Specialised Funeral Care for Children & Young People

COVID-19 Announcement 

During the COVID 19 pandemic, The Willow Tree Foundation is providing end of life and funeral care planning as our primary source of support. If someone has died and you require funeral care now, please contact us via our support partner Natural Grace, on 1300 008 037.

Alternatively, if you are simply enquiring about our services or would like to support our work, please contact us through our online form and we will replay as soon as possible.

 

Need help right away?

 

If a child or young person has died and you require advice or assistance in funeral care and planning, please contact us on 1300 008 037. We are available 24 hours a day by way of our support partner, Natural Grace.

Alternatively, if your needs aren’t urgent but you would like to make an enquiry or support our growth, please fill out the form by clicking the contact button below and we will reply to you as soon as possible.

 

About the Foundation

The Willow Tree Foundation is a not for profit organisation that serves Australian families and communities when a child, adolescent or young adult dies.

Committed to walking beside them through their time of bereavement, The Willow Tree Foundation will support families by offering end of life and funeral care planning and supporting their choice in after death care and funeral ceremony for their child.

We embrace a family’s need to honour their cultural, religious or philosophical beliefs and practices.

Our Vision

We envision a future where all Australians bereaved by the death of a child receive compassionate & meaningful funeral care, service, understanding & support.

Our Mission

For the Willow Tree Foundation to provide holistic care for families following the death of a child.

Our four pillars of support and service are:

  • End of Life and Funeral Care Planning
  • Funeral Director Services
  • Support following a sudden death
  • Community Development & Death Literacy

Our Belief

That appropriate end of life planning, after death and funeral care relevant to children, adolescents and young adults are the right of the dying person and their family and community.

Our Values

The Board, Staff and Volunteers of The Willow Tree Foundation value:

  • Honesty, Compassion and Kindness.
  • Recognising the cultural, spiritual, philosophical and social needs of those who access our support and services.
  • Commitment to striving to provide end of life planning and funeral support and services relevant to the needs of children, adolescents and young adults.
  • Effective communication to people who we recognise are in a vulnerable time of their lives
  • Child Safe practices
  • Access to appropriate Death Literacy for all as an avenue to building compassionate communities for those experiencing the death of a child.

Our Approach

 

Supporting families in making social, emotional and spiritual end of life plans for their child, adolescent or young adult is the focus for The Willow Tree as we grow. We work along side family members and / or service providers to best manage and provide appropriate support to their family member or client.

We enable those who are looking for a service, whether it be more traditional or holistic, to navigate through such an integral time with awareness and choice, Our approach aims to reduce any additional trauma that families face during this period, providing after life care options so that everyone is as fully informed as possible.

Our Services

COVID-19 ANNOUNCEMENT

During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Willow Tree Foundation is offering our End of Life and Funeral Care Planning service. Our immediate goal is that every family living with a terminally ill child or young person has a meaningful and achievable plan for what they would do if their child were to die during this time.

Our other services will be available at a later stage when our resources and funding can better support them alongside our End of Life & Funeral Care Planning module.

For information about these services, when they will be available and how we can advise you in the interim, please feel free to contact us via the form at the base of this web page, or if there is an immediate need, contact us direct on 0413 575 454.

End of Life & Funeral Care Planning

The foundation will directly provide relief to people in need through the following activities:

 

  • Meeting with families to discuss the future end of life and funeral care of their child.
  • Exploring innovative and creative end of life and funeral choices.
  • Liaising with the care team of a child to communicate these plans.
  • Creation of legacy documents including estate planning for young people over 18 years.

Funeral Care

The foundation will directly provide relief to people in need through the following activities:

 

  • Transfer into our care, or,
  • Support for home based care after death or care at the place of death.
  • Arrangement of the funeral/memorial service.
  • Supply of suitable coffins.
  • Booking of all activities and suppliers.
  • Cemetery/crematorium bookings.
  • Return of ashes or assistance with memorialising a grave.
  • Short term after death care to support early bereavement.

Sudden Death Care

The foundation will directly provide relief to people in need through the following activities:

 

  • Attendance at the scene of an accident or in the hospital.
  • Phone support for anyone affected by a sudden death of a child.
  • Support with understanding and navigating the Coronial Court process.
  • Referral to appropriate other services.

