Sector leaders acknowledged in Australia Day Honours

Dementia and aged care campaigners were among those recognised in the 2015 Australia Day Honours list, while best-selling children’s author Jackie French was named Senior Australian of the Year.

For 25 years Beverley Giles has been a passionate advocate for the rights and abilities of people with dementia and for improving the quality of dementia care.

As a consultant and educator she has advised governments, aged care providers and family carers on adopting a positive, strengths-based approach, and in recognition of her years of service to community health and aged care, the Queensland-based educator was honoured with an Order of Australia Medal on Monday.

Ms Giles was among 824 Australians recognised in the Australia Day 2015 Honours list, with celebrations held in every state and territory.

Beverley Giles
Beverley Giles, OAM

Her latest project is ‘Come Dance With Me’, a dementia-friendly dance class developed in association with Alzheimer’s Australia Queensland, which has seen improvements in coordination, balance and communication among participants.

The six-week program involves gentle movement to music with no steps to remember but offers people with dementia and their friends and family the opportunity to express themselves through creative dance.

During her career, Giles has become a passionate advocate for the power of creative arts in the lives of people with dementia.

“When a person is living with dementia they can still make connections in their brain. They can still grow new brain cells but you have to create an opportunity for that to happen,” Ms Giles told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“With the arts, there is no wrong way and that’s the message with the Come Dance with Me program. It’s creative dance, so they are creating their movements and their steps as they go along,” she said.

“When you create something, it’s new. It belongs to you. There is no wrong way of doing it.”

Ms Giles is also a member of ACT dance (Ageing Creatively Through dance), a mature age dance group, which is working to reduce people’s risk of getting dementia through physical activity and social participation.

“People with dementia have a lot of skills, a lot of abilities and a lifetime of experience to share and my message is let’s help them to do that.

“Let’s give them opportunities to tell their story, to dance, to paint, to sculpt, to be involved in drama – to participate, because often things are delivered ‘at them’. Instead of sing-alongs, create a choir – even better create an intergenerational choir.”

She said too often people underestimate what a person with dementia can achieve and fail to provide opportunities for them to engage and participate in society. She encouraged communities to look for abilities and strengths and to see “potential before problems” in people living with dementia.

Senior Australian of the Year

Elsewhere, best-selling children’s author and conservationist Jackie French was named 2015 Senior Australian of the Year.

Jackie French
Jackie French, Senior Australian of the Year.

Ms French, 61, has published 140 books in 32 languages and received more than 60 literary prizes.

Overcoming dyslexia herself, Ms French is a passionate advocate for the transformational power of reading and story-telling in the lives of young Australians. She is currently the Australian Children’s Laureate, and the theme of her term is ‘share a story.’

“A book can change a child’s life. A book can change the world,” she said on Monday.

“If you want intelligent children, give them a book. If you want more intelligent children, give them more books.”

Ms French said there is also no such thing as reading difficulties, “only teaching challenges.”

Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison said the Senior Australian of the Year award recognised and celebrated the achievements of older Australians and their continued commitment to changing lives in our community.

“Jackie embodies this commitment and I’d like thank her for the work she continues to do sharing the power of reading and story-telling for young Australians, and her work in conservation,” he said.

Ms French takes over from 2014 Senior Australian of the Year Fred Chaney.

Other Order of Australia recipients announced on Monday included the honorary secretary of Sir Moses Montefiore Jewish Home, Maxwell Kahn, for service to aged care and Clara Korompay, chair of St Elizabeth (Hungarian) Home Aged Care Facility.

Denis Marshall, who served as general manager at Crookwell/Taralga Aged Care in NSW between 1989-2013 was also honoured for his dedication to aged care services.

Former manager of aged services redevelopment in the Victorian Department of Human Services and past CEO of Australian Council on the Ageing Professor Rosemary Calder was also recognised for significant service to public administration particularly in the areas of mental health and ageing.

Philip Worthy was acknowledged for his work in the sector as co-founder and chair of GISMOW2, a not-for-profit cooperative of Queensland Meals on Wheels Services that owns and develops software for the benefit of member services.

The Come Dance With Me program resumes 12 February. For more information contact Alzheimer’s Australia Queensland.

Tags: australia-day, beverley-giles, dementia, jackie-french, senior-australian-of-the-year,

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