Culturally appropriate assessments for people living with dementia in the Torres Strait one area of nearly $1 million in dementia research grants

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Developing culturally appropriate assessments for people living with dementia in the Torres Strait is just one of 12 new projects that will share in nearly $1 million in grants to conduct ground-breaking dementia research. 

Dr Leander Mitchell from the University of Queensland was awarded a $75,000 Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration – Dementia Australia Research Foundation Pilot Grant and will use the funding to develop tools to measure depression and anxiety in people living with dementia in the Torres Strait.  

“Rates of dementia are almost three times higher in Torres Strait communities than the wider population and rates of depression and anxiety are also higher in First Nations populations,” Dr Mitchell said.  

“Thinking and memory problems can be present in all of these conditions but without accurate information, it can be difficult to work out whether symptoms are due to dementia or a psychological disorder. 

“Whilst clinicians have a range of assessment tools for use in the general community, there are no culturally appropriate measures for use in the Torres Strait – this increases the risk of getting the diagnosis wrong, which can result in people getting the wrong treatment for the wrong condition. 

“These tools have to be acceptable to Torres Strait people and also measure depression and anxiety accurately – doctors and health workers can then use these tools when assessing someone with thinking and memory problems to help them work out if the person has dementia or a psychological disorder and therefore what treatment is needed.  

“I would like to thank the Dementia Australia Research Foundation and all who made this grant possible.”  

The project will be undertaken with researchers from the University of Queensland and James Cook University and is funded in partnership with the Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration, as part of the Centre’s Pilot Grant scheme. 

Professor Graeme Samuel AC, Chair, Dementia Australia Research Foundation, said the grants provided a valuable opportunity to researchers who wanted to make a difference in the field of dementia. 

“We are investing in the next generation of Australian researchers who will be among those tackling some of the biggest challenges in this field,” Prof Samuel said. 

“These grants, which form part of $1.7 million in funding allocated last year, are highly competitive and sought after in the research sector, and provide vital insights into reducing dementia risk, improving accurate and timely diagnoses and establishing treatment and care options for people who live with dementia. 

“Without a medical breakthrough, the number of people living with dementia is expected to increase to almost 1.1 million by 2058. Research into dementia is now more urgent than ever. 

“It is also promising to see so much diversity in research topics of our grant recipients from across Australia, including research into dementia-friendly eyecare, a neuroprotective signal that may help retain healthy brain cell activity and reducing the risk of dementia in people with obstructive sleep apnoea.” 

The Dementia Australia Research Foundation acknowledges the generosity of donors and partners who contribute each and every year to support dementia research. Since the Dementia Grants Program started in 2000, more than $20 million in funding has supported more than 300 projects. 

View the full list of grant recipients here

The Dementia Australia Research Foundation is the research arm of Dementia Australia, which provides funding to support new and emerging dementia researchers. In 2020, $1.7 million in funding was allocated to support Post-doctoral Fellowships (outcomes previously announced here) and Project Grants. Details of funding opportunities are available at


Media contacts: Sarah Richards, Media & Communications Advisor, 0448 341 628, [email protected]  

When talking or writing about dementia please refer to Dementia-Friendly Language Guidelines