The Hon. KAYEE GRIFFIN
[5.21 p.m.]: Last week from 19 to 25 October was Carers Week, a national week of awareness and recognition of the valuable and demanding role carers play in Australia. Carers provide unpaid care and support to family members and friends who have a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, terminal illness or who are frail. Carers Week is a celebration of the contribution carers make, not only to the lives of the people they care for but also the wider community as a whole. Carers Australia is the recognised national voice of carers in Australia. Their mission statement reads:
We believe that all carers are entitled to the same rights, choices and opportunities as other Australians. These include the ability to enjoy optimum health, social and economic wellbeing and to participate in family, social and community life, employment and education. This belief is based not only on a sense of social responsibility, but also on the understanding that what is good for carers is good for society. When carers are properly supported, everyone benefits.
Since 1993 the Department of Health and Ageing has provided funds to coordinate Carers Week with Carers Australia working in conjunction with other carers agencies throughout Australia for a collaborative national Carers Week initiative. The New South Wales Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care provided Carers New South Wales with grants for more than 200 carer support groups or organisations to hold events for carers across the State during Carers Week. The theme of Carers Week 2008 was "Because I care". This theme incorporated stories from carers about how their lives are impacted by their responsibilities as carers. The campaign centred on a selection of carers each discussing their own experiences, all of them unique and different to the next. The experiences used as examples for this campaign highlighted the fact that whilst the role of a carer can be enriching and rewarding, the demands on carers and the sacrifices they make are immense.
Provisions for the wellbeing of carers, and an appreciation of the value of the work they do has made carers a key social policy concern. Carers enable the elderly and people with a disability or long-term illness to remain in the community longer before accessing traditional, full-time care places at hospices and nursing homes. While it is true that many carers find caring a positive experience, caring can be extremely difficult and demanding. While the love and commitment carers show brings them closer together with those they care for, this does not always lessen the stress of caring or the social isolation and loneliness that caring can bring. Taking on the role of carer is not an easy decision to make. Caring for someone affects people in different ways. Mental and physical exhaustion, depression, anxiety, guilt and frustration are all common feelings expressed by carers.
Carers New South Wales aims to build awareness and recognition of carers and their needs, and to work towards improving the range of services, systems and supports available to them. Carer support officers can help by providing information and emotional support, referrals to specialised carer counsellors, and other services. Carers New South Wales also provides activities and social events for carers and young carers, 26 years and under, where they can meet and get to know other carers in their areas and are also provided with some respite from their carer responsibilities. It is imperative that carers have the support of those around them and that is why awareness campaigns such as Carers Week 2008 are so useful in reminding the community of the invaluable service carers provide. For many, the constant care of a loved one with a disability or illness becomes part of the everyday routine and too often the valuable contribution carers make to those they care for and indeed to the wider community, goes unnoticed or is taken for granted. Carers Week 2008 was a great opportunity to let carers in Australia know that their devotion and dedication is recognised and appreciated.
Last week I referred to breast cancer awareness and I now refer to a fundraising initiative held at Canterbury City Council depot in Leslie Street, Roselands in relation to it. I understand that council's works manager, Mr Phil Rudder, who is a keen bike rider, decided to ride to work with a bit of a different initiative, that is, council staff organise to ride 8.5 kilometres from the depot to the administration centre via the Cooks River bike track. Council staff were already selling pink ribbon merchandise but they decided to ask for gold coin donations from the depot non-riders to put towards the pink ribbon day contributions. On Wednesday 15 October 16 riders assembled at 6.30 a.m. and were waved off by supporters and arrived at Campsie 45 minutes later to the cheers of the council's road safety officer, Colleen Barclay. Council's human resources section had gratuitously donated a health breakfast for the riders. The depot has since contributed $702.50 to the pink ribbon day contributions and I thank them for it. They were always so generous to my charity fund when I was mayor. Once again I acknowledge the fundraising efforts they make.