Pre-conference - 27 October

Location: Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture

Pre-conference Workshops

  • 10:00am - 1:00pm: Session 1 (3 concurrent workshops)
  • 1:00pm - 2:00pm: Lunch
  • 2:00pm - 5:00pm: Session 2 (3 concurrent workshops)

Workshop 1

Professor John Swinton "Creating Cultures of Care: Thinking and Talking Faithfully About Dementia"

Dementia is one of the most feared conditions. It seems to strike at the heart of what we assume it is to be a human being. Surely “we are our memories?” “If we can no longer remember, then how can we be who we thought we were?” Questions like these are troubling and devastating if the person is forgotten about in either action or words (She is  not the person she used to be) …) But such a story is not the only one that can be told about dementia. There is a convincing and growing body of evidence coming from neurology, psychology, psychiatry, anthropology, theology and spiritual care suggesting that the standard account of dementia is deeply flawed. Whilst dementia seems to be a condition that has its roots in a person’s neurology the actual dynamics of the neurological damage are much more complex and much more spiritual. Social circumstances such as loneliness, isolation and lack of support have been acknowledged as causative rather than simply a consequence of neurological damage. There seems to be a psychological and social dimension to dementia both in terms of cause and effect. Dementia is as much a meaningful human experience that is deeply affected by social, cultural, relational and spiritual issues as it a purely neurological issue. What we need is a change of culture; a new way of thinking and acting about and around dementia. We need a story that moves us from suffering, devastation and loss, to hopeful recognition and possible positive futures.

In this session we will think together about what dementia is and importantly what it is not. Dementia is a meaningful human experience that requires love, kindness and understanding. Dementia is not the  loss of a person; it is not simply suffering. We will look at a variety of important issues such as:

  • The complex causes of dementia.
  • The language we use in relation to dementia and how that shapes and forms our cultures and practices;
  • The ways in which false understandings of dementia shape our thinking, which in terms shapes the ways we respond to people living with dementia.

Workshop 2

Rev Professor Elizabeth MacKinlay AM and Elizabeth Pringle "Spiritual reminiscence for older people: finding meaning in later life, especially for those experiencing dementia"

Objectives of workshop

On completion of the spiritual reminiscence workshop participants will be able to:

  1. Explore spiritual reminiscence
  2. Assist older people to engage with spiritual reminiscence
  3. Explore strategies to engage people with dementia in spiritual reminiscence
  4. Workshop the process of spiritual reminiscence

Workshop outcomes

On completion participants will have beginning skills to enable them to facilitate spiritual reminiscence small groups for older people with and without cognitive decline. Participants will be able to use this process with individuals or small groups. They will want to use this process in any situations where they work with older people.

Workshop 3

Professor Bruce A. Stevens "First and Last Spirituality workshop"

What is our first spirituality? The infant and toddler learns from birth. Developmental psychology, especially in the area of implicit learning, has much to offer an understanding of early spirituality. Early learning determines later beliefs and attitudes. This workshop will explore the research as applied to spiritual development, introduce techniques such as early memories, sentence completion and The Early Spirituality Profile (Stevens) for chaplains and spiritual directors to use in their ministry with a special focus on the aged. Professor Stevens is a clinical psychologist, researcher in ageing, will lead this six hour workshop. See

Welcome Reception

  • 5:30pm - 7:00pm: Drinks, nibbles and musical presentation