11 National Palliative Care Award winners celebrated

Winners of Palliative Care Australia’s (PCA) highly esteemed national awards were announced at the virtual 2021 Oceanic Palliative Care Conference Awards Night, on 7 September 2021.  

PCA’s National Palliative Care Awards recognise innovation, teamwork and emerging talent in Australia’s palliative care sector, with this year’s award line-up featuring four new individual award categories.  

The awards acknowledge individuals and teams who provide exceptional care and support for people receiving palliative care through public recognition and further development opportunities. There are nine individual and two organisation/team awards categories. 

PCA extends its congratulations to the following winners of the 2021 National Palliative Care Awards. 


Innovation in Palliative Care  

The Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service (Paediatric Palliative Care Service) received the Innovation in Palliative Care award, for the development of the ‘Paediatric Palliative care Outreach Collaborative’ (PPCOC). PPCOC is an outreach support service provided to children with life limiting conditions (living rural, regional and remote Queensland). The project has been funded by Care in the Right Setting (CARS) funds by Queensland Health, and is a collaboration between the Paediatric Palliative Care Service, Hummingbird House and the Queensland University of Technology.   

This project commenced in March 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the service quickly pivoting into the provision of virtual care. This project has allowed more families to gain access to consultation with specialist paediatric palliative care (including with an inter-professional team) in a timely way. Both emotional and practical supports have been provided to parents, siblings, grandparents and other carers through the service, with the family of a child receiving palliative care saying, “After meeting the palliative care service, we are no longer in the dark”. 

Outstanding Teamwork  

The Dungog Shire Palliative Care Volunteers Inc, have won the national award for Outstanding Teamwork, for providing an invaluable service to those within the Dungog Shire with a life limiting illness.  

The service commenced in 1995 and provides free respite, supported transport to appointments and treatments, the supply and laundering of linen, and the supply of equipment providing physical, emotional and social support for clients and their carers. Despite the challenges presented by the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, the team have banded together to support each other and the community, and in doing so, have ensured the service has remained as functional as possible. The development of a COVID-19 safe transport policy for clients and drivers ensured no client missed a treatment appointment. From July 2020 to July 2021 the service provided an incredible 950 hours of supported transport, with drivers travelling over 23,000 kilometres. 

Emerging Researcher  

Dr Claudia Virdun received the Emerging Researcher award for the significant impact her work has had on palliative care delivery. Her doctoral thesis, ‘Optimising care for People with palliative care needs, and their families, in the Australian hospital setting (the OPAL Project)’, explored how to reform palliative care within Australian hospitals, and focused on what is important for optimal care from patient and family perspectives.   

As a Senior Research Fellow in the Faculty of Health at the Queensland University of Technology, Dr Claudia has used her research to amplify the voices of 1,233 patients with palliative care needs, and 3,818 family members, within the hospital setting. Her work has provided valuable insights into how to effectively lead and effect improvement in palliative care provision across all hospital settings, and she is committed to seeing real improvements for patients and families who require such care. 

Excellence in Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Palliative Care  

The Excellence in Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Palliative Care award has been received by proud Wiradjuri woman Cheryl Porter-PedrasCheryl works in the first dedicated Palliative Care Aboriginal Health Worker position in South Western Sydney (SWS) Local Health District, NSW. In her role, Cheryl aids the service in promoting and guiding clinicians to provide safe cultural care, educate and promote palliative care and services to Aboriginal people and their communities. 

Cheryl has demonstrated an exceptional understanding of palliative care and end of life care, and confidently and sensitively explains to patients and their families their care options. Cheryl is highly respected by the patients, families and communities that she supports, as well as her peers and external partners.  

 Some of Cheryl’s achievements include: leading an advance care planning project, which saw the development of a tool that helped improve conversations with patients to determine their end of life wishes; developing an ‘End of Life’ box (containing culturally appropriate items including quilts in Aboriginal materials, sprigs of appropriate native bush/flowers and pieces of wood, safe candles and poems) for the three Palliative Care Units within the District; and leading the development of the booklet, “A Journey into Sorry Business”.  

Excellence in Generalist Palliative Care  

The Excellence in Generalist Palliative Care award has been received by Palliative Care GP Dr Jonathan Ramachenderan, from the WA Country Health Service. Dr Ramachenderan’s early interest in developing his palliative care and pain management skills led him to complete his Diploma of Palliative Medicine with the RACP. After completing his Diploma, he worked with the Country Health Service medical executive to establish a new part-time GP position within Great Southern palliative care, working across the 40,000-kilometre square region. His personal philosophy in medicine – to solve problems and relieve unnecessary suffering – has greatly influenced his work in supporting GP colleagues and patients in remote areas, building capacity in palliative care skills in the generalist health work force, and supporting complex care planning for patients across community, hospital and aged care settings.  

Dr Ramachenderan’s passion for supporting GPs and junior doctors led him to develop a practical self-care tool kit for doctors to help them create their own self-care plan. He was one of the first GPs working formally in rural public palliative care services in WA, and due to the success of the model, the WA Country Health Service has since employed 12 others in similar roles. Dr Ramachenderan’s unique and invaluable contribution to the generalist palliative care space has truly been appreciated, by the many patients he has supported, the GPs and junior doctors he has mentored and supported, and the countless people he has influenced through his writing and publications.  

Excellence in Palliative Care – Community Based Care  

Dr Paula Moffat has received the Excellence in Palliative Care – Community Based Care award, for her leadership in the development of palliative care in a critical community setting in Western Australia. As Medical Director (Palliative Care) at Bethesda Health Care, Dr Moffat has clinical oversight of the Metropolitan Palliative Care Consultancy Service (MPaCCS), a specialist service which visits 220 residential aged care facilities across Perth, as well as prisons, mental health, and disability care facilities, delivering thousands of palliative care educational activities and episodes of care annually.  

Dr Moffat’s focus on mentoring and supporting GPs through MPaCCS and in residential care has meant that GPs have felt more supported in providing care for patients with high-level needs, and fewer people are transferred to acute hospitals for care at the end-of-life. Dr Moffat has also worked to improve access to palliative care for WA’s under-served prison population, teaching corrections clinicians contemporary end-of-life and palliative care approaches and practice, and helping improve awareness and policy across the custodial system.  

She has also been the driving force behind Bethesda’s project to provide interdisciplinary support to the Pilbara Regional Palliative Care Service. This project has meant, among other things, that individual palliative care doctors don’t have the same burden in supporting an entire rural catchment alone. 

Excellence in Palliative Care – Paediatric Palliative Care  

The Excellence in Palliative Care – Paediatric Palliative Care award has been received by Associate Professor John Collins, the Director of Pain Medicine at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. Associate Professor Collins has been a pioneer in the field of paediatric palliative care in Australia. He was one of the first paediatricians in Australia to undertake dedicated training in this field. This included training overseas in both the United Kingdom and United States (especially at the Children’s Hospital at Boston). He returned to Sydney in 2008 and further developed an integrated multi-disciplinary paediatric palliative care service caring for both inpatients and outpatients.  

His contribution to education, research and as a mentor has been significant. He has been involved in innovative methods of educating medical students about pain management, and he also set up a centre in 2000 where post-graduate paediatric and anaesthetic trainees can obtain fellowship qualifications. A prolific researcher, his research has always been clinically meaningful and readily translated to clinical practice. An example of this was when Associate Professor Collins undertook research into the benefits and burdens for homecare of children receiving palliative care. His clinical skills and expertise have meant his hospital has led nationally in terms of the provision of home care, using a child and family-centered context. Associate Professor Collins’s service to palliative care also received a Recognition Award from the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care in 2008 for the Institutional Category – a first for an Australian service, and a first for a paediatric service in the world. 

Emerging Leader  

The Emerging Leader award was taken out by Dr Graham Grove, Medical Director, Specialist Palliative Rural Telehealth Service (and Gold Coast Health), acknowledging his outstanding achievements in supporting in Queensland over the past five years. Based on the Gold Coast, Dr Graham has exemplified leadership in the Palliative Care Sector and been directly responsible for ground-breaking initiatives and programs that have enriched the lives of patients, families and health professionals. 

