Speech by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Launch of Carers Week 2014, Circular Quay, Sydney

Location: Circular Quay, Sydney


His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove, Her Excellency Lady Cosgrove, Councillor Mant, the National CEO of Carers Australia – Ara, the National President – Karen, the State Chief Executive ?- Elena, and carers who are with us today. What a great day it is to acknowledge a very significant group of Australians.

Carers Week is the time for us to pause and reflect on the incredible contribution that carers make. But it’s also an opportunity for us to recommit to support carers. To recommit as a Government, to recommit as a community, to recommit as individuals to do whatever we can to support carers in our community.

As I think is probably well known, there are over 2.7 million carers nationwide. They’re young. They can be a bit older. They’re men. They’re women. And they’re children as well. And it is a fact not widely appreciated – that there are about 300,000 younger carers in Australia, of school age and university age. They face the challenge of juggling their study, their work – sometimes they’ll be trying to hold down a part-time job – and also their caring responsibilities. And too often something has to give. And usually that is their study, their education. And that can compromise their future opportunities when their caring responsibilities have passed.

So I’m very pleased to be able to share with you that yesterday, applications opened for the Young Carer Bursary Programme, which will provide up to $10,000 a year to make a small contribution to assist young carers continue their education.

Carers – as His Excellency mentioned – also do have the issue of keeping work and when they’re not working, the challenge of re-entering the workforce. I have a message today for employers and that is – you should seriously consider people who have been carers as employees. Carers know how to multi-task. They know how to work to competing deadlines. They know how to juggle competing demands.

We need to do all we can to make sure that the skills people have obtained through unpaid caring are recognised as genuine skills, and skills that can be terrific in the workplace. So we’ve got to recommit to doing all we can to support carers back into employment.

I should also mention that we will have the inaugural National Carer Awards in November, at the National Carer Conference on the Gold Coast. It will be the first time we’ll have National Carer Awards, which are a joint initiative of Life Without Barriers and Carers Australia. Another good way to recognise the work of carers nationwide.

Friends, my purpose here today really is to say thank you to unpaid carers in our community. Our life in Australia, our community in Australia, would be unrecognisable without the work that you do.

Thanks very much.