Meet the Ministers Webinar

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On 13 October, Dementia Australia hosted a Meet the Ministers Webinar with the Hon Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care and the Hon Anika Wells MP, Minister for Aged Care and Sport.

The webinar provided the opportunity to hear from the two key members of the Australian Government who will influence and decide on immediate and future dementia policy.

As part of the webinar, Minister Butler officially launched Dementia Australia’s new, free app BrainTrack. Watch now:

"It is vital for people experiencing early changes in cognition to access information, support and services as early as possible."

Professor Graeme Samuel AC believes the BrainTrack app is an important tool to support a timely diagnosis of dementia. Graeme, who is the Chair of Dementia Australia, said BrainTrack will offer reassurance as well as useful tips for maintaining brain health.

Read more here about why the BrainTrack app is needed to support early dementia diagnosis.

Looking for brain health tips and strategies?  

Dementia Australia has compiled a list of tips and strategies you can use to improve your health.

Read more about brain health tips and strategies and to discover more about BrainTrack.

Thinking about your brain? Get the app now. 

The free BrainTrack app is available for download on mobile or tablet now via Apple Store or Google Play. Find out more here.

Questions and Answers from the Webinar

1600 people registered for the event, 532 people attended the Webinar and over 90 questions were submitted prior to the Webinar.

To read the list of questions and answers from this webinar please visit: Dementia Australia’s Meet the Ministers webinar

Transcript: Meet the Ministers Webinar, 13 October 2022

Graeme Samuel AC, Chair Dementia Australia

Good morning everyone. I'm Professor Graeme Samuel, the Chair of Dementia Australia. I'm pleased to welcome you to our Meet the Ministers Webinar. I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land from which we are all joining from today and pay my respects to their elders, past and present, and to our shared futures. I'm joining you from the Woiwurrung Lands. To help us run a smooth event, we have set all attendees microphones to mute and turned off cameras. We'll also be recording today's webinar and a link will be shared with all registrants at the conclusion of the event. The chat is disabled. However, if you'd like to send any feedback, please email [email protected]. I'm really pleased and honoured to welcome the Honourable Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care and the Honourable Anika Wells MP, Minister for Aged Care and Sport.

This is truly for Dementia Australia a unique event to have both Ministers joining us at the same time, in connection with a matter of extreme importance to both Dementia Australia, but also to all those with, whom, we are associated and for whom we are here to serve, those living with dementia and their carers. We're thrilled to have you, join us today for this important event and the Ministers to officially launch BrainTrack, a project funded by the Australian government. You'll hear more about BrainTrack a bit later. I acknowledge Professor Kon Mouzakis and Professor Rajish Vasa from the Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute, Deakin University and Professor Alison Hutchinson from the Institute for Health Transformation, Deakin University for their support and involvement in this project, I also welcome and acknowledge my Dementia Australia and Dementia Australia Research Foundation Board members, Honorary Medical Advisors and Dementia Australia's CEO Maree McCabe AM,  and also people of all ages living with all forms of dementia, their families and carers joining us today, I acknowledge the Dementia Australia BrainTrack project team, and all Dementia Australia staff.

Discussions such as we are having today are vital to ensure dementia remains a priority across the health, age, care, and disability sectors. It gives me great pleasure to introduce Dennis Frost, the Vice Chair of the Dementia Australia Advisory Committee and a Dementia Advocate. Dennis was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia in 2013 and is an active advocate for all with dementia Dennis has had a variety of careers, working in education, petroleum geophysics, IT support and training, and had his own IT support business for over 20 years. Dennis is an active member of the Dementia-Friendly Kiama Alliance and involved in many research projects.

Dennis Frost, Dementia Advocate

Well, thank you. You said half of what I was going to say now, and also, technically it's Kiama. It gets pronounced like that in Japan, but Kiama. Yeah, my name's Dennis Frost and, I'm a Dementia Advocate, as Graeme said before, and Vice Chair of the DAAC Dementia Australia's Advisory Committee, which is a group of people living with dementia who provide living experience advice to Dementia Australia. I've also had a heavy involvement in research initially as a participant and then in advisory and co-design roles. And more recently, for a short while until COVIC killed the project, I was one investigator in a University of Wollongong project. My diagnosis involved participating in some research projects, which is still ongoing. And at the time of my diagnosis, like many people, I was basically told I had three to six years to live. Now that was in 2013, and I decided to outlive those bastards and stir them up every year when I go back. 2013 was also the year that our first guest was awarded the Alzheimer's Disease International Award for outstanding global contributions to the fight against dementia. And I will now like to introduce Mark Butler MP, the Minister for Health and Aged Care, who we hope will continue to contribute to the better outcomes for all of us who are living with all forms of dementia. I'll now hand over to Minister Butler. Thank you.

Minister Butler:

Well, thank you Dennis, for that, inspiring and kind introduction. Long may you continue to beat the bastards and full strength to you. Can I acknowledge first of all that I'm coming to you all from the lands of the Kaurna people, lands, we now call Adelaide and pay my respects to their elders past, present, and emerging. And in doing so, acknowledge a couple of things. The first is that I'm very proud to be a part of a government that is committed to, implementation in full of the Uluru Statement From the Heart. First of which will be the enshrining of a Voice to Parliament in our Constitution. And that Voice to Parliament is not just important as a statement of respect and acknowledgement of the ownership and custodianship of these lands for many tens of thousands of people by our First Nations Australians.

But it will also, we know, contribute to better practical outcomes for first Australians. And it's a reminder as we come together to talk about the challenge of dementia, that we still have a long way to go in closing the gap in health outcomes and life expectancy between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians. And that gap is as wide in the area of dementia as it is in so many other parts of our health system and so many other health conditions. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, we know experience rates of dementia that are far in excess of the general Australian population. And so acknowledging country, and acknowledging and recognising that we still have a long way to go in closing the gap, I want to remind all of us, most importantly, those of us in government of the ongoing challenge, we have to recognise the rates of dementia among our First Nations communities.

Dennis, can I thank you so much for that really kind introduction and, the reminder of the award that we all achieved together in 2013, the Alzheimer's Disease International Annual Award for the outstanding global contribution to the fight against dementia, was in my view, very much an award we all received jointly. And it followed a really exciting period of advocacy and frankly, campaigning by what we used to call Alzheimer's Australia now Dementia Australia, to lift the awareness across the community and in the Australian Parliament about the challenge of dementia. I remember very much sitting down with the then Chair, before Graeme, the Chair of Alzheimer's Australia back then, Ita Buttrose. And I can tell you it was an utterly terrifying experience to be sitting down with Ita. It's one of the most terrifying experiences I've had in my professional life, but it ended up being an utterly inspiring experience as well, because together, I think we recognised that we did have a lot of work to do to lift that awareness of the scale of the challenge of dementia and Alzheimer's Australia, or now Dementia Australia took up that challenge and resourced and ran a highly effective campaign, which many of you will remember was called Fight Dementia.

They were out the front of the Parliament House. Ita confessed you know, 50 years or so into her professional career, it was the first demonstration she had ever attended in her life as a guest speaker for the rally to Fight Dementia in the front of the Australian Parliament House in Canberra. And it led, I think, to a really groundbreaking package of support measures for Australians living with dementia and their carers and their families and loved ones, which led to that award in 2013. So by no means was it an award to the government, it was an award to the dementia community in Australia. And that is a community, which I would like and would feel proud to consider myself a member and have been, in those nine years that we've been in opposition as well. I can't tell you how delighted I am to be back at a forum, being run by Dementia Australia to talk about the challenges, but also the really exciting opportunities, that we have in front of us to support those Australians living with dementia and their families.

And later on in my remarks, I'm going to talk about one of the great new, products that Dementia Australia has come up with the BrainTrack app. And we'll talk a bit about that just to continue to push the envelope in providing more support to the people that Dementia Australia, have the mission of supporting. Can I also say, how delighted I am to be, appearing with my dear friend and ministerial colleague, Anika Wells. Anika has, I guess, primary carriage of, this area of policy for the government as the Minister for Aged Care and Sport. But we are very much working as a team, and I, I hope you get that sense by the fact that we're both appearing together, on this, really large webinar. I could not be more delighted, at the decision that the Prime Minister made to hand this portfolio to Anika.

She is a colleague, a woman of extraordinary energy and intellect, campaigning capability, but also deeply compassionate. I think you will see that, as you get to know her better as you get to hear from her today. And I think working as a team, we can do some wonderful, wonderful things, together as, as a dementia community. First and foremost, I guess, though, I'm here today as the Health Minister, to recognise the really important fact that is far too often forgotten that dementia is first and foremost a health issue. The aged care sector takes a lot of the responsibility for supporting Australians with dementia, and it is true that the vast majority of Australians who, who live with dementia are older Australians, but this is a health issue, and it demands a health response as well as an aged care response.

That is why the Albanese government is committed to working with all state and territory governments whom we know,  shoulder much of the responsibility for our health system as well, to develop a new 10 year National Dementia Action Plan. It's really important that we come together as governments, but work with your community and other parts of the health system to develop that plan together. To make sure that Australians living with dementia are right at the centre of the plan, and help co-design the plan, work with us to make sure that it works for you and for your families. It's really, interesting to me as I come back and, read the work of Dementia Australia, just how familiar some of those challenges are to the challenges that I was confronting when I was last a Minister in this area more than a decade ago.

How do you get a timely diagnosis? You know, back when I was a Minister, the average time to get a diagnosis was more than three years, more than three years between the onset of the symptoms and actually getting that clarity of diagnosis for the individual and for their families. And then being able to work out a way forward accessing care, accessing support mechanisms, we need to make sure that this plan supports GPs to have that time, to have the information and make sure they're able to provide that timely diagnosis. We need to think about more diagnostic services like Memory Clinics that don't have really long wait times. When you get that diagnosis, can you access the services that you need for support as quickly as possible? An age old challenge for all Australians living with a dementia has often been their time in hospital.

Making sure that hospital systems are set up to identify the particular needs of patients who are often not in there for, for the condition of dementia, but have particular needs to ensure that they get the support and the recognition from hospital staff. And again, this was a very important part of the package we put in place a decade ago. How do we make sure that people who receive a diagnosis of dementia in the middle part of their life when they're still maybe raising kids still at work, still in some cases at the busiest part of their life, how are they getting the supports that they need? One of the things I'm also really keen to focus on is to do all that we can as a government to support ongoing research and new developments in this area.

I know this has been an incredibly frustrating area for the dementia community. A great Australian as you all know, a truly great Australian professor, Colin Masters from Melbourne, really discovered a world-first, discovered the role that the beta-amyloid protein plays in the development of dementia almost 40 years ago. It boggles the mind to think how long ago that was, and still we're looking for a good therapy, that actually targets that protein, that, helps, if not completely cure dementia, then really significantly alleviate the development of the symptoms. And there are some really exciting developments on the, on the horizon right now. But I know that this has been an area of very significant frustration for the dementia community. I know also that our department, Minister Well's department of my department have been convening workshops over the last few months involving people from all backgrounds of all ages to hear from them, what they need in the National Dementia Action Plan, because as I said, I want to make sure, and I know Anika does as well, that this plan has Australians living with dementia in their families right at the centre of it, having confidence that they were involved in the co-design of the plan.

I want to pay particular tribute to the work that Graeme and Maree and all of the staff and volunteers at Dementia Australia do each and every day. This really is one of the truly great organisations in Australia. It is smart, it is well organised. It is able to tap into an extraordinary array of volunteers. It has one of the best capacities to advocate in Canberra to government that I've seen of any health based organisation. It truly is a credit to the community that it seeks to serve. I know that it works 24 hours a day, seven days a week,  operating the National Dementia Helpline and, and really being the frontline for so many other services that are funded by government. And I want to pay tribute to the work that you do. It is incredibly important. Now, in addition to all of the work that I've talked about to date, I just want to highlight a couple of things.

It's obviously important to get a timely diagnosis, of dementia, and the time that, the maximum way we can shorten that time for a diagnosis needs to continue to be a focus. But once you get the diagnosis, Australians and their families then need a pathway to support. And we are working very closely with our primary health networks, and this was discussed considerably in the Royal Commission into Aged Care. We're working considerably with primary health networks to make sure that GPs are equipped to connect people diagnosed with dementia to the support that they need. It means health professionals are going to be able to better support patients at all stages of their dementia journey, making sure that they can access referrals to specialised assessment and diagnostic services, post-diagnostic services, and the sorts of supports that Dementia Australia is so important in delivering and also providing access to localised consumer resources that help to provide a roadmap for next steps and connecting to those services.

