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Tuesday, 22 October 2002
Page: 8322

Mr HARTSUYKER (10:55 PM) —This week is Carers Week, and it is appropriate that we recognise the contribution of carers to our society. I was delighted to see the discussion of the role of carers as a matter of public importance in the House today, because the contribution of carers is indeed a matter of public importance. I would like to commend the member for Riverina and the member for Calwell for their contributions in acknowledging the role of carers in our community.

We as a community recognise the brilliant efforts of our sporting heroes and the achievements of the stars of the entertainment industry, but carers in our community are our unsung heroes—people who give up a great deal, if not everything, to care for a loved one. Unfortunately, carers receive little or no recognition. That is why Carers Week is so important: to recognise the contribution of carers, the sacrifices that carers make and the tremendous amount of social capital that carers give to our society.

In my electorate of Cowper there are many young carers, some as young as seven years old, undertaking tasks such as caring for a disabled parent. I think we would all agree that you could not have much of a childhood if at the age of seven you had to look after a disabled parent. The member for Riverina has pointed out the amazing statistic that there are 388,800 young carers under the age of 26 in Australia and that there are also 188,000 under the age of 18. While their friends are doing what young people do— playing sport, having a social life or starting a career—our young carers are typically enduring the endless routine tasks at home, looking after that loved one. There are also many carers in their senior years. For instance, a mother who has become frail with advancing years might be looking after her severely disabled son, who could be twice her size and weight, which would present a range of challenges. In the case of an elderly couple, one might have dementia and the other may be caring for them. It must be a very daunting task for our carers.

As a community we offer respite services for our carers to give them a short break. I think that respite services are a vital contribution that we as a community can make to assist our carers. It is not surprising, when you know the type of people that carers are, that respite service providers will often tell me that many of the carers who are offered respite say that they only want one day off because they would not want to be away from their loved one for more than 24 hours. That just shows you the selfless nature of our carers.

In the last budget there was additional funding of $80 million over four years to provide support for carers of older Australians, carers of people with dementia and ageing carers of people with disabilities. With regard to carers of older Australians, $30 million was provided to expand respite services, particularly in rural areas, to subsidise the cost of specialised equipment, home modifications and transport and to provide counselling services through carer resource centres. The government also committed $20 million to providing support for carers of people with dementia. There are approximately 160,000 people with dementia in Australia, many of whom are looked after by carers. The government also committed $30 million for such services as care packages for ageing carers of people with disabilities and to provide assistance with costs faced by carers, such as the cost of respite care, transport and equipment.

Whilst these types of measures are welcome, our carers still carry an enormous burden in our community. Carers Week is great because we recognise the sacrifice that carers make in looking after loved ones, that they go without to provide that care. In my electorate there are a range of functions and activities being conducted as part of Carers Week. I would encourage all carers to participate in Carers Week wherever possible.

The member for Riverina mentioned in the matter of public importance that, as a result of the horrific events in Bali, many Australian families will now face the immense challenge of assisting in the care of their loved ones. These families will indeed be pleased to have their son, daughter or brother home again, but our hearts must go out to them as they face the challenges ahead.

The SPEAKER —Order! It being 11 p.m., the debate is interrupted.