On 9 March 2012 children, teachers, counsellors and community leaders gathered at the Port Augusta Secondary School in South Australia, where Adnyamathanha Elder Mr Vince Coulthard launched Young Carers in Education: supporting rural and remote young carers.
The booklet was commissioned by Carers Australia, produced by Carers South Australia and funded by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations It provides information to staff in schools about young carers, their issues and how they can be supported at school.
Young carers are children and young people up to 25 years of age who help care in families where someone has an illness, a disability, mental illness or who has an alcohol or other drug problem. There are over 300,000 young carers in Australia and at least 150,000 of those young carers are under the age of eighteen.
A young carer may provide assistance with personal care, such as dressing, bathing, toileting or mobility; this is often beyond what you would expected of someone their age. They may also assist with purchasing and administering medication and undertaking household tasks.
It is estimated that every school has young carers, on average 2 or 3 in every class. Teachers and School Counsellors are ideally placed to identify young carers, support them at school, and link them with services that can assist them in their caring role at home.
When young carers are supported, they often have greater feelings of pride and worth, strong family relationships; develop strong life and living skills and have a greater sense of resilience and purpose, than other young people of similar age. When unsupported, many young carers experience:
These factors can all be intensified when living in a regional or remote part of Australia.
It is important that young carers are supported to help balance their caring role with their education and to be able to participate socially.