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Thursday, 21 October 2010
Page: 1217

Mr RIPOLL (12:09 PM) —It is a great pleasure to speak on the Carer Recognition Bill 2010 and also a pleasure to hear the contributions of others on this bill. It is a really important bill and gives people an opportunity to talk about some exceptional people in their own electorates and what this bill represents in terms of what they do throughout their whole lives. I too, like many others in this place, have had the great privilege of coming into contact with carers and with carer families who look after family members and other people. It is very humbling to meet and talk with them about their circumstances and the issues they face on a day-to-day basis, and to understand just how deep the commitment is to become a carer, to care for somebody else. It requires an enormous amount of commitment and effort. So it is just a small and humbling experience for me to be able to support this Carer Recognition Bill and talk a little bit about why this government supports the principles in the bill—as I believe everyone in this parliament would support them—and what they mean to carers.

The Carer Recognition Bill 2010 establishes a legislative framework around the idea that we need to increase recognition and awareness of informal carers—those who are not in a paid or structured career; those who are not directly employed to care for somebody else—and acknowledges the very valuable contribution that they make to society. While this bill is particularly about that, I want to note that I also have a little place in my heart for all the people who are professional carers—people who work in facilities looking after the frail, the aged and people with disabilities. I have come into contact with many of those people as well, and realised that, much beyond their professional contribution, much beyond what they are actually paid to do, they make a personal contribution. They become personally attached, many times, to the people they care for, and feel a deep connection with and affection for those people. They will often do things well and truly beyond the call of duty.

I want to make just a brief mention of Di Bates in my electorate and the organisation she started four years ago called Daniel’s Shield. She started awards to recognise the work of carers. She felt that there was a gap. She felt we should in some way recognise or pay tribute to people who care for others. The work that she has done has been absolutely fabulous. I was at the most recent awards, just weeks ago, and really got to see and understand just how much work, effort and care goes into being a carer, whether you are a professional carer—someone who is paid to do it—or an informal carer. And informal carers are the people we are recognising in this bill. So I have a great deal of respect for all of those people who consider themselves carers, and I will talk about the definition of ‘a carer’ in a moment.

What this bill does is to establish a definition of a carer. I think that is important, so that people can not only relate to what this bill is about but also consider themselves fully in that sense: ‘I am a carer; I define myself as a carer—but so does legislation; so does the government. I am properly recognised for what I do.’ The bill also establishes—I think very importantly—a statement for Australia’s carers. That will state key principles for how Australia’s carers should be treated themselves, and how they should be considered. I think that is something that has been lacking.

Often, we do not quite understand that relationship that a carer has with government departments, with agencies, with the commercial world, with other people and with the community, and that has been a problem for many years. This bill will remove those problems over time, and I think those principles will be something that carers themselves will enshrine, and hopefully others will as well. The way that this bill does that is by establishing the principles and providing that all public service agencies should have an awareness and understanding of the Statement for Australia’s Carers and then develop, internally, their own mechanisms and systems to make sure they can adhere to those policies and to make sure that, if they are dealing with people or if people are employed through those agencies, they understand the role that they play as carers. I think that is a very important step towards making sure that we do give due regard to the role of carers and to this Statement for Australia’s Carers.

This bill also establishes that the Public Service care agencies should actually take direct action. What they should do is reflect in their policy and in their work the principles in this Statement for Australia’s Carers. They should do that when they are providing or evaluating care support and in the way they consult with carers to involve them in the development and/or evaluation of care support. They also have an obligation to report on their compliance. It also establishes that associated providers should have an awareness and understanding of this. So this is about other people and other providers who also interact with carers.

These are very real issues. I recall on many occasions talking to carers about some of the problems they face. Often it is that no-one understands their role—that government agencies do not understand and that care provider associations in the community do not understand. They do not understand their responsibility and the role that they actually play. It is almost as if they are sidelined in the process of a particular service or a matter that needs to be dealt with for the person they are caring for. The principal person who should be part of that process is the carer themselves. They will have the deepest relationship with and the best understanding of the person they are caring for. They will have their best interests at heart. So what this recognition bill does is to help provide mechanisms for that and make sure that the Statement for Australia’s Carers is reflected in the developing, implementing and providing of evaluation, care and support.

It is not intended that this bill establishes in any way a particular charter, a carers’ rights definition or any enforceable obligations binding on carers or entities affected by this legislation—or, for that matter, the Commonwealth. It is not intended to do that. It is intended to be about setting a base of values, of recognition, of bringing forward the connection between what carers do, the people they look after and the services that are provided—and giving them some scope and some definition around what it is they do and the role that they play.

For the purposes of this act, a carer is an individual. A carer is defined in this act as an individual who provides personal care, support and assistance to another individual who needs that support because of a range of things—either their disability; their medical condition, whether that be terminal or chronic illness; whether they have a mental illness or whether they are frail and aged. An individual, though, is not a carer in respect of care, support and assistance that he or she provides if that is under a contract for the provision of services or in the course of doing voluntary work for a charitable, welfare or community organisation—or for that matter as part of the requirements of education or training. We set out to make this clear so that there is no confusion about who this relates to and the different obligations that organisations will have as opposed to individuals. This really is about informal carers rather than those who are employed in some particular capacity or who volunteer for a particular organisation who may receive funding as a matter of course for their work.

In summing up, there is a range of things that I think are important in terms of what this statement for Australian carers is. All carers should have the same rights, they should have the same choices and opportunities—regardless of their age, sex, disability, political beliefs and so on—as every other Australian. It is important that we acknowledge that, and that they understand that we acknowledge that. Regardless of their ethnicity, their heritage or their cultural background everyone should have these same rights and those rights should be recognised. Children and young people who are carers should also have the same rights as all other children. These young people should be supported to reach their full potential as well. It is the case that some young people end up being carers. Often they are sidelined in the process of care because of their age, and that should not be the case; they should have the same opportunities that other young people have.

The valuable social and economic contribution that carers make to society should also be recognised and supported. I think we can all play a role in that. I think we can do it in our own electorates. We can do it when we hold community events and when we have our own community awards. I host the Oxley community awards in my electorate, where I look to recognise people in the community who by any other means do not really get recognised. Sometimes they are people without a voice or people who are not formally recognised in any particular other way. Over the years in doing these awards I myself have been the one who has been enriched. I have managed to bring together or in a way provide a forum for people who are quite isolated in the community so that they can understand that there are other people like them, there are people in the community who do great deeds for others. We recognise also the relationship between carers and people who are themselves cared for.

This is a good bill. I know it will be supported by everyone in the parliament. It is the right course of action as part of this government’s 10-year plan to recognise fully the work of carers in this country.