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2019 Death Matters
Conference Highlights

In 2019 the first Death Matters Conference was held in Christchurch, NZ. A wide variety of professionals, academics and specialists broadened our understanding of aging, dying and grief through a mixture of presentations, workshops and Q&A sessions.


I’m passionate about encouraging death awareness because it reminds us that our time here is limited. Death matters for all of us, because it helps us to stop and think about what is truly important, and it encourages us to shift our priorities accordingly. When we accept our mortality we make more authentic choices and live more creative, connected and meaningful lives in the process.

Thankyou for a mind-blowing day! —FEEDBACK FROM 2019 CONFERENCE



Dr. Kate Grundy

Palliative Medicine Physician

Dr Kate Grundy is the Clinical Director of the Canterbury Integrated Palliative Care Services. 20 years ago she established the palliative care service at Christchurch Hospital. She teaches and mentors medical students, young doctors and other healthcare professionals in symptom management, communication skills and medical decision-making. Kate has held many leadership roles in New Zealand and Australia and is on a number of national committees.

How We Die

Many people are extremely fearful of the dying process. They have an expectation that death will be painful and distressing and completely overwhelming for their loved ones. As a consequence, talking about death has become too hard, and people fight against it, believing that if they don’t think about it, it won’t happen.


But, death will come to us all – there is no avoiding it. Acceptance helps planning and normal dying is most often a gentle process, where  symptoms can be managed and everyone supported.​

Ciaran Fox

Mental Health Promotion Strategist

Ciaran Fox has worked for twenty-five years in health promotion, community development, youth health, arts advocacy and city-making.  He has been with the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand since 2008 and specialises in the areas of positive mental health, wellbeing, social marketing and health promotion. He currently works on the award-winning All Right? programme supporting the psychosocial recovery and future flourishing, of people in Canterbury.

Mental Wellbeing For Tough Times

Understanding and growing our mental wellbeing makes hard times easier to deal with. This doesn’t mean being tough or ‘hardening up’ and it doesn’t mean being positive all the time or avoiding negative emotions.


A chance to learn first hand about some of the interesting wellness strategies the All Right? Programme has successfully implemented.

Mairehe Louise Tankersley

Māori Cultural Consultant

Louise is of Ngai Tahu, Ngati Mamoe and Waitaha descent, and has worked in the Māori community of Christchurch for many years. She is currently the Chair of Te Runaka ki Otautahi o Kai Tahu Trust.
A Director of Jade Associates, a Māori consultancy based in Christchurch, Louise currently runs Tikanga Māori Programmes across all three Canterbury Prisons, as well as for people who are serving community sentences with the Department of Corrections.  Louise has worked in the fields of education, mental health and justice. She runs Treaty of Waitangi workshops and provides cultural supervision and training to groups and individuals throughout the community. 

Louise presented a Māori Perspective on Death and Tangi

Dr. Nicole Lindsay

NDE Researcher

Dr Nicole Lindsay is a researcher at the School of Psychology at Massey University, with a special interest in near-death experiences (NDEs).  Nicole has spent the last six years investigating NDEs within a New Zealand context, how these experiences manifest, and the impact they have upon people’s lives.
As part of her PhD studies, she examined how NDEs change a person’s attitudes and beliefs about death, and the implications of this research for wider society.

'I’m Not Afraid to Die' - Changed Orientations to Death After an NDE

Near-death experiences (NDEs) are vivid and realistic subjective experiences that often occur during life threatening episodes or an actual state of death.  Many people who experience NDEs are forever changed by their experience and often claim they no longer fear death.  This presentation discusses how and why NDEs can dramatically alter a person’s outlook on both life and death

Michael Hempseed

Author, TEDx Speaker & Mental Health Educator

Michael Hempseed is the author of the book, Being A True Hero: Understanding and Preventing Suicide in Your Community. His successful Ted Talk on overcoming failure led to his becoming a highly sought-after professional speaker. In the last two years Michael has delivered more than 300 seminars on topics such as overcoming failure, mental illness and suicide prevention.

Understanding & Preventing Suicide in Your Community

When we think about suicide we often associate it exclusively with depression, yet there are many causes of suicide from, bullying, lack of sleep, and psychosis, to panic disorder, loneliness and failure. This funny and informative talk will empower listeners to understand the causes of suicide and to know how to help someone who is suicidal

Deborah Hercock

Spiritual Care Worker
Nurse Maude Palliative Care Service

Deborah works as a companion to those who are dying and their families. She provides support and education for staff and interested groups on various issues including loss, grief and spirituality.


Deborah has been a counsellor with the Nurse Maude palliative care service for over ten years and has recently moved into the role of spiritual care. She has a passion for dignity and a deep respect for the human spirit.  She finds her work deeply rewarding and appreciates the many connections that form our web of belonging and the contributions of compassion, hope, and mystery in her work.


When Death Whispers, What Do We Hear?

Every day in my life and work, death whispers. As I come alongside those who are dying and their families, I think about what death is teaching us about life. I reflect on some of the wisdom that death brings to life, and some of the gifts of working with the dying.

Sarah Carberry

Amicus Mortis  (Companion to the Dying)

A few years ago I a course I attended on becoming a Deathwalker led me to help set up the Fare-Well Services Trust, a charity which supports dying at home with care and dignity, in the Marlborough Sounds. We are a small team consisting of palliative care nurses, soul midwives, a funeral celebrant, carers and volunteers. We work alongside Hospice Marlborough, Wairau Oncology Department, GPs and local community groups to assist rural patients to enjoy a good quality of life and to die well and supported in their own homes.

Bringing Death Back Home

How to bring it back home to the community, and the role of medicinal cannabis in palliative care.


Rosie Mac

Intentional Creativity© Artist & Facilitator

Although nursing was my career for over 40 years, painting as a form of self-care emerged in 2012. Despite being told I couldn’t draw when I was 14, I nervously had a go. A year later I came across Intentional Creativity©. I was completely captivated by this art method’s mystery and magic, and undertook the nine-month teacher training so that I could share it with others.

Navigating Grief with Intentional Creativity©

This short class will provide you with an opportunity to connect with your heart in a way you may not have experienced before. It’s a time to reflect and honour yourself with a painting process that needs no experience. We’ll use mixed media paper and paint to bring healing to your heart, in whatever way you need on the day. Be prepared to have fun and be surprised!

Eva Mason

Sound Healer

Eva Mason has been supporting our community with sound healing for more than 20 years. She helps individuals navigate life's challenges and transitions through a process that clears unhelpful energies and restores balance, harmony and wellbeing.

Sound Healing Performance

Get comfortable [in your seat]. Relax and enjoy this ten minute sound bath with Eva.

Sue Dwan

Management & Business Coach and Change Agent

Sue is a management and business coach, a professional certified coach (PCC/ICF), a writer and 'go to' person for specific projects and initiatives. Three specific deaths and an extraordinary event at a crematorium led her to consider our predominant death-denying culture and its impact on individuals, their families, and employers. She wrote three downloadable Get Your Affairs in Order (Before it is too late) books as a result.


Get Your Affairs in Order & Advance Care Plans

Statistics show few adults (from 18 – 70+ years of age) ever prepare themselves mentally, emotionally, or in any practical way for their eventual death. This typically results in significant issues, work, stress and expense for loved ones left behind. Moreover, individuals tend to give little attention to thinking about the healthcare and treatments they may want/not want, in the future. An Advance Care Plan enables decisions to be made and recorded, before it is too late to do so. 

Donna Sutherland

Christchurch Coffin Club

The Coffin Club is a community group like no other - they make and customise coffins! Born in the back of a Rotorua garage ten years ago, the Coffin Club has since evolved into a bustling cottage enterprise with clubs springing up all over NZ.

Donna set up the Christchurch Coffin Club 5 years ago, and has been helping people paint and decorate their caskets ever since. She and her team mate Jill Newton work with the Bishopdale Menzshed [who build the Caskets and Angel boxes for them to decorate].


Coffin Club

This is a chance to get comfortable and creative in an area that is usually off limits to most of us.  You might be considering a DIY coffin for yourself or a family member or just want to explore this option for future reference. This is a great way to find out more and learn about Coffin Club along the way.

Tanya Tunnicliffe

Soul Centred Counsellor and Energy Therapist

Tanya currently runs a private counselling practice, and also works as a Bereavement Counsellor for John Rhind Funeral Directors. Her passion is guiding people in times of crises, uncertainty, grief and change. She has great faith in the natural potential and capacity of your Soul to find its unique pathway of deep healing, love and spiritual enrichment.

In the past Tanya has worked at the St John and Elizabeth’s Hospice in London, and the Nurse Maude Hospice in Merivale Christchurch as counsellor, energy worker and craniosacral therapist.

Nilguen Kulpe

Grief Counsellor & Story Teller

Nilguen is a passionate and naturally gifted Story Teller who currently spends her time travelling and telling a rich repertoire of stories from ‘Women Who Run With the Wolves’, tales that stir your soul with their rich power.
She also runs a private practice as counsellor supporting individuals and couples. In the past Nilguen has worked as a counsellor for Nurse Maude Hospice in Christchurch, Relationship Services Canterbury, and as a Social Worker for Probation Services Canterbury.


Rainbow Jars, Creative Grief Workshop

Join Tanya and Nilguen in this simple and fun hands-on activity. This is a tender and heart-warming journey of shared memories and reconnection led by two wise women with deep experiences in the mysteries of love and loss.


Melanie Mayell

Death Matters MC & Christchurch Death Café Host

Since becoming more curious about death I've met a whole world of people doing weird and wonderful things in death-related fields; artists and film-makers, death doulas, morticians, and green burialists [to name just a few]. Creating a one day event is a way of bringing together a cross-section of speakers, facilitators and processes to make the subject of death more accessible, interesting and empowering for all of us.'


Death Cafe

This is a chance to experience what we do in a Death Cafe. The basic rules are: the conversation is group led, there’s no agenda, no speakers, no grief support and it's not therapy. Everyone regardless whether beginner or expert is welcome to the table and each opinion, experience or question is valid. And all we talk about is death. Sounds quite dark and heavy but I always come away feeling lighter and more inspired about life.


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