Thousands of tough talks kick off across Australia this week

multi generational family having a positive conversation

This week thousands of Australians will start conversations they might otherwise prefer to avoid – getting older and planning for a time when they are unable to make their own medical decisions.

While it may be an unpalatable topic of conversation for some, more than 150 community groups, local councils, health care organisations, church congregations and even book clubs are embracing end-of-life conversations and taking part in National Advance Care Planning Week.

Funded by the Australian Government, National Advance Care Planning Week is 1-5 April. The initiative encourages fit and healthy Australians to talk about the care they would want if they were unable to speak for themselves because of a sudden medical crisis, progressive illness such as cancer or dementia or old age.

The initiative is supported by ambassadors who include medical experts, media professionals and peak body leaders such as:

  • Dr Chris Moy, GP and Chair of the AMA Ethics and Medico-Legal Committee
  • Dr Ranjana Srivastava, oncologist and columnist for The Guardian
  • Rohan Greenland, CEO of Palliative Care Australia

The initiative is run by Advance Care Planning Australia (ACPA), the national authority on advance care planning. ACPA is pleased with the strong showing of interest across the country, with more than 150 awareness-raising events being held in every state and territory; from Albany to Alice Springs to Townsville.

While these conversations can be tough for some, the evidence is even tougher. Around 50% of people will be unable to make their own end-of-life medical treatment decisions, yet only 15% of Australians have an advance care directive. 

“We constantly hear about healthy ageing in the media, but too much of it is focussed on the present. An important part of health ageing is making informed choices about your care and planning ahead for future events. Advance care planning can provide clarity and certainty, rather than leaving it to others to decide for you,” explains National Advance Care Planning Week ambassador, Dr Chris Moy.

“While advance care planning involves end-of-life conversations, essentially it’s a personal statement about how you want to live. So if living well to the end and on your own terms matters to you, I urge you to find out more and get involved in National Advance Care Planning Week,” says Dr Karen Detering, Medical Director of Advance Care Planning Australia.