Our project has 2 parts:

Part I - Education and Immersion.

6 x weekly x 90 minute sessions at Gibson Unit, Calvary St John's Palliative Care and Oncology Unit.

Each session has an education component, activity with Calvary staff and/or patients and a reflective de-brief. Starts February 18th.

Part II - Creative Response.

All participants, including adults will be asked to create a personal response to their experiences in Part I. It could be a piece of visual art, music, poem. Whatever takes their fancy!

The short term aim of this exciting pilot project is to educate and journey with Senior students from a class at St Mary’s College and Guilford Young College about Palliative and End of Life Care in the hospital setting.

The long term aim is to enhance our communites capacity to deal with death and dying in a more positive way and in so doing be able to support others who approaching and reaching the end of life. We also hope that the program will enhance the participants capacicity to personally live more "fully human, fully alive" lives.

Calvary staff, doctors, community members and organisations will be sharing their expertise about end of life care issues as well as their own stories and experiences with the participants.

At the conclusion of the 6 weeks, students and staff will respond by creating a personal response to their experiences. These responses will be shared with both the community of St Mary’s and Guildford Young College, the community of Calvary and the wider community. Response(s) could take the form of music, poetry, presentation, film, visual art.

Calvary plans to document and research the program. We also want to create our own response in the form of a short film (7-10 minutes) which will be shared at the conclusion of the course and be used as an education tool about Calvary and how we provide dignified pallitiave and end of life care for people as they are approaching and reaching the end of their life. Our vision is holistice health care which places people and their goals of care at the centre of their web of care.

The project is being funded by Calvary Hobart and Palliative Care Tasmania. The effectivenesss of the program will be evaluated as part of an approved Calvary Hobart research project.

At Calvary Hobart our vision as a Catholic not-for-profit hospital is to excel and be recognised as a continuing source of healing, hope and nurturing to the people and communities we serve. We believe that this project will help us live this vision in a creative and new way. Our values of hospitality, healing, stewardship and respect are the inspiration and foundation of this project.

2 Nov 2016

Farewell Virginia

Virginia passed away at Calvary St John's Hospital on our Gibson Unit.
on the 18.10.2016

Virginia touched all of our lives.

Thank you Virginia for your generosity of spirit. We will not forget the privileged place you gave us in your life. We give thanks to you and to your family. You will be greatly missed.
Rest in Peace Virginia

Below is the speech written by Hon Michael Ferguson and delivered by two of our St Mary's program participants Nadia and Madison at Virginia's funeral.

This is a tribute to the life of Virginia 
Firstly, I would like to acknowledge Virginia's family for inviting me to offer this tribute, according to Virginia's request. I thank the students from St Mary's College for delivering it in my absence - which as you will soon understand, is actually very appropriate and a blessing.
From the outset I must say that being asked to eulogise a person whom I have only met once is obviously very unusual! As I considered this request, thoughts immediately turned to the unique but very important circumstances in which I had the honour to sit, listen and talk with Virginia and came to know her.
This deeply significant meeting occurred on a bright and sunny winter afternoon in June at St Mary's College. This rather special gathering was the meeting of an archbishop, palliative care experts, nurses, educators, students, a health minister and (the somewhat central person), Virginia - our palliative care patient.
What could bring such a group together?
It seemed, that what brought us together was the certainty of death. That is – death; how best to prepare for it and how to ensure the death that will come to each of us is as good a death as possible.
As a community, we are getting better at understanding that the person approaching the end of life deserves complete respect, compassion, care and the relief of discomfort and pain. The valuable work of Palliative Care Tasmania has done so much to help people and their loved ones better understand their options and to make informed decisions early on. In turn, our health system is improving the way that end of life care is given. Including listening to patients, helping them to receive the best care. This is whether it's in the hospital or in the home. Whether it's to fight disease to try to extend life or to aim for quality of life and focus on comfort and relief. And it's so important for the next generation of health care professionals to learn these important lessons as early as possible too.
But all this important work is of limited value if we exclude the patient, or to put it more correctly, the PERSON, a real person who understands what it is to experience the palliative care journey first hand.
Death and dying is a difficult enough subject at the best of times. So finding a person with the inner strength and generosity of spirit to participate with complete strangers and intimately share their journey, hopes and fears is perhaps a challenge.
Who better than Virginia de Groote to do such a thing then?!
Remarkably, the young ladies from St Mary's and Guilford Young Colleges had been given this privileged opportunity to spend time at Calvary's Gibson Unit listening, learning, questioning and growing. Students were witness to true bravery and loving compassion as a caring community went about their work supporting patients.
There is a video that was produced, which is proof of the impact that Virginia, Calvary staff and Palliative Care Tasmania had, not just on the students but in fact on each other. I really commend the video to those here today.
But there was certainly more that came out of this than the video. The young ladies came to better understand the subject matter, and the career opportunities. They also developed innovative thinking based on an old fashioned value of respecting and honouring our elders - a value greatly treasured by the college, the hospital and me also.
And of course these students made a friend. Virginia.
As did I in our short time together and a delightful and colourful conversation about politics, the health system and life generally after the gathering.
At this time I express my gratitude to have known Virginia and to have been able to share a tiny but unforgettable part of her journey with her. She made an impact on me and I feel humble to have learned from her brother Pat that I had an impact on her. Little did I realise that my words on the importance of a family's need to grieve, celebrate and say goodbye at a funeral like this one had an effect on Virginia. Honestly, this humbled and surprised me. It's just another gift our friend gave.
I believe, and I'm sure the young ladies will agree, that what Virginia did by opening up her life and sharing the journey with us was in fact a generous and selfless gift. It was a gift for the living. It was a gift of life because it endures to this day and will enrich more people into the future.
Others who knew her much better than I will have many more memories. I certainly know that her life made a difference. As it turns out, her life will also make a difference to some people who didn't even know Virginia but will one day have to travel their own difficult journey. I believe that more people will receive understanding, comfort and care of our future health professionals who will carry the gift that Virginia gave as a living heirloom that will keep on giving.
And so it was never really death that brought this group together on that bright winter afternoon. It was life. Virginia, her love for people, her zest for life and making the most of every day she was given.

