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Thursday, 21 October 2010
Page: 1180


Mr MURPHY (4:55 PM) —I am very pleased to speak about Carers Week, which we are currently celebrating. From 17 to 23 October we recognise, appreciate and celebrate carers in Australia. It is estimated that there are 2.9 million Australian carers, and this week is a special time to acknowledge their very important contribution to our society.

The theme of Carers Week this year is ‘Anyone, Anytime’. It is a theme that sends a powerful message that carers are a mixed group of people and that being a carer is not age specific or gender specific. Carers could be you or me or anyone we know, and circumstances could dictate that we become carers at any time. Carers represent a broad spectrum of our society. This diversity of carers and care recipients, as pointed out by the Minister for Health and Ageing at the launch of Carers Week here in Canberra, means that a diversity in circumstance also means diversity in need.

The Gillard government faces the challenge to support measures that cater for these diverse needs. Statistics indicate that there are almost 500,000 primary carers, and this number is expected to increase. These are challenges that we are working through to achieve better outcomes for carers and care recipients. I am proud to say that the Labor government recognises the amazing contribution of carers and has already introduced significant reforms to improve their lives with changes in the areas of disability, health, mental health and aged care.

The Labor government has already delivered significant increases in the base pension and a new pension supplement for those receiving a carers payment. We have also provided an ongoing carers supplement of $600 for each person being cared for, as well as increased funding for state and territory governments for specialist disability services, including supported accommodation, in-home care and respite.

Moreover, the government has commissioned the Productivity Commission to investigate the possibility of a national long-term disability care and support scheme. It is fitting that during Carers Week the House has debated the Carers Recognition Bill 2010. This bill, introduced by the Labor government, is in response to a report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family, Community, Housing and Youth, titled Who cares? Report on the inquiry into better support for carers.

So, who cares? We care. That is why the government has introduced measures to show our acknowledgement of the role and rights of carers—acknowledgement that they clearly deserve. That is why the government has responded to the many calls from the submissions to the inquiry with a commitment to lead the development of a national carer recognition framework. Among emerging themes from the inquiry, the report highlighted the need for improved acknowledgement and recognition of carers. The government committed to develop a national carer recognition framework, and the bill is the first part of that commitment. A key focus of the bill is the statement of Australia’s carers, which contains 10 core principles outlining how carers should be treated by Public Service care agencies.

The bill also emphasises that all carers should have the same rights, choices and opportunities that other Australians enjoy. There is no doubt that while many carers continue their important work with dedication, many sacrifice their finances, careers, social networks and even their own health. I can assure carers that we recognise their vital contribution to our community and acknowledge the sacrifices that they make. This week we recognise your efforts and thank you for your dedication, carers. This week certainly reminds us that anyone can become a carer, anytime.

I conclude by commending all carers for their tremendous work and reaffirm the Gillard government’s commitment to provide better support for people to have the same opportunities as other Australians to live happy, healthy lives and to reach their full potential. In my electorate of Reid, a constituent was recently diagnosed with motor neurone disease. I look forward to a fundraising evening on 5 November, and I take this opportunity to commend the organiser of that event for her courage and the efforts of those organising that event. Well done.


The SPEAKER —Order! It being 5.00 pm, the debate is interrupted.