Melanie is an author, photographer and Deathwalker. In 2016 she started the Christchurch Death Cafe to encourage people to talk more openly about death and to confront her own fears about the subject.
'We seem to have such a fear of death and are reluctant to even discuss the subject. And yet maintaining an awareness of death has so many benefits, at the very least it can remind us of what is most important, each day, right now.
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.'
We cannot be truly alive without....
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 is also a qualified social worker, and 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 througout the community. She has a 9-year-old daughter and lives with her extended whanau and mokopuna in Christchurch.
A Māori Perspective on Death and Tangi
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 which now employs 2 medical specialists, 4 nurses and 2 doctors in training. Education is one of her main priorities. She teaches and mentors medical students, young doctors and other healthcare professionals in symptom management, communication skills and medical decision-making. She often travels throughout the South Island conducting lectures and workshops on topics such as Advance Care Planning, motor neuron disease, end stage kidney disease and care of the dying.
Kate has held many leadership roles in New Zealand and Australia and is on a number of national committees.
She lives on a 10 acre lifestyle block near Oxford, North Canterbury, with her husband and two daughters.
maintaining an awareness of death
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.
Kate will share her 20+ year experience of caring for people at the end of their lives.
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 following the earthquakes of 2010-2011 and 2016.
Growing Our Mental Wellbeing Helps Make Hard Times Easier to Deal With
Death is always with us...
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.
Ciaran will share some of the successful strategies successfully implemented over the course of the All Right? programme that we can all play with to increase our mental wellbeing.
Death is not waiting for us at the end of a long road
Dr. Nicole Lindsay
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, investigating 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.
...in the marrow of every passing moment
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. Eva’s healing gifts are also in demand for clearing homes, businesses or land where there has been conflict or loss. Clients report feeling happier and more peaceful in the cleared environment.
Sound Healing Performance
Get comfortable [in your seat]. Relax and enjoy this ten minute sound experience with Eva.
NB. This is a small sampling to introduce you to the experience. A private consultation usually lasts for an hour and you are lying down under a warm blanket with your eyes closed.
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. After delivering an inspiring Ted Talk on overcoming failure he has gone on to become 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.
Funny and full of enthusiasm Michael’s talks are always informative and engaging.
Understanding & Preventing Suicide in Your Community
She is the secret teacher
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.
...hiding in plain sight
(Companion to the Dying)
A few years ago I was fortunate to attend a course on becoming a Deathwalker. Because of this experience I went on 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
Death and Dying; How to bring it back home to the community, and the role of medicinal cannabis in palliative care.
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, death whispers; what is it that death teaches us about life?
Every day death whispers into my ear. In this session I will reflect on some of the wisdom that death brings to life, and some of the gifts of working with the dying.
She helps us to discover what matters most.'*
*This beautiful quote is from Frank Ostaseski's book 'The Five Initiations, Discovering What Death Can Teach us About Living Fully'