The message from carer support services in Victoria’s Hume region to carers from multicultural and indigenous backgrounds is, “we’re here to help”.
Villa Maria Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre, run by not-for-profit aged and disability services provider Villa Maria, and Upper Murray Family Care, provide emotional support and counselling, social opportunities, training and education, and vital respite services to about 2,500 carers.
While hundreds of carers from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) backgrounds live in the region, less than 1% are accessing support from the organisation.
Villa Maria community engagement and liaison worker, Sarah Weijers, said there were a number of barriers preventing those caring for a loved one – who may be living with dementia, a mental health issue, or a disability – from accessing support.
“From talking to the carers, we’ve learned the term ‘carer’ itself is unfamiliