Carers Australia has a history dating back to the early 1970s when the Domiciliary Nursing Care benefit (DNCB) was introduced, and the Council on the Ageing (COTA) successfully applied for a grant to explore care given by family and friends to the frail-aged and disabled. Although Carers Australia didn’t exist as it does today, these events were significant milestones on the road to forming the influential and authoritative organisation we now have.
Another significant milestone occurred in 1980 when - in what is believed to be a world-first - the Carers Association of NSW became an independent body. This monumental shift granted the association more freedom in its advocacy work.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics used the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981 to conduct the first comprehensive survey on disability. The Survey of Handicapped Persons gave governments and the community a deeper understanding and insight into Australians living with a disability.
Since those early days, research into caring has gone from strength to strength, and funding and programs have followed. Pensions for carers were introduced, programs were established, recognition of carers grew and more surveys and research from government and institutions were funded.
The first Carers Awareness Week was held in 1992, subtitled Carers Need Care Too! The week-long campaign was the first of its kind to raise public awareness of the important and challenging work of carers. This was followed by the first carer-focused federal budget, worth $93 million over 4 years and including both the distribution of the Carer Support Kit and introduction of the Commonwealth Respite for Carers Program.
In 1993 the Carers Association of Australia (CAA) was launched, and in 1997 the Governor-General, His Excellency Sir William Dean, AC KBE, agreed to be National Patron of CAA. Since then, all Governors-General have accepted this role.
The following decade saw the number of conferences, campaigns, research, surveys and reports increase, demonstrating that the work of Carers Australia and the state and territory carers associations was having an effect. Awareness was growing. Governments were taking notice.
During this same period, young carers were identified as an important sub-group of carers.
The official launch of the Parliamentary Friends of Carers at Parliament House was held in March 2007, with Senator Grant Chapman and Anna Burke MP co-chairing the group. In 2010 The Rudd Government’s social inclusion agenda identified carers under the six “Social Inclusion Priorities” and recognised young carers as “at risk of long-term disadvantage”. In the same year, legislative changes to the Fair Work Bill granted parents of children with a disability under the age of 16 the right to request flexible work arrangements.
Whether it’s as active advocates or lobbyists, or indirectly through contacts, awareness campaigns and support for carers themselves, Carers Australia in its current and previous forms has played a role in these and many other developments on the long road to improving the lives of carers, and we continue to do so.