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Palliative Care Australia and Dementia Australia Luncheon, Parliament House, Canberra


I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal People, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present, emerging leaders and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders gathered here today.

Good afternoon.

Linda and I are delighted to be with you – as joint patrons of Palliative Care Australia, and I as patron of Dementia Australia.

Most of this audience will be aware of Mahatma Gandhi’s statement that: 'The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.’

With an understanding of the importance of that statement, that is why you are here.

You are raising awareness of the current and likely palliative care needs of those Australians living with dementia.

Ultimately, you want to make a positive difference to their lives.

As parliamentarians and as representatives of Palliative Care Australia, Dementia Australia, government and stakeholder organisations, you are people of influence and you are people who can affect change.

As a nation we are getting older, and dementia is prevalent in older people.

However, not all older people get dementia. It is not a normal part of ageing.

But the alarm bells are ringing:

  • Dementia is predicted to become the leading cause of death in Australia within five years.
  • Right now, there are more than 447,000 Australians living with dementia. 
  • The number of new cases of dementia will increase to 318 people per day – PER DAY – by 2025, and be at 650 people per day by 2056.
  • And about 1.5 million people in Australia are involved in the care of someone living with dementia.

I am sure that some of those 1.5 million people are sitting here today.

You too are affected.

You live providing care, and experiencing the strain, the stress and the sadness of watching the decline in brain function of a loved one.

It is physically and emotionally draining. Linda and I know this, as no families are excused from experiences such as this.

In these circumstances, Palliative Care Australia and Dementia Australia are there to help, providing support to caregivers and patients.

When people with dementia are nearing the end of their life and when they are at their most vulnerable, they deserve to have quality of life and to pass away with dignity.

That is not an unreasonable proposition.

How Australia deals with this issue is going to impact not only people with dementia but also carers.

Now is the time to act. 

I note that funding announcements relating to health, aged care and disability care have been made this week and that two resources – the ‘What matters most’ discussion starter and the ‘Dying well’ statement - are being launched today.

So, there is momentum to address the issue of palliative care needs for people living with dementia.

We are at our best when we come together collaboratively – when we use our knowledge and expertise to affect change that improves the lives of our fellow Australians.

I commend you for the work that you are already doing in this space and for coming together today in a bipartisan fashion to highlight this important issue.