Alzheimer’s Australia NSW has grown rapidly from a small, volunteer based organisation to a professional peak consumer body offering a range of services to those with an interest in dementia. Throughout this period of growth, the organisation focused on and continues to be driven by the needs of people living and working with dementia.
At a public meeting in May 1982 attended by 500 people it was overwhelmingly agreed on the need for a body to represent the needs of relatives of people living with dementia and the Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Society of NSW (ADARDS) was formed. The aims of the Society were to:
- Provide support to the families and friends of persons with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders and to such persons themselves where appropriate
- Educate and inform the public and the medical and helping professions of the problems associated with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders
- Stimulate research and improve the management of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders
The first ADARDS support group started meeting in northern Sydney in June 1992 and within a year ten groups operated throughout NSW. The emphasis on providing support to carers through groups has remained with the organisation providing training and resources to over 200 support groups throughout the state. Leaders and members assisted research into quality support groups which has resulted in presentations on the topic at conferences throughout Australia and overseas.
The Organisation thrived as a self-help organisation staffed primarily by volunteers who provided telephone support, information and gave educational and promotional talks. Donations and grants allowed staff to be employed and a wider range of services to be provided. Programs such as Living with Memory Loss (initially as the Memory Disorder & Support Group then Rotary Making Memories) , Experiencing Dementia, dementia counselling, carer and worker education, mobile respite and dementia cafes were developed, piloted and ultimately offered as on-going services.
From a collection box at the initial meeting, Alzheimer's Australia NSW has relied heavily on donations to operate. While state and federal governments fund our core business, it is the generosity of donations from clubs, trusts/foundations and the public that have given us the capacity to develop our dementia demonstration centres at North Ryde and Newcastle, Multi-sensory room at North Ryde, provide appropriate accommodation for the growing staff, purchase Memory Vans and pilot a range of innovative services. Fundraising activities have taken a variety of forms with the ‘Corporate Countdown’ winning the Fundraising Institute Award in the Charity Special Event of the Year category in 2003.
Alzheimer's Australia NSW has been a significant contributor to dementia policy through research, advocacy, committee representation and submissions to governments at all levels. Significant achievements include developing the first NSW Dementia Action Plan in 1995 in conjunction with the NSW government and being a key contributor to subsequent reviews.