Community Development

The foundation will directly provide relief to people in need through the following activities:

 

  • Building death literacy in our community so adults, adolescents and children can engage with death, dying, grief and bereavement in a supportive and meaningful way.
  • Working with and within educational settings to increase death literacy.
  • Provide support and guidance to professionals or individuals working in communities that experience the death of a child, adolescent or young adult. Eg: teachers, sporting clubs, allied health etc.
  • Peer and professional development for workers who are engaged or find themselves engaged in the end of life space of children, adolescents and young adults to better inform their support of families and the dying person themselves.

Our Origins

 

Like any great project, there is always a story as to how it came to be.

Whether it be small and seemingly insignificant moments or large life changing events (we suspect it is a beautiful combination of both), the seed of what drives people to do what they do starts somewhere. In the case of The Willow Tree Foundation, it began with the passing of someone who from the outside world may have looked as though they weren’t able to do much at all. For those that knew him, he had the ability to move mountains.

Oscar Rugers was born in 2000 with cerebral palsy. It was significant enough to leave him without any voluntary movement or speech ability of his own. As is the case with a lot of children with such severe disabilities, their teen years [if they get there] can be difficult.

Our bodies are meant for movement. For Oscar, he made it till he was nearly seventeen.

Fortunately, he was able to spend his last few days in palliative care at the Malvern based ‘Very Special Kids’, a Melbourne based support service that cares for children with life-threatening conditions.

This is where Oscar met Libby Moloney. As well as being one of our directors, she is the Founder and Managing Director of Natural Grace, a holistic funeral provider based in Woodend and Brunswick. Libby was called during the final hours of Oscar’s life to help assist with planning his end of life and continued to hold his family throughout the process. The calibre of care that Oscar’s family received during this time has become the nucleus of how The Willow Tree Foundation endeavours to support the larger community of Australian families when the death of a child occurs.

Over the following 18 months, Libby proceeded to cultivate a solution to a very clear vacuum that she had observed within the funeral industry. Specialised support and care for families bereaved by the death of a child or young person. So often had the shock and trauma of losing a child thrown parents into unknown territory, that knee jerk reaction had led to knee jerk decisions, without fully understanding what could, or should be available at an incredibly overwhelming time.

So with a clear aim to support families in their choice of after death care and funeral ceremony and offer guidance in funeral planning for their child, contact was made with Oscar’s parents to help develop a vehicle to drive this project. The following months entailed the development of how we bring an organisation like this to life in a meaningful and authentic way.

Researching how death has impacted our culture over centuries and the iconography that has accompanied it, gave us the seed to begin cultivating an idea of what we wanted for the foundation to represent. We wanted the emotional aspect to correlate with a connection to water while also requiring strength and solidity to be our centrepoint. Time and time again, the willow tree would appear as a recurring symbol throughout history and through many different cultures, all referencing its adaptability as a metaphor for the strength to surrender without breaking when faced with a seemingly unfathomable challenge.

The fact that willow trees are visually protective and are commonly found next to water were major factors in landing on this symbol as our brand. It also helped that Oscar’s younger sister, nine years his junior, is called Willow.

This is when The Willow Tree Foundation was born.

During this time, a small network of like minded and passionate people began gathering to form what we know as our founding members. 11 very experienced and dedicated individuals that either through experiencing the death of a child themselves or by serving those who had, felt that there was a great service we could provide to a larger community who would continue to experience this one way or the other.

So as we build, we grow. Continually looking beyond ourselves in an effort to find solutions to how we can better provide Australian families with support by walking beside them through their time of bereavement. Like most any tree, The Willow Tree Foundation has grown slowly but surely to ensure that we can be here in many years time to support the next generations in how to honour, develop and continue to care for the most vulnerable of those in our community.

Oscar’s parents, Mykel and Rachel are founding members of The Willow Tree Foundation.

Oscar Rugers

Donate Now

 

The Willow Tree Foundation is a Not For Profit foundation and relies on the support from our community to enable us to continue supporting the most vulnerable within it. If you are able to make a donation to our foundation, please click the button below and donate via our Chuffed page.

It goes without saying that we are more than grateful, but it is the bereaved families and friends that benefit most from your support.

And for that, we thank you.

