O’Neill House – a specialised end-of-life care facility

O'Neill House, Melbourne

In the first of our 2022 Future of Ageing Awards profiles – we focus on VMCH’s O’Neill House in Prahan, inner Melbourne – winner of the 2022 Palliative Care category.

In July 2021, VMCH opened O’Neill House, a specialised end-of-life care and respite home located in Prahran, Victoria. This is the first stand-alone service of its kind offered by VMCH. O’Neill House aims to provide a modern, luxurious, and homelike environment for those entering the last phase of their life and their families. Care is highly personalized and based on each resident’s needs and wishes, and the facility offers pastoral care, an open chapel for reflection and worship, and activities that bring connection and enjoyment. Visitors are encouraged and can stay overnight in the resident’s room or in a fully self-contained apartment.

Interview with VMCH’s Sonya Smart – May 2023


Palliative Care Victoria estimates that 1 in 4 Victorians who die each year (approximately 10,000 people) do so without adequate access to palliative care. Additionally, two-thirds of Australians die between the ages of 75 and 95, usually of chronic or degenerative conditions that arise with ageing. Almost three-quarters of them will become aware they are dying and more than half of them will die in the hospital, despite preferring to die elsewhere.

“Once I could see mum was comfortable and content, I let go of my guilt of not doing the main
caring, and over the weeks I had a sense of relief that the care for mum was being managed. Staff
were warm, caring and genuine … we both felt like staff were extended family.”

Family member speaking about her mother Carol who lived in O’Neill House


VMCH recognised the need for a more holistic, personal and empowering approach to palliative care in the aged care industry. As a flagship organisation partnering with the End of Life Direction for Aged Care (ELDAC) initiative, VMCH set up new training practices to bring better palliative care services into aged care. O’Neill House was designed following extensive research and focuses on providing a physical environment that is relaxed and welcoming, well-lit, and designed to enable family and friends to stay overnight. The aim of O’Neill House is to take away the other burdens of caring, so there is more time for meaningful conversations and connections with family during this sacred time.

O’Neill House by VMCH


Since its opening, over 70 people have called O’Neill House home and VMCH has supported many of them and their families through the palliative journey. VMCH’s leadership role in residential palliative care has greatly benefitted staff, residents and their families and has allowed VMCH to become leaders and award winners in this field. The aim is to ease the burden on people and their families and reduce the need for emergency department presentations and deaths during transfers to and from services.

Entries for the 2023 Future of Ageing Awards open May 1, 2023 – For further information.

Thanks to those companies who have shown their support for the awards through a partnership.  They are listed below:


  1. Can you advise if O’Neill House has replaced Villa O’Neill. I have just read about the palliative care site and was interested as my grandmother was one of the originals when it opened. Her name was Julia Isabel Sheehan

  2. Hi Catherine, yes, O’Neill House was formerly an aged care residence for many years, run by Villa Maria (as VMCH was formerly known). It first opened in 1972. That’s amazing that your grandmother was one of its first 32 residents. If you have any further questions, please get in touch with us (1300 698 624). Cassie, Comms Manager, VMCH.


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