Dementia Australia enjoys the support of respected and high profile Australians who are motivated by the impact of dementia in their own lives, to help others.
They support our activities by raising awareness in the community and media, engaging in community events, championing our cause in our campaigns and participating in fundraising.
They are valued by our organisation and speak on our behalf to encourage an ongoing conversation about important issues on dementia. Ambassadors are voluntary positions.
Dementia Australia ambassadors share their lived experiences with dementia and why it is important to become a Dementia Friend.
Dementia Australia acknowledges and thanks all our Ambassadors for their commitment to making a difference to the lives of people, of all ages, living with all forms of dementia their families and carers.
Click on any name below to read their profile or scroll down the page.
Ita Buttrose AC OBE; Sir Michael Parkinson CBE; Lyn Allison; David Astle; Natarsha Belling; Stephanie Bendixsen; Christine Bryden; Ben Crocker; Terence Donovan; Mark Gibson; Amy Jackson; Takaya Honda; Sam Mitchell; Andrea Nicolas; Jessica and Lisa Origliasso, The Veronicas; Anne Phelan OAM; Sue Pieters-Hawke; Sam Poolman; Mark Seymour; Nicola Stevens; Denis Walter OAM; The Hon. John Watkins AM; Pat Welsh; Doris Younane
Chair of the ABC, Australian journalist, television personality and author
Ita Buttrose AC OBE, has had a long association with Dementia Australia starting as a member of the NSW Advisory Committee (now disbanded), then later as National President of Alzheimer’s Australia from 2011-2014. Ms Buttrose is pleased to have the opportunity to continue her work with the organisation as an Ambassador.
“My father had dementia so I am all too aware of the impact it has not only on the person with dementia, but also on those close to them. It is important for people to know where to go to get help. No one has to walk the journey alone.”
Broadcaster, journalist and author
Sir Michael Parkinson is an accomplished international broadcaster, journalist, author and an honorary ambassador of Dementia Australia.
Sir Michael’s mother had dementia and he has been a passionate advocate for better care for people in hospital and in aged care facilities, most recently, as the National Dignity Ambassador for the British Government’s Dignity in Care Campaign.
Sir Michael said he was delighted to accept the invitation to be part of Dementia Australia’s Ambassador program. “This is an issue that I hold dear to my heart,” he said.
“I hope that as an Honorary Ambassador for Dementia Australia, I am able to help alleviate some of the stigma associated with dementia and contribute to a much greater understanding of the illness and its impacts.”
Former Senator and Leader of the Australian Democrats
Formerly a teacher, Lyn Allison was elected to the Senate in 1996 and was parliamentary leader of the Australian Democrats from 2004 to the end of her term in 2008. Lyn held the aged care portfolio for most of her time in the Senate and handled numerous legislative reforms and campaigns in aged care in that time, including more specialised support for people living with Alzheimer’s.
Lyn’s father and mother were both diagnosed with dementia giving her insights into service availability and the issues, particularly for carers. As the party’s national health spokesperson Lyn also initiated and chaired a major Senate inquiry into mental health services in Australia which triggered an additional $4b in funding from Commonwealth and State Governments in 2006.
Over many years Lyn has been an outspoken campaigner on health, education, greenhouse, nuclear and women’s issues. She was a member in Victoria of the Dementia Australia (former Alzheimer’s Australia Vic) board from 2008 to April 2015.
Author and Broadcaster
David Astle is a full-time word nerd, author and broadcaster. You may recall his face (or loud shirts) from SBS’ Letters and Numbers, where David played the role of dictionary umpire. Every Friday his crosswords appear in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, under the alias of DA, while his Wordplay column runs weekly in Sydney’s Spectrum lift out.
David has also written about the joys and treachery of English in such books as Riddledom, Cluetopia plus the memoir-cum-manual, Puzzled. Cluetopia in fact is dedicated to Captain Barry Astle, David’s dad who died in 2013, of frontal lobe dementia.
“Part of the struggle for all of us, dad included, was learning to understand precisely what we were tackling. No doubt the more we can share and understand as a village then the less anguish in store for everyone, from carer to the cared.”
