Toowoomba Hospice


Toowoomba Hospice Association is a community based private healthcare facility, which provides free palliative care to the terminally ill and is heavily supported by their local community.

The Toowoomba Hospice Association Promotions and Fundraising officer, Mark Munro talked with Toowoomba – 4350TV about the hospice and how it came into being.

“Look, Sister Frances Flint who was a religious nun from the Order of the Brigidines,” Mark Munro explained in the podcast above.

“She came to Toowoomba in about 1988 and was to set up with the diocese and media office for the Catholic diocese.

“Now, she was quite big into people‚Äôs lives and respect of how people died.”

The hospice continues to enjoy tremendous amounts of community support and engagement.

Read the Toowoomba Hospice Podcast Interview TRANSCRIPT

McCarthy-Wood: Thank you for your company. I’m Andrew McCarthy-Wood. Look, Toowoomba, no doubt, the community, when they decide that they want to do something, they step up to the plate, they come together, and in this case they’ve actually raised a whole lot of funds to bring about the Toowoomba Hospice Association or the building around it. It’s a community-based private health care facility, which provides free palliative care to the terminally ill. So very important part in the community.
We have Daryl Nicholson on the line to have a chat about this. Daryl, how are you?

Daryl Nicholson: I’m going well, very well. Andrew, how are you?

McCarthy-Wood: Yeah, good, good. Now you’re going to be talking with Andrew. Sorry. Mark Munro. He’s also on the line. He’s from the Toowoomba Hospice Association. Mark, how are you?

Mark Munro: I am wonderful. Thank you very much Andrew. G’day Daryl. How are you, mate?

Daryl Nicholson: Yeah, going very well, Mark, I’m happy and joyful. I said this last week. They’ll put that on my gravestone. I’m always happy joyful.

Mark Munro: Absolutely mate.

Daryl Nicholson: Mark, thanks for your time this morning. Do appreciate it. And mate, I’ve got another saying. I’m not scared of dying, but I’m scared about how I’m going to die, and I’ve got involved with you. I’ve known you for over 10 years or so with your work at the Hospice and helped you there. The Hospice is an amazing place. Was put together in 2003 by the Toowoomba community raising $1.2 million. Can you give us a bit of background about how that came about?

Mark Munro: Certainly, certainly. Look, Sister Frances Flint who was a religious nun from the Order of the Brigidines. She came to Toowoomba in about 1988 and was to set up with the diocese and media office for the Catholic diocese. Now, she was quite big into people’s lives and respect of how people died.
And then I think somewhere in 1996, the Northern Territory euthanasia debate was happening and Sister Frances was concerned that a Christian life is so sacred that, and there was no hospice here at Toowoomba, and maybe that was an alternative to euthanasia, which we strongly agree with here at the Toowoomba Hospice. So that’s when she decided to investigate and have a look at, see what we could do or what she could do at the time to establish a lovely hospice.

Daryl Nicholson: And it is a beautiful facility. I was quite blessed. I got together with you to promote your race day. We’ll talk about the community events you do later. You took me through the hospice and I was absolutely amazed with the facility you got there and you’ve got a base of 115-plus volunteers. Tell us how important those volunteers are for you.

Mark Munro: Oh, absolutely. Volunteers play a major role here. They work in all sorts of areas in the hospice, like our maintenance and gardening department, our courier, our flowers to help make sure that the clients have beautiful flowers each day. We also have administration and accounts they help us with. And also our housekeeping and they cook meals as well for the clients.

Daryl Nicholson: And I’ve often talked to you about your operating budget. You’ve got a budget of about 1.7 million, of which the Queensland government in their generosity $800,000 they contribute towards it, but the Toowoomba community, this blew my mind, 670,000 K or $670,000 from the Toowoomba community through your certain fundraising events. Tell us about those events and how the community get behind that.

Mark Munro: Oh, look, Daryl and Andrew. The hospice, as you mentioned before, was built by the community of 1.2 million and we’ve always realised and have a great following by the community for the hospice. And that $670,000 is made up from, I guess, 120,000 from the Pure Land Learning College here at the Buddhist, and they would be a great group of people to interview actually on your show.
And then the ongoing fundraising is about $500,000, 550,000. Now that comes in from small donations, we’re not talking about another 100,000, 50,000. That’s all community donations, like the good old $50 here from community groups, $100 here, maybe the odd 1,000 from the family that’s have had someone here that shows their appreciation and donating some money back to us. Because our service is free, it’s a totally free service. And we have six rooms that we provide a care for and with that, we need to continue to keep our profile out there and also run events as you mentioned before. So we have our race day. We have this fantastic community show at TAFE, which you’re involved with, Daryl.

