Above: Ita Buttrose AO OBE
By Yasmin Noone
Ms Buttrose’s appointment marks a change in direction for the organisation, which to-date, has always been led by either a clinician or senior researcher.
CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia, Glenn Rees, welcomed Ms Buttrose with open arms, and commented that her strong media presence will help to raise the profile of dementia-related illnesses.
“Ita fills all of the [desired criteria] and has a few additional bonuses, in the sense that she has a longstanding commitment to working with NGOs and other charities,” said Mr Rees.
“We know she is committed. Some of the first words she said to me [about the appointment] were, ‘Glenn, if I take on this job, I will be totally committed’, and everything in her background says to me that that will be the case.
“Ita has indicated that she would like to fill the role of the president, as set out in the constitution, but would also like to be involved in the life of the organisation as well as being a public advocate.
“We also thought it would be positive for a woman to be president, who understands women’s issues. We do attach importance to further increasing our media profile to promote a better understanding of dementia.”
Ms Butrose’s new appointment follows on from previous involvement with the organisation, as a member of the NSW Advisory Committee and an Alzheimer’s Australia NSW Ambassador.
“The reason I am so interested in dementia is that my father suffered from it,” Ms Butrose said. “I was dad’s principal carer and did all of the things that needed to be done for him to stay in his own home.
“…I shared many times of laughter, sadness and tears with both my father and family while caring for him and I understand the additional pressures on family carers who are caring for someone with dementia.”
Armed with excellent advocacy skills, a significant profile and a passion for aged care, Ms Butrose aims to “see that Alzheimer’s disease is put at the forefront of aged care reform”.
“When I take something like this on, I am very passionate about the work that I do and what I want to achieve.
“…Dementia has to be considered as the core business of aged care. We believe that passionately.”
She commented that the Productivity Commission’s draft report on aged care did not adequately acknowledge dementia as the core business of aged care and the need for more community and residential care places.
“We need a comprehensive plan to respond to the dementia epidemic…We need to raise its profile and make people and governments understand that we need to address this issue and the issue of the undersupply of residential and community care places.
“More older Australians want to stay in their homes for longer, including people with dementia too. This means that we need more specialist carers.
“We don’t have enough people now to do these jobs for all Australians, let alone for Australians who have dementia. We can’t put our heads in the sand and pretend it is not happening.”
Ms Buttrose will officially become the organisation’s president on Tuesday, 8 March.