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Arts and Health Australia

Molly Carlile and Kerrie Noonan

Dying to Know Day; a small idea that became a national day for meaningful conversations

The arts and health framework provides a potent social change paradigm, particularly in the case of topics that are at the fringe or taboo. Talking about ageing, illness and the end of life are some of these taboo topics that are often put in the too hard or too difficult basket.

This session will reference two films addressing the topics of end of life, legacy and meaning through storytelling narratives. One, through the eyes of young people the other in an acute Cancer hospital.

“Dying to Know” by the Arts in Healthcare program at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre, Austin Health features people ranging in ages from 15 years to mature age exploring the question “If there was one story about your life you’d want people to remember, what would it be?” and it was filmed in a loungeroom set designed and installed in the main foyer of the Cancer Centre on Dying to Know Day, August 8th 2013 as part of a community capacity building project “The Storyteller” supported by Palliative Care Victoria and the Victorian Department of Health.

“Passengers” is a documentary co-produced by filmmaker Jordan Bryon and The GroundSwell Project. It follows senior Drama Students from Penrith High School as they grapple with questions of life-and-death in an innovative community arts program delivered under the stewardship of The GroundSwell Project. Meet artists, teachers, and students, as they engage with community members, both ill, and the newly-bereaved. We observe an unfolding creative process built upon young peoples' questions as they encounter first hand stories of sudden death, and the lived experience of dying. We witness a shared journey from awkwardness to agency, and the potency of theatre and performance, as they craft and perform a collective response to some of life's biggest mysteries.

Both of these films highlight the hunger in our communities for opportunities to have meaningful conversations about life, death and grief, despite the presumption that these topics are either too confronting or too personal. Talking to kids about death is feared by adults who want to “protect their kids” and in an acute Cancer hospital these conversations are often avoided by health professionals who fear that conversations about death rob patients of hope. These films both debunk these presumptions.

Molly Carlile and Kerrie Noonan will present these films and talk about the national initiative Dying To Know Day, of which Kerrie is the cofounder and Molly the National Ambassador.

Molly CarlileMolly Carlile

Health professional, author, playwrite and death literacy activist, Molly Carlile is also known as the Deathtalker. She is National Ambassador for Dying to Know Day in addition to being General Manager of Integrated Cancer Services at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre at Austin Health. Molly is a multi award winning advocate for dying and grieving people and has recently been recognised for her committment to improving community engagement and capacity in the Queen's Birthday Honours List receiving Membership of the Order of Australia for her contributions to community health, particularly palliative care and to the performing arts. She continues to speak internationally and empower communities to have meaningful conversations about death and grief in order to live life more fully.

Kerrie NoonanKerrie Noonan

Kerrie Noonan is a cofounder and director of The GroundSwell Project, a social researcher and a clinical psychologist in palliative care. Kerrie has a long-standing interest in capacity building approaches to death, dying and bereavement, palliative care and how people can build their death literacy. With interests in health promotion, capacity building, social media, creativity and innovation Kerrie is passionate about the role that the arts can play in facilitating social and cultural change about death and dying.

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