Natarsha Belling, like thousands of other Australians, has had experience with people living with dementia. She is currently a newsreader for Channel 10 and presents Ten Eyewitness News - First At Five: Weekend.
Natarsha said it was imperative that awareness of the disease is raised in the community.
"Dementia can not only affect the elderly, it can also strike the young. As the people with dementia are affected, so are their loved ones and family,” she said.
“It's critical we fund vital research for a cure, but we also need to raise awareness about this debilitating disease, ensuring a growing number of Australians with the illness, and their families, receive the best possible treatment and support.”
Television presenter and author
Stephanie 'Hex' Bendixsen is an Australian television presenter, partnered Twitch broadcaster and author. She is currently in production on a new program for National Geographic.
Stephanie began her career in games media hosting and reviewing games for ABCTV's Good Game - and has since gone on to present and produce for Seven Network’s video game culture and esports show, screenPLAY. She is a regular speaker at events surrounding tech, video games and women in the online space; regularly live streams on Twitch, and has also written a series of books for children called Pixel Raiders, Scholastic Australia. Stephanie is very active on social media.
Stephanie cared her mother Wendy who died from Alzheimer’s disease in 2018. She is eager to share her experience to raise awareness about dementia and to help others impacted to know they are not alone.
Author and Dementia Advocate
Christine Bryden is a dementia author, advocate and speaker living in Queensland. Christine was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia in 1995 and has published two books, a selection of talks and a personal memoir. She is passionate about standards of palliative and residential care, reducing stigma, the need for dementia-friendly communities, early diagnosis and treatments, and the need for a cure of dementia.
Christine was the first person living with dementia to give the plenary address to the international conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) in 2001, and the first person living with dementia to be elected to the ADI in 2003. In 2014, she was featured on the ABC’s Australian Story.
In recent years, Christine involved herself in research proposal assessments and decision making – a passion of hers before her diagnosis. She was a member of the Steering Committee of the Qld Statewide Dementia Clinical Network, a Consumer Member of Caboolture Hospital Clinical Council and a member of the Cognitive Impairment Advisory Group. Additionally, she was a member of the Dementia Australia Consumers Dementia Research Network from 2010 – 2015. Christine is continuing to speak out for those unable to do so, despite her battle against ongoing cognitive damage, as a Dementia Australia Ambassador.
Collingwood Football Club
Ben Crocker is currently a professional AFL football player for the Collingwood Football Club. In 2016, Ben debuted his AFL career and has become an important part of the Collingwood team.
In 2018, Ben became an Ambassador for Dementia Australia and shared the experience of his father Paul,who was diagnosed with younger onset dementia in 2014 at age 59.
“My teammates at Collingwood have been so supportive of me and my family. It has really made a difference in helping us to best enable Dad to stay at home and remain engaged with his family - that is so important to him and all of us.”
Terence Donovan is a British-born Australian actor. He has had major roles in many Australian TV drama series, including Prisoner, Sons and Daughters, Home and Away and Neighbours.
Following his time as a regular on Neighbours as Doug Willis from 1990-1994, Terence reprised his role as a guest in 2014. The return of the character Doug gave Terence the opportunity to play a man experiencing the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
“Like most Australians, I have encountered dementia amongst my loved ones,” Mr Donovan said.
“I know from experience that a diagnosis can not only impact on the individual but also their families and carers. The importance of this issue became even clearer to me while playing Doug.”
Mark Gibson has been a broadcast journalist since 1991, working mainly as a news and current affairs reporter and presenter.
Since 2001, Mark has been a recognisable face on Channel Seven in Perth and uses his profile to support a number of charities.
Mark was extremely close to his grandmother Eileen who lived with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Watching Nan succumb to Alzheimer ’s disease in 2016 was one of the hardest things my family and I have endured,” he said.
“I’m very proud to be taking on this role as Ambassador in honour and memory of both my grandmother and grandfather.”
Mark is keen to share his story to help other families and to support the wonderful Australian researchers hoping to eradicate dementia.
