Tony Abbott to meet Royals at Bear Cottage

At Bear Cottage, the couple will be met by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his wife, Margie.

The visit is designed to raise awareness of the children’s hospice, which provides medical and end-of-life care to children suffering from life-limiting illnesses.

Bear Cottage was established in 2001 entirely through community support and donations.

Nursing Unit Manager at Bear Cottage, Narelle Martin, says the facility’s affiliation with The Children’s Hospital at Westmead allows them to provide some of the best medical care in the world.

“We’re the only children’s hospice in the world that is directly affiliated to a children’s hospital,” she said.

“The care that the kids can get here is fantastic.”

Dedicated staff aim to create a unique and holistic care program for the children.

The staff include a full-time play therapist, social workers, music and art therapists, registered nurses and a chef. There are also 80 trained volunteers that help in the house.

The team’s vision is to create a setting that is as far removed from a hospital environment as possible.

“Bear Cottage is like a Club Med for kids… it’s got everything that a child would want… there’s toys, Xboxes and PlayStations… the dog is always a hit,” Ms Martin said.

The couple will be met at the hospice by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Cottage gives carers a much-needed break

Leo and Julie Murnane travel from Lithgow in NSW to Bear Cottage four times a year.

They bring their 13-year-old son Michael, who suffers from Batten Disease – a fatal disorder of the nervous system.

While Michael is cared for by Bear Cottage staff, Julie and Leo are free to take time out from their 24-hour job as his full-time carers.

“We just don’t have to do anything, we can look after ourselves. It’s amazing… You can ask them for anything and 99 times out of 100, they’ll try and get it, or try and do it.”

It is hoped the Royal visit will focus attention on Bear Cottage and help raise its profile.

Ms Martin says there is a lot of anticipation at the cottage ahead of the visit.

“We’re very excited that she (the Duchess) has taken the time out to come and visit us,” she said.

“Getting the message out there and showcasing Bear Cottage is fantastic and hopefully it’ll highlight that Australia may need some more children’s hospices in due course.”

Yesterday, the Duke and Duchess visited the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

They met residents from the town of Winmalee, which was devastated by bushfires last October, as well as Rural Fire Service volunteers and girl guides.


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