National Palliative Care Week 2015

I thank the member for Wakefield and those other members who have spoken on this motion this morning. It is a very important topic. It is a challenging topic, but it is very important that we do have a conversation about palliative care and end-of-life care. The theme for this year's national palliative care week is 'Dying to talk: talking about dying won't kill you.' 

This week is all about trying to normalise death and dying. Palliative Care Australia wants to get the conversation started on many questions. How do you want to be cared for? What values are important to you? That is really important to stress: what are the values important to you at the end of your life? What do you want when you die? Have you considered if you wish to be buried or cremated? Do you want to pass away at home or in a hospice? The previous member said that the majority of Australians want to pass away in their homes. It is wonderful that they do. It is a wish that most Australians would have. Unfortunately, at the end of life, particularly on the pain-management front, people need to be in a hospice environment in order to ensure that their last days, weeks and months are as comfortable and pain-free as possible. Quite often, they do need that care in a hospice environment. Also, have you established a power of attorney?

The aim of National Palliative Care Week is to promote the week, the important messages about palliative care and the value of palliative care to the health system and our community. It is also important to ensure our expectations and those of our loved ones are met in the final stages of our lives. This is particularly the case when it comes to organ donation. Members here would know that I have been a keen advocate of organ and tissue donation for many years. In fact, in my first term, I set up the Parliamentary Friendship Group for Organ and Tissue Donation.

Having been on the Gift of Life board as a volunteer director, before this life here, I know that people were very confronted by the whole notion of organ and tissue donation. They were confronted by actually having a conversation about what they wanted to do with their organs and tissue in the event of their death. One of the big issues was the fact that people shied away from discussion because of the so-called ick factor. This is also true for National Palliative Care Week. People find it very challenging to discuss the end of their life, what they want done with their organs and tissue, how they want to die and how they want their pain managed.

The member for Lyons just mentioned the fact that a significant proportion of Australians do not have a will. Those sorts of issues do need to be discussed. We need to ensure that our last days are comfortable and pain free, that we are surrounded by loved ones and, where possible, that we are in an environment where we choose to be but, most importantly, that we are not worried about what legacy we are going to leave both financially and emotionally.

Palliative Care Australia recommends people have an advanced care plan. Having a plan is all about patient choice and that means dignity—choices when it comes to what kind of treatment and medical intervention the patient wants. This is just one of the options, to express your wishes and to make arrangements for after death.

Labor understands the importance of palliative care. When we were in government we introduced a broad range of programs to improve palliative care, from specialist care to the palliative care approach in residential and aged- care facilities, and also a range of other packages to enhance the palliative care experience.

There are a number of organisations in my electorate doing great work in the palliative care area. I would like to thank and acknowledge the great team and the great work of Palliative Care ACT, Cancer Council ACT, Clare Holland House and the Canberra Region Cancer Centre.

As part of National Palliative Care Week this week I urge all Canberrans and in fact all Australians to take a moment to think about death. Take a moment to think about how you want to die and how you want to be cared for to live well, then communicate this to your loved ones. It is most important. Not only is it important that you communicate your intentions regarding your organs and tissue to your loved ones but it is also vitally important that you communicate your intentions for your last days. One of the greatest barriers to getting the care we want at the end of life is not talking about it and we should. Palliative care is not about hiding away or dying away; it is about affirming life and including death as a normal process. (Time expired)

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