Above: Ita Buttrose AO OBE

By Yasmin Noone

Media identity, businesswoman and much-loved Australian, Ita Buttrose AO, OBE, will front Alzheimer’s Australia’s as its new president elect, as of today.

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.

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  1. Congratulations Alzheimer’s Australia on your choice for President. Ita Buttrose will make a great contribution as President of your organisation Well done Glenn Rees CEO!

  2. I think there should be dedicated support for carers of those suffering alzheimers or dementia – separate from those carers of the elderly with physical ailments. I know a married couple, both retired in their 60s and are full-time carers of the woman’s mother who lives at home with them both. She has dementia, is physically not bad for her age of 91, but the strain of full-time care is different than if she was physically unwell, or extremly frail. There is little recognition of the emotional strain associated with looking after someone with dementia (or alzheimers). The carers often need respite at short notice (emotionally overhwhelmed) and currently this is not possible. They need to be able to ring someone up and say, today it is particularly bad and I need a break NOW before I go crazy. You can’t always plan ahead weeks in advance …which is what is the standard answer. You can’t put someone to bed, or tell them to rest in their room if you need a break when they suffer from dementia or alzheimers …they will rant and rave, wander away, continually repeat themselves, become agitated, sometime aggressive – on bad days, the carers need to have access to someone to say HELP ME. My friend’s 91 year old mother has a strong heart and will most likely see her 100th birthday, but I despair at the toll this is having on her daughter and son-in-law’s health – they are very stressed sometimes, and often feel guilty at complaining – they will not surrender her into a nursing home (which can be a long wait anyway) unless it is absolutely necessary. Some days are not as bad as others. They are wonderful, loving people and need to be congratulated, looked after and compensated better than they are right now.
    Sorry for the ‘vent’ …just enjoyed a luncheon hosted by Itta and was inspired to tell someone.
    Thank you and hope that changes will come sooner rather than later.

    Kind regards,

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