Australia’s $229m commitment to dementia

Maree McCabe, CEO of Dementia Australia, writes about the Australian government's recent $229 million funding allocation to dementia in the 2021-2022 budget.

Chris Lynch, Acting CEO of ADI writes: By way of introduction to this blog from Maree McCabe, CEO, Dementia Australia, I wanted to highlight how welcome and important this news is, about government commitment to dementia in the country. Having recently published From Plan to Impact IV, looking at progress and barriers towards the WHO Global action plan on dementia, it is reassuring to see this tangible government commitment in Australia to key areas of dementia support and we understand that a new national dementia plan should follow.
Maree McCabe and her team at Dementia Australia have a comprehensive government relations strategy, supported by a Roadmap for Quality Dementia Care, and this was integral in securing the government allocation, as was the broad participation of the association, and of advocates, people, living with dementia and carers, and Glenn Rees (Honorary Vice President, ADI) in the important and influential Royal Commission into Aged Care and Safety, from 2018-2021.

In May 2021, the Australian Government announced an AU$229.4 (US$176) million funding allocation to dementia over five years in its 2021-2022 budget.

This significant investment demonstrates the Government’s commitment to improving the lives and care experience for the almost half a million Australians of all ages, living with all forms of dementia and the 1.6 million people involved in their care.

A significant element of the funding will enable Dementia Australia to build clear and systemic dementia support pathways and build workforce capability.

Providing insights into what worked for us in Australia may assist or inspire others in their own advocacy focus.

Dementia Australia’s comprehensive strategy and plan was integral to securing the allocation, which, at a high level included:

  • Extensive stakeholder consultation to define our goals and secure their support
  • Ongoing engagement and meetings with key government stakeholders
  • A sustained and intensive organic media and social media strategy
  • Strategic key events and activities (including in the lead up to the budget release, a letter to the Prime Minister of Australia signed by over 200 prominent supporters, leveraging the focus of a leading national television program Spotlight on Aged Care ABC Q+A, a nationally televised address by the Dementia Australia Chair to the National Press Club in Canberra, timely opinion editorials and a Parliamentary Friends of Dementia event at Australia’s Parliament House)
  • Cemented in all of the above was the consistent championing of our Roadmap for Quality Dementia Care

The Roadmap stemmed from 2018 with our declared commitment to a Quality Care Initiative (QCI) in Dementia Australia’s Strategic Direction: Designing a New Future 2018-2023.

The QCI was delivered throughout 2019-2020 when Dementia Advocates (people living with dementia and carers) around Australia contributed to consultations; our National Quality Dementia Care Consumer Summit, the resulting summit Communique, Our Solution: Quality Dementia Care for People Living with Dementia; our National Quality Dementia Care Roundtable and our National Quality Dementia Care Symposium resulting in the development of the Roadmap.

All the outcomes of the QCI were regularly communicated to all sides of Government, the Department of Health, stakeholders and in the media.

Simultaneously, the need for aged care reform was formally recognised through the establishment of a Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, September 2018-February 2021. Dementia Australia representatives and many of the Advocates contributed through witness appearances, written submissions, and attending community consultations and roundtables.

The Final Report: Care, Dignity and Respect was released in February 2021 all of the recommendations related to dementia put forward by Dementia Australia were included.

This enabled us to act decisively ensuring the Roadmap was presented repeatedly and consistently as a solution to all sides of Government and specifically to the Department of Health, our portfolio Ministers and The Treasurer.

I am proud to share a crucial feature of the strategy and the Roadmap, which is that both are grounded in the input, wishes and inclusion of people of all ages living with all forms of dementia, their families and carers.

I believe this was key to our success combined with presenting all the above as a solution to Government with a solid vision for the future.

I acknowledge the Australian Government for their leadership in recognising and responding to this once in a generation opportunity to transform dementia care in Australia that will improve the health, lifestyle and care outcomes for people impacted by dementia now and for many years to come.

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