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Handing over the reins at Dementia Australia

Thursday, 5 October 2023

Dementia Australia today announced succession plans for Chair, Professor Graeme Samuel AC and CEO, Maree McCabe AM.
After almost 10 years, Prof Samuel will be ending his term as the chair of Dementia Australia at the 23 November Annual General Meeting in accordance with the organisation's constitution. 

Ms McCabe notified the Board in March that after 13 years of leadership, she would complete her role as CEO of Dementia Australia from 1 July 2024.   

Both leaders will leave the organisation after a decade of change marked by the unification of the former federated body, the ever-increasing inclusion of the voices of people living with dementia, their families and carers, the impact of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, and the resulting $229.4 million investment in dementia care by the federal government for the expansion of services.  

Prof Samuel said he would be finishing up as Chair of Dementia Australia and will remain involved and connected with Dementia Australia and associated entities continuing as Chair of Dementia Australia Research Foundation, the Australian Dementia Network (ADNet) and the National Comprehensive Dementia Centres (NCDC).  

“I am immensely proud of everything we have created and achieved as Dementia Australia,” Prof Samuel said.  

"My inspiration to become involved was as a tribute to and in memory of my mother Shirley who had dementia. As a family we valued the support we received through the wonderful counselling and access to programs that made a difference to our lives.   

“I wanted to contribute to ensure all Australians knew this support was available and that they are not alone. 

“I encourage anyone with any questions or concerns to call the National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500 to find out more about dementia and what we can do to improve the experience of dementia for all people impacted.”  

A year ago, Prof Samuel informed his Board colleagues that he was ready to hand over the reins and, after a lengthy search, Merran Kelsall AO, who joined the Dementia Australia Board earlier this year, will take over on 23 November as the new Chair.   

“We are so pleased to welcome Ms Kelsall to the organisation and as a leader who brings with her enormous expertise and experience in corporate governance, finance, audit, risk and compliance,” Prof Samuel said.  

Ms Kelsall is a professional company director with more than 25 years’ standing and has had a career focused on stakeholder and public interest outcomes.  

She has just completed her term as President and Chair of CPA Australia and is a director on the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood, CareSuper, Medical Indemnity Protection Society (MIPS) and TarraWarra Museum of Art Boards.   

Ms Kelsall said she was honoured to accept the role as Chair of Dementia Australia, an organisation for which she has enormous respect.  

“Dementia Australia has a profound impact and I am inspired to be joining an innovative, compassionate and professional organisation,” Ms Kelsall said.  

Ms McCabe said as CEO of Dementia Australia and the former Alzheimer’s Australia Vic she has continually been inspired by the many passionate and dedicated people she has worked with – including staff, people living with dementia, their families and carers, Dementia Australia Patrons, Ambassadors and Honorary Medical Advisors, volunteers, colleagues in the health and aged care sectors, Federal and State Government Departments, eminent medical professionals and researchers, philanthropic supporters and donors – who are dedicated to improving the health, lifestyle and care outcomes for all people impacted by dementia.  

“Throughout I have also always been impressed by the genuine commitment by all the federal, state and territory Ministers we have worked with who have used their influence to bring about once-in-a-generation changes to our system of dementia care,” Ms McCabe said.  

“This role has been an honour and a privilege and my thanks and appreciation to people of all ages living with all forms of dementia, their families and carers and to the incredible team I have had the privilege to work with. A special thanks to those who have so generously shared their stories in support of raising awareness and impacting change.
“To my colleagues across the sectors thank you for your support and for the extraordinary work you do that makes such a profound difference to our community.  

“I acknowledge Professor Samuel for his extraordinary leadership and guidance as Chair of Dementia Australia. I welcome Ms Kelsall to Dementia Australia as we continue to fulfill on our vision of an inclusive future where all people impacted by dementia receive the care and support they choose.”  

Further achievements by Dementia Australia include:   

  • Life-changing support and services for people pre and post receiving a diagnosis of dementia, and for their families and carers,  
  • Inclusion of the voices of people with a living experience of dementia to support positive change in the health and aged care sectors,  
  • Innovative use of cutting-edge technology that has transformed dementia care education in Australia and around the world,  
  • Awareness-raising that has resonated to fulfill on the vision of communities that are dementia-friendly and inclusive for people living with dementia, their families and carers.    
  • Opportunities that inspire researchers to commit their career focus to dementia.

 Ms McCabe will remain as CEO of Dementia Australia until 1 July 2024 and an executive search process for her successor is underway with Fisher Leadership.

Dementia Australia is the source of trusted information, education and services for the estimated more than 400,000 Australians living with dementia, and the more than 1.5 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. The National Dementia Helpline is funded by the Australian Government. People looking for information can also visit 


Media contacts: Christine Bolt 0400 004 553, | Sarah Price 0403 072 140

When talking or writing about dementia please refer to Dementia-Friendly Language Guidelines( 192 kB).

Note to Editors:

We request, where possible, details for the National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500 appear alongside news stories about dementia, as these stories often prompt questions or concerns: 

If this story has prompted any questions or concerns, please call the National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500 (24 hours, 7 days a week) or visit 

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Last updated
16 November 2023