Our People

Molly Carlile
Patron

Molly Carlile AM is a multi-award-winning palliative care nurse, health leader and senior executive as well as an advocate for improving community death literacy and building compassionate, supportive communities. Molly has had a wide and varied career over many years, both in senior clinical and leadership roles.

Molly has held executive positions in a variety of environments, most recently as Chief Executive Officer of a large community palliative care organisation in metropolitan Melbourne. Her work in inpatient health services has seen her gain a wide perspective of the challenges faced by terminally ill people, their families and carers and for the staff that care for them. As General Manager of Integrated Cancer Services at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, she was immersed in embedding wellness and supportive care into mainstream cancer services in a brand-new facility, creating innovative programs and welcoming spaces for people at their most vulnerable.

Molly has been intimately involved in raising community awareness of issues relating to death, grief and palliative care with people of all ages and to this end, has been a regular guest on television and radio, has written three books (two of these for children and young adults) and two plays that continue to tour nationally. She regularly speaks all over the country in an effort to inform and empower people to acknowledge their mortality and speak openly about the “stuff that matters” with those close to them.

Molly’s work in palliative care, leadership, wellness and arts in health has been recognised by receipt of multiple awards national and international awards including an Order of Australia (General Division) 2014.

Libby Moloney
Director

As an experienced mother and funeral director, Libby holds the space in the heartbreaking silence that follows the death of a child. Gently and respectfully, she listens for the needs of the parents and the extended family and works alongside everyone involved to explore the responsibilities and choices that lay before them.

Working with families in hospitals, hospice and home settings, Libby is highly experienced in the funeral care of children and has a passionate and specialised interest in end of life and funeral planning.

Having founded her own funeral company in 2012, the creation of The Willow Tree Foundation Ltd sees the realisation of Libby’s long held dream of a not-for-profit specialised funeral provider for children and young people. Libby leads the Willow Tree team as our Managing Director.

Bonita Ralph
Director

Bonita has a professionally qualified background in child, adolescent and family support, community development and social justice. Bonita has worked in the not-for-profit sector for over 20 years.

The last 4 years sees her bringing these skills to her role as a Holistic Funeral Director specialising in the care of infants, children and young people.

As well as a founding Board member of the The Willow Tree Foundation, Bonita is committed to death education in the community, a member of the Natural Death Advocacy Network, Funeral Celebrant and is actively involved in her local community in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

Libby Clarke
Director

For over 20 years, Libby has actively supported families with the planning and preparation of funeral arrangements and celebrations of life whilst maintaining connection throughout the following years to support parents and siblings in their personal journeys of grief and loss.

She has more than a decade of assisting intellectually disabled young people and adolescents in coping with the trauma of sudden death, short- and long-term illness, suicide and murder of family members.

A fully committed member of Very Special Kids since 1997, she has facilitated and run numerous camps, workshops and Remembrance Day ceremonies for bereaved parents and siblings.
Libby has been recognised for her dedication by being awarded multiple awards including both the Whitehorse Community Achievement Australia Day Award and the Sir John Reid Community Award.

Sharon Tregoning
Director

With a background in customer service, admin and executive assistant roles, owning and running a boutique couple’s retreat and spiritual counselling, Sharon brings with her a variety of experience and is a founding member of The Willow Tree Foundation board.

The last six years have seen her specialise in the end of life space with her counselling work and as an end of life doula.

Living on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Sharon is an active member of her community by participating in a number of organisations. She is also a passionate death literacy advocate and is an Ambassador for Death Over Dinner.

Brian Barry
Director

Brian was appointed to the Board in 2020 and has assumed the role of Treasurer. He has recently retired from a long career in banking.

Brian has extensive experience in the disability and aged care sectors gained through a previous Board position with Villa Maria Society (now Villa Maria Catholic Homes) where he was a member of the Finance Committee and chaired the Audit and Risk Committee.

LET US KNOW YOUR DETAILS
AND WE’LL GET IN TOUCH

We’ll be in touch in the next 48 hours to follow up your contact.

 

The Willow Tree Foundation

We envision a future where all Australians bereaved by the death of a child receive compassionate & meaningful funeral care, service, understanding & support.

 

The Willow Tree Foundation acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work and live, and recognises their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

© 2020 The Willow Tree Foundation Ltd