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Canberra as a Dementia-Friendly City

Thank you, Madam Speaker, and I thank Ms Lawder for bringing this very important motion before the Assembly today.

I note that, according to ABS data, dementia has become the leading cause of death in Canberra, accounting for nearly 10 per cent of residents who passed away during 2019.[1] And if we apply data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to the Tenth Assembly, at least two of us will develop dementia during our lifetimes.[2] Clearly, a good government will take this motion seriously.

Dementia is not a normal part of ageing, but it does primarily affect older people, with symptoms most commonly appearing after the age of 65. This motion therefore has special significance for senior Canberrans, many of whom reside in my electorate of Ginninderra. The Belconnen District currently has eight purpose-built retirement communities and aged-care homes. I am also familiar with several streets and neighbourhoods that are predominantly populated by older Canberrans who have essentially created their own senior-living communities.

And of course, dementia affects not just those who have it but also those who love and care for them. I suspect nearly all of us personally know someone in one of these categories. It therefore simply makes good sense to actively consider how to make Canberra a more dementia-friendly city and to incorporate what works into city planning.

Looking over Dementia Australia’s checklist of recommendations for outdoor areas, I realised that I have been consistently advocating for many of these same things since my election in 2016. For example:

· Public areas and parklands should be clean, well-kept, and pleasant.

· Footpaths should be wide, level where possible, well maintained, and free of obstructions.

· Street lighting should be adequate and evenly distributed.

· And bus shelters should be enclosed with adequate seating.

There are the kinds of things that all Canberrans want and need.

For example, on behalf of residents in Cook and Macquarie, I have recently been advocating for footpaths to be constructed in some of their streets. Many residents in these streets have lived in their homes for decades, and now that they are older – and traffic has increased – they no longer feel safe sharing the street with cars. As they explain it, they can’t understand why, after years of paying their taxes, the ACT Government would ignore them and their needs now.

Dementia-friendly design is mostly just doing the sensible things that a genuinely good government should already be doing for the benefit of everyone. Adopting this approach will not only support individuals and their families; it will strengthen wider community networks and encourage intergenerational connections as Canberrans have better opportunities to spend quality time with older family members, neighbours and friends. It will make our neighbourhoods, parks, and streets safer and more accessible for everyone regardless of age or health. I commend this motion to the Assembly.

Thank you.


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