Palliative Care Queensland

Community Changemaker Award – Palliative Care – Mandy & Jody Larsen


Mandy and Jody Larsen are the winners of the 2021 Palliative Care In Queensland Community Changemaker Award for their inspirational work advocating for improved palliative care services in Coen in Cook Shire and for their work inventing the Palli-Pod.

Following the death of their mother, Mandy and Jody have been driven to honour her memory by raising the profile of palliative care and enabling residents of their small community access to improved care at their end of life. Located in far North Queensland, the tiny settlement of Coen has only 300 houses and faces continual challenges with overcrowding that means, in many instances, members of the community are forced to die off country in Cairns, disconnected from their family, heritage and home.

On top of that, it can often cost families up to $5,500 to return their loved one’s body home for a memorial. Mandy and Jody have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the issue, but like true champions didn’t stop at awareness, they wanted to find a solution which led to them creating the Palli-Pod.

The Palli-Pod is a movable dwelling that can be placed in Coen to meet the needs of the settlement’s resident and relocated as required. Decorated in traditional artworks, the Palli-Pod create a safe, comfortable, culturally sensitive environment, providing the opportunity for users to have a good death, on country and surrounded by their loved ones. As well as coming up with the idea, Mandy and Jody have also raised $100,000 in funding to turn the Palli-Pod into a reality.

This is a practical and beautiful way to address a complex issue. There is both an elegance and sophistication in the Palli-Pod concept that Mandy and Jody have developed that marks them out as Community Changemakers of the best kind.

We caught up with Mandy and Jody to find out what winning the 2021 Palliative Care In Queensland Community Changemaker Award means to them.

What does winning a 2021 Palliative Care in Qld Award mean to you?

This is enormous recognition for our project to date, and an award that is very humbling. To have been accepted by a ‘tribe’ of compassionate, kind, accepting, brilliant and innovative people working in this space, is significant – this award will inspire us to keep working towards funding a localised hospice model for rural/remote settings and future adaptations in reorienting health services. It proves that a common focus and partnerships are powerful and can bring about change. For those who choose to live and die remotely, their wishes are equally important as an Australian living in suburbia. Particularly in times of a COVID pandemic, the value of family, friends and choice has never been more graphic, and an investment in remote palliative care services will reduce the burden on metropolitan health services and give people choice in their decisions around dying.

How does it feel to be recognised for your contribution to Palliative Care in Qld?

Palliative Care was not an area we had much considered until it was required in our home setting for Mum. After a life-time of remote area nursing, it was her preparation and planning during her own illness that guided our family and gave clarity at a time that seemed most unfamiliar. With hindsight, it allowed her to take control of her illness and choices, to allow us as a family to spend quality time and make lasting memories in a supported environment.

To be recognised for our contributions since, in advocating for remote palliative care services, seems surreal. Our efforts have centred around a model of care that is place-based, people-centric, sustainable, affordable and builds community capacity, with the purpose of adaptability across northern Australia. There is much to be achieved, but we have been heard. Together in partnership with lead agencies, we can all make a difference to build resilience, foster cultural, spiritual and social connectedness in caring for each other. Dying is everyone’s business, and remote Australian’s shouldn’t have to ‘go away, to pass away’.

Who would you like to thank or acknowledge as part of your award win?

This award would have to be dedicated to our Mum (Barbara Shephard, OAM) who had a nursing career of over 50 years and was an advocate for remote servicing and developing local skills. Within PCQ could we make particular mention of CEO, Shyla Mills, and President, Marg Adams for their friendship, warmth and caring guidance, and for the time taken to visit, meet our community members and genuinely listen to understand when the community spoke. This award is actually for the entire Coen community, who are striving to be able to support and honour their family members final choices.

Others who have been extremely supportive include our families, Dad (Paddy Shephard), Sandra Higgs (RAN), Palliative Care Australia, Palliative Care Qld, RFDS Cairns, Qld Health (TCHHS), Apunipima Cape York Health Council and Ms Cynthia Lui – Member for Cook. We thank you all greatly for your support.
Read about all 2021 Palliative Care in Queensland Statewide Award winners by visiting our website:

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