Melbourne City FC, W-League
Amy Jackson is a mid-fielder in the W-League Melbourne City Football Club. Amy was born and raised in Melbourne but has spent time overseas in recent years including time spent playing in the Netherlands and in South Korea.
Amy has diverse interests which see her working part time as a business analyst and studying an MBA. Amy’s grandmother died from Alzheimer’s disease in 2013. She was struck by the impact the disease had on her whole family but especially her mum who was her grandmother’s primary carer.
Amy is particularly passionate about advocating for the needs of carers and spreading awareness about the services available to support people affected by dementia.
Takaya Honda, who plays Dr Tanaka in Network Ten’s popular soap opera Neighbours, made his debut as an Ambassador at a Memory Walk & Jog in Templestowe in 2017.
He joined fellow Ambassadors Nicola Stevens and Amy Jackson. Takaya said he became involved with Dementia Australia as a result of his mum being diagnosed with younger onset dementia in her early 50s.
"From then until now, the year of her 60th birthday, where we are looking to put her into full-time care, I have been looking for a way to positively contribute to raising awareness for Dementia Australia,” Takaya said.
AFL Brownlow Medalist, Assistant Coach Hawthorn FC AFL
Sam Mitchell is a former professional Australian rules footballer who played for the Hawthorn Football Club and the West Coast Eagles in the Australian Football League (AFL).
He first stepped into his role as an Ambassador in 2014 and has raised awareness of dementia in memory of his mother-in-law, Valda, who was diagnosed with younger onset dementia.
“Everyone deserves to live their life with dignity and raising awareness about dementia is a small way of helping those affected with the illness to be treated with compassion, understanding and care,” he said.
Andrea Nicolas is a senior reporter for the Seven Network, based in Adelaide. With over 10 years’ experience as a journalist, she has worked for leading media organisations including the BBC and the ABC.
Supporting those living with dementia is important to Andrea whose father was diagnosed with younger onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 56.
"I know first-hand how crucial it is for families to have support during the difficult time of having a loved one diagnosed with dementia."
"Dementia Australia was a huge help to my family, putting us in touch with the correct agencies and resources."
Internationally-renowned music artists Jessica and Lisa Origliasso of The Veronicas are one of Australia’s most successful international acts, with top ten and number one hits around the globe.
Like many other Australians, Jessica and Lisa’s family has been impacted by the disease, with their mother having been diagnosed with a type of dementia called Lewy body disease.
"Until we went through this with our mum and started talking to others about dementia, we had no idea of the enormity of the issue and just how many other people are going through what our family is, every day."
"After four years of misdiagnosis, we were heartbroken when we received the diagnosis and found it difficult to find information about what was going on. We felt so powerless."
"But by talking openly about it, and sharing our story, we hope we can let others know they are not alone and that there is help and support available.”
Read more here
Anne Phelan is an accomplished Australian actor who has featured in many stage and screen productions. Anne was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2007 for service to the arts, and to the community, particularly through support for women living with HIV and for asylum seekers and refugees. She has also been awarded two AFI Television Awards and recently received the 2016 Equity Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Having experienced dementia in my family and through caring for friends I know it is vital to promote a better understanding of dementia in the community. Dementia Australia supports people living with dementia and the carers, for both, it is important that this service is available.”
Author, Speaker and Consultant
Sue Pieters-Hawke is a speaker, writer and consultant. An activist for dementia reform, she is a committed Dementia Australia Ambassador.
Sue wrote the biography Hazel: My Mother’s Story, which tells the story of her mother, Hazel Hawke, who was an advocate for tolerance and fairness and who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Giants Netball team
A Newcastle native, Sam Poolman is apart of the leadership team of the Giants Netball team, in the Suncorp Super Netball League. Sam is a graduate from the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra and played for the Adelaide Thunderbirds from 2013-2016 until she joined the Giants in 2017-2019. Sam also competed in 2017 and 2018 in the Australian Fast5 team, alongside the best players in the nation. In 2018 Sam Captained the Australian Fast5 team to bronze.
