Brisbane students get an education in dementia-friendly communities

Year 12 students at Iona College, located in Brisbane’s eastern suburbs, are getting an education from their local dementia alliance on how to help make their community more dementia-friendly.

The education is coming from people with first-hand knowledge of dementia.

John Quinn and his partner Glenys Petrie, along with Ann Donaghy, deliver the sessions and they are passionate about helping young people understand the disease better and making positive changes.

John, Glenys and Ann are members of the local dementia alliance, and John brings additional knowledge as he lives with dementia and shares his own first-hand experience. John and Glenys are also both former educators who taught primary school students and know the value of working with youth to achieve change and raise awareness about dementia.

Ann, who also holds the role of Dementia Strategy Lead with Centacare, is very supportive in the alliance’s endeavour to create a more accessible and inclusive community, starting with youth.

"Some students admitted to originally thinking that all dementia was the same. They had not considered disease progression, different types of dementia, or innate differences in people with dementia,” Ms Donaghy said.

“From an intergenerational perspective the program has helped to break down the generational barriers for the students. Through spending time and participating in sessions together, some of the benefits for students and people living with dementia and their care partners is a higher sense of purpose and self-esteem.”

The Iona College students have actively engaged in the sessions and shared ideas of how their school community can reduce the stigma about dementia. “John and Glenys taught us about inclusive community, on how we can include people with dementia and how we can just change simple things to make a more dementia-inclusive community,” one student participant said.

“It’s good to have so many people learn about dementia so we can all work together to be more of an inclusive community and better understand how we can help and support people with dementia.”

The college plans for their staff and 'old boys' (former students) to also undertake the Dementia Friends program and hear the personal stories. 
"John's story is uplifting and gives hope. I didn't realise this was possible."

Though the program was temporarily on hold during school closures from the COVID-19 pandemic, students who have already completed the program shared their enthusiasm in a short video, which can be viewed on YouTube at

Are you interested in what this could look like in your community?

The first step is to become a Dementia Friend. Find out more at or call our National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500