Daryl Nicholson: I love that show. It’s great.

Mark Munro: It’s beautiful and all the blooms and everything’s just fabulous and that’s a big job but that sort of raises great money for… 20-odd thousand for us in fundraising events. And one of the better ones for us is our Hang Your Boss Out to Dry fundraiser.

Daryl Nicholson: I might nominate Andrew for that one.

Mark Munro: [crosstalk 00:05:11] hang their bosses out. Absolutely. It’s a fabulous event.

Daryl Nicholson: Mate, last night, you had the Christmas carols for the community, if I’ve got the dates right.

Mark Munro: Absolutely. The carols is more of a community thing for us to give back to say thank you to the community for supporting us and also it gives the opportunity for families that have been here over the last 12 months, two years, maybe 13 years, to come back to the hospice and spend that… sing some songs and carols for a couple of hours. We have a fantastic… We had over 250 people last night and it’s a free event. We just ask for a gold coin donation with the carol booklet that we print for them and then we have some food, food and drinks and everything like that. And it was just wonderful and people had a lovely, lovely time and we light up the front of the hospice with just different Christmas lights. So it was a wonderful event.
As I was driving into the office this morning and walked in, one of the ladies that was here just wanted to congratulate us on… and it was her grandchildren said they had a fabulous time and they really loved it and they all felt safe and they thoroughly enjoyed it.

Daryl Nicholson: Andrew, the facility there is, as Mark was saying, he did say, it’s a beautiful complex. 1,460 clients have been through the hospice since 2003 so you can imagine the multiplier effect of family members on that. Six rooms, ages from three to 103, I was reading. Is there anything you want to reflect on there, Andrew, that you want to ask Mark?

McCarthy-Wood: Absolutely. Mark, we’ve heard through this interview, the word community come up over and over again. Now that’s a substantial financial benefit, but you also really make the case that the community is heavily engaged with the Toowoomba Hospice. Why do you think the Toowoomba community has so heavily got behind your organisation?

Mark Munro: Because I really believe that it’s something that is needed here at the Hospice in Toowoomba. That they needed somewhere for their loved ones to come and die in a place where it’s not clinical, it’s a homelike environment. And as Daryl said, we have six private rooms here. So it’s all private. It’s a totally free service. And when you’re giving something free to the community, to the people, they feel a little bit of ownership to it and that’s important to us to ensure that they all have that sort of love and support, that they know they can come here and feel part of the care of their loved one. And I mean, visiting hours is 24 hours, seven days a week. They can bring their pet in to visit. It’s just a wonderful thing.
And I think the community of Toowoomba, whether we were here or not, they will still be giving to lots of other great local charities. And I can guarantee that 95 or 96% of the money we raise locally stays locally. We employ local people, nursing and administration staff. We spend our money locally. The only thing we might have to get out of town might be in Brisbane or something, which is clinical equipment such as beds or something like that. Every cent we raise, about 95% of it stays locally.

McCarthy-Wood: Yeah, Mark, you mentioned that this organisation has Catholic roots. That’s how it came about and it was really quite from a Christian perspective around the final phase of life, but has this become something that has much broader community appeal?

Mark Munro: Oh, absolutely. I think, and we do, look, don’t get me wrong, there are some people who believe in euthanasia and that’s okay and they’re entitled to that belief, but I think that whilst it’s not totally or not legal here in Queensland, people will need that special care and to offer palliative for the terminally ill. And I think the community here in Toowoomba are very receptive of that and we have a great, great following as Daryl and yourself just mentioned before, by the word community, community, community. And I think even if I can say, even if euthanasia is legalised ever in Queensland, the Toowoomba Hospice will not endorse it, support it. We will continue to offer palliative care, end-of-life care for those who need it in a peaceful and dignified manner here at the Hospice with their loved one and [crosstalk 00:09:42].

