Why a Research Centre? Why palliative care, death and dying?


Written by Professor Jennifer Tieman, Matthew Flinders Fellow, College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

Welcome to the first of our RePaDD blog series. This blog is the voice of the Research Centre for Palliative Care, Death and Dying (RePaDD) and will share the work and successes of our Centre’s researchers. Launched in May this year, the Centre has a multidisciplinary team of nurses, doctors, allied health professionals, health informaticians, and public health researchers involved in palliative care and end of life research.

Palliative care is an integral part of Flinders history. In 1987, the University signalled the academic importance of palliative care with the creation of the world’s first academic chair in palliative care. Co-locating the educational and research teams with the Southern Adelaide Palliative Care Services demonstrated a commitment to the triple strand of care. This ensures that clinical relevance and service involvement informs education and research, which in term informs the clinical care provided. Active collaborations with teams and organisations across Australia led to projects and research studies that have addressed palliative care knowledge needs, care practices and service models. We have also developed a specialist expertise in evidence processes and in online translation, which has enabled engagement across geography, professional groups and care settings.

However, given Australia’s ageing population, the progressive nature of chronic diseases, and changing societal and consumer views and expectations, research needs are changing. Heart disease, Dementia and Alzheimer disease, and cerebrovascular disease (including stroke) are now the top causes of death rather than cancer and the majority of deaths in Australia now occur in people over 75 years (AIHW, 2019). (1) We are living longer and dying later but the implications of this change for individuals, for families, for communities and for systems is not well understood.

The University’s strategic plan acknowledges that we live in an era of disruptive change. The changing health needs are occurring alongside major societal changes that reflect recognition of Indigenous Australia, social determinants of health, multiculturalism, family changes, technological disruption and economic reform. The University mission is to make a difference by changing lives and changing the world. A Research Centre that acknowledges the universal experience of death and dying and champions the role of palliative care to the person, the health professional and the health system can make a difference to all Australians. The focus for the Research Centre is to:

1. Build the palliative care evidence base through clinical and service studies and through appraisal, synthesis and dissemination of existing research evidence
2. Research and respond to community and consumer attitudes, views and needs with respect to death and dying and palliative care
3. Develop and evaluate the impact of online palliative care resources and applications

It is deliberately broad to recognise how change, communities and systems are impacting on understanding and outcomes at the end of life. Research centre status reminds us that Flinders is the academic home for our nationally funded (and internationally recognised) projects in palliative and end of life care. It also strengthens our national and international profile increasing the potential for further collaborative research projects and pathways for researcher development. New collaborations will drive the use of technologies and innovative research methods to develop and translate new knowledge while ensuring that benefit to the person needing palliative care and the person providing this care remains at the heart of our work. Importantly, a Research Centre provides a base to build our community engagement and will provide a voice for palliative care patients and carers, older Australians at the end of life, and the public around these critical issues.

We invite you to be part of our work and ambitions. You can find out more about our multidisciplinary team on the RePaDD website. You can register to stay in touch. We also invite you to contact us to discuss our research, to find out how we can support your work with our expertise, and to provide us with insights and feedback around palliative care and end of life.


1. AIHW 2019 Deaths in Australia https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-death/deaths-in-australia/contents/leading-causes-of-death

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