Creating a Dementia-Friendly Brisbane: Community Forum Summary

On 2 April, Brisbane community members came together at the Queensland Brain Institute to learn about dementia and how Brisbane can work towards becoming more dementia-friendly.  

The event, organised by Queensland’s Dementia-Friendly Communities Project Officer Mara Bennett, featured various speakers and was well-attended by more than 50 audience members. The event’s overall theme of Dementia-Friendly Communities focused on how to promote social inclusion and improve quality of life for people living with dementia, their families and carers.  

To start the event, all attendees became Dementia Friends by participating in the one-hour Dementia-Friendly Communities education program, facilitated by Mara Bennett. Following this was a networking morning tea where attendees had the opportunity to meet each other and develop relationships.  

After morning tea, Dr Jill Franz presented on the role of design in creating more dementia-friendly places to live, work and play. Dr Franz is a Professor in Spatial Design at the Queensland University of Technology’s School of Design, and her area of expertise is environmental design in the areas of health and wellbeing, ageing, and disability. She was instrumental in the project to make Brisbane Airport the first dementia-friendly airport in Australia. 

Participants then heard from Caylie Field, Manager of the Centre for Dementia Learning (CDL), Queensland, who spoke about upskilling the workforce and raising standards of care. Importantly, Caylie summarised how the work of the CDL is part of a broader national trend towards recognising the rights of people with dementia and improving best-practice in aged care, linking their work to the overarching goals of the current Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. 

The final speaker of the day was local care partner, David Wise, whose wife Susan is living with younger onset dementia Alzheimer’s disease. David shared Susan’s views on her behalf, discussing their family’s experience of living with dementia, the challenges dementia brings, as well as what aspects of their community improve Susan’s quality of life. David also shared his thoughts on what would make Brisbane more dementia-friendly, and of the power of the kindness of strangers. He applauded the efforts that Queensland Police have put into their officers becoming Dementia Friends, pointing out that they are often frontline responders and should be aware of dementia.  

The event concluded with an open forum Q&A session where audience members posed questions to the presenters. Topics discussed included how to ensure professional care workers were adequately trained in dementia care, how to ensure GPs could facilitate timely diagnosis, and what challenges Brisbane faces in becoming more dementia-friendly.  

Some great feedback received after the event via email included: 

“I really enjoyed the event! It was informative, empowering and even a little confronting. I am certainly inspired to make change and do what I can.”  

"I was extremely moved by the content that was shared both on screen and by David Wise. My grandmother lived with vascular dementia for about a year-and-a-half before she passed away last year. I’ll always remember her saying to me when I went to visit her, ‘Do you know … I’ve got dementia. Isn’t that gorgeous!’ I wish I’d known what I know now when she was alive.”  

“My colleague and I are hoping to do a DIY Dementia Friends presentation at our office. I feel excited to be a part of this movement.” 

Thank you to the speakers, attendees and everyone that participated in making this event a success, including:  

  • Queensland Regional Director, Sandra Nugent, as Master of Ceremonies 
  • Dementia Friendly Communities Project Officer, Queensland, Mara Bennett
  • The Queensland Brain Institute for providing the venue  
  • Ozcare for collaborating on the concept and financial support for catering 
  • Collegial support from Dementia Australia staff Annabel Buchanan, Dana Haywood, Rebecca Newitt, Tammy Belz, Leisa Hurst and Stephanie Watkins 
  • Volunteers who provided logistical support on the day.