Dementia Advocate Wins SA Australian of the Year
9 November 2016 at 5:05 pm
Dementia advocate Kate Swaffer has been named South Australia’s Australian of the Year for 2017.
Swaffer was diagnosed with the disease in 2008, just before her 50th birthday. She has since fought for better services and outcomes for more than 345,000 Australians currently living with dementia.
She told Pro Bono Australia News that accepting the award on Tuesday evening was “humbling” and “a bit nerve-racking”.
Swaffer said her advocacy focused on support for people to live with dementia, rather than services that treat it as a death sentence.
“What I try and role model and try and teach is that because people are being diagnosed much earlier in the disease process, usually, we need to teach people to live with dementia, not just to die from it,” Swaffer said.
“My key message globally is to try and change what happens at the time of diagnosis so people with dementia, in the earlier stages, are receiving rehabilitation and proper, effective disability support for our disabilities, which we have a human right to.”
Swaffer is chair, CEO and co-founder of Dementia Alliance International, member of the World Dementia Council, board member of Alzheimer’s Disease International and the inaugural chair of the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Advisory Committee.
She said there was still a long way to go to support the 47.5 million people living with dementia worldwide.
“It’s not happening anywhere in the world that people with dementia are given a proactive pathway of care,” she said.
“We are systemically told to give up and to go home and get our end-of-life affairs in order.”
She said her work with Dementia Alliance International was particularly important.
“[It’s] probably the most important advocacy organisation in the world because it exclusively for and being run by people with dementia,” she said.
“So it’s a truly authentic voice to start with, and we truly are advocating for what we know we need, rather than for what other people think we need.”
Educator Patricia Buckskin was named SA’s Senior Australian of the Year, fashion designer Paul Vasileff received the Young Australian of the Year award and agriculturalist Reginald George Heading won Australia’s Local Hero.
Katrine Hildyard, assistant minister to the premier, congratulated the recipients.
“It is such a great privilege to meet members of our South Australian community who have generously and tirelessly contributed to enriching the lives of our fellow South Australians and our South Australian community generally,” Hildyard said.
“My wholehearted congratulations and thanks to all of the recipients who have given so much. These awards represent the recognition and thanks of all South Australians for what you have given and done for all of our benefit.”
The South Australian award recipients will join recipients from the other states and territories as finalists for the national awards on 25 January 2017.