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Positive feedback for the Serbian Palliative Support Program

Talking about the palliative care approach and importance of getting the right support at the end of life is just one of the many everyday tasks of the Serbian Community Association of Australia.

Volunteers Milka Ivicic (in red vest, seated) and Camila Panic (standing, right) from Serbian Community Association of Australia (SCAA) organised a cultural event at a local RACF in Dandenong North.

A small organisation with a big reach

Manager, Marina Celebic and Volunteer Coordinator, Biljana Trickovic, also team up to speak at local community groups such as the Serbian Women’s Group in Dandenong and the Serbian Pensioners groups in Keysborough and Carrum Downs. Early in December, Marina was interviewed about SCAA’s palliative support project by SBS Radio (Serbian program) which reaches an audience of over 2000 people in Victoria.

The project received 15 referrals in the first year, through self-referral, family, friends and through residential aged care providers. Clients diagnosed with chronic or terminal illness were matched with nine volunteers for weekly support visits.

Volunteers get the support they need

During the first year, the volunteers received fortnightly supervision, enabling timely debrief and an opportunity to alert the Coordinator to any problems. Feedback from the volunteers indicate they value this one-on-one time for reflection and improving skills.

Monthly training sessions were another way of building capacity: professional speakers were invited to deliver information on palliative care related topics. After each session, volunteers had an opportunity for discussion and feedback.

Making a difference for Serbians at end of life

“Volunteers and life style coordinators in aged care facilities have continually reported back to us of the great improvements in the life of the recipients. We hear that as a result of the visits many of the recipients are talking and laughing more often,” says Marina.

Biljana joins in, “In one of the aged care facilities, two volunteers organised a Serbian cultural day with traditional food, coffee and cake, alongside music. The palliative care patients visited by these two volunteers said they felt proud and cared for. This was a very emotional event for the residents and the volunteers.

For our clients who don’t speak English, help from volunteers is necessary to feel included and to participate as much as they can in such events. It is very beneficial, particularly for some who have progressive dementia.”

Connections matter!

Networking with other health and welfare services is another focus of SCAA’s work. In the last six months, Marina and Biljana met with PRONIA (Greek Welfare), Carers Victoria, Mental Health Foundation Australia, CELAS and Co As It. In December 2019, they met with Kayla Locke, Coordinator- Palliative Care Social Support at Southern Migrant and Refugee Centre to discuss common areas of interest. They explored the possibility of regular networking with other organisations who deliver palliative support services in the South East region.

SCAA is one of the few ethno-specific organisations having a history of collaboration with Sri Lankan, Mauritian and Spanish Latin American groups in the south. Marina and Biljana hope to continue this strategic support role with aging minority ethnic groups in future.

Volunteer Coordinator Biljana Trickovic (third from left) with the SCAA volunteers after a training session with Anton Anagnostou (PRONIA, far left) on Self Care.

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