Dementia Advocates join new Council of Elders

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Dementia Australia congratulates the 14 members of the new Council of Elders, announced today for senior Australians to have a strong, formal voice to government on ageing and aged care matters.

Dementia Australia Chief Operating Officer Anthony Boffa congratulated Dementia Advocates Gwenda Darling, Val Fell and Danijela Hlis, who have been announced as members of the Council of Elders, led by inaugural Chair Ian Yates AM. 

“Over 130 high calibre senior Australians nominated to be part of the Council and it is fantastic to see three Dementia Advocates chosen to engage on many issues that impact older people and people living with dementia, their families and carers,” Mr Boffa said.

“Gwenda, Val and Danijela are highly valued Dementia Advocates who are incredibly generous with their time. Their dedication to advocacy work has a significant impact on the lives of all people living with dementia, their families and carers.”

The Council of Elders was a specific recommendation coming out of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and will engage widely on many aspects of aged care from the perspective of the quality and safety of care and the rights and dignity of older people.

Gwenda Darling is a 68-year-old Aboriginal mother, grandmother and great grandmother living in the small rural town of Finley NSW. Gwenda was diagnosed with younger onset behaviour variant frontotemporal dementia in 2012. Gwenda is a driving force in her local community, bringing together people living with dementia, carers, local business, and community members to create a local supportive environment for those impacted by dementia.  

Ms Darling said, “I am really humbled and honoured to be chosen to represent seniors, particularly people living with dementia and carers. My passion is to give a voice to those who can’t advocate for themselves so that people’s needs can be met.”

Danijela Hlis brings her personal and professional experiences of cultural and linguistic diversity (CALD) into the Dementia Australia Advocates Program. She has been involved with Queensland Health, Dementia Australia, and Hammond Care, in production of staff training videos. Danijela has participated in Cognitive Decline Partnership Centre at University of Sydney, Diversicare, and Australian Community of Practice in Research in Dementia (ACcORD).  She is an active member of Buderim Dementia Alliance group, and very involved in her local community on the Sunshine Coast.  

Ms Hlis said, " I am so grateful to Dementia Australia for supporting my nomination. I care about inclusion of all older Australians in decision making that affects us. We have diverse needs but our human rights to quality life and care are equal. To live well in a dementia friendly world. We are not our illness, we are all beautiful children of our mother earth. Our diversity is a force that will drive the change. We need each other, we care about each other."  

Val Fell was a member of Alzheimer’s Association of NSW since 2006, now incorporated into Dementia Australia. Val’s personal experiences of dementia include her extended family and her late husband, for whom she was a carer for 10 years. Val has extensive involvement as a Consumer Advisor and Representative with Dementia Australia. She is the organiser of the annual Illawarra Dementia Forum in Wollongong and was City of Wollongong’s ‘Senior Citizen for 2020’ in recognition for her contributions to her community.

For more information on the Council of Elders and its members see here.

Dementia Australia is the source of trusted information, education and services for the estimated half a million Australians living with dementia, and the almost 1.6 million people involved in their care. We advocate for positive change and support vital research. We are here to support people impacted by dementia, and to enable them to live as well as possible. No matter how you are impacted by dementia or who you are, we are here for you.

For support, please contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500. An interpreter service is available and the Helpline is open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday excluding public holidays. The National Dementia Helpline is funded by the Australian Government. People looking for information can also visit 


Media contacts: Gabrielle Prabhu, Media & Communications Manager, 0447 253 583, 

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