• Date: 30/11/2018
  • Cemetery: GMCT Home

GMCT chair Geoff Mabbett, Zenith Virago and GMCT CEO Jacqui Weatherill.  

Would you find comfort in building your own casket, having a frank conversation about dying, or the opportunity to personalise your own end-of-life care?  

'Deathwalker' and celebrant Zenith Virago intrigued and enlightened GMCT trust members, staff, industry colleagues and community members with her presentation at the GMCT annual meeting this week, as she explored how local communities are reclaiming and reshaping the death and dying process.

In her role as a community ‘deathwalker’, Zenith guides families and individuals through the end-of-life process – much like a midwife might guide a family through the beginning of a new life. Through her work, she facilitates personalised care and the creation of a dying experience of one’s own.

Zenith said there had been a gradual shift back towards embracing death and dying as a personalised, intimate and family-led experience since the rise of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s.  

“People want a richer, deeper service, they don’t want the conveyor belt approach,” she said. “People are waking up to their options and making more interesting choices.”

Among the new options Zenith had seen families choosing were green and natural burials and family-directed funerals.

Zenith, who has worked in the end-of-life care sector for decades, said the internet had played an important role in the growth of the ‘deathwalker’ movement in recent times, enabling collaboration and sharing between networks of deathwalkers and community advocates nationwide and overseas.

“As this landscape continues to change, more and more community deathwalkers are appearing,” Zenith said.  “They’re contributing to a stronger, healthier bereavement experience.”

She highlighted a range of initiatives transforming the death and dying sector, including:

  • New conversation starters

New initiatives and community movements are reducing the stigma around death and dying and promoting open conversation. This includes the Death Over Dinner movement, death cafes and soirees, and Dying to Know Day run by not for profit GroundSwell.

  • Celebrations and preparation during life 

Zenith said actively planning or holding celebrations during life could provide for a personalised experience. “Awakenings” or wakes held before death allow the individual to celebrate their life with the people who love them.

Zenith also spoke of coffins personally built and customised by the deceased or their families, and the coffin club movement dedicated to this.

Find out more

  • Click here to read more about presenter Zenith Virago. Video highlights from Zenith’s presentation will be available shortly.
  • The annual meeting also featured progress reports from our chair Geoff Mabbett and CEO Jacqui Weatherill. You can read our latest annual report and those from previous years here.