Professor Richard Fleming, executive director of Dementia Training Australia, has announced he is stepping down to explore other interests.
An environmental design expert and psychologist, Professor Fleming has been involved in the development of services for people with dementia for almost 40 years, including three years leading Dementia Training Australia since its establishment in 2016.
DTA is a consortium of four universities from across Australia and consumer advocacy group Dementia Australia. It is funded by the Federal Government to provide dementia education and training across Australia.
Professor Fleming commenced his clinical career in England’s first community psychology service and in the 1980s he played a major role in the deinstitutionalisation of psychiatric services in New South Wales.
He also established the HammondCare Dementia Services Development Centre to help develop new approaches to the delivery of residential services for people living with dementia.
Professor Fleming was appointed a professorial fellow in the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health at the University of Wollongong in 2010.
He said deciding to retire from DTA was a difficult decision.
“Establishing Dementia Training Australia has been a very challenging job, in fact the probably the most challenging job I’ve ever done in my life, it’s been immensely satisfying working with a group of passionate, highly qualified people,” Professor Fleming tells Australian Ageing Agenda.
He said throughout his career, he is most proud of his work over the last 30 years in environmental design and developing the environmental design service within DTA, which has been recognised in Standard 5 in the new Aged Care Quality Standards that came into effect this week.
“The highlight of my career is seeing that the work that has been done over those 25 or 30 years is now pretty well encapsulated in Standard 5 in the new Aged Care Quality Standards,” Professor Fleming said.
“The DTA resources on environmental design are the primary reference for Standard 5,” he said.
He said he leaves DTA satisfied with his contribution however he still has concerns about environmental design in residential aged care.
“The major concern I have is about continuing to design residential care, which is seen to be very separate from the community. I think that stigmatises people with dementia and I’m looking forward to a future where residential aged care facilities are seen as being a repository of skills and resources that are used by the surrounding community to care for people with dementia in such a way that people go in and out of residential aged care facilities very easily,” he said.
He said he looked forward to spending the next two or three months exploring options and “asking myself what I want to do next”.
Professor Fleming will continue in his role as a professorial fellow at the University of Wollongong.
“I don’t think I’m ready yet to leave environmental design and consultancy and research and working with my students behind yet, I’ve still got a little bit of time left in me to make a contribution in those areas,” he said.
DTA has appointed Professor Belinda Goodenough as its new executive director.
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