Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill – the process

The new VAD laws for NSW won’t come into effect for another 12 months – November 2023. When they do, how will they be applied? What will be the process for accessing them? Here is a flow chart of the process that potential users will need to follow …

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A tower of strength for nature dies at 84

It’s been a sad day for us at Die-alogue Cafe. We have learned that Herman Daly the father of ecological economics died on 28 October 2022. He was 84.

Tributes have been posted in newspapers and online around the world. Herman was one of the first to shine a light on the inconsistencies contained within classical economic theory. Trouble is, this theory has taken hold in the minds of powerful interests who have and continue to use it as the basis of economic practice. He said in response to this way of thinking – that is in denial when it comes to acknowledging that the earth is the source of all our social and financial actions – that we are all now trapped within the clutches of exploitation and waste – treating the earth as if it were a business in liquidation.

We can’t hope to capture the full extent of Herman Daly’s contribution to challenging the status quo. We can however, provide you with some references for further reading.

In: The inconvenient truth of Herman Daly: There is no economy without environment, Jon D.Erickson, Professor of Sustainability Science and Policy, University of Vermont (11 November 2022) writing The Conversation, said: Herman Daly had a flair for stating the obvious. When an economy creates more costs than benefits, he called it “uneconomic growth.” But you won’t find that conclusion in economics textbooks. Even suggesting that economic growth could cost more than it’s worth can be seen as economic heresy.

We mourn the death of a giant
Herman Daly, co-founder of the discipline of ecological economics, champion of the steady-state economy and a long-time voice for sanity on population. We add our praise to the chorus.
The Overpopulation Project, 8 November 2022

Herman Daly Challenged the Economic Gospel of Growth https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/08/business/economy/herman-daly-dead.html

Herman Daly never gave up working for what he believed to be in the best interests of the children of the future. He talked about planting a seed from which future generations might find inspiration to build on the knowledge he had gained.

Herman Daly might be dead as a physical body but his ideas and those who came to know and work with him, who are still living, will build on this, and continue to build the framework for a more just human understanding of how things really work in nature. We must copy and mimic how the biosphere behaves and by extension put these into practices, passing them on to our children and those who follow.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To die of old age – something you can’t do in NSW

It’s official. Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, the late Queen of the UK has died of old age. We know so, because that’s what is stated on the Death Certificate at item 10: Cause of Death: Old Age.

Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8. (Reuters: Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Good on the Brits for retaining this description, because it has been taken off the list in NSW. With the medicalisation of our ending of days, we have to die of something like a heart attack or cardiac arrest or the failure of some other organ in the body.

For centuries, people have died of old age, and still do. But now in these times of co-morbidities, we die of multiple causes of which one will get the nod and be recorded on the Death Certificate, regardless of whether it was old age, which for many elderly people will be the case.

According to a story posted on Friday 30 September, Queen Elizabeth II’s death certificate says the monarch died of ‘old age’.

A photo issued by the National Records of Scotland, shows the death certificate of Queen Elizabeth II. (AP: National Records of Scotland)

The country’s longest-reigning monarch died peacefully, at the age of 96, at Balmoral Castle, her summer home in the Scottish Highlands, on September 8.

And the certificate recorded her time of death as 3:10pm — three hours before her death was publicly announced.

The Queen, who spent 70 years on the throne, had been suffering from what Buckingham Palace had called “episodic mobility problems” since the end of last year, forcing her to withdraw from nearly all her public engagements.

Her certificate of death was registered by her daughter, Anne, The Princess Royal, on September 16.

Read the full story as published by the ABC at this link: Death Certificate says Queen died of ‘old age’.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Getting on with it – for the sake of those who come next

Here we go again. Another report that tells the same old story of Australians not getting on with getting properly prepared for their end-of-life trip.

Report by the GroundSwell Project 2022

Rather than go on with another notation of why we need to pay attention to our aging and our future frailty that will eventually lead to our ending of days, we simply provide a link to the latest report that contains this information we all need to be aware if we are to be sufficiently informed about where we are at as a society .. for instance 35 per cent have got it done, 28 per cent are thinking about getting it done, while almost a third, 31 per cent are not intending getting their affairs sorted any tine soon.

What’s the best time to get our stuff sorted? Ten years ago. Five years ago. Twelve months ago. Last week. And the next best time is now. All we can do is send a message and urge us all if we haven’t done so, is get on with Getting Dead Set.

