Respect older Aussies: Buttrose

Ita Buttrose has used her swan song as the outgoing Australian of the Year to urge Australians to respect older people.


In her valedictory speech in Canberra on Saturday, Ms Buttrose said she’s spent the past year campaigning to spark a cultural shift in how we perceive seniors.

She urged people and business to rethink their attitudes towards older Australians in the fight against age discrimination.

“Given our ageing population and declining welfare purse, we should be encouraging mature age workers to stay in the workforce, not precluding them, and valuing them for the knowledge, wisdom and experience they can bring to the workplace,” she said.

Ms Buttrose, who recently marked her 72nd birthday, suggested creating a new title to recognise the value and contribution of “distinguished elders” in society.

“It’s time we stopped thinking that life stops at 65 and recognise that older people make an important contribution to our society.”

Australia needed strong and “forward-thinking” leadership to tackle the challenges presented by dementia, disability and improving the quality of aged care facilities, she said.

“It’s our birthright to be treated as valued members of the community and to have access to the support and services we need, and this doesn’t end when we are older,” Ms Buttrose said.

Ms Buttrose’s appointment capped a distinguished media career spanning four decades – from the founding editor of Cleo magazine in the 1970s, to becoming the first female editor of the Daily Telegraph, and later the Sunday Telegraph.

She has since worked to raise awareness of health issues such as breast cancer, HIV/AIDS and prostate cancer, and has been the national president of Alzheimer’s Australia since 2011.

Ms Buttrose’s duties as Australian Of The Year took her to all Australian capital cities in 2013, as well as to rural centres such as Wagga Wagga and Broken Hill.

It gave her the opportunity to speak to a variety of people about their concerns, namely age discrimination, she said.

Ms Buttrose said bearing the title turned her life “upside down” over the year, and while she was content she’d fulfilled the pledge she made on accepting the award, her work was unfinished.

“I promise my commitment to these causes that are so close to my heart, and which I have championed this year, will remain steadfast … you will continue to hear me spruiking them whenever I get the opportunity to do so.”