Deirdre Hanna is Founder of Hopewell Hospice Services Inc. in 1993, which included Hopewell Hospice, Paradise Kids, Hopewell Education Services and The Living Well Respite Centre.
Deirdre had a vision of a Hospice on the Gold Coast after a ‘Voice’ called her in the night telling her to ‘find out about Cicely Saunders.’ Deirdre then read Dame Cicely’s biography and realised that working with death and dying was also to be her own life vocation. Dame Cicely Saunders started St Christopher’s Hospice in London in 1968 and Deirdre was profoundly inspired by this woman of vision. She read books about Cicely Saunders and St Christopher’s Hospice, as well as On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kübler Ross and knowing that this was to be her ministry, studied the Ecumenical Hospice Chaplain’s Program as part of her Theology Degree at St Francis’ College in Brisbane.
Deirdre worked as an Anglican Chaplain in The Royal Brisbane Hospital and then as an Ecumenical Chaplain in the Gold Coast Hospital’s Palliative Care Ward. She noticed that many people had no choice of where to spend their final days of life, other than in a hospital setting. Thus the concept of starting a hospice on the Gold Coast as an alternative place in which to die was born. With her husband and partner Rev. Dr Ian Mavor, they set about bringing the dream of a place of hospitality and compassionate loving care at the end stage of life’s journey into a reality.
Read more of Deirdre’s Story that led to her Hospice work.
Deirdre’s first step in actualizing the dream was to call together a small group of committed people in October 1993 to discuss the hospice philosophy and the need for a building in which to house it. In March 1994, Hopewell became an Incorporated Association with 30 members. Deirdre was Founding President, Ian was Secretary of the Charity and some friends became Committee Members.
The name ‘Hopewell’ was given to Deirdre in a dream and comes from her strong Christian faith and ‘Hope’ in the resurrection that, even after death, life continues in some form. The name also incorporates the ‘Well’ of Living Water from which to drink so that we need never be thirsty for Love again, and about which Jesus spoke. In 1994, they purchased a property called Glory Farm, in Sickle Avenue on Hope Island. This contained a house with two attached flats. and became the Gold Coast’s first free-standing community hospice. The synchronicities of the names delighted Hopewell’s members.
As a result of this initiative, Deirdre received a Churchill Fellowship in 1995 to study Spiritual Care of Cancer Patients. This took her to 17 different hospices in Great Britain and North America to study best practices in palliative care, where she finally met Cicely Saunders at St Christopher’s Hospice. Deirdre studied there for a 5-day multi-disciplinary course in Palliative Care.
To gain insight into the benefits Deirdre gained from her Churchill Fellowship.
While travelling she then heard her ‘Voice’ again and was called to begin caring for children affected by the death of a parent or sibling or other major grief life event. The Paradise Kids Grief, Loss and Illness Programs were developed by Deirdre in 1996 as her Churchill Fellowship travels included attending an International Conference on Children and Death held in Canada. She brought back into Australia the best of children’s grief courses and adapted them to suit the local culture, drawing also on William Worden’s Tasks of Mourning and her interests in children’s physical, emotional and spiritual health and wellbeing.
The 7-week Paradise Kids Grief and Loss Program covers the four tasks of mourning: accepting the reality that a grievous loss has happened; experiencing the pain of the loss through safe expression of feelings; adjusting to a new environment without the lost object or person; emotionally relocating that which has been lost and re-investing in life with new life-skills for coping with change and a new and more evolved sense of meaning.
The first Paradise Kids groups were held in various places for the first few years until it became possible to rent a building in the Allied Drive Community Precinct in Arundel. This venue was then purchased from another charity to become the first Paradise Kids House. For several years, the Support Services and Counselling Services were provided in that building, with some 270 children receiving the services of the Support Groups each year.
In 2005, the new Hopewell Hospice was opened adjacent to Paradise Kids on the same site. Then, with generous support from members of the Gold Coast community, planning commenced to build a new venue for Paradise Kids on an adjoining vacant block, and this was completed late in 2008. The new building contains seven counselling rooms, including family counselling and parent support; two children’s group support rooms; a large seminar room for training programs and workshops; four administration offices and the Simply Divine Café for tea, coffee and lunches and snacks. It was then possible to renovate the older building to create the beautiful Paradise Kids Holiday House in order to provide accommodation to assist families with sick children from further afield, such as rural and remote areas, to receive the help they need in difficult times.
The Paradise Kids Program has been adapted to suit children grieving a variety of losses: such as children who have had a death in their family, including indigenous children; the sudden tragic death through suicide or murder of a parent or sibling; losses associated with foster care, divorce and separation; losses associated with a child’s own terminal illness; and, following the 2011 floods in Queensland, a program adapted for children and families affected by natural disasters.
Deirdre’s studies have been varied and include a Bachelor of Theology (B.Th.); Hospital Chaplaincy Certificate (specialising in Pastoral Care and Youth Ministry); Churchill Fellow (Spiritual Care of Cancer Patients, 1995); Certificate in Transpersonal Psychotherapy and Counselling; post-graduate studies in the Doctor of Ministry Program at the University of Creation Spirituality; Multi-Disciplinary Certificate in Hospice Care, St Christopher’s Hospice, London; Certificate in Mindfulness Meditation from the Massachusetts Medical School Mind-Body Stress Reduction Clinic; Certificate in Spiritual Direction and Retreat Leading; Diploma of Nutrition and Dietetics; and Diploma in Swedish Massage.
In her work, Deirdre draws on her background in journalism and creative writing to write stories for children dealing with grief. Deirdre has partnered with Charity Murphy to revive her original works as part of the Paradise Kids Storybook Collection. The collection features a series of books and videos that are designed to be a useful tool in helping children relate to the deep emotional issues and painful situations they are currently facing, in the safeness of a storybook. The collection is produced by the Ian Mavor Foundation as a gift of love to Paradise Kids.
Ian shared with Deirdre Hanna in the founding of Hopewell Hospice Services Inc. and has served as Secretary of the Association since 1994. He was Executive Director of Hopewell Hospice Services Inc. from 2004 until his death in 2015, Ian had been Principal Education Officer for Education Queensland when Hopewell started, and then Executive Director of Lifeline Gold Coast. He has also served as a member of the Health Community Council of the Gold Coast Health District and of the State Council of Palliative Care Queensland.
In 2002, Ian was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) “For service to the community through a range of church, social welfare, education and health groups”. Sadly in 2015, Ian passed away, his legacy continues to this day. After his passing, many touching tributes were written, we have included one that provides an overview of Ian's life ... 2015 Tribute to Ian.
In 2016, Deirdre formed the Ian Mavor Foundation in honour of her late husband and his life work. The Ian Mavor Foundation provides financial support to Paradise Kids and Hopewell Hospice. One of the Ian Mavor Foundation's Educational Projects is The Paradise Kids Storybook Collection. As Ian's life revolved around books, Ian would be absolutely delighted to know the storybook collection is helping children who can't personally come to Paradise Kids for help and support.
To find out more about the Ian Mavor Foundation and how you can support the works of IMF, please visit the IMF website: www.ianmavor.foundation