Meet our national Grief and Bereavement Services team
To help loved ones through perhaps the most challenging experience of loss in their lives, the Leukaemia Foundation has grief and bereavement support staff across Australia.
They can help you understand your grief, talk through your feelings, connect with a support group, or identify when an expert may be able to help. Each of our staff members has a background in nursing or allied health and is experienced in offering support.
To access grief and bereavement support, call 1800 620 420 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shirley Cunningham, Queensland
I am the national grief lead for the Leukaemia Foundation, a role I share with Donita Menon. I have worked for the organisation for more than 16 years, starting as a blood cancer support coordinator in June 2004. I have extensive experience as a registered nurse and have dedicated most of my career to caring for adults and children diagnosed with solid tumours and haematological diseases.
I have always been drawn to the psychology of people and those dealing with loss, grief and bereavement, and became the grief manager for Queensland 18 months after I started at the Leukaemia Foundation.
In my current role, I work with families in Queensland and those referred nationally for counselling. It is an honour to counsel and support our clients and my ongoing passion is caring for individuals and their families diagnosed as well as those bereaved by blood cancer.
I have studied extensively and continue to increase my knowledge in these areas. I have a degree in nursing, graduate certificate in paediatric nursing, master’s in health loss and grief and a master’s in counselling and Level 1, Gottman Institute training for couple therapy.
It is such a privilege to work for the Leukaemia Foundation and I am humbled to be invited, even for a small time, into the lives of patients and families at such a devastating time. Now with the organisation having grief support available nationally, more families are being supported in their grief than at any other time in our history.
Donita Menon, New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory
I have been at the Leukaemia Foundation, working as a grief and bereavement counsellor since 2009. In my role as the national grief lead, alongside Shirley Cunningham, I work with clients who have a blood cancer diagnosis, members of their family, and those who are bereaved. I also have worked for Calvary Health Care as a pastoral care worker, in palliative care and in rehab. And prior to that as a primary school teacher for 26 years.
The challenges that individuals and families go through with a diagnosis of a blood cancer is unimaginable. It can be a very lonely space at so many different levels. To navigate life without the person you love can feel impossible at times.
My hope in the work I do, is to provide a safe space for every client to share and process their pain and to work hard to understand each client’s world through their eyes. I believe that every individual has the answers within themselves and through counselling can find a space to grieve, feel the pain and gently unlock a pathway to navigate their life. Going gently, being kind to oneself, nurturing and nourishing oneself and self- compassion are just some of the pathways to healing in grief.
Jane Anderson, Victoria and Tasmania
I’m currently the Leukaemia Foundation’s Blood Cancer Support Coordinator in southern Tasmania and have recently become the Grief and Bereavement Lead for the states of Victoria and Tasmania.
I completed a Bachelor of Nursing at the Royal Hobart Hospital in 1986. I then went on to complete a Graduate Diploma in Cancer Care Nursing in 1996 and have more than 35 years professional experience in haematology, palliative care, and bone marrow transplant nursing.
I have worked in a variety of haematology oncology specialty areas including The Royal Marsden in London, and as the Bone Marrow Transplant Coordinator for Tasmania at the Royal Hobart Hospital.
I joined the Leukaemia Foundation in 2004 to establish an office in Tasmania and focus on improving support services for patients and families affected by blood cancer.
Passionate about the importance of holistic care for patients and their families, I have always advocated that Leukaemia Foundation support continues for families when a loved one with blood cancer dies. My new lead grief role enables me to offer grief and bereavement support to loved ones.
Shelly McClean, South Australia and Northern Territory
I have a Bachelor of Midwifery, a Master’s in Social Work and have been at the Leukaemia Foundation for 18 months.
I remember during my midwifery training and was working with a midwife to care for a mum who had previously had a still birth. The midwife was insensitive to the mother’s grief and fear, which retraumatised the young mum and made her birth distressing.
On another occasion, I worked with a midwife who had such skill and compassion, that she helped the family welcome their new baby in safety, while honouring their child that had died. That was when I knew that it was sacred work, and I would be honoured to share in those moments of grief and heartache, but also in the joy of reminiscing and cherishing moments and memories.
That day, I made a commitment to be the kind of person that would stay and allow the tough conversations, and the messiness of grief and loss because deep sorrow requires deep compassion.
I am also involved in the South Australian Women’s Grief Group and wanted to extend this healing on a national level. Being beside someone, allowing them to tell their story and helping to develop their own new meanings for their lives, is very rewarding.
Jacqui Baverstock, Western Australia
I did my Registered Nurse trainings (RGN/RSCN) in London where I then worked in the community and then as a part of a children’s oncology and haematology team.
I started working at the Leukaemia Foundation in December 2016 and was delighted to recently become a part of the grief and bereavement team. I have always had a big interest in grief and bereavement through my close work with the families of patients.
Jenni Bourke, Victoria
I am a blood cancer support coordinator with the Leukaemia Foundation, based in Victoria, and recently became the grief and bereavement lead in Victoria.
During my time at Leukaemia Foundation I have had some extraordinary conversations with the people who use our service every day. Many of these reflect themes of adjusting to constant change, managing the unknown, and living every day with the big and little losses that accompany a blood cancer diagnosis.
Being on the national grief and bereavement team is an important part of providing individual support to families through what can be an intense and unpredictable time of major adjustment. I have a passion for providing holistic care and bring many years of clinical experience to this role.
I work as an occupational therapist and developed my haematology skills during the 12 years I worked at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. The desire to actively provide emotional support as part of routine care has led to much learning, including further study in palliative care, and grief and bereavement. I am a member of the Australian Grief and Bereavement Centre and attend many of their workshops and conferences to ensure my practice remains relevant.
Providing a gentle and compassionate space to allow people to express their story and feelings, to explore existing strengths, to connect with the deep need to grieve and reshape their connection with their loved one, are all elements of learning to live with loss.