It’s so quiet up here in the Blue Mountains, apart from the tropical birds and the odd strange animal noise, that I would prefer not to investigate, you would otherwise think you were isolated from the rest of the world. With our body clocks out of sync at 5am Sharon and I decided once Jed was awake we would start the day walking Leura Cascades bushwalk, prior to the conference opening ceremony.
The Cascades bushwalk is located between Leura and Katoomba and is supposedly one of the prettiest in the Blue Mountains. It certainly didn’t disappoint. We followed a gradual sloping track along a bubbling creek, more so than normal due to yesterday’s heavy rainfall.
The skyline is full of towering eucalyptus and pine trees, a sensations overload, with little bridges (we had fun on those), caves, huge overhanging rocks and lush forest fern plants.
We reached the cascading waterfall before climbing up to the vista point, overlooking Jamison Valley. It’s fair to say we hadn’t really took much notice of where we were in the walk so when turning a corner and faced with the most INCREDIBLE view it all got a little emotional.
The photos don’t do any justice to the natural beauty and sheer size of the Blue Mountains, it literally took the breath from me and will certainly be something I’ll never forget.
A steep (again) walk back, muddy trainers were discarded and we were conference ready.
The conference Public Health Palliative Care International is held every two years and with the public health approach to palliative care movement rapidly growing around the world it gives people the opportunity to share innovation, opportunities, change and good practice. When I hastily emailed in my abstracts with an hour to the deadline I never in a million years thought I’d be given this chance to represent Mary Stevens Hospice, sharing work around diversity, inclusion and community development to international delegates.
So, we arrived at Fairmont Resort, sat with a coffee, got our delegates packs and prepared for the ‘welcoming’ ceremony.
I mentioned in a previous blog that Leura sits on Darug and Gundungarra Country, the land of Australian First Nations people and organisers and speakers pay respects to the elders of past, present and emerging.
This made the opening ceremony rather special, with traditional dance performed by the Wagana Aborginal Dancers and a smoking ceremony with Chris Tobin that went all around the room. Audience participation was required so at one point a tutorial was given and all the women in the room had the opportunity to unite in this ancient custom. Following on from this delegates from New Zealand did the Karanga, a call out of the Maori people of New Zealand that traditionally forms a welcoming ceremony. (See video) A beautiful, emotive way to start the day.
Plenary 1 saw Kerrie Noonan,Libby Sallnow, Allan Kellehear and Suresh Kumar reflect on the last ten years. From the first conference or ‘support group’ in 2009 to present, and how they foresee the movement growing in the next decade. There has been a major shift from community engagement to community develoment, with an increase in compassionate communities in the UK. However, the next big challenges is tackling larger population areas like our cities in civic society. Who are the leaders to grow this work, are they the innovators and courageous?
Later this afternoon I attended a session from New Zealand’s Merryn Gott on social connections, hearing the voices of older culturally diverse people and having a sneaky premiere of her and Te Arai research groups Oscar nominated (yes, the Oscars! ) short film, Elderbird Song. I had been asked to chair a different session but determined to attend this I politely declined and I’m so glad I did!
Dawn Pegram and Mo Bilshen cryptically titled presentation ‘Ctrl Alt Delete’ raised a discussion/debate on ACP and`The Gatekeepers’ of hospices.
Lastly, our very own Jed Jerwood, spoke about his research, improving palliative and end of life care for people with severe mental illness, amplifying the voices of the marginalised, stigma people experience and the need for ‘Leaning in, not standing back’ palliative care and support.
Day one of the conference ended on a high, with a drinks reception featuring locally sourced wines, it was sooo good. We were able to spill out into the grounds, with spectacular views, chatting with people from all over the world. Another fabulous space for networking at this event. I helped with a twitter workshop during the reception, enabling others to use social media for professional purposes. Set my person up and she tweeted her first tweet, another individual added to the growing palliative care public health online community.
I have two presentations tomorrow (eek) but if this is what day one offered then I can’t wait for the rest of the week.
“The next ten years mainstream palliative care needs to become more integrated, it’s the only way to reach out.”
Dr Suresh Kumar