CARERS RECOGNITION BILL 2012

 I am pleased to rise to make a contribution to the debate on the Carers Recognition Bill 2012.

This has been a very moving and heartfelt debate. Some members have been courageous, and I believe selfless, in sharing their direct experiences as carers of loved ones. I note in particular the contributions of the members for Ballarat West and Bendigo West and the member for Gippsland East. All these members were inspirational in their addresses and are such strong advocates for the extraordinary contributions that carers make to our community, and I thank them.

On this ovarian cancer Teal Ribbon Day it is also fitting that I recall and pay tribute to the exceptional role that my father performed as a carer to my mother during the years in which she battled ovarian cancer prior to her death in 2009. Like so many other carers, my father became an expert in doctors appointments, medicines and their side effects, and post-operative healing. He gave up work, and he loved her and looked after her with a tenderness and resolve which was quite remarkable to witness.

So it is a privilege to be speaking on this particular bill in the company of members on both sides of the house who have made such fine contributions.

Those of us who have been carers ourselves or who have witnessed closely those we know and love be carers, understand how strong, beautiful and complex care relationships can be. They are often characterised by unconditional love, extraordinary commitment, resolve and sacrifice, unmatched passion, fierce advocacy and unparalleled personal strength and reward, and as we have heard today, many carers find themselves thrust into the role suddenly, completely unexpectedly and with no preparation for what lies ahead. There are more than 140 000 carers in Victoria across all age groups, backgrounds and circumstances. They do an extraordinary job. They rise to challenges many of us could only imagine and they demonstrate the best of what humankind can be.

It is therefore vital that the carer relationship is given the recognition and respect it deserves, and therefore it is right that the Carers Recognition Bill 2012 continues to promote the concept of the care relationship rather than separating the carer from the person to whom care is provided. This bill continues the work of the Victorian charter supporting people in care relationships which was introduced in 2010 by the previous government. That charter sets out the rights and responsibilities of people in care relationships and outlines how these relationships can be assisted by organisations, governments and the broader community.

It also provides information for carers about the resources and services available to them and the people they look after.

This bill continues that tradition and is designed to enshrine values of supporting care relationships rather than setting up a regulatory structure around them. Its main purposes are to recognise, promote and value the role of people in care relationships; to recognise the different needs of persons in care relationships in order to support and recognise the fact that care relationships bring benefits to the persons in the care relationship and the broader community; and to enact care relationship principles to promote understanding of the significance of care relationships. It is worth noting at least some of those principles that are ably set out in the bill as relating to carers and to persons being cared for. For example, in part 2, headed ‘Care relationships principles’, clause 7 states:

A carer should —

(a) be respected and recognised —

(i) as an individual with his or her own needs; and
(ii) as a carer; and
(iii) as someone with special knowledge of the person in his or her care …

That clause goes on to talk about a carer being recognised for his or her efforts and dedication as a carer and for the social and economic contribution to the whole community arising from his or her role as a carer.

Further it talks about the carer having his or her social wellbeing and health recognised in matters relating to the care relationship and having the effect of his or her role as a carer on his or her participation in employment and education recognised and considered in decision making. These are just some of the principles that are set out in the bill that are worthy of note and worthy of support.

While these are worthy statements and while this bill has an important role to play in ensuring that the carer relationship is properly honoured in our community, it must also be noted that this bill is part, in context, of a broader debate. Clauses 11 and 12 of the bill, in the part of the bill relating to care support organisations, state very clearly that nothing in this part creates any obligation on the care support organisation to provide funding or services to persons in a care relationship.

Sitting suspended 6.30 p.m. until 8.02 p.m.

Ms GARRETT — As I was saying prior to the dinner break, the bill contains many worthy aspects which the opposition is more than happy to support, and I went through some of those in depth. I noted that these are very worthy statements and principles which are to be supported and welcomed, but I also highlighted that clause 11(2) of the bill, which relates to care support organisations, makes it very clear that nothing in the bill is to be taken as creating any obligation on any care organisation to provide funding or services to persons in care relationships. That takes us to the fundamental point that supporting carers in our community means properly funding and supporting the services that assist those carers to look after those they care for.

In this regard, as previous speakers on this side of the house have pointed out, it is absolutely right to highlight the very significant cuts this government is making to the public sector in this state, including to those departments that so many carers rely on each and every day for support.

You cannot hack into public sector numbers by thousands without having a negative impact on the services provided, particularly those provided to vulnerable people in our community. The nonsense and spin of separating front-line services from supposed back-room workers really does not wash with anyone, and I do not believe it will wash with the carers of this state.

While we in this house support the principles in this bill about recognising and honouring care relationships in our community, focusing on those care relationships and giving them the respect they deserve, we also call very loudly on members of this government to put their money where their mouths are, to come clean about the impact of these deep and wide cuts on the thousands of people in care relationships in Victoria and to deliver in a very real and substantial way to those who do so much for others and make such an outstanding contribution to our community. The government must go beyond words and take action.

Hansard, 2012