Kate Swaffer

2016 Alumni Award for Social Impact

Author, speaker and researcher

Master of Science (Dementia Care), 2014

Kate Swaffer is a globally recognised advocate for people living with dementia, and a tireless champion of positive social change.

Kate was diagnosed with a rare form of dementia in 2008, at just 49 years of age. Far from following advice to give up work and study and live out her remaining time, she has since dedicated her life to improving services and outcomes for people living with dementia worldwide.

Kate is co-founder, Chair and CEO of Dementia Alliance International, a global advocacy group now recognised as the peak body for people living with dementia. Here she influences policy at the highest levels, and campaigns on behalf of others for the basic human right to full and equal inclusion, independence, disability support and autonomy.

The Alliance is just one of many platforms through which Kate drives social change. She is also Chair of the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Advisory Group, and gives her time to countless other networks, committees and organisations. In the past year she was made a Member of the World Dementia Council – a prestigious appointment reserved for outstanding global leaders and innovators in dementia services, reflective of her standing and impact.

Kate has expertly harnessed the internet and social media to educate, inspire, and promote a deeper understanding of dementia. Through her consumer website and blog, she influences research, policy amongst a global audience of more than 50,000 people, and countless more through Twitter and other social media platforms.

Last year, Kate spoke at a World Health Organization ministerial conference in Geneva, reminding senior politicians and policy-makers that people living with dementia need to be at the heart of the decision-making process. Over the past six years, she has advocated inclusiveness and awareness as a speaker at conferences in Australia and across the globe. Her reach and impact are enormous.

Kate has also greatly influenced academic debate in recent years, and is widely credited with transforming the views of leading academics and senior practitioners on stigma and language. She released her first book last year, and has published numerous high-impact papers in leading academic journals. Her website is recognised as a resource by a number of universities and research programs.

Her influence spans the public, corporate and not-for-profit sectors, and she has earned the respect and attention of policy-makers and the general public alike. Kate’s leadership has been widely recognised: she was South Australian Finalist in the Australian of the Year Awards in 2016, and in 2015 won the National Disability Award for an Emerging Leader in Disability Awareness, the Stirling University International Dementia Leader Award, and the Bethanie Education Medallion.

Kate sees possibilities, not limitations. Despite the challenges posed by dementia, she has maintained a commitment to ongoing higher education, gaining bachelor degrees in both Arts and Psychology and a Master’s of Science in Dementia Care. She is currently working towards her PhD through UOW, and alongside all this, is also an accomplished poet.

It is relatively rare for people living with dementia to be seen as ‘achievers’ in public life, and Kate is a leading example to the broader public that one’s potential for achievement should not be judged as a result of disease or disability.

Chancellor, Kate Swaffer is a remarkable graduate and ambassador for UOW, who has turned her personal challenge to the task of breaking down societal barriers and empowering millions of people in their daily lives. Her social impact is far-reaching and long-term.

It is a great honour to present Kate Swaffer for the Alumni Award for Social Impact.

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