Sam’s grandfather had dementia and saw first hand the impact it had on both Gordon and her family. To see an intelligent man slip away was tough on the entire family. She is now committed to raising awareness about dementia and especially helping people to know that there are support services, programs and resources available to help families and carers to best support a loved one living with dementia.
In 2018 Sam played a key role in the launch of Dementia Friends.
Mark Seymour is best known for his role as front man of band Hunters and Collectors. He is a musician and vocalist now enjoying success as a solo artist. Mark won an ARIA award for Best Adult Contemporary Album in 2001. Mark has written a song about his mother Paula’s experience with dementia.
"I am passionate about sharing my personal experience to help others to realise they are not alone. Support and information is available through Dementia Australia and I encourage anyone with concerns for themselves or someone special to them to contact the organisation. As it is for all chronic diseases, accessing information, medical and counselling support early in your experience will improve the quality of life and care for the person living with dementia, their families and carers."
Carlton Football Club AFLW
Nicola Stevens is a professional AFL Women’s football player for the Carlton Football Club. In 2017 she won Collingwood Football Club’s best-and-fairest and made history, becoming the first ever player to be traded in AFLW history.
Nicola Stevens said she has walked in the Memory Walk and Jog on behalf of her mum, Ann, who is 59 and living with younger onset dementia.
"I’m doing this for my Mum and for every person living with dementia who deserves to live their life with dignity and respect,” she said.
Radio presenter, media personality and singer
Denis Walter is an Australian radio presenter, singer, recording artist and media personality. Walter spent many years presenting the weather on Nine News in Melbourne and reading the new on WIN TV Victoria. He was awarded an OAM in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours. Since November 2008 he has been hosting the afternoon shift on radio 3AW. Denis is an accomplished singer, recording 16 albums in his career and performing regularly including on the annual Carols By Candlelight.
"It is imperative that awareness of the disease is raised in the community. Dementia can not only affect the elderly, it can also strike the young. As the people with dementia are affected, so are their loved ones and family. It's critical we fund vital research for a cure, but we also need to raise awareness about this life limiting disease, ensuring a growing number of Australians with the illness, and their families, receive the best possible treatment and support."
Former Deputy Premier of NSW
John Watkins is a former Deputy Premier of NSW and a former CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia NSW.
In 2015 he received an Order of Australia (AM) for his service to aged care, community care services and tertiary education and he continues to serve as a company Chair, ambassador and patron on several expert panels, boards and committees in the health and charitable sectors.
John plays an active role in advancing dementia awareness in Australia and understands the challenges faced by those people living with dementia as his mother lived with dementia for several years.
"Following mum’s death, I felt that I had a responsibility to advocate for other Australians living with dementia. As an Ambassador for Dementia Australia, I hope to make a contribution to the lives of those living with dementia. We owe it to those who are in need to offer a helping hand."
Sports Editor and Media Identity
Pat Welsh is a Sports Editor at Seven News Brisbane, recently celebrating 40 years with the network and has become a popular and trusted figure to his legion of fans.
Now, in partnership with Dementia Australia he uses his media profile to bring much needed awareness to brain health.
“Watching my father live with dementia showed me how important programs and services were to my mother and him in helping them retain their quality of life," he said.
“I want to use my profile to help eliminate the stigma around brain health and start a conversation in the community. Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia, and we all need to understand what we can do to reduce our risk.”
Stage and Screen Actress
Actress Doris Younane, whose mother has dementia, said that that she hopes that as an Ambassador she is able to help promote a better understanding of dementia in the community.
“Dementia is so prevalent it’s almost inconceivable that it has remained a taboo illness for so long,” said Doris, well-known from her roles on McLeod’s Daughters, Seachange and the 2009 film The Combination.
“It’s not until you have been touched personally by the disease that you begin to understand just how common it really is and how many families it affects. Thankfully there is support available for those trying to deal with an ever-changing illness.”
“I cannot stress enough how beneficial it has been to talk to professionals and counsellors from Dementia Australia who can guide you through the often rugged terrain of Alzheimer’s disease.”