International recognition for dementia-friendly Kiama

Residents of Kiama, on the South Coast of New South Wales, have embraced the dementia-friendly concept, and their internationally-recognised model has recently been awarded a second Dementia Australia Community Engagement Program grant. 

Watch the team discuss their project here:



“What we’ve encountered locally is people are actually changing in the way they operate businesses or treat people, even just casual people on the street. Being involved in this project I can start to see changes that are affecting people’s lives on a daily basis”, said Dennis Frost, member of the Dementia Australia Dementia Friendly Communities Advisory Group and his local Kiama Dementia Advisory Group.

Commencing in 2014 as a partnership between Dementia Australia, the University of Wollongong and Kiama Municipal Council, the Kiama Dementia-Friendly Community Program has led to a number of social inclusion activities and a shift in community attitudes. 

A survey of community members, held two years apart, showed an improvement for sentiments about whether people living with dementia are able to participate in a wide variety of activities, and that it was easy to find out about dementia-friendly services or organisations in Kiama. 

“It was really important for us to evaluate the impact of the project at community level – so to have robust evidence that Dementia Friendly programs can create more inclusive attitudes and also make information about services and supports for people with dementia more accessible is a great achievement” said Dr Lyn Phillipson, University of Wollongong. 

Project activities included education and awareness-raising activities for more than 1,000 people in the area and have been shown to improve inclusiveness of people living with dementia. 

Ongoing social activities include dancing with dementia, iPod donations so people can listen to their favourite songs and reminisce, and an animal kinship program with virtual pets for people living with dementia, along with continuous community education

Research has also been a strong focus, with the University of Wollongong conducting interviews and mapping exercises with people living with dementia and their carers; community and business surveys; and the development of an environmental assessment tool to audit public buildings.

All of this effort has shifted community sentiment and been recognised for its contribution to a more inclusive and dementia-friendly community. 

The project was recognised as ‘gold standard’ by the Dementia Alliance International because of the establishment and leadership of the Dementia Advisory Group, which is made up exclusively of local people living with dementia and/or their care partners, which leads a broader Alliance of representatives from local businesses, organisations and health professionals. Kiama Municipal Council also received two National Awards being the National Disability Award and a National Local Government Award, plus was recognised at the World Health Organisation Global Conference of the Alliance for Healthy Cities for its commitment to creating a dementia-friendly Kiama.

To find out more about becoming a Dementia Friendly Community visit and consider this advice from Nick Guggisberg, Community and Cultural Development Manager from the Kiama Municipal Council.

“The important thing to understand is that you need to know the community in which you’re working. The advice I’d always give to other projects trying to work in this space is start with something small, something that you can achieve because success breeds success. So if you find you start to get some traction in this space then go with that don’t doggedly stick to something because that’s what you planned to do initially.” 

Project Acknowledgement 
This project was made possible with the generous support, partnership and funding from:
•    Dementia Australia
•    NSW State Government
•    IRT Foundation
•    Kiama Service Clubs
•    Community Industry Group
•    University of Wollongong Global Challenges Program
•    Kiama Municipal Council.

Most importantly, its successes were a result of the hard work of local volunteers, plus people living with and alongside dementia, in particularly the Southern Dementia Advisory Group.