Dr Graham has developed and lead multiple projects in the Gold Coast that include: the Introduction of Point of care Ultrasound, the Pocketbook of Palliative Care app for apple and androids, and subcutaneous patient-controlled analgesia. More recently he has worked on developing and leading the Specialist Palliative Care Rural Telehealth Team (based in Townsville, Cairns, Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast). His COVID-19 guidelines of care in a palliative setting have also been taken up and used both locally and further afield. In a short number of years, Graham has had a significant impact on the quality of care provided to Gold Coast palliative care patients. Dr Graham’s vision and commitment also provided the inspiration and guidance for creating, developing and leading Queensland’s Specialist Palliative Rural Telehealth Service (SPARTA). He continues to support and inspire his interdisciplinary team members, and mentor and encourage juniors, colleagues and stakeholders alike.  

Excellence in Palliative Care – Rural and Remote  

Robyn Ellis achieved the Excellence in Palliative Care – Rural and Remote award for excellence in palliative care, in recognition for her work in the West Australian Country Health Service Midwest (WACHS Midwest). Robyn has been the Regional Palliative Care Clinical Nurse Specialist/Manager in WACHS Midwest since 2021, and has driven many innovative and creative projects to support in-home palliative care services to people in rural and remote locations. Some of these projects include: promoting the use of telehealth with patients and their carers who live remotely; being innovative with staffing by employing casual staff in remote locations who can be deployed when there is a palliative patient in a rural/remote location; and working with nursing staff in the smaller WACHS sites, so that they gain confidence to manage palliative patients in their communities and health services.  

Robyn strongly believes that palliative care is best delivered by the general practitioners on the ground, with support from specialist colleagues, and has been a long-time supporter and champion of local general practitioners managing palliative care patients in rural and remote locations. This has resulted in more patients being able to die in their communities when previously this has not been possible.  

Excellence in Palliative Care in an Aged Care Setting  

This year, the national award for Excellence in Palliative Care in an Aged Care Setting was awarded to Yasothiny Yogarajah for her outstanding dedication and leadership in the palliative approach in an aged care setting. With excellence, Yasothiny has embedded the BaptistCare Palliative Approach framework (Affirm, Balance and Comfort) at Shalom Centre for Aged Care, ensuring the journey of care experienced by each resident is uniquely aligned to their person wishes.   

As Care Team Manager at the Northern Sydney (62 bed) level 1 unit, Yasothiny has helped develop, lead and mentor the unit’s team to enable the staff to assess and apply effective outcomes to enhance resident care. Yasothiny displays outstanding sensitivity, respect and compassion and is an inspiration for all who deal with her. Her colleagues are quick to appreciate and commend her dedication and passion for palliative care in the aged care setting. 

Outstanding Achievement by a Volunteer  

Keri Wassenaar was awarded the Outstanding Achievement by a Volunteer award, which recognises the exceptional contribution of a volunteer in improving the experience of patients with palliative care needs or their families. For over 15 years, Keri has been a champion, inspiration, supporter, carer, advocate and legend for Karuna Hospice Services, personifying everything that the organisation stands for and values. She is dedicated, caring and compassionate and willing to go above and beyond to support Karuna’s clients and their families. Keri became a Palliative Care Support Volunteer in 2006, and has always been generous with her time and resources, giving close to 800 hours in her capacity as a Karuna Palliative Care Support Volunteer. Her role has involved companioning clients in their home, taking them on outings or to appointments as well as providing practical assistance within the home. The training Keri has participated in has allowed her to be fully present with our clients and a ‘safe place’ for members of the community to talk about death and dying. 

In 2011, Keri also joined Karuna’s Biography Team. Since then, Keri has been involved with 53 clients, either as a biographer or as an editor, giving in excess of 1,600 hours. In doing so, she has provided a priceless opportunity for our palliative clients to reflect on and come to terms with their lives, as well as leave memories for their loved ones. Staff at Karuna are quick to share that Keri is the type of volunteer that every organisation wishes they could call upon.