Palliative Care NSW Volunteer Support Services Programme
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2016: The year that was

During 2016 we farewelled the Toronto based volunteer service Westlakes Palliative Volunteers Group and their Coordinator Helen Harvie. Westlakes started in 1987 and continued as an entirely volunteer-led activity until April this year when their committee decided to cease operations. Westlakes, we salute you.

Across the state about 9 of the 40 or so palliative care volunteer managers moved onto other opportunities and we welcomed almost as many new ones. This turnover represents about 22% of all palliative care volunteer manager positions in NSW.

Among those we welcomed are Kylie Clark (WSLHD), Carolyn Wilkinson (NBMLHD), Ellen Smith (CCLHD), Tina Pidcock (Cancer Council Hunter), Roberta Andrews (Coffs Harbour), Lynette Nilsson (Port Macquarie), Susan Brooks (HammondCare), Edit Soks (Orange) and Katherine Lee (Goulburn).

As the new Convenor of the NSW Network of Managers of Palliative Care Volunteer Services Sarah Potter (Westmead Children’s) took a deep breath and started the organising committee for the 2017 NSW Palliative Care Volunteer Conference to be held in Maitland on the 19th of May.

Shoalhaven volunteer June Spurr was awarded a silver medal at the Australia Day Citizen of the Year awards. Concord palliative care volunteer Bernadette Gallagher was awarded an OAM for her services to palliative care volunteering. Tweed Palliative Support President and volunteer manager Meredith Dennis was an Australian of the Year finalist. Twelve palliative care volunteers from Port Kembla Hospital won the Volunteer Team of the Year in the regional awards in Wollongong.

Volunteers and talented writers Heidi Hodder and Donna MacKenzie will both have their volunteer stories published in the book ‘The Changing Face of Volunteering in Hospice and Palliative Care: An International Perspective’ out next year.

New service initiatives emerged at Western Sydney LHD, Tamworth (NorthWest Church) and Newcastle (Cancer Council Hunter).

Our Volunteer Support Services Programme published on VolunteerHub studies on the role of volunteers in palliative care in NSW, including those in other volunteer groups like meals on wheels (Bowman, 2016) and the role of community hospice as a volunteer-led initiative (Huntir, 2016). In order to learn from past mistakes we studied the struggle to implement a palliative care volunteer initiative in the bush (Huntir, 2016) and we also sought the views of Service Development Officers across NSW about palliative care volunteers (Flood & Huntir, 2016) to see if they could offer a different perspective or new insights into the future of palliative care volunteering.

And in October the Broken Hill palliative care volunteers were instrumental in making the PCNSW Conference a big success. So it is fitting that the closing thought for the year goes to Minister for Health Jillian Skinner who speaking at the Conference about the Broken Hill volunteers could have been speaking about all palliative care volunteers “The volunteers in this service are absolutely incredible and I have nothing but the greatest respect for what they do.

Pic – James Daley, Palliative Care CNC and organiser of the Western NSW LHD Volunteer Workshop in August warms up before the day gets underway.

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