Answering that important question - What is palliative care?

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Answering that important question - What is palliative care?

PCA CEO Camilla Rowland

They say in leadership, you should never be afraid to ask the tough questions. Likewise, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask the obvious or simple ones either 

Palliative Care Australia (PCA) is the national peak palliative care organisation. As such, building awareness of the benefits of palliative careadvocating for quality palliative care for all who need it, and answering that important question  what is palliative care?, has long been central to our mission for thirty years. 

And with regards to raising awareness about palliative care, we’ve made great progress, but there is still much more to be done. 

Recent polling conducted by PCA just last month found nine in ten Australians have heard of palliative care. Importantly, over three quarters of Australians would be likely to ask for palliative care for themselves or someone close to them if they had a serious, prolonged or terminal illness. 

That same survey, however, has highlighted limited community understanding about the broader meaning of palliative care and an understandable reluctance to have conversations about death and dying. 

In short, Aussies are in favour of palliative care but don’t fully understand it. 

That’s a problem because we know that of the 40,000 Australians that receive palliative care each year, at the most conservative estimates  further 40,000 Australians that could benefit, are going without. 

It’s clear that a lack of community awareness about the full breadth of palliative care and its benefits has become a barrier to accessing timely care. 

Our community attitudes survey also found fewer than four out of ten Australians (39 per cent) correctly understand that palliative care can be requested when a person is first diagnosed with a terminal, chronic or degenerative illness. 

While only three out of ten Australians surveyed correctly understand that General Practitioners (GPs) are among those who can provide palliative care. 

Australians’ reluctance to discuss death and dying also presents as a barrier. Almost 90 per cent of Australians surveyed last month agree that people should plan for end-of-life and think it is important to start thinking and talking about their wishes and preferences for care if they were to become seriously or terminally ill. 

However, half of all respondents have done nothing regarding their end-of-life wishes. They find the subject of death and planning for the end of life too difficult to talk about and think talking about their preference for end-of-life with their family will upset them. 

Enter PCA’s innovative education campaign, Palliative Care It’s more than you think.  created to engage the community in a conversation about the benefits of palliative care. 

The multimedia campaign developed by PCA, with the support of the Australian Government, seeks to challenge perceptions that palliative care is a ‘last resort’ and empower individuals to engage with their health care professionals early in their diagnosis in the hope to live as well as possible for as long as possible. 

Central to the development of the campaign was our aim to answer the simple question – “What is palliative care?” 

The campaign adopted a light-hearted, ‘vintage’ style of animation, with the series of animated vignettes designed in response to that initial questionThe different scenarios presented provide answers and activities not usually associated with palliative care, such as golfing, fishing, gardening, travelling and even ticking off one’s bucket list by parachuting. 

The new campaign website - explains clearly and simply what palliative care is, who it is for, who can provide it, and where palliative care can be provided, together with answers to frequently asked questions. 

The true definition of palliative care is much broader than the care provided at the end of life. PCA’s Chair Professor Meera Agar put it best when she noted that all palliative care shares one key characteristic, saying, “All palliative care is about quality of life and helping people with a life-limiting illness live their lives as well as possible for as long as possible.” 


Camilla Rowland
CEO, Palliative Care Australia

PCA Media release: New campaign launches to challenge perceptions about palliative care - 24 May 2021

PCA National Palliative Care Community Survey Snapshot

PCA Campaign website: Palliative Care It’s more than you think.