Speech by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Launch Carers Week

Location: Canberra

*** Check Against Delivery ***

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we are gathering on this morning.

We are here today to applaud and thank the hundreds of thousands of carers who contribute so much – the mums and dads, grandparents, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and partners who every day get on with the job of looking after the people they love.

It’s a job where you don’t knock off at five o’clock – or six or seven. No public holidays, no annual leave, no time off when you’re sick.

Carers give a whole new meaning to the words – “soldiering on”.

The Government is determined to give carers the recognition and acknowledgement they have asked for – and which they so clearly deserve.

Today I can announce that the Australian Government will lead the development of a National Carer Recognition Framework.

The framework will recognise, in legislation, the role played by carers.

It will encourage community understanding and recognition – through national acknowledgement of the commitment and dedication of carers.

And it will set down national goals – to give carers the opportunity to enjoy good health and wellbeing, and to fully participate in community life.

The framework will include a national carers’ strategy – establishing principles and objectives to guide policy development and service delivery for carers.

Most importantly, it will set out clearly how all levels of government will work together to make this policy a reality.

The first step in the development of a National Carer Recognition Framework, will be the introduction of Commonwealth carer recognition legislation in 2010.

The development of this legislation will be informed by a review of existing carer recognition legislation and policy, to be undertaken by the end of 2009.

Following this, the Government will pursue the development of the National Carer Recognition Framework through relevant ministerial councils.

I think all of this would agree this framework is long overdue – and I look forward very much to working with you all on its development and implementation.

To support the Carer Recognition Framework, the Government is providing more than $430,000 this financial year to carer organisations across the country.

Through Carers Australia, state and territory organisations will receive funding to deliver activities to support and recognise carers.

Grass roots projects like a weekend camp, a family fun day or a guide to local support services.

As well as acknowledging the contribution and sacrifice of carers, the Government understands the significant financial challenges many of them face because of their caring responsibilities.

Which is why, more than 140,000 carers received an increase in their base pension from 20 September this year.

Carers receiving the maximum single rate of Carer Payment have received an increase of $60 per fortnight in the base pension; plus an increase of $5.00 per fortnight in the new Pension Supplement. With indexation increases, this is a total increase of more than $70 a fortnight.

As well, around 500,000 carers have received an annual, ongoing Carers Supplement of $600 for each person they care for.

Carers most under financial pressure on both Carer Payment and Carer Allowance, have received two $600 payments.

We have reformed overly complex and restrictive eligibility requirements which had denied appropriate financial support for carers of children with severe disability or medical conditions.

As a result an extra 19,000 carers of children with severe disability are expected to qualify for Carer Payment (child) in this financial year.

Recognising the contribution carers make is why we are all here today.

This includes openly acknowledging the challenges and the obstacles.

Acknowledging that many carers feel isolated and disconnected from essential support and services.

This is clear from the Carers Australia report being released today: The Tyranny of Distance: Carers in Regional and Remote Areas of Australia – which examines the circumstances of carers living outside our major centres.

The 360,000 carers living in rural and regional Australia who, according to the report, face increased disadvantage compared to carers living in major cities.

It is also a reminder that caring touches many, many lives.

A reminder too that caring is a responsibility which all of us are likely to take on at some time in our lives.

Something which is reflected so clearly in the theme of this year’s Carers Week – Anyone, Anytime Across Australia.

Which it is why it is so important for all of us to work together to recognise the sacrifices carers make and acknowledge the difficulties they face.

To make the changes that can make a difference to their lives.