Transcript by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Launch of Carers Week 2010

Location: Canberra

I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to their Elders, past and present.

I would also like to acknowledge Ms Noeline Brown, Ambassador for Ageing who launched Carers Week.

Acknowledge my colleagues:

  • The Hon Mark Butler, Minister for Mental Health and Ageing
  • Senator Mitch Fifield
  • Senator Rachel Siewert
  • And the work done by the members of the Parliamentary Friends of Carers

I would also like to acknowledge Carers Australia President, Tim Moore and CEO Joan Hughes. In addition it is pleasing to see some of Carers Australia’s Ambassadors:

  • Terry Stroud from Victoria
  • Joy Roze from Queensland
  • Lois Gatley from QA
  • Sally Richards from ACT
  • Tania Hayes from NSW and her husband Warren
  • Young carers Chantelle Day from Qld
  • Sam O’Brien from Victoria
  • And all of the Carers here today to celebrate Carers Week


I am happy to be here with you today and to be appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers.

I am here today on behalf of Minister Jenny Macklin. She regretted that she couldn’t be here to speak to you today as she has been part of Carers Week celebrations for a long time

From 2004 I was the Shadow Minister responsible for Ageing, Disabilities and Carers. During this period I learnt about the many challenges that face people with disability and their carers and had the opportunity to meet many of them.

In 2004 I chaired the Senate Community Affairs Committee’s inquiry into Quality and Equity into aged care which went some way in acknowledging the shortfalls in aged care facilities in Australia. Following this enquiry the Government established the Young People in Residential Aged Care program which aims to provide better living options for young people with disability who are living in residential aged care.

I am proud of the work that was done following the Senate Inquiry into the funding and operation of the Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement. I worked hard to initiate this enquiry in early 2006, and was pleased with its outcome in being the first steps in establishing the National Disability Strategy.

I am looking forward to continuing with the Governments reform agenda to improve the lives of people with disability, promote participation and create a more inclusive society.

I am acutely aware of the demands on carers are often 24/7 and they do everything they can to meet those demands, regardless of the cost to their own health, wellbeing and personal freedoms.

And they often go unrecognised. It’s a full time job, but there’s no leave, no holidays, and no time off when you’re sick.

In the case of one carer, she said: “It is a hidden life because most of it occurs behind closed doors. Nobody, apart from my husband and children – not my extended family or even my closest friends and definitely not me neighbours – know what I do and how hard I work”.

We have promised to provide carers with the recognition and support they need through the development of the National Carer Recognition Framework. This Framework includes two main elements – Commonwealth Carer Recognition Legislation and a National Carer Strategy.

Launch of discussion paper

And it gives me great pleasure today to be able to launch the discussion paper “Towards a National Carer Strategy”on behalf of Minister Macklin, Minister Roxon and Minister Butler.

This paper will provide an invaluable tool for stakeholder engagement in the earliest stages of developing the National Carer Strategy.

It outlines the Strategy’s key elements, and provides an avenue for extensive feedback from the carer community.

It proposes a high-level vision, aim and five goals.

The vision captures this Government’s commitment to recognising and supporting carers across all their responsibilities.

It will enable them take part in all aspects of life including work, social and family life, as well as being part of the community.

The five goals which we will aspire to achieve over the life of the strategy are:

  • better recognition for carers
  • better support to help carers to work
  • better information and support for carers
  • better education and training for carers
  • better health and wellbeing for carers

From the onset, this paper places carers at the centre of policy development in an effort to better address the needs of carers.

Minister Macklin, Minister Roxon, Minister Butler and I have agreed that the Strategy will be released in the first half of 2011.

This will build on a whole suite of improvements the Government has already put into place for carers.

In our first term of office we delivered more financial security for carers including:

  • a new annual and ongoing $600 Carer Supplement for around 500,000 carers;
  • new rules to make it easier for carers of children with disability to get income support; and
  • extending the Utilities Allowance to carers below age pension age for the first time.

We are providing $10.5 million to 2013 to continue to support for 262 MyTime peer support groups across the country, giving parents the opportunity to talk to others about caring for a child with disability.

We are providing around $38 million over four years for Mental Health Community Based Services as part of the Council of Australian Government’s National Action Plan on Mental Health 2006-2011.

As part of our progress towards a National Carer Strategy, we will be holding consultations across Australia in November and early December this year with key peak organisations, advocates and service providers, across all capital cities and selected rural and remote areas.

Carers Australia will be holding nation-wide workshops and running a number of discussion forums, and Children with Disability will engage carers and seek their views and ideas on the development of the strategy.

Your views and ideas are critical to the success of the Strategy.

I strongly encourage all carers to participate in the important consultation process that this discussion paper is leading.

We need your input to help shape the development of the Strategy in line with your needs.

Indeed, so genuine are we about involving carers in the development of policy, we are seeking to have it enshrined in law.

Carer Recognition Bill

As you know, the Carer Recognition Bill 2010 was re-introduced in the first sitting of the new Parliament on Wednesday, 29 September 2010.

The Bill proposes national recognition of carers and the exceptional contribution they make to this country.

The cornerstone of the Bill is the Statement of Australia’s Carers.

This Statement sets out ten key principles about how carers should be treated and considered in the development and implementation of policies, programs and services affecting them.

For example, carers should: have the same rights, choices and opportunities as other Australians; be supported to enjoy optimum health and social wellbeing; and be considered as partners with the Government in the provision of care.

We very much look forward to seeing this Bill pass so that carers will finally get not only the recognition they deserve for their extraordinary contribution to this country, but also a strong voice in the development of policies and programs that affect them.


The theme of Carers Week – Anyone, Anytime can become a carer –is a powerful reminder that caring is a responsibility which all of us may take on at some point in our lives.

When we consider all the people in our community who need extra support in their day to day lives, it’s quite extraordinary to think of the formidable network of carers who are working so hard to keep those in their charge healthy, comfortable, safe and secure.

In so many ways, carers are the backbone of our society.

Without them, the hundreds of thousands of people in our community would be at real and immediate risk.

But how many people really recognise this?

As one carer remarked: “We find it difficult to stay balanced and healthy or be positive and objective, to enjoy retirement like ordinary Australians”.

For many carers the pressures are enormous.

They need a community that is understanding and offers real support.

Carers, we hear you.

We recognise your struggles and we won’t sit back and watch you go it alone.

This Government believes that all Australians, regardless of circumstances, deserve the right to enjoy full, satisfying and fulfilling lives; to participate in community life and to enjoy everything this country offers its citizens.

This is no less the case for carers, a group whose needs are so often ignored, forgotten, or just unnoticed by the community.

I look forward to a productive relationship with the sector so that together we can tackle the problems and create a better environment for carers and those in their care.

Thank you.