But what about, what about monitoring our own brain health? I've talked a lot about ways in which we can access formal services but these things, have, have allowed us to access a whole range of tools that allow us ourselves to monitor our own health, whether it's our physical or neurological health. And today, I have the great pleasure of launching the BrainTrack app, which we've already talked a bit about. Dementia Australia commissioned, Deakin University's Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute, that great term AI, to develop this app with Australian government funding. BrainTrack is free, and it helps us monitor and understand changes in cognition over time, which we can use to start a conversation with our general practitioner, our GP, the app provides brain health information through fun travel themed games that test your cognition.

Users are prompted to log in monthly, play the games, and receive data on their cognition that can be shared with their GP very easily. Importantly, though, BrainTrack is evidence-based and creates the opportunity to start a discussion between people who might have memory concerns and their doctor as soon as possible. Shortening that time to, to a formal diagnosis that starts you on the pathway of receiving support, the resulting conversation and monitoring, as I say, can lead to that earlier diagnosis, which will help families and people living with dementia manage their diagnosis on their own terms. While BrainTrack doesn't replace the need for formal cognitive assessment, it will assist that process by offering an easy way to track changes over time, and even picking up on cognitive concerns the user just might not be aware of themselves, and for many, it will offer reassurance and offer tips about maintaining brain health.

I really encourage you to all download the free app. I'm going to do that. Might need some assistance from a younger person to help me do it, but I'm going to try to do that at least, which is brave of me. I'm going try and do that after this webinar, and I encourage you all to do the same. This app has been designed to stimulate and promote brain health conversations between GPs, conversations between patients and their families. These concerns have to be taken seriously, and the BrainTrack app provides an ideal opportunity to start a conversation about brain health. In conclusion, can I just say again, I can't overstate how delighted I am to be back among, among the dementia community. It's a community that is just so close to my heart, and I'm equally delighted to be back here with my Ministerial colleague, Anika Wells, who I know is just going to do great, great things in this portfolio, for the community and for the country. She's a terrific addition to the government. So thank you, Graeme, and to Maree for setting up this webinar, inviting both Anika and me onto it.

Graeme Samuel:

Thank you so much, Minister Butler. Look, I, I know you always get thanked after giving a speech, and so let me try and, you know, project to you the sincerity of the appreciation for your words, but more importantly for, the approach and the attitude that, both you and Minister Wells, have demonstrated, towards, Dementia Australia and those living with dementia. I'm very fond of the C word. And the C word is, it applies to both of you. I think can be expressed in three words, compassion, commitment, and capability. And you exude that both of you do in, all that you present to us in relation to Dementia Australia. So I really do want to sincerely thank you, not only on behalf of Dementia Australia, but of all those that are living with dementia and their carers, it is so important in having your support.

The support of Minister Wells is so important to us. We are going to move to Minister Wells, and I'm going to introduce you to Dementia Advocate Isabelle Burke. Isabelle cared for her mother, Christine, who had younger onset Alzheimer's disease. She is passionate about raising awareness about the need for early diagnosis, compulsory education of the age care workforce, and dementia research. Isabelle is currently in her fourth year of psychology study. She's presented to the Australian Dementia Forum, and the Emerging Researchers in Ageing Conference. She's a former member of the National Institute for Dementia Research Expert Advisory Panel, and is currently a member of the Sydney University Lived Experience Advisory Panel. She is also a recent, appointee to the board of Dementia Australia Research Foundation, and has already demonstrated an extraordinary contribution to the work of that foundation. So, I pass over then to Isabelle.

Isabelle Burke,  Dementia Advocate

Thank you. Thanks for your warm welcome, Graeme. So good morning everyone, and thank you for inviting me to join this webinar for the very exciting launch of BrainTrack. My Mum and Christine, she spent her working life as an academic. She developed a bridging program that allowed mature age students a pathway to tertiary study. When my mother first developed behavioural changes in her late forties and early fifties, she was very much aware that something was not right, seeking out help wherever she could. However, none of her medical specialists guessed that she might have dementia, potentially due to the curse of being a professional woman who could mask certain symptoms. My mother would've hugely benefited from the use of an app like BrainTrack, because it would've allowed her to monitor the subjective changes she was noticing. By having more concrete data to show her GP, they may have taken her concerns more seriously, particularly due to her young age.

My Mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2014, at age 54, being the middle child, I was only 20. She died in September 2019, as hard as it was to come to terms with the meaning of dementia at this young age, looking back, I wish my Mum was diagnosed younger. An earlier diagnosis for Mum would've allowed my family to incorporate changes to her daily living that may have given us a few extra years, together before she moved into aged care. Extra time would've allowed me to ask Mum more questions about my career goals for her to guide my brother as he went off into the world as a young man, and to collaborate with my sister who inherited Mum's, skill and passion for sewing. A diagnosis of depression and anxiety masked more sinister cognitive changes mainly to Mum's speech and dexterity. The years spent searching for answers could have been better used, accessing resources to allow, Mum to remain connected to the community, to provide support for my sister and I during our final years of high school, and give Mum the autonomy and confidence to adapt to her life.

Post-diagnosis. Mum felt an overwhelming sense of relief when she could finally name her accurate diagnosis, despite difficulty in pronouncing Alzheimer's disease, However, it still breaks my heart that she spent so many years fighting for help. A timely diagnosis would have gone a long way to ease that pain. I'm honoured today to represent carers from all over Australia who are caring or have cared for someone living with dementia. I know our circumstances vary greatly, but we all share a very special bond through the privilege of caring for our loved ones. I welcome the Honourable Anika Wells MP Minister for Aged Care and Sport. It is wonderful to have your support here today, Minister Wells, and I'm proud to welcome and introduce you. And I know carers all over the country will be interested to hear what you, will be sharing with us today, and we'll be keen to follow your progress and continue support of dementia in the coming years. Please welcome Minister Wells. Thank you.

Minister Wells:

Mark will thoroughly enjoy that as he's always giving me, you know, giving me curry for being the millennial. I'll get to that in a moment. I was just saying, it's a very nice thing, but you all missed that, how wonderful you all are. So, I will concisely repeat that it's very good to be here with you all this morning. That's the garbage truck. Sorry. So just to give you a brief bit of context, My caring responsibilities, have landed me at short notice at home today to run sick bay. And so this iPad is being propped up with some of Australia's great literature, Where's Mrs Doctor?, Where's Mrs Hen?. It's all been a bit fast and loose getting going. So thank you very much for your patience and apologies in advance for the sounds of the Brisbane suburbs that might be coming to you whilst I speak.

But we've made it and I couldn't be happier to be with you all. Such an important community that has, has already been covered a little bit, has been working for a very, very long time to see some of the improvements that we are hoping to deliver to you in the new Albanese government. So I should acknowledge firstly that I'm coming to you now, surprisingly, from Turrbal and Jagera Lands and I'm proud to be part of the government that will be delivering the Uluru Statement From the Heart in full. Together, we stand on the shoulders of 1600 generations of First Nations people, and that is our shared history. Thank you Isabelle for your very generous introduction and for everything that you've done at such a young age, to contribute both to your own family and to our broader, um, search for answers and for progress in such an important space. You are an inspiration yourself.

And I hope that you continue to work in this area for the rest of us. Thank you to Health Minister Mark Butler for his exceptional work, which we've touched on now spans two different Labor governments. And as you can see from his generosity with me, I couldn't ask for a better Cabinet Minister to be working with someone who is more supportive, more generous, more insightful with the kind of experience in this area that gives me an option to go to when I need wisdom. But also lets me run on this with my fresh legs. Having only just become a Minister, I think with us as a combo, you have a really great partnership to try and advance the goals that you so desperately seek federal governments to advance for you. And as he noted and as we'll crack on with in our Q and A I suspect, dementia is a health issue.

And I think that everybody in Australia has been touched in some way by it, whether directly in your family, whether it's a colleague, whether it's your neighbour. It really affects everybody street by street in Australia. And it's a devastating diagnosis. Whether or not you can stare it down and how we react as a community, I think is really important. That's why we've committed to delivering some really practical measures to ensure that people who are living with dementia and their families and their carers receive the support that they deserve. And rightly, the Royal Commission identified dementia as one of four areas for immediate action. And, you know, we've been doing our very best to start implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission as soon as we got to government. Only nine would be delivered in the first 15 months, but we've gotten to 19 additional recommendations delivered in the first hundred days. So you can rest assure that we take the Royal Commission and its recommendations seriously.

