Speech by The Hon Jane Prentice MP

National Carers Week Launch 2017


Good morning everyone, thank you Ara for that introduction.

A special thank you to Elder Songwoman Maroochy for your moving Welcome to Country.

Let me begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet, the Turrbul people, and pay my respects to elders past and present.

It is my pleasure to be here with you to launch National Carers Week.

This is the time when we formally recognise and celebrate the contribution of so many Australians who work tirelessly to improve the lives of friends, families and neighbours.

It’s the time to shine a light on the hard work, dedication and selflessness of carers – which is so important because we know carers can be so focussed on the people they care for rather than themselves.

The theme for this year’s National Carers Week is simple and clear: ‘Carers Count.’

It is an apt theme because we count on the 2.7 million Australians caring for those in our community with disability, mental illness, chronic condition, or those who are frail aged.

We count on the estimated 1.9 billion hours of unpaid caring they provide a year.

National Carers Week provides a unique opportunity to show how much we count on and appreciate our carers, and to remind other Australians about the important contribution they make to our society, both emotionally and economically.

It urges us to think seriously about how we can better support our carers and ensure they receive the services they need to continue their caring role.

Much of the work done in this area is by NGOs like our organisers today – Carers Australia.

Ara, I would like to commend you and Carers Australia for coordinating National Carers Week since 1993 and for your commitment to improving the lives of carers and their families.

I also acknowledge others here today – Jim Toohey (President of Carers QLD), Glen Campbell (CEO of Carers VIC) and Deb Cottrell (CEO of Carers QLD) and other bodies represented here today.

Your organisations are valued greatly by the Government. We do not underestimate the importance of the work you do and we recognise your expertise in working with communities.

And of course I would like to acknowledge the carers who have joined us today – thank you. This week is all about you.

As Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services, I look forward to working with all of you to ensure that we create positive outcomes for carers now and into the future.

Unpaid caring is part of the Australian way of life and at some stage, almost all of us will become a carer or require care.

Like you, the Government is committed to delivering a range of programs that assist and support carers in their caring role.

This year, we are investing $162 million in carer supports through the Department of Social Services.

Supports such as counselling, respite and assistance to continue education or participate in the workforce.

For those of you who attended the 7th International Carers Conference, you would have heard Minister Porter’s announcement of the first three projects for the Try Test and Learn Fund.

The Try Test and Learn Fund provides opportunities for the community sector, business, academics and others to co-develop and trial new or innovative projects.

We will test these projects to see how effective they are at assisting priority groups of people to find work or continue their studies.

The first three initiatives announced are specifically aimed at helping young carers and were developed with input from the young people themselves.

Young carers are particularly vulnerable to the risk of long term welfare dependency and this can have long lasting effects on their lives.

Three innovative solutions announced by Minister Porter last week will assist around 500 young carers to stay in, or move into, education or work and off welfare payments to set them up for a brighter future.

The Carer Achievement Pathway program, developed with input from Carers Australia, will provide a range of supports to 360 young carers including coaching, peer networking and online engagement. I understand that Carers NSW will be invited to apply for funding to deliver this initiative.

The Skills for Microenterprise project will teach 90 young carers to the skills to run small businesses.

And the Data-driven job opportunities project will provide 65 young carers with tailored training and job placement support.

The Government is acutely aware of the pressures young carers face and I am pleased these three worthy projects will lead the trials.

I am very much looking forward to seeing the results.

Another way the Government supports young carers is through the Young Carer Bursary Program.

Young carers often have to juggle part-time work, study and their caring responsibilities. Too often, when pressed for time, it is their education that is pushed aside.

The Young Carer Bursary Program is a $4.5 million investment designed to improve the educational outcomes of young carers by helping them to stay or return to their schooling or training while continuing their caring role.

Over 333 annual bursaries valued at $3,000 each will be awarded in 2018.

This year, in association with Carers Australia, Minister Porter and I will provide bursary recipients with an official certificate to recognise the valuable contribution they make as young carers while completing their study.

It is hoped this small gesture of recognition will assist young carers with future job applications and help the broader community better understand the important role they play in society.

Of course, we are not just focussed on young carers.

Carers are diverse in gender, languages, ethnicity, cultural backgrounds, age, and religious beliefs.

Being a carer can be physically and mentally demanding, particularly when people are most likely to be carers in the prime of their working lives, between the ages of 35 and 65. Services and supports are essential to assist carers in their important role. In recognition of this, the Government committed to the Integrated Plan for Carer Support Services in 2015.

The first phase of this Plan was the launch of a national online and telephone service – Carer Gateway.

Last month, I was pleased to announce that Carer Gateway has helped more than half a million people since it was launched nearly two years ago.

This is a great achievement for the Carer Gateway team and the partnering organisations that provide carers with access to information and services.

An extensive co-design process has been undertaken over the past two years to develop the second phase of the Plan, – a new model for future integrated carer support services. Thank you to those of you who have contributed to this process, including Carers Australia, Carers Victoria and Carers Queensland who are here today.

Work is continuing on the new model to ensure we build an effective and sustainable carer service system for the future.

In the meantime, I am delighted to launch National Carers Week in 2017 and I encourage everyone to take time out during National Carers Week to say thank you.

I would personally like to thank Aaron Pederson who cares for his cousin Vinnie in Carers Australia’s fantastic advertisement made specifically for this year’s event.

Again I congratulate everybody who has been involved in putting together National Carers Week and ensuring carers get the recognition and appreciation they deserve.

Thank you.