Context: Although community-based palliative care (CPC) is associated with decreased acute care use in the lead up to death, it is unclear how the timing of CPC initiation affects this association. Objectives: We aimed to explore the association between timing of CPC initiation and hospital use, over the final one, three, six, and 12 months of life. Methods: We conducted a retrospective, population-based study in Perth, Western Australia. Linked administrative data including cancer registry, mortality, hospital admissions, emergency department (ED), and CPC records were obtained for cancer decedents from 1 January, 2001 to 31 December, 2011. The exposure was month of CPC initiation; outcomes were unplanned hospitalizations, ED presentations, and associated costs. Results: Of 28,331 decedents residing in the CPC catchment area, 16,439 (58%) accessed CPC, mostly (64%) in the last three months of life. Initiation of CPC before the last six months of life was associated with a lower mean rate of unplanned hospitalizations in the last six months of life (1.4 vs. 1.7 for initiation within six months of death); associated costs were also lower ($(A2012) 12,976 vs. $13,959, comparing the same groups). However, those initiating CPC earlier did show a trend toward longer time in hospital when admitted, compared to those initiating in the final month of life. Conclusions: When viewed at a population level, these results argue against temporally restricting access to CPC, as earlier initiation may pay dividends in the final few months of life in terms of fewer unplanned hospitalizations and ED presentations.