Rest in peace.


2 Aug 2016


Hi all - well a month after our launch by the Tasmanian Health Minister Hon Michael Ferguson  I am pleased to let you know that over 2000 people have viewed the blog and we have had an incredibly positive response to the program.

Personally I want to thank everyone who has been involved in bringing this community engagement project to life. It has and continues to make a difference. The survey results for the program were incredibly positive and affirming. Programs such as this make a difference. Calvary hope to run a similar program in 2017 with new people and leaders. For information about this please contact Calvary Hobart Executive Office.

On a personal note, on the day I first viewed our DVD I found out that my Mum was diagnosed with a terminal cancer. It has been an incredibly difficult journey for our family. However, because of my involvement in this project and the fact that Mum and other family members had been engaged in what was happening with our program I have found dealing with some of what we have had to deal with less confronting. Mum had been watching the progress of our project from the blog and we had been talking about many of the topics we looked as during the course of the program, all before her diagnosis. It is as though we as a family were being prepared for the journey that we are now on.

At the heart of this project is the aim for people to have less fear around death and talking about death and dying so that they can embrace a more fully human and positive attitude to living. I know this aim has been fulfilled with me. Thank you everyone and may your quest in this space continue to be challenging and life affirming.

Over and out for Calvary Hobart Exploring Death, Dying and Palliative Care 2016

3 Jul 2016

DVD Launched

The DVD has now been officially launched. A large crowd gathered at St Mary's College in Hobart on the 29th June 2016 to commemorate the project's completion.

The Video can be viewed here:


26 May 2016

DVD Launch Date - 29th June 2pm St Mary's College Hobart

Today I watched the final edit for our documentary, it is so exciting and an enormous body of work that we are looking forward to sharing with everyone. Mr Michael Ferguson, our health minister will be launching the 13 minute DVD at St Mary's on June 29th at 2pm. We hope that many community members, family members and particpiants can attend. I am really proud to be part of this exciting project and to see all your work come to life.

18 May 2016

Student Responses

How rewarding it was to read and view the very meaningful and thoughtful responses I have received from you so far. It is so affirming for Calvary that you have obviously learnt and grown from our program. Some comments and snippets from the responses are below. Please feel free to email or post other comments and responses or share your work.