McCarthy-Wood: Yeah. Mark, do you find that families, do you find that families find it quite reassuring when they find themselves in a situation that they need to engage with your organisation? When you, part of your story, you say that respect for sacredness of human life, you’re putting that front and centre. Does that give great reassurance to the families of those that are in a final phase?

Mark Munro: Oh, absolutely. And look, while we say that, it’s non-denominational. So whether you believe of the man upstairs or whoever it may be, there is no real religious push on it. We have a great pastoral care team that offer counselling and services to the family.
I remember one of our very first clients here 16-and-a-half years ago, he was really hesitant to come in to the hospice thinking oh, well, because they know when they come here they know, “Well, I’m not going to come out.”

McCarthy-Wood: It’s definitive, isn’t it?

Mark Munro: …place. I’m not going to walk out this time. And what happened? He was hesitant. He came from the Base Hospital. He came and had a look at the facility. He sat on the bed that he was going to be in, the room, and he said to his family, sat there, folded his arms, said, “Go and get my gear. I’m happy here. I’m going to be.” Which is, that’s just, to me, that is a testament of what we do. It’s just you don’t want to be proud to be dying, but the end of the day, what we want to do is make them feel at home.
Look, and we do get a lot of people, not from just the health facilities here. We get on very well with all the private hospitals and the public system here. But we also take a lot in from the community because someone who’s caring for their loved one. So your husband’s dying and you’re looking after him and that, there is, sometimes the wheels do fall off. It gets tougher for you and you can’t do that. So what happens is they’ll get in touch with us and they’ll need that support. So what we do is, we work closely with their GP and everything and see if they’re able to be coming here and you know what we do? We say, “Now it’s time for you to be the wife, not the carer. You be the wife and your children come in and just be able to be there. His children and we’ll do the rest for you.” And that is one of the best things that could ever happen for them.

McCarthy-Wood: Mark, for the community. Whether they want to support you as an organisation or maybe they’re listening to this and they’re going, “Look, we’re headed towards a final phase for somebody in our family.” Or it may actually be the individual themselves. How do they best contact you? And further to that, what’s the best way for them to start a conversation with your organisation?

Mark Munro: Oh, absolutely. We encourage everyone to talk to their GP or their practitioner at the hospital, if they’re there at the hospital, and they can be referred to us or they can do it themselves directly, to talk to our Director of Nursing here. And then we will liaise with their general practitioner or their specialist to see if they’re suitable to come here because the Hospice actually provides care. The government gives us a licence to offer this care and it’s called end-of-life terminal, end-of-life care for the terminally ill. So it’s within the last three months of their life.

McCarthy-Wood: Yeah. Wow-

Mark Munro: So they can do that, talk to us and then we can see what we can do for them and if they’re not suitable right at this time, they will be placed on a waiting list. Yes.

McCarthy-Wood: Daryl, it must be quite reassuring for the community of Toowoomba to have somebody like Mark, but also the organisation on a person’s side, when they’re in their final three months of their life.

Daryl Nicholson: Mate, Mark Munro and Graham Barron OAM, they do a magnificent job in our community. In 2020, community of Toowoomba, I know they’ll get behind the Camellia and Garden Expo, they’ll get behind Hang Out Your Boss. Might get a bus trip out here to the Granite Belt. I’m out in Stanthorpe at the moment, Mark. I know you brought a busload of people out and supported this region as well as part of fundraising for the Hospice. He’s got race days, Melbourne Cup lunches, Christmas carols, raffles, there’s the Makybe Diva prize up at the moment and fundraising dinners and mate, 4350 TV in Stanthorpe, 4380 TV will be behind you next year.

McCarthy-Wood: Wow, Mark, with everything that Daryl just outlined there, you’re a very busy person and you’ve really made the case that your organisation is just so caring and the community would no doubt be grateful for that. Mark, thank you very much for your time with our listeners.

Mark Munro: Oh, thank you Andrew, and thank you Daryl, and we greatly appreciate it. If anyone has any questions, please jump on our website or give us a call at the Hospice, because we are here to help.

McCarthy-Wood: Yeah. Also, you can head to facebook.com/toowoombahospice, they are in the social networks as you do these days, so you can engage with them, find out more about them. That is the Toowoomba Hospice.