Parkinson's sufferer inspires new course at Notre Dame

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Fall 23-4-2008

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame, Sydney Campus

Publication Place



A letter to Pope Benedict XVI from a Parkinson’s sufferer was the initial inspiration for a new nursing course at The University of Notre Dame Australia’s Sydney Campus.

The School of Nursing will start a Post-Graduate Certificate in Neuro-degenerative Disorders in 2009 - dedicated to Pope John Paul II, who had Parkinson’s disease.

The idea started when 68 year old Parkinson’s suffer and Tamworth resident, Ben Cross, sent a letter to the Vatican requesting every Catholic in the world to make a small donation to Parkinson’s research - in memory of Pope John Paul II.

Mr Cross received a response from the Diocese of Armidale and was referred to the local parish. Not being Catholic he decided to send the letter to His Eminence Cardinal George Pell via the office of Parkinson’s New South Wales (NSW). (Parkinson's NSW Incorporated is a non-profit, community-based organisation established in 1979 to provide information, counselling and support to people living with Parkinson’s disease.)

From there a meeting was arranged with the Chief Executive Officer of the organisation, Miriam Dixon, and Cardinal Pell to discuss how best to help.

Cardinal Pell suggested that Notre Dame might wish to investigate the possibility of a new Neuro-degenerative Disorder course, specifically dealing with Parkinson’s disease.

Cardinal Pell said he was delighted to see this specialist post-graduate course launched.

“It is great news that the University of Notre Dame has been able to respond so positively to the suggestions of Parkinson’s NSW. Enormous suffering is caused by neuro-degenerative diseases, and Pope John Paul II inspired the world by the way he continued to carry out his duties while suffering from Parkinson’s.

“So I congratulate the University of Notre Dame and Parkinson’s NSW on this initiative, which I hope will contribute significantly to building up the specialist skills increasingly in demand to assist sufferers of neuro-degenerative diseases in our community,” said Cardinal Pell.

The post-graduate course will start next year and will run as a combination of on-campus intensive workshops and on-line tuition. The course is a joint project of the Notre Dame Schools of Nursing in Sydney and Fremantle and aims to attract enrolments across a number of states.

Executive Dean of Nursing and Pro Vice Chancellor, Professor Margot Kearns, commented, “This is a wonderful example of how cooperation and a collaborative approach between the education sector and the industry stakeholders can address the needs of skill shortages in a specialist area.”

Media contact:

Moira Saunders 02 8204 4407