So, we're going to continue investing in specific dementia programs, to improve quality of life. And our plan for aged care that we brought to government, including registered nurses, 24 / 7 in nursing facilities, an average of 215 care minutes per day, that will improve the quality of residential care for all older Australians and for those who are living in residential care with dementia. And work is progressing already to make sure that, the staff and the workers get the support that they need with additional training in that space. And I know that's something that you are passionate about and that we've been talking about already. And we are continuing the increased support for people who have behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia with an extra $58 million for the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service and the Severe Behaviour Response Team programs.

And we as a government are providing an unprecedented $25 million through dementia, ageing, and aged care research. That's through a total of 18 grants that will be provided through the Medicare Medical Research Future Fund, going to some of our best and brightest researchers in universities right across the country. And I acknowledge and thank the healthcare workforce, many of whom will be watching us now, but the enormous challenges both that you have faced and that you continue to face each and every day when you are trying to deliver a level of security and dignity and humanity to the people in your care. And I also want to thank all of the provider groups and the advocates and the peak bodies including Dementia Australia, the residents and the families. And you all together have worked so hard to see some of these changes happen. And you know, as Mark made the point, we know dementia is not just an aged care issue, it's the second leading cause of death in Australia and more action is needed.

We need to give more action to diagnose it, to treat it, and to prepare the people that live with it. And as Mark, actually, the government is now in the process of negotiating a new 10 year National Dementia Action Plan with state and territory governments. So let me explain some actions that we're taking there. This plan will kickstart a national approach to dementia risk reduction, timely diagnosis and improvements for the services for people living with dementia, their families and carers. It will put people front and centre of their care. That's the garbos coming back on the other side of the street now. So hopefully we are mere seconds away from just the usual serenity, which will be the school bell, I reckon. Anyway. It's being developed in consultation, and that's really important to us. Genuine consultation with people who are living with, who are experienced dementia, with their carers and with their families, with their clinicians, with the researchers, with our communities to make sure that we meet their expectations.

And the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's, new National Centre for Monitoring Developments will monitor performance against the Plan and we anticipate that will all be released for public consultation, very soon. So I really urge you to engage in the consultation process. I feel like I'm preaching to the choir there. You know, if you're someone who's engaged enough to be here with us today, you've already drafted your submission. But please encourage others who may not have the time to do so, because I know that is something that carers really, struggle with the time to contribute all of their knowledge and experience. So with your help and with our wider community together, I'm going to continue to focus on what we can do together to improve care and to make a genuine difference to the people who are living with dementia and with their families and carers like Isabelle. So, thank you very much Graeme I might hand back to you, and I will though, you said that, you always, Mark and I would always get thanks after our speeches. That is not the case. I don't know if you've seen Question Time, but Mark and I are very rarely thanked for our contributions and very insightful answers that we give in Question Time. So we do, we do feel grateful for your thanks. It's always very lovely to hear.

Maree McCabe AM, CEO Dementia Australia

Thank you so much. Minister Wells and Minister Butler, thank you for taking part in the webinar today. It was so insightful and powerful for everyone to hear your views on the future of dementia care in Australia. And I'm joining today from Woiwurrung Lands. And now it's time for the Question and Answer segment with our Ministers. I thank all of our webinar attendees who took time to submit such outstanding questions, some of which will now address with the Ministers. We really were overwhelmed by the number of questions we received, and unfortunately we won't be able to address them all today. We've got over 1600 people on the webinar, which is amazing. But we will provide all of the questions to the Ministers and also to the Department of Health and Aged Care, so they can see some of the pressing questions and concerns raised regarding the future of dementia care in our country.

And we are all very keen that that is something that is front and centre for everybody and in everyone's minds, the first question that I have, Minister, is Minister Butler, it's for you. And this question is the way dementia is often discussed by governments and leaders in the sector can present to people as if it's only considered as an aged care issue. Now, you mentioned earlier that it's not, but it really is important to people living with dementia, their families and their carers, to hear from our leaders that they know and understand that dementia is a health issue. How can we change this perception?

