History of change

The Australian government has furthered the commitments made in their response to the ‘Who Cares?’ report with a number of national initiatives that are important to caring families.

National Carer Recognition Act (2010)

The National Carer Recognition Bill passed through both houses of Parliament to be enacted as legislation on 28 October 2010.

The Act aims to formally acknowledge the valuable contribution that carers make to Australian society. It defines what is a carer and sets up reporting and consultation arrangements for certain public service agencies. The 'Statement of Australia’s Carers' sets out ten principles to guide how public service agencies and their funding providers should treat and consider carers.

It is part of a broader National Carer Recognition Framework that commits the Government to the establishment of national goals relating to carers, a National Carer Strategy, and three year action plans to improve policy and service delivery so that they better support caring families.

The National Carer Strategy

A discussion paper to inform the development of a National Carer Strategy was released at the launch of National Carers Week in Canberra. It outlines the Australian Government's commitment to deliver greater recognition for carers.

The Government sought the views of caring families on how to achieve better recognition for carers, ensure that your role as partners in care is acknowledged and respected, create opportunities for paid work and education, improve carer health and wellbeing and provide better access to information and support.

Carers Australia believes that recognition is long overdue but it needs to be backed up with proper financial, practical and emotional supports. Read our submission to find out more.

The Economic Value of Informal Care in 2010

Report by ACCESS Economics Pty Ltd for Carers Australia – Today, the annual replacement value of informal care has exceeded $40 billion per annum, 33% higher than in 2005. This growth is predominately due to demographic ageing coupled with growth in the replacement cost of care from $25 per hour on average in 2005 to $31 per hour today.

Informal carers provide 1.32 billion hours of care each year and represent a precious economic resource in an age of growth health and aged care workforce shortages. The valuable contribution of Australia's carers (and young carers) comes at a cost to themselves with carer-related conditions including depression, stress-related illness, sleep deprivation and musculoskeletal problems.

Informal care remains one of the lowest subsidised forms of care, and family carers remain under-resourced in terms of education and information compared to paid care workers. As the reviewed literate suggests, greater investment in training for informal carers could generate savings that are many times the value of the investment.

Who Cares...?

Report on the inquiry into better support for carers – Immediate financial relief for carers is a key recommendation of this report, which proposes increasing the base rate of income support for carers and calls for means testing thresholds to be reviewed.

The committee recommends an urgent increase in respite and in-home assistance for carers, with current demand far exceeding supply. Better coordination of support services is also needed, with the committee recommending a one-stop-shop for information on community care services, as well as support systems that are nationally consistent and more streamlined.

The committee supports more options for carers who want to manage the purchase of services themselves, including self-managed individualised funding packages. It has also recommended:

  • a national education campaign to increase community awareness of the needs of carers
  • national carer recognition legislation and a national carer action plan
  • a national strategy to address the skills and training needs of carers
  • increased access to case management services for carers
  • strengthening options for flexible working arrangements for carers
  • supporting carers to find suitable employment after a period of absence
  • extension of preventative health care initiatives to include carers, and
  • more counselling services for carers and their families


Caring for older Australians

Productivity Commission report – Older Australians generally want to remain independent and in control of how and where they live; to stay connected and relevant to their families and communities; and be able to exercise some measure of choice over their care.

While changes to the aged care system over past decades have increased the range and quality of care and support available to older Australians, there are significant variations in the quality of services. However, fundamental reform is required to overcome the delays, discontinuities, constraints and shortages that currently exist, and to respond to future challenges. The challenges include:

  • a significant increase in the number of older people
  • an increasing incidence of age-related disability and disease, especially dementia
  • rising expectations about the type and flexibility of care that is received
  • community concerns about variability in the quality of care
  • a relative decline in the number of informal carers
  • a need for significantly more nurses and personal care workers with enhanced skills

Aged care can be greatly improved. Government policies, programs and regulations, and the services offered by community groups and businesses, need to be redesigned around the wellbeing of older people and be delivered in ways that respect their dignity and support their independence. Services need to be affordable for older people and for society in general.

2010–2020 National Disability Strategy

An initiative of the Council of Australian Governments – The National Disability Strategy sets out a ten year national plan for improving life for Australians with  a disability, their families and carers. The Strategy draws on the findings of extensive consultation conducted in 2008-09 by the National People with Disabilities and Carer Council and reported in Shut Out: The Experience of People with Disabilities and their Families in Australia (2009).

The Commonwealth, State and Territory governments have developed this strategy in partnership under the auspices of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). The Australian Local Government Association has assisted in the development of the Strategy and there will be a strong role for local governments in its implementation. The shared vision is for an inclusive Australian society that enables people with disability to fulfil their potential as equal citizens.

The purpose of the National Disability Strategy is to:

  • establish a high level policy framework to give coherence to, and guide government activity across mainstream and disability-specific areas of public policy.
  • drive improved performance of mainstream services in delivering outcomes for people with disability.
  • give visibility to disability issues and ensure they are included in the development and implementation of all public policy that impacts on people with disability.
  • provide national leadership toward greater inclusion of people with disability

Rights of Persons with Disabilities

United Nations Convention – The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol were adopted at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 13 December 2006, and entered into force internationally on 3 May 2008. Australia ratified the Convention on 17 July 2008, making us one of the first Western countries to do so.

The purpose of the Convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all people with disability, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.

Before ratifying the Convention, the Australian Government conducted a National Interest Analysis (NIA) to assess the level of Australia’s compliance with the obligations in the Convention and whether ratification was in the interests of Australia and Australians living with disability. The NIA recommending Australia ratify the Convention was tabled in the Commonwealth Parliament on 4 June 2008.

Australia acceded to the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 21 August 2009. The Optional Protocol came into force for Australia on 20 September 2009.