Te Arai on tour

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We even fitted in some whale watching among discussions of structural vulnerability and palliative care

Merryn writes….

Aileen, Jackie and I were very fortunate to be invited to spend time with Professor Kelli Stadjuhar and her team in beautiful Victoria on Vancouver Island. I say invited – we invited ourselves, as I’ve long been a fan of Kelli’s work – but we have been invited back so hopefully we were good guests. Which was easy, as the hospitality we were shown was amazing (now everyone will be inviting themselves – sorry Kelli).

We had some great discussions. Our shared values meant that there not only strong synergies in terms of what we research, but also how we research.  In Te Ārai we view the world from a health equity perspective. Kelli and her team literally wrote the paper on framing death as a social justice issue. If you haven’t read it, you should. It contains strong and nuanced arguments to support a focus on the social and structural determinants of end of life experience. There has been far too little focus within palliative care on the role of social processes in determining experience; however, as both Kelli’s work and our own has shown, we need to do better. Racism, sexism, ageism, classism…all of these impact significantly upon individual experience. They also structure expectations and attitudes, something rarely considered in the prioritisation of individualistic notions of ‘choice’ in relation to end of life care.

A commitment to participatory ways of working is also something we share and this is clearly evident in the amazing work the team are undertaking in relation to improving palliative care for people experiencing homelessness (including those who are vulnerably housed). I think this is some of the most innovative and important research being undertaken today anywhere in the world – work which is clearly driving service innovation and in which Kelli and her team engage in social activism to promote real world change. It was great to meet Ashley Mollison who is the key fieldworker on the project. Her skills in working with this population are very clearly critical to the success of the project and we had great discussions with her about research relationships, ethics, and raccoons (I never knew they were so vicious). We left excited to think about how we can take learnings from the work we heard about back to Auckland.

Finally, I can’t sign off without giving a shout out to Carren Dujela who helped us with everything from how to buy coffee in Canada to explaining indigenous customs. Thanks also to Erin Donald for showing us around and having a gorgeous dog in her office (definitely an idea we want to take back to Auckland).

If you want to read more about the work of Kelli’s group (and I would encourage you to do so) check out their website to access resources such as Kelli talking about their homelessness work on the radio. Both Kelli (@KStajduhar) and Ashley (@equitableaccess) are also avid tweeters if you dabble in Twitter.

After I delivered a public lecture, we went on to the Canadian Gerontology Conference in Vancouver. More on our visit there – including conference highlights and pictures of our cycle tour around Stanley Park – to follow.

As ever, if there are any papers you come across that you want to access, but can’t get to, please let me know (m.gott@auckland.ac.nz).








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