We count on the 2.7 million Australians caring for those in our community.

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‘Carers Count’ was the theme for this year’s National Carers Week – apt because we count on the 2.7 million Australians caring for those in our community with disability, mental illness, a chronic condition, or those who are frail aged.

We count on the estimated 1.9 billion hours of unpaid caring they provide a year. Unpaid caring is part of the Australian way of life and at some stage, almost all of us will become a carer or require care.

Being a carer can be physically and mentally demanding, particularly when people are most likely to be carers in the prime of their working lives, between the ages of 35 and 65.

Carers are diverse in gender, languages, ethnicity, cultural backgrounds, age, and religious beliefs. Services and supports are essential to assist them in their important role.

This month’s Work ‘n’ Care story about Antonia’s 32 years of caring for her son, Paulo, highlights exactly this point – it shines a light on the hard work, dedication and selflessness of carers – which is so important because we know carers can be so focussed on the people they care for rather than themselves.

Jane Prentice, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services, launched National Carers Week last month.

In a media release (13 October 2017) Assistant Minister Prentice said the event provided a unique opportunity to show how much we count on and appreciate our carers, and reminded other Australians about the important contribution carers make to our society, both emotionally and economically.

“It urges us to think seriously about how we can better support our carers and ensure they receive the services they need to continue their caring role,” she said.

TV star Aaron Pedersen, ambassador for National Carers Week, has gone public and shared his own personal carers story, featuring in a memorable advertising campaign.

"I've always kept it quiet. I think we're all like that. We don't want to share our personal problems or personal journey, it's too private – but we should be proud to be carers; it's hard work, it's true work, it's unconditional love,” he told ABC NEWS.

Aaron encouraged other carers to not be ashamed to reach out for support.

"Carers are important. They are the unsung heroes….Caring for carers is what is important. Don't forget that you're not alone."

(The full story on Aaron and Vinnie is available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-20/aaron-pedersen-hails-unsung-heroes-in-national-carers-week/9067044).

Ms Prentice’s media release stated the Federal Government was committed to delivering a range of programs that assist and support carers in their caring role.

According to the release they are investing $162 million in carer supports through the Department of Social Services this year, including support assistance to participate in the workforce or continue education, counselling and respite.

NB: You may be interested in reading a related story ‘New project for young carers helps them find work’ in this issue of Work ‘n’ Care.