What does it take to light a fire and create change for how we do death and dying in Australia?
The GroundSwell Project set out to embark on a bold journey to create cultural and systems change in the death and dying space 9 years ago. We have learned much about what it takes to address attitudes such as ‘talking about death is taboo’ and in mobilising a social movement to re-claim ageing, dying, death and grief in the community.
We draw heavily on social change theory because its imbued with principles of inclusivity and responsibility. On our journey to influence cultural and systemic change, we have had to be careful not to perpetuate ‘systemic malaise’ through scaling ideas that excited but didn’t ultimately create results.
Through our grassroots campaigning and activation of compassionate communities in end of life, citizens, palliative care staff and aged care workers gather to create fresh approaches to tacking the issues such as ageism, support, empowerment and community activism. Leaders, activators, champions, change agents come from ALL sectors of the community, across the generations. We aim to make change truly ‘social’ so that in turn drives system change.
One of the dominant narratives of ageing is around ‘decline’ and ‘burden’. Through our research with Western Sydney Uni and our community development practice, we view the maintenance and development of older people’s social networks as fundamental to wellbeing. Being connected, having a positive identity, continuing to contribute to the fabric of society are all essential to positive healthy ageing, increased life expectancy and overall life satisfaction and this is non more so than when faced with dying.
So what we have learned about change and innovation over this time and what are the insights we can share for the ageing sector? In this presentation, you will glean highlights from a range of our innovations and our approach to leadership, social research and collaboration. You’ll have pause to reflect on how in your current role in the aged care system, you too can create change, by drawing on non-health and non-aged specific discourse using a stronger social lens.
We will also share our current journey to developing a world first Death Literacy Index which will be a vital measure of impact in social change around death and dying as well as sharing inspiring stories of community driven change.

Jessie Williams

Jessie Williams is the CEO of The Groundswell Project (GSP) : a not for profit organisation known for using innovative arts and health programs to create social and cultural change about death and dying.
The Groundswell Project’s purpose is to create a more death literate society, one where people and communities have the practical know-how needed to plan well and respond to dying death and grief. This means transforming end of life conversations into deep community engagement and social action. They are an international leader in death literacy, focussing on systemic long-term change. Their vision is for a society in which everyone knows what to do when someone is dying, caring or grieving.

Day 2, 11:30am – 12:00pm – What does it take to light a fire, creating cultural change for how we do death and dying in Australia?