Heidi Grieg and Kath Bald are advocates for choice when it comes to end-of-life needs and wishes, and decided to ensure burials and funerals on private land are possible for Kangaroo Islanders.
Ambulance officer Grieg decided she needed a change in direction after the Kangaroo Island bushfires, especially after the deaths of local legends Dick and Clayton Lang.
She said that the fear that there were more fire victims made her realise that “death literacy” was lacking on the island.
After first considering a career change into palliative care, the western KI woman decided to create the opportunity for community-driven end-of-life doula services.
With a gap in end-of-life planning and support, and no funeral service based on the island, Grieg wanted to open up the dialogue and bring choice back to the community.
“This is something the community could do with guidance,” Grieg said.
She began with her “Dying to Know” events in Parndana and Kingscote, offering residents the opportunity to ask questions about doula roles and start planning around the last days of their lives.
Holistic, affordable end-of-life support shaped by community needs is a niche profession in Australia, yet it received an overwhelmingly positive response on Kangaroo Island.
After creating KI Doula Services, Grieg quickly realised she required more than just one person and was approached by nurse and midwife Kath Bald at the perfect time.
Doula is a Greek word meaning ‘person of service,’ with birth doulas already assisting women all around the world during their pregnancy, labour and first weeks of motherhood.
Bald said it seems natural to have someone guide you out of life too.
“It’s a privilege to be there for people, at birth and also at the end,” Bald said.
KI Doula Services complements the health services provided by nurses and GPs with non-medical services supporting people to “die at home if they wish”.
Their mobile assistance includes essential things like creating legacy materials, teaching simple relaxation and meditation techniques, funeral arrangements and support with legal paperwork.
Both women also underwent intensive training in natural mortuary care to prepare them for their new roles and to launch their other business, Island Holistic Funerals.
Their combined service focuses on home-based and family-led end-of-life care and funerals, offering islanders the chance to die and be buried on their rural properties, surrounded by those they choose, in an environment that brings them comfort.
Bald said a large part of their message is to have the conversations early on. Pre-planning, talking and listening to help understand someone’s wishes and advocate for them at the end of their life.
“Many of our ancestors kept death at home. It’s proven to help with the grieving process if people can spend time with their loved ones after their death and within their home,” Bald said.Jump to next article