Unpaid carers under inquiry spotlight

3 minute read

They are seen as ‘the packet of Tim Tams that never runs out’ despite the risk of suicide and homicide.

Australia’s unpaid carers have been urged to tell their stories to a parliamentary inquiry revisiting the Carer Recognition Act for the first time in more than a decade.

Dunkley MP Peta Murphy chairs the parliamentary committee running the inquiry into the recognition of unpaid carers, and said it would examine the effectiveness of the 2010 Act in acknowledging and raising awareness of the important role of unpaid carers in Australian society.

“(We) will consider if legislative reform is needed,” Ms Murphy said in a statement.

She said the inquiry was not considering the adequacy of payments for carers.

The move has been welcomed with some scepticism by Associate Professor Siobhan O’Dwyer, a leading Australian researcher on suicide and homicide risk in unpaid carers, now based at the University of Birmingham.

“This inquiry is an important step towards better recognition and support for carers, but it’s not enough just to listen,” she said.

“We’ve heard governments say all the rights things about carers before, but little has changed. Carers have been telling their stories for decades. The Standing Committee must ensure that this inquiry leads to real action.”

She said carers needed more than just recognition.

“Politicians treat carers like the packet of Tim Tams that never runs out,” Professor O’Dwyer said.

“Expecting them to keep on keeping on, simply because they love the people for whom they care. But when carers are forced to provide more and more care, with less and less support, love just isn’t enough.”

Professor O’Dwyer’s research aligns with a growing body of international research that puts family caregivers into a high-risk group for suicide. The research suggests that ongoing caring, sometimes for decades, can leave carers socially isolated, in financial distress, and with physical and mental health problems.

Professor O’Dwyer’s international literature review found that, in some cases, around 70% of carers experienced suicidal ideation. There was also evidence of suicide attempts, deaths by suicide, and deaths by homicide-suicide

Ms Murphy said the Committee wanted to hear from individual unpaid carers, carers’ representatives and advocacy organisations “so it can make meaningful recommendations to government”.

Submissions to the inquiry close on 11 August.

Carers Australia CEO Alison Brook said the organisation would work with the National Carers Network and its members to help carers share their lived experiences with the inquiry.

“It is pleasing to see that the new Inquiry’s Terms of Reference appear broader than simply a definition of ‘who is a carer’,” said Ms Brook.

“True recognition and the appropriate policy and service response that follow require looking at the diversity of caring, issues related to financial security, the economic value of carers and the broader reform agenda across portfolios.

“This is also an opportunity to review how carers are potentially affected by other legislation, both national and state and territory based, including human rights and anti-discrimination legislation, industrial relations, and those related to service delivery such as the NDIS and aged care.

“We encourage carers to make their voices heard,” said Ms Brook.

End of content

No more pages to load

Log In Register ×