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DAI Board Announces Resignation of CEO Kate Swaffer

The DAI Board Announces Resignation of CEO Kate Swaffer

It is with a mix of sadness and gratitude that the Board of Directors announces Ms. Kate Swaffer’s resignation as Chief Executive Officer of Dementia Alliance International, effective October 30, 2021.

Kate Swaffer is one of the eight co-founders of Dementia Alliance International (DAI), and our long serving former Chair, current CEO and board member of the organization. She has been instrumental in taking the membership from three to 49 countries.

In her years of dedicated service to the organizational mission of “Nothing about Us, Without Us”, DAI was granted consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the  United Nations, and has worked closely with the World Health Organization, the NCD Alliance, The World Hospice and Palliative Care Alliance, the International Disability Alliance  where she secured Observer Membership for DAI, and she is still a board member of Alzheimer’s Disease International and has been a full member of the World Dementia Council, and worked with many other local, national and global organizations. 

Kate’s inspiring leadership and warm friendship have not only left a lasting impression on everyone within the organization as well as the new Board Members and the global dementia community, but a permanent legacy at Dementia Alliance International. 

Kate was eligible to serve on the DAI Board, as per the current DAI By Laws, until December 2021 but due to personal reasons, needed to step down sooner. Over the past 18 months, Kate has put in much effort not only to ensure the work she and the other 7 co-founders set out to do, continues, but more importantly, that the services and support DAI provides to and for our members and the dementia community will continue seamlessly. 

We are fortunate to have had this length of time for a transition period, and while we will miss her dynamic presence, enthusiasm, and leadership at the Board meetings, we wish her the best of health and to have more time for her other advocacy pursuits, and for herself and her family.

Kate commenced her advocacy work in 2009, and in 2010 was invited by the CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia, Glenn Rees (now Dementia Australia), to give a speech representing people with dementia, at the first Parliamentary Rally ever held in Australia. She also founded the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Advisory Committee in Australia, which held its first meeting in Canberra during World Alzheimer’s Month in September 2013. Kate was the inaugural Chair, and served her full term of four years, stepping back into the role for a few months until a new Chair and Vice Chair were found. 

Glenn Rees stepped down as the CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia to take on the Chair of Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) more than six years ago, so has therefore worked with Kate in two roles, first as the CEO of Dementia Australia, then as Chair of ADI.  Glenn said,

“I have had the privilege of working with Kate for over more than twelve years. In all that time she has single-mindedly pursued the rights of people with dementia without fear or favour. There are so many achievements – the leadership of the National Consumer Committee in Alzheimer’s Australia, the excellence of many presentations, the publications, the capacity to communicate via social media and presence on so many committees both governmental and in the NGO sector. But in the end, it is the values that drive an advocate that count and for integrity, generosity and commitment Kate has few peers – except those she herself would always generously acknowledge such as Richard Taylor. Climbing mountains has been Kate’s specialty and perhaps the pinnacle was addressing the Ministerial Conference on Dementia in 2015 – the human rights of people with dementia were put on the international agenda. The dementia movement in Australia and internationally have cause to be grateful to Kate.” 

DAI’s long serving volunteer, Sarah Yeates who is the Chief Executive Officer at the Caladenia Dementia Care, wrote,

Dear Kate, as someone who works in the field of dementia and has a passion for better outcomes for people living with dementia, I just wanted you to know what a difference you have made for me personally and for so many of my colleagues. Your willingness to call out injustice and apathy, not only locally but on the global stage pushes professionals like myself to do better, strive higher, and believe that there is always more to be done. You have taught me so much, and I continue to learn. Because of your work, my own has greater meaning, and hopefully is grounded in truly person-centred principles. On a personal level I thank you for your friendship over the many years we have worked together and promise that one day… we will have that glass of wine together!! Thank you for all you have taught me. All the very best to you and your family, and I look forward to continuing to work with you wherever I can be of assistance!! Lots of love, Sarah xx

In her own words, Kate said, 

“It is time for the new team to take the reins, and lead DAI into the direction its members want. I will always be happy to provide mentorship, and advice as requested to the board, and to members. The greatest professional work I have ever done, has been to support people diagnosed with any type of dementia, and I will continue to do this as a co-host of the DAI Peer to Peer support groups.

The fear and loneliness I experienced when first diagnosed, mostly due to the stigma and attitudes of others, was truly devastating, and the DAI peer to peer support groups helped, and continue to help our members get back to living more positively. No one person can do this work alone, and everything I have achieved, is because of the collaboration, hard work and support of the members and the current and past boards, and of so many others including DAI members. They all continue to inspire me.”

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

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