Kate Swaffer

A life of passionate advocacy.


Kate Swaffer has made a human rights-based approach to dementia, reducing stigma, and improving the quality of life for the 47.5 million people already diagnosed with dementia her focus over the last few years, and is changing the way the world views dementia.

Oh, and by the way, she herself is living beyond a diagnosis of rare form of younger onset dementia, having been diagnosed at the age of 49 in 2008, a married working mother of two teenage sons, also studying a double degree at the University of South Australia at the time.

Current work

Kate Swaffer is Chair, CEO and co-founder of Dementia Alliance International, a global group for people living with dementia. She is also a member of the World Dementia Council, a Board member of Alzheimer’s Disease International and the Inaugural Chair of the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Advisory Committee. Kate is also an honorary member of the Southern Dementia Advisory Group, having helped set up the Kiama Dementia Friendly Communities pilot project, also the only Dementia Friendly Community project in the world to have been recognised by the World Health Organisation.

Kate is also an Honorary Associate Fellow with the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health, University of Wollongong (UOW) and an International Fellow at Canterbury Christ Church University. Kate is also a current PhD student at UOW exploring dementia through autoethnography, and completed a Masters of Science in Dementia Care there with a Distinction in 2014.

Previous experience

Awards: It was announced on November 8, 2016 Kate is the winner of the prestigious 2017 Australian Of The Year Awards in South Australia. She was also a SA Finalist in 2016. Kate also won the University of Wollongong’s 2016 Alumni Social Impact Award for her global work in dementia, and was amongst the Westpac/Financial Review 100 Women of Influence announced for 2016.

In 2015, she won the Inaugural Dementia Leader award in the University of Stirling International Dementia Awards, was a joint winner of the National Disability Awards 2015 as Emerging Leader in Disability Awareness, the inaugural winner of the Dignity in Care Australia Achievement Award 2015 for her Outstanding Individual Contribution to Dignity in care, winner of the Bethanie Education Medallion Award 2015, and winner of the University of Wollongong, Community Engagement Award, and the Australian Association of Gerontology, Recognition of Achievements in 2014 at the University of Wollongong.

Speaking: Since 2009, Kate has delved into the world of public speaking, and has given more than 800 keynote presentations since then, both locally, nationally and internationally, including at the World Health Organisation on day 2 of the First Ministerial Conference on Dementia in Geneva in March 2015. She often works as an MC at conferences, or chairs conference sessions, and runs professional workshops and seminars. She was also a keynote speaker at the Alzheimer’s Australia’s first political ‘Fight Dementia’ campaign rally in 2011 in Canberra.

Commitees: Kate has been on numerous local, national and international committees and groups, including the International Consortium for Health Outcomes Measurements (ICHOM), having worked on the global Standards for Dementia, and she is currently consulting on the World Health Organisation Draft Global Dementia Action Plan in her role as Chair and CEO of Dementia Alliance, representing more than 47.5 million people with dementia and their families.

Author: Kate is a Humanitarian, advocate and activist for people with dementia, a widely published academic, author and poet. Her first book on dementia, What The Hell Happened to My Brain?: Living Beyond Dementia, was released in 2016, and her second book, Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, co-authored with Associate Professor Lee-Fay Low was released in September in time for World Alzheimer’s Month 2016.

Her first two poetry books were released in 2012 and 2016, and her third one is on the way. Kate also writes an almost daily blog, currently with more than 60,000 subscribers, which was archived in the PANDORA Collection of the State (SA) and National Library of Australia in 2012.