Minister Butler:

Thanks. Thanks very much, Maree. Look, dementia as a condition, as, as everyone understands predominantly, emerges in later life. But as Isabelle said so powerfully it can hit at any time. Really, there are tens of thousands of Australians today living with dementia, under the age of 65. and I've met many, many of those families, over my time in, in public life. So, you know, I, it's incumbent upon all of us, frankly, including, Anika and myself to be very clear that that dementia can hit at any point. And although some of the best thinking and some of the best practice in dementia support does reside in the aged care sector, we've got to mainstream that right through the health system. You know, I think, you know, we've got, I've got to be very clear with GPs and others in the health system that dementia, a dementia diagnosis is not something for you to make and then pass on to the aged care system.

The majority of people even of an older age who are living with dementia are not in aged care right now. They might be getting some home care, but they're not in aged care facilities. They need support out in the community. Also, I think it's really important to think about this in the same way we think about other chronic disease. How do you stay healthy? I mean, how do you minimise the chance of, of, developing dementia? We've learnt over a number of years now that the same risk factors that drive other, you know, very big chronic disease like cancer and cardiovascular disease, so tobacco use, over consumption of alcohol, poor diet, those sorts of things, high blood pressure, they are all drivers, not just of vascular dementia as we used to think 10 or 20 years ago, but of other types of dementia as well. So, encouraging healthy living right through the life course, but particularly, from middle aged onwards is, is I think a really critical health message to minimise the chance or at least defer the age at which you might develop a, diagnosis of dementia.

Maree McCabe:

Thank you very much, Minister. Minister Wells, this question is for you and it's related to home care. I'd be really interested to hear about the government's anticipated approach to improve support at home to best reflect the needs of people living with dementia and their carers. Oh, welcome. What is your daughter's name? Celeste. Hello, Celeste.

Minister Wells:

Yes, do you mind, Mark, can you just do your next question and I'll just...

Maree McCabe:

Okay, no problem. So Minister, the next question for you is around the National Dementia Action Plan and Minister, you mentioned that and how critical it is for us to have one, and that this one will span 10 years, I think you mentioned, which is fantastic, and we've been involved in those consultations. So when will an updated, when will the updated plan be released and what's the plan for public consultation?

Minister Butler:

Well, first of all, you, you're right, Maree, this, this is only going to be a useful plan if it's developed and co-designed really by governments and, and the community together. I'm hoping that we'll be able to release the consultation paper to get that direction going, next month in November. This is something that, that Anika and I are going to work on very closely as, as a team, but which she will take leadership on. And after we've been able to have confidence that this is a paper that has the support of the community, Anika and I will be engaging with our state and territory colleagues. We, we want to make sure this is a truly national plan, not just a commonwealth government plan or Australian government plan. And at the moment we're working to a time frame of finalising that agreement with state and territory governments by the middle of next year. That might sound ambitious, really in terms of, of a process of consultation and engagement with state and territory colleagues. But we want to get that balance right between consultation, co-design, and actually getting on with the job. So, so mid 2023 is my ambition and Anika's ambition to get agreement with the states and territories, having worked closely with you guys before that. And then let's get on with it.

Maree McCabe:

And Minister, one of the things that you mentioned before, and it's such an important message, is around brain health. And we know how important it is and that it needs to start early. What initiatives is the government pursuing to improve children's understanding of the importance of brain health for life?

Minister Butler:

Well, I'm just going to take my last one, Anika. So <laugh>, so, as I said, in answer to my earlier question, Maree, we, we know, we know a lot about the, the key risk factors for poor health. You know, some things develop because of a genetic disposition. And there's, there's, not a lot you can do about that in terms of prevention, but the, the bulk of disease we experience now in Australia, it's not what it was a hundred years ago, when largely people, you know, acquired and often died of infectious disease. Leaving aside short pandemics, it's mainly chronic disease, it's cardiovascular disease, it is cancers, it is dementia, it is arthritis. And almost all of those diseases have essentially the same risk factors. I mean, there's some genetic, role, role at play, but it's smoking, it's alcohol being consumed in an irresponsible way.

