Letters to the editor | March 22

HARMONY DAY ENCOURAGES SOCIAL INCLUSION

On Tuesday, March 21, Australia celebrated Harmony Day, a day in which we celebrate the diversity and inclusive culture our country has sewn.

Differences helped shape this country, but commonalities hold us together, writes Youth Off The Streets founder/CEO Father Chris Riley on Harmony Day. Photo: supplied

Differences helped shape this country, but commonalities hold us together, writes Youth Off The Streets founder/CEO Father Chris Riley on Harmony Day. Photo: supplied

Australia is built on multiculturalism, different people of different walks of life coming together to make our country what it is today.

When I think of multiculturalism, I look to my kids. Some of them come from the most disadvantaged backgrounds imaginable, but despite their race, religion, beliefs and upbringing they manage to find common ground. My kids treat each other with the utmost respect and are the shining example of discrimination having no place in Australia.

Sure, it is our differences that helped shape this country, but I argue that it is our commonalities that hold us together, and it is these commonalities we should be celebrating. We celebrate our differences and it is important to do so, but we shouldn’t let these differences define us. 

Youth Off The Streets is holding a variety of Harmony Day events in celebration of the day and encouraging social inclusion. When young people attend our Outreach they have access to fun activities and programs including sports, music and dance, education, volunteering and community projects. These programs are all about connecting with local communities, building relationships and networks, and addressing social isolation and exclusion.

Connecting with your local community is the best way to celebrate harmony day. Joining the festivities in your area or social community encourages discourse on what can be a controversial topic. We as a nation need to come together and support each other despite our differences and this can only be done through building a foundation of commonality. I implore you to celebrate, talk about and enjoy common humanity.

Father Chris Riley AM, Youth Off The Streets chief executive and founder

NEED FOR A NATIONAL STRATEGY ON DEMENTIA

A new report just released has found that the number of people with dementia in Australia has soared to more than 400,000. That’s one new case every six minutes, with an estimated cost to the community of more than $14 billion this year alone. 

If nothing is done to reduce the incidence of dementia, the cost will blow out to more than $18 billion by 2025, in today’s dollars, and more than double to $36 billion in less than 40 years as the number of people with dementia soars to an estimated 536,000 people by 2025 and a staggering 1.1 million people by 2056. In NSW, there is an estimated 138,700 people with dementia in 2017, which is expected to cost $4.7 billion this year. 

Dementia is one of the major chronic diseases of this century. It is already the second leading cause of death in Australia and we know that the impact is far reaching. In the Goulburn state electorate there are estimated to be 1850 people living with dementia, which is expected to increase to an estimated 2400 people by 2025 and 4250 by 2056.

Despite the social and economic impact, we still do not have a fully-funded national strategy to provide better care and outcomes for people who are living with dementia now, nor are we taking risk reduction seriously in order to try to reduce the numbers of people living with dementia in the future.

The time for action is now. If we don’t do something, the cost will continue to grow to unsustainable levels, to more than $18 billion by 2025 and a staggering $36 billion by 2056.

Dementia can be a confronting, isolating, confusing and difficult disease to live with. But your readers living with dementia are not alone. We encourage your readers who have a diagnosis of dementia to contact Alzheimer’s Australia on the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500. 

John Watkins AM, Alzheimer's Australia NSW chief executive, and Professor Henry Brodaty AO, University of NSW

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