Ita Buttrose was named on Friday as the 2013 Australian of the Year. She has been acknowledged for her career in publishing and the media. She is also the national president of Alzheimer's Australia.
Ms Buttrose, 71, said she was honoured to follow in the footsteps of so many distinguished Australians.
"This is one of the proudest moments of my life," she said after the announcement in Canberra.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said women like Ms Buttrose had helped advance the role of women in the workplace.
Ms Buttrose began her career as a copy girl at the Australian Women's Weekly at the age of 15 before becoming a cadet journalist at the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph.
She was appointed the women's editor of the newspapers at the age of 23 before going on to create Cleo magazine in 1971.
Ms Buttrose was appointed the editor of the Australian Women's Weekly in 1974 and took charge at the Daily Telegraph in 1980.
The ABC reports she has also used her profile to advocate awareness of breast cancer, arthritis, HIV/AIDS and prostate cancer.
Health strategies urged
She said on Friday she would be promoting a more positive approach to ageing and tackling "ageist attitudes" in Australian society.
"I also want to encourage people to adopt preventative health strategies, especially in relation to chronic diseases such as dementia, arthritis, macular degeneration, and diabetes that affect so many older Australians as they grow older," Ms Buttrose said.
"I believe preventative health strategies need to begin in childhood and followed all through life."
Ms Buttrose said Australians can beat dementia in the same way the nation tackled the HIV/AIDs crisis in the 1980s.
"We can remove the stigma and sense of shame that comes with a diagnosis if we increase community understanding of dementia, provide better-quality care and give hope to the future by research," she said.
"Of course, this will require greater investment in medical research and in the way Australia practises and decides funding for our medical community and researchers.
"There is much to be done but nothing is impossible."