Report by the GroundSwell Project prepared for Dying to Know Day 2022.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pushing back against denial – the Death Cafe approach

Talking about death was once normal, then it became un-normal – taboo – with the advent of what is now a death denying society. But the pushback is gaining momentum.

Picture: Mitchell Jansen

In: Tassie Death Cafe helps visitors come to terms with the ‘morbid fear’ surrounding life’s end, Tamara Glumac, (ABC News, 28 Aug 2022) tells how ‘Mitchell Jansen has feared death from a young age.’

The 25-year-old has suffered anxiety and panic attacks over his own mortality.

“I’ve had a very morbid fear of death because I have cystic fibrosis, so death kind of looms over my head a bit,” Mr Jansen said. “It was a constant fear, I was always filled with dread, it was like I’m going to die young, and with the pandemic I’m at high risk.”

A trip to the Tassie Death Cafe in Hobart has lightened the load.

“I feel like I’ve been heard and it feels like a weight is off my shoulders. I have a sense of what I want when I die,” Mr Jansen said. “Even though [death] is a very common fear it still feels lonely and just being around like-minded people, where I can have my morbid jokes, is a bit nicer.”

The death of his great-grandmother prompted Mr Jansen to take a trip to the death cafe, and has also created a desire to work in the funeral industry.

Tassie is fortunate to not only have Death Cafes but also coffin clubs that help prise open death’s door

At the Community Coffin Club, laughter, music, food and shared experience abound as members build their understanding of “death literacy” — and their own bespoke coffins. A man stands inside an upright blue coffin designed to look like Dr Who’s tardis.

The death cafe — a monthly catch-up over coffee and cake, often between complete strangers — has been running since 2019.

It was set up by end-of-life doulas Leigh Connell and Lynn Redwig, who got talking about the concept at a “dying to know” expo.

“It’s very simple. The aim is really to come together and talk about death and dying in a safe space,” Ms Connell said.

“It’s an opportunity for people to talk about something that’s quite taboo, and there are people who do want to speak about it, but they get pushback.”

Read more here: Tassie Death Cafe

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Normalising grief, a normal response to death and loss

A lot a attention is given to grief as if it deserves more consideration than other aspects of life. But does it and should it?

Traumedies acknowledge there is joy alongside grief. SBS

In: A Beginner’s Guide to Grief: joy and sadness belong together in this new Australian ‘traumedy’Sian Mitchell, Lecturer, Film, Television and Animation, Deakin University (The Conversation, Published: August 31, 2022), she reviews a new film soon to join a number of others that have addressed this subject in recent times.

Review: A Beginner’s Guide to Grief, directed by Renée Mao

We all experience grief in different ways. It is a powerful force that can affect our daily lives, making the simplest task feel difficult, at best, or entirely insurmountable at worst.

Grief is messy, surprising, revealing and honest at different times and all at once.

This is what lies at the heart of the SBS comedy A Beginner’s Guide to Grief.

 A Beginner’s Guide to Grief joins recent series like Netflix’s Never Have I Ever (2020-) and After Life (2019-2022) that centre on grieving characters who have lost loved ones and are left behind to cope in the aftermath.

These shows have been labelled “traumedies”: narratives that explore feelings of loss and pain presented through a comedic lens.

Traumedies can offer audiences an opportunity for catharsis, processing our feelings of loss and grief – particularly at a time of so much social and cultural upheaval.

The full story here: Beginners guide by Sian Mitchell.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

About as natural as you can get these days

Diane Hart at natural burial ground proposed site

Not embalmed, body bathed by his son and dressed in a favourite outfit. Coffin made of simple cardboard and not lined with plastic. It had rope handles — all materials that were biodegradable.

The funeral procession followed the hearse on foot from the family home to the nearby Mullumbimby cemetery as music bellowed from the car.

And, when it was time, his body was placed into the earth just 1 metre deep —  3.3 feet — while the service was held by the Hart’s family friend: their neighbour.

In: Why Diane honoured her husband Michael’s death with a natural burial, Dinah Lewis Boucher (ABC News, 09 August 2022) reports on a death and a funeral that was about as green as you can get in Australia these days. 

A few points to get us in the mindset for doing death more naturally include:
•             Only one body per burial plot
•             No embalming chemicals
•             What the body is dressed in needs to be biodegradable
•             Compost and other green matter are added to the grave
•             Ideally, natural burial is also a shroud burial. You don’t need to have a coffin to be buried in a grave (although in some states it will be required for transport to the grave)
•             A natural burial site would look like any park or bushland, with no statues or tombstones

But here’s the take home line: “It’s good to start the conversation around death and dying before it happens,” says Diane Hart.

Aerial picture of the natural burial ground plan for Byron Bay on the NSW North Coast.

There’s a lot more to this story that we encourage you to read at this link: Honoured Michael with a natural burial

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The stories we tell ourselves, the mind games we play

A recent story in a daily newspaper reported that the adult parents in a family of four had determined not to write up their wills, saying: “Making a will makes us feel very old.”

Haven’t got around to it is another reason, people offer up, when asked this important question. These are hardly legitimate justifications – more on the use of this word as we attempt to unpack what’s going on in the minds of the modern Aussie.

Butterfly emergence into life.

About 45 percent of Australians don’t have a legal will.  These same time poor families are not so time poor that they can’t spend hours ferrying children to sport and both parents travelling to and from a paid job, sometimes hours away from home.  If travelling on public transport they could jot down the basics on the train or bus on their digital devices.  If in the car, they could use the record function on the phone as easily as chat to someone about the latest movie or other social event.

These same people can find the time to go for coffee, to plan and go on holidays – many overseas at great expense.

We hear the reasoning – better known as excuses – but we don’t accept or buy the rationale as being reasonable. We think it’s selfish and hard to justify.

We can insure the car and house, go to the movies, pay for regular attendance at sporting events such as the football or tennis, buy wine, take lotto tickets, have expensive mobile phone plans, subscribe to Netflix – all the  things the modern family can find the time for and spend the money on.

But, really in this day and age, with all the time saving devices at our finger tips, to be able to justify hours on social media, but not plan for the inevitable, cannot be justified from our perspective.

Toast to life

Darkness and light, ending and beginning. The setting of the sun each day marks another ending, and the rising of the sun each day marks a new beginning. 

The time when we publicly, collectively gather to celebrate in large numbers is New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. A classic case of an ending and beginning.

In the larger symbolic sense, this could be likened to a dying and a birthing – the dead and the living.

The GroundSwell Project encourages discussions about death as part of death literacy.

For any given day of the year, for some family unit somewhere in our midst, there will be a passing parade where the ranks of the departed will grow by one, with a death, while on the other side of the ledger, the ranks of the living will grow by one, with a birth.

In a nod of the head and tipping of the hat we acknowledge or at last we should acknowledge the reality of life that includes death as a norm.

The stories of our ancestors need to be passed down across the generations – “Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?” from the poem Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns in 1788.

Death need not be a stranger. With each day, no matter our age, we draw a little closer to the closing curtain times than the opening bars of the symphony. This is not a morbid mode of thinking. It is a realisation of how frailty and co-morbidities will most probably take us out at the ending of days if we are fortunate enough to live past the three score and ten years of days long ago.

Invite death literacy into our daily practice and weekly conversations. Normalise the passing of time and bigger picture that we are each a part of.  Toast with honey or strawberry jam, or maybe a savoury spread, a cuppa and a meaningful conversation with content of substance such as writing a will. By doing this we can pave the way for healthier futures that include setting aside the time for reviewing and updating our said will and preparing advance health care plans, appointing an enduring guardian and power of attorney.

Truly worthy tasks calling for a toast to life.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Direct-it-yourself, it’s not rocket science

ABC television broadcasts across the country with many programs of immense community interest. One of these is Australian Story.

Image: Australian Story: Tender Funerals CEO, Jennifer Briscoe-Hough, Port Kembla, NSW. Harriet Tatham

In a program broadcast under the title: A community undertaking (ABC TV, June 20, 2022) it highlighted that choice is lacking in the funeral landscape, especially when it comes to community involvement and pricing of this essential service.

Introduced by filmmaker Phillip Crawford, the viewer is invited to ‘step inside the funeral provider that’s transforming the way we do death.

Six years ago, with a group of community volunteers, Jenny Briscoe-Hough founded Tender Funerals, a not-for-profit funeral service in Port Kembla.

Tender has a mission to provide personalised and affordable funerals, and to demystify the funeral process and put it back in the hands of the grieving.

Filmed over 10 months, this episode follows the experiences of people who used Tender to look after their deceased loved one, providing an extraordinarily intimate view of a process we rarely get to see.’

Two of the people featured on the program were Jenny Briscoe-Hough, Port Kemble Community Centre coordinator and Zenith Virago, a private end-of-life worker who has been campaigning for greater family participation in the funeral space for decades. Zenith is the founder of the Natural Death Care Centre, on the north coast of NSW, which is modelled on the Natural Death Centre, based in the UK.

JENNY B-H: Have you ever heard of Zenith Virago?

Zenith Virago, Natural Death Care Centre, Byron Bay. NSW

ZENITH: I’ve spent 25 years living in the northern rivers (NSW) working with people who are dying, being with their bodies when they are dead and working with families. We really need to reclaim the death process.

JENNY: Zenith was one of the first people to look at doing death differently in Australia. She came to the community, she trained the community

ZENITH: Before there was a funeral industry there were all these families taking care of their own.washing them, cleaning them, caring for them.

Most people don’t know that they can do it themselves. You can go from the bed to the cremator, the bed to the grave, without a professional person being involved – there’ll be a medical person but that’s it.

None of it is rocket science. It’s just not what the funeral industry is doing. Their first agenda is how to make a profit. The funeral industry is a corporate business and they are owning links in the chain which people don’t understand. Like the coffin manufacturer, the funeral director, the cemetery, the crematorium, that’s a monopoly. And it’s a huge industry with a turnover of $1.6 billion a year.

To watch the program log on to: https://www.abc.net.au/austory/a-community-undertaking/13932294

Stream this episode on ABC iview and Youtube


As noted in previous posts, there are many examples of families – and communities – directing their own funeral events with dignity and panache. We have the skills. What we are lacking is a familiarity, lost over the last couple of generations by outsourcing the funeral to professionals, and this by extension leads to a loss of confidence. But let’s not be deterred, or be brushed aside as incompetent or lacking in capacity.

Let’s take hear and follow in the foot steps of those who have done and are doing it today. The Lightning Ridge Funeral Advisory Service, for example, is a not for profit volunteer organisation providing the town with funeral services for local residents who would otherwise have to access the professional funeral operator located at Walgett – the nearest centre with a funeral undertaker.

The service is headed by Ormie and others who are dedicated co-op members, with administration service provided by Maxine O’Brien. It’s a wonderful community program that was featured on an episode of Back Roads (ABC TV, December 10, 2018)

As Zenith Virago points out, it’s not rocket science.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Worth checking out other options before we check out at our ending of days

If the content of this story by Matt Wade is any indicator of a broader attitude to stick with the status quo and not search out alternatives, then it’s little wonder that the mainstream funeral industry has most Australians convinced that what they have to offer is all there is on offer, and that to do things any other way is a step too far outside the established comfort zone.

In: Sad case of ‘till debt do us part, Matt Wade (The Sun Herald, July 8, 2014) writes about the stories we tell ourselves that determine the course we move along, often in spite of the realities taking place around us.

“Consumers can be a compliant lot. Just look at our banking habits. Surveys have shown more than 5 percent of Australians have been with their main bank for more than 10 years. That’s longer than the median duration of Australian marriages that end in divorce – 8.7 years from wedding day to separation, according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies.”

“But consumers aren’t just creatures of habit, they’re also prone to suffering in silence. A 2011 survey conducted for the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found that 76 percent of those who contacted their communications provider with a grievance did nothing about it. Complain and note it with the ACMA, but then didn’t bother to follow through.”

For all those who do complain, millions say nothing. They just put up with bad service.

So why are so many consumers so passive? One reason is what behavioral economists call “loss aversion”  – the tendency for consumers to care more about preventing a loss than making a gain. The fear that a new unknown supplier will be even worse or at least no better than the one they’ve got.

Consumers also have a tendency to overestimate the short-term costs of switching and to underestimate the longer term benefits of switching. This is linked to what researchers have found to be a strong “status quo bias” in consumer behavior. People are surprisingly reluctant to change their circumstances even in the face of an obvious long term benefit.

We Aussies face another dynamic writes Wade, that might sap our motivation to switch – an economy marked by oligopolies. A host of important consumer markets, including banking, airlines, supermarkets, petrol and telecommunications, that are all dominated by a very small number of very big players. Why change when the few alternatives don’t seem very different.

NOTE: And this is increasingly the case with the instance of the funeral industry, one of the subjects of these posts, as the smaller family businesses are gobbled up by the largest investment based corporates.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment