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Thursday, 21 October 2010
Page: 1221


Ms COLLINS (Parliamentary Secretary for Community Services) (12:25 PM) —in reply—Australia’s carers, through their dedication and hard work, enrich community life and are an inspiration to us all. The government is determined to give carers the acknowledgment of their role which they so clearly deserve. The need to give recognition to carers was emphasised when the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family, Community, Housing and Youth tabled its report Who Cares…?: Report on the inquiry into better support for carers. Central to the government’s response to this inquiry was the commitment from the Commonwealth to lead the development of a national carer recognition framework. The Carer Recognition Bill 2010 is the first element of the framework. It formally acknowledges the vital contribution that carers make to Australian society and complements carer recognition legislation already in some states and territories.

There are several key elements to the bill. Firstly, the bill establishes a broad and encompassing definition of ‘carer’. This definition captures the diversity of carers and care relationships. Importantly, the bill sets out a statement for Australia’s carers. The statement contains 10 key principles that set out how carers should be treated and considered in policy development and program and service delivery. This includes the fundamental principle that all carers should have the same rights, choices and opportunities as other Australians.

All public service agencies will be required to take all practical measures to ensure their staff have an awareness and understanding of the principles in the statement. This includes the direction that all public service agencies should have due regard to the statement for Australia’s carers when developing human resource policies that significantly affect an employee’s caring role. Public service agencies with responsibilities for policies, programs and services that affect carers and the people they care for will have additional obligations under the legislation. These agencies need to ensure that their staff take action to reflect the statement’s principles when developing, implementing, providing or evaluating policies, programs or services directed to carers or the people for whom they care. These agencies will also be required to consult with carers and the bodies that represent them in the development and evaluation of relevant policies, programs and services. These agencies will be required to report publicly in their annual reports on their compliance with their obligations under the legislation.

Critically, the legislation also extends to associated providers, people or bodies contracted or funded by Australian government public service agencies with responsibility for policies, programs and services that affect carers and the people that they care for, and their immediate subcontractors. These associated providers will need to ensure staff and agents have awareness and understanding of the statement’s principles and take action to reflect the principles when they develop, implement, provide or evaluate policies, programs or services.

The bill supports the work the government is undertaking to reform the system of supports for carers and the people for whom they care. It recognises that carers should have the opportunities and the capability to enjoy optimum health and wellbeing, and social and economic participation. Implementation of the bill will drive increased awareness and understanding of the role and contribution of carers as well as drive a much-needed cultural and attitudinal shift so that carers’ interests are taken into account by public service agencies and service providers.

The bill recognises in law the valuable social and economic contribution as well as the many personal sacrifices that carers make. It delivers on the government’s commitment to provide better support for carers so that they have the same opportunities as other Australians to live healthy, happy lives and reach their full potential.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.