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Specialised Funeral Care for Children & Young People

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

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.

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