"Before I went to Calvary Hospital, I was so scared to talk about death with my family members or just my friends. I have learnt that it is OK to talk about death because everyones time will eventually come.The picture of the tree, especially at the bottom shows how uncomfortbale  I was going to Calvary because I thought that everything was going to be depressing. As the time went by, my tree began to untangle itself with guidance from the teachers and the staff at Calvary. I felt free and comfortable to talk about death. I have learnt so many things that I didn't know about and that is what the leaves on my tree represent. My tree is flourishing in this knowledge. Thank you for a great experience."  Innocent Michael

"This course has definitly helped me prepare myself for an eventual death that I know is coming"
Lucy Bauermeister

"To me death, dying and palliative care can't be anything but personal. ..For me I experienced this recently with my dad and it was very full on. We never really got a break from the medical environment because we had to surround ourselves around it, hospital life became our home life not only for my dad but for the whole family. I feel that this course outlined death, dying and palliative care in the best way you could when it comes to explaining this topicBrianna Pirere

"No-one knows what it is like to die, but what we do know is that there is a way that you can change your mind set about end of life... We can choose to accept death and see it as something beautiful or we can remain scared of death and wanting to avoid it"
Emily Vince

 "Watching the patients at St John's really inspired me to write this, along with the health care team that assisted throughout the ward. Seeing Virginia and what she had to go through, was also an inspiring experience. She was a positive person who didnt mind at all being treated, because she knew she was in the right place. She also inspired me." Madison Car

The piece I have drawn and written shows how talking about death/dying does not have to be a "hush/hush" topic. That it is OK to talk about it. There is no need to feel awkward or scared about bringing up the conversation. People need to be educated and have a better understanding of Palliative Care. The conversation needs to happen, no matter how hard it is. The more knowledge people have the easier it will be on the individual and familiesNadia Dandolo.

- painting by Lauren Baker

8 May 2016

A sewing response!

The month after my family moved to Tasmania in 2010 my Nanna, Theda Witter died. Nan was my Dad's mum, she was a stylish and at times formidable woman who loved the finer things in life including opera, red wine and pearls! Interestingly, Nan was quite a contradiction as partnered with her luxurious taste were her serious frugal tendencies. Like many women of the depression Nan hated waste, of any type. She was an amazing home cook and also a magnificent sewer; upcycling anything she could,  as nothing, well nothing much was ever thrown out. In their 1950s home in Carlingford they had a magical sunny room upstairs dedicated to sewing. I have very vivid memories of sneaking up to this sacred room, drawing open the green curtains and riffling through her haberdashery and material delights with my sisters. My Nan's husband, my Pop, was a self made entrepreneur who was a charming and charismatic man. He made a living amongst other mad ventures, by selling recycled clothes and rags with his company Witters Australia which my Dad later ran. While second hand clothing and "the factory" were not a passion for my Dad, Witters was a fantastic business which as well as funding our family, was a source of great pride and joy for me and my siblings. We, along with Mum grew up loving second hand clothes. Sorting bags of rags was a fabulous past time for us and for periods in the 1990s fuelled a Glebe Market stall for the Witter kids. These throw-outs from Sydney were treasure troves of sometimes smelly and sniffy but always potentially magnificent and highly prized pieces. I still get a shiver of delight rummaging on $5 tables at second hand clothing markets, searching for that not so elusive bargain.

My response to the project has been to rekindle and weave some of these memories of my Nan into my Tassie life. Soon after we started the project I got out a sewing machine that was new but unopened in its cerise Husqvarna box. Not since school have I sewed a stitch. Inspired by memories of my Nan I started sewing, nothing major just bits and bobs using my husband Andrew's old shirts. It appears that like my Nan I also hate waste, and love to upcycle. I had never thought we were similar but I must say through this project I feel her genetics or memories or fragments of her life ebbing in me. When I told my elder sister Jane what I was doing she said she had salvaged some fabric from the magical Carlingford sewing room which I could have. With the sewing machine, fabrics and old materials and tablecloths that I have been accumulating for years I have set up my own "sewing room". It is not as sunny, but it is starting to feel a little magical. I can sneak away to the room and sew, or dream of sewing, or sometimes just sit at the sewing machine. As part of my response to the project I have made my two daughters: Beatrix and Florence a skirt each, made from some of the remnants that my sister gave me. As I sat at the machine stitching away I smiled and laughed at how much free and whimsical joy I was getting out of making little gathered skirts for my daughters, in honour of my Nan.

1 May 2016

Part II Update

I was excited to hear from Ms Wong this week who said the participant responses are coming along and are impressive. I'll be going to St Mary's on the 9th May to collect them. As for our DVD we have done the last piece of filming. Dave and Rob from our Hype team are busy cutting and editing to make our doco! I can't wait to review the takes. I'll keep you all posted.

I was in Gibson this week and saw Virginia she was keen to hear how you were all going and our date for showcasing the works. At this stage we will look at early June.

The surveys have been coming in with really worthwhile feedback. I hope to share this in early June as well.

Be good to catch up on the 9th I can't wait to see your responses.