It's poor diet, it's poor levels of activity, which all drive blood pressure and a whole range of other things. So certainly our focus last time in government and in, and in this time in government will be driving down those risk factors. And young Australians are an obvious target for this. One of the great things we've done as a country over the last 10 or 15 years is to drive those smoking rates down. You know, world-leading reforms that, that my former colleague Nicola Roxon started around plain packaging. So, so the rates of youth smoking now are profoundly lower than they were when, certainly when I was young and even when Anika was young, which is not that long ago. But, you know, continuing to, to get kids out engaging in physical activity, keeping a healthy weight, that's probably the major challenge we have now compared to tobacco, which was a very big challenge 20 years ago. So what, that's what we will do. We will continue to run a preventative health or health promotion agenda, targeted at those key risk factors because we're confident that, that will deliver the best dividend for people individually, but for the general community.

Maree McCabe:

Thank you so much, Minister. Minister Wells, if I can come back to you about the home care. We're interested in the government's anticipated approach to support at home to best reflect the needs of people living with dementia and their carers.

Minister Wells:

And I was speaking about this as I was running around on nursing duties. I think with home care, first of all, we are consulting widely and carefully about what support at home is going to look like. We took on board the feedback that it wasn't what people needed it to be, at its at its sort of status when we inherited it. So I've moved it back, to kick in at the recommendation of the Royal Commission, which gives us a bit more time to get it right. And it actually, this topic, Gwenda Darling, who's one of your Advocates, spoke really powerfully about this yesterday at the ACCPA Conference, which is the peak body for aged care providers' conference, which is happening in Mark's neck of the woods in Adelaide at the moment. And she was talking about how she did not have good home care support for her initially upon diagnosis, getting on board the system, learning to navigate it.

And so, nothing worked as it should, but now she's running it herself and she has picked her carers and picked her services. One of the things that works really well is that because she has that consistency of carer, they can recognise when she has, you know, a week or a couple weeks of deterioration and says, can you hear that? I think it's time to go back to the speech pathologist. So I think consistency is something that we really need to work on. And that goes for us to try to address workforce shortages so that there's more people who are doing this work regularly full time, who is a permanent carer that you see week-in, week-out rather than, you know, what happens with agency staff or, or people not turning up at all. I think that's important. I think proper assessment is important.

People were talking to me yesterday about how long it took to get assessed or, get, get an assessment that properly addressed all of the needs that they were going to need, that they were going to need. And there's, you know, some particular, I guess, difficulties that exist in the current system that we'd like to, meter out as we introduce the new system. And I think the other thing that people talk to me all the time about that we're really seriously working on making part of support at home in its new iteration is, better access to assistive technology, better access to home modifications. Because at the moment, all of that, people feel is, is wanting, isn't where people need it. When we know that, those starting look into going into aged care in the next year to five years, they want to stay at home. So we need to have really good, rigorous home, modification and assisted technology, streams for people in home care. So that, that's possible.

Maree McCabe:

Thank you so much, Minister, and it's been such an honour having you both today I'm now going to hand back to Professor Graeme Samuel. Thank you very much.

Graeme Samuel:

Well, thank you both Ministers, so much for, joining us today. It's been a true privilege. I'd have to say there's not many people that can press all my buttons in a short period of time. And you've done just that…and Minister Wells, I have to congratulate you on your admirable display of multi-skilling, extraordinary. So <laugh>. But look, thank you very, very much. You really have pressed all, all of my buttons, all of Dementia Australia's buttons in your, your comments. And I'd have to say, I think we are truly blessed to have two committed, compassionate, and capable Ministers whose portfolios encompass the issues that are of significant concern to, those living with dementia, and their carers. So we do truly appreciate it. Well, now this now concludes today's proceedings. I do want to thank everyone who's joined us, and a big thank you to everyone who's made today's event possible.

Everyone who registered to attend the webinar today, and there are 1600 of them will receive a post-event email with a link to the recording. We'll also be sharing the recording on the Dementia Australia website and social media channels in the coming days. I encourage you to share this with your colleagues and others who are unable to attend today. Also, encourage you actually to download the, the, the app, the BrainTrack app. I've done it already. Minister Butler says he's going to do it. And I think it's fascinating to actually look at the app and to see how it works. It's truly, an incredible, production. And I want to thank particularly all those who have been involved in its creativity and the way it works. It's going to be a major step forward in one of the issues the Minister Butler focused on, which is this early diagnosis, of dementia. Now, thank you all again to all our speakers. Your stories are a powerful demonstration of why we need to keep having these important discussions and ensuring dementia remains a priority. Thank you for joining us.