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Tina Pidcock is dying to talk using the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Discussion Starter

Tina Pidcock's grandson, Cooper, brings her absolute joy.

Tina Pidcock is a proud Aboriginal woman from the Bundjalung Nation. Her mob is in Tweed Heads, NSW, near the Queensland border.

Tina’s passion has always been working to improve health outcomes for her people and now this has been extended to palliative care. Having been introduced to palliative care when her mum needed it 25 years ago, she feels she has come full circle.

“I love my job – I developed and facilitate an in-home respite program for carers of palliative patients,” she says.

“I have a lovely pool of volunteers and work with some amazing people at Cancer Council NSW, based in Charlestown.”

Below, Tina answers questions from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) Discussion Starter. The questions have been designed to get ATSI people thinking about what would happen if they were so sick that someone else had to make decisions for them.

What are some of the things you value most in life?

My family are the most valuable things in my life and without a doubt they are what keeps me going through tough times. Being healthy and able to provide a strong voice as an advocate for myself, my family and my people is really important to me.

I think that I have walked a line in life which has made me a stronger person, gathering skills in varying roles which enables me to help myself and others.

I value being part of the Aboriginal community and this is most easily recognised when I go and work with the mob and the feeling of belonging keeps me grounded and happy. There is a different energy when you are with the mob. I love it and sometimes don’t love it, at the same time. It’s a tricky dynamic that keeps you on your toes, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

What brings you joy and happiness?

My kids and my beautiful grandson, my family and being at peace within myself bring me joy. The first ones are the easiest to make me feel right – the last one is elusive, but every so often when everything aligns in my world I find joy and just occasionally peace. This may be fleeting but it happens and that makes me grateful.

I love music; it just brings back such beautiful memories, sometimes sad but mostly good. Looking at photos, remembering loved ones and talking with my family make me happy. Cooper, my grandson, gives me absolute joy.

Are there any cultural and family traditions that are important to you?

My main family traditions are making sure that I visit everyone when I go home, have big family gatherings during important times and see everyone at Christmas. I like to make sure that I remain involved in cultural gatherings and being with the mob.

It was a bit tricky when I was younger. My family was quite isolated – we were living out in the country, the only Aboriginal family and living away from the mob. This made it very difficult when I moved from primary school to high school. I didn’t feel like I belonged and I couldn’t quite work out why.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing isn’t it. Now I look back and know what it was all about. I guess that is why I am so much more involved with my culture and gatherings. It definitely makes me feel like I belong.

If you were very sick, what things would you and your family get strength from?

I would get my strength from knowing that there are good people out there who can help me through the illness. My family would give me strength but I think they would also cause me grief because I would not want to hurt them, but my death inevitably will.

Humour will keep me going; we always have a good laugh. My grandson, Cooper, gives me strength. I always find that I am more adaptable and willing when I am with him.

Are there any fears you have about the end of your life?

The things I fear most are dying away from my family and a sudden death which would leave me unable to prepare my family and say goodbye. I fear a bad death. I want a good death – with minimal pain or bearable pain. I want to be coherent until close to the end and to be with my loved ones.

I feel really blessed to live this life. Every struggle makes me stronger, sometimes wiser and at times very angry.

What would you like to do before you die? Are there any places you would like to visit or people you would like to see?

I would like to visit overseas, maybe New Zealand – Hobbit Town in particular. I read Lord of the Rings when I was 10 and absolutely love the movies. But travel is not a huge priority. The people I would like to see are my daughters, grandson and my partner.

If you were sick and you were not going to get better, would you want all available treatments, even if they might make you feel sicker?

I would try to fight a good fight but at the end if the treatments are going to make my quality of life bad – then I would not take them.

I have spoken to my kids about this and they are aware that I do not want to be resuscitated or be kept artificially alive. Ihave done an advanced care plan and my will is being updated. I have updated my superannuation details and my life insurance.

It does make me very sad to think of life for my kids without me – I went through the same thing with my mum and it must have broken her heart. That kinda kills me and even writing up my will made me so very sad. Anyway, the bottom line is that I want quality of life.

How important is it for you to visit country before you die, or to be on country when you die?

It is really important for me to have visited country before I die. If I am not living at home, then I want to see it before I die. I just want to be where I belong, where I was raised with my family and in my community. If I die off country then I will be taken home for cremation.

How important is it for you to be buried or cremated on country?

I want to be cremated. I would prefer to be at home; I guess I just want to be where I belong, where I came from and that is where I want to be scattered.

We have a family farm so it will be a matter of making sure the family isn’t completely freaked out about the idea.

There is a connection that I feel when I am on country and I find my peace there. It reminds me of good and bad times, but I focus on the good.

How important is it to you that your organs are donated?

If my organs are in reasonably good condition, then I want them donated. I have explained this to my kids and I have put it on my licence. They won’t be any good to me and they can help so many other people. I see no point in burning or burying good organs when they could instead be used to help others.


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