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New funding brings first young adult hospice one step closer to reality

Bear Cottage nursing unit manager Narelle Martin.

A commitment of $2 million recurrent funding from the NSW Government has brought a new hospice for people over the age of 18 one step closer to fruition, according to Bear Cottage nursing unit manager Narelle Martin.

“This is a really exciting, positive first step to what will probably be a long process,” Ms Martin said.

“There is a long way to go but I think it will be supported by a lot of people and it is giving some hope to families.”

Ms Martin said Bear Cottage, in Sydney, cares for children up to the age of 18, but from that age was no equivalent support available in NSW. The gap in services meant young people were typically cared for “by family, struggling at home with no break or support”, or less frequently, residential aged care facilities.

“There is a definite need because children who used to die at 16 to 17 are now surviving into their 20s, particularly boys with muscular dystrophy and that cohort of patients,” she said.

“These kids finish school — which in itself is respite for the families — and then what is there for them? They are being left isolated at home. They are heavier and harder to look after and their parents aren’t getting any younger either. They do an amazing job, but it is difficult for them. Often it is when their child’s life is far more fragile than it was, as well.”

The NSW Government also announced it will assist with securing a location for the new hospice, possibly on the site of Manly Hospital. While it has dubbed the new hospice Big Bear Cottage, Ms Martin said any relationship with Bear Cottage is yet to be determined. Bear Cottage is part of the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, which works only with children to the age of 18 years.

Ms Martin said the NSW Government’s $2 million funding commitment matches what it contributes each year to Bear Cottage. This covers half of the hospice’s running costs; the rest is funded by the community.

In addition to confirming a location, she said funding is still needed to build the new purpose built facility.

NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard said the new facility would be built on the model of Bear Cottage, which is “a special place that is impossible not to be touched by”.

“The NSW Government has strongly supported palliative care and the Big Bear Cottage is our way of caring for vulnerable young people and their families.”

Joe Stanoich, who has worked as a volunteer at Bear Cottage for about 13 years, told Palliative Matters the new funding was “really good news”.

“It’s a flow-on for the kids, so they’ve got somewhere to go from Bear Cottage rather than an old-person’s nursing home.

“It gives the parents a lot of hope too. Previously they didn’t know what to do or where to go, so when this happens there is a place to move on to.”

He said a new hospice would also open new opportunities for volunteers and staff.


  • I think this is a fantastic outcome. What i would also like to see is funding for a hospice for those people under 65 with a lifelimiting illness but with a prognosis of more than 3 months. Their options are very limited as they dont require ongoing specialist level pallaitive care in a sub acute facility but are too young to be accepted into aged care facilities. It is great when these people can be cared for at home but for a number of reasons this is not always possible. In sub acute palliative care we are seeing this need increase and can not see an answer in the near future.

    - Felicity Burns

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