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Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Page: 11529

Ms KING (3:49 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Will the minister update the House on challenges faced by young carers and how the government is supporting them?

Ms MACKLIN (Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) —I thank the member for Ballarat for her question. This is a special day for her but an even more special day for one of her constituents. Seventeen-year-old Sam, Ballarat region’s Young Citizen of the Year, is here at Parliament House for the Young Carers Forum. Sam is completing year 11, working part-time, looking after his mum, who has MS, and supporting his two younger brothers—I think, as every single member of this House would say, a truly remarkable young man.

Honourable members—Hear, hear!

Ms MACKLIN —There are 32 young carers who have come to Canberra today—and will be here tomorrow—and some of them are up in the gallery and we welcome them here. They have come to the ‘Bring It!’ 2008 forum. There are four from each state and territory and there are young people from the country and from our cities.

There are 170,000 young carers under the age of 17 around Australia—thousands of young people growing up with at least two jobs: going to school, sometimes working as well and being carers. This forum that they are participating in is helping to shape the policy of the future, to make sure that all of us provide better support to young carers. This year, the government has provided $7.6 million to the Young Carers Respite and Information Services Program, and today I announced an extra $15.7 million for a further two years.

In my meeting with some of the young carers earlier today, I was told by them how this program really gives them somebody to talk to, someone to call at a time of crisis when they need advice or sometimes just when they need somebody to talk to. It certainly helps them stay at school or at university while also balancing their caring responsibilities, which are so important to their families. The young carers I met today also emphasised the need to identify carers, to make sure that those youngsters that do not even know they are carers get to understand that they have these responsibilities and that there are many supports out there available to them.

As well as the challenge of staying at school or university, we know that it can be very tough to make ends meet. That is why the government will be paying all recipients of carer payment a lump-sum payment from 8 December of $1,400 for each single carer. Those young carers who are receiving the carer allowance will also receive an extra $1,000 for each eligible person in their care. I am sure that every single member of the House is delighted that these young carers could come to Canberra. We all congratulate them for the outstanding work that they do.

Honourable members—Hear, hear!