Empowering older adults with dementia to exercise their right to vote


As the date for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament referendum approaches on 14 October, Dementia Australia is urging people living with dementia, their families and caregivers to engage in conversations about voting.

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM emphasises that the capacity to vote is a decision-specific matter.

She encourages individuals with dementia and their support networks to initiate discussions and consult with medical professionals if necessary to determine their ability to participate in the upcoming referendum. Adjustments to electoral roll status can be made if required.

“It may be that someone needs support to vote, for example, being reminded to attend their local polling place on the right date or helping them arrange a postal vote or to attend an early voting centre,” McCabe said.

The Australian Electoral Commission’s (AEC) website offers information about the voting process in straightforward language, specifically designed to assist people living with dementia, their families and caregivers. The AEC’s website also provides a helpful video explaining the enrollment and voting process.

For individuals deemed incapable of comprehending the nature and significance of voting, there is a formal process through the Australian Electoral Commission to have them removed from the electoral roll. This process requires a medical certificate signed by a registered medical practitioner.

To support individuals living with dementia and their caregivers in navigating the voting process, Dementia Australia is organising a series of information sessions aimed at ensuring that they are well-prepared for voting in the upcoming referendum.

Related: Redefining dementia support and empowerment

Dementia Australia Dementia Advocate Gwenda Darling, who lives with Behavioural Variant Frontotemporal Dementia, emphasises the importance of polling stations providing assistance to people living with dementia when voting.

She highlights the need for clear signage, well-lit accessible areas, timely assistance, and consideration of noise levels at polling stations.

“Patience of electoral staff is so important, it would be wonderful to have a staff member offer me a paper and pen and a quiet area if I need it, while reminding me that the issue I am voting on is important for so many including myself,” she said.

Dementia Australia Dementia Advocate Jack Ellis, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2021, underscores the value of his right to vote. Despite the challenges posed by dementia, he expressed confidence in his ability to understand the referendum process and its significance.

For individuals living with dementia who require assistance at a voting centre or when dealing with the AEC, the National Dementia Helpline is available at 1800 100 500. This helpline operates 24/7 and serves as a valuable resource for those seeking support and guidance.

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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.


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