.

To attract more people to the community and to have a conversation about the needs of Newcastle’s sick, dying, bereaved and carers, a forum opened to all will be held at Wests New Lambton on Wednesday, November 14 between 6pm and 9pm.

“To meet the increasing need as our population ages we need a public health approach,” Ms Rankin-Smith said. 

“That's what this forum is all about – exploring the possibilities of this movement in different social and geographical settings so we can learn from the successes and challenges and encourage other communities to come together and reclaim responsibility to live well right up until the end of our days. I'm excited to see what Newcastle brings to the forum.” 

The forum is free but registrations are encouraged. Search ‘Newcastle Compassionate Communities Forum’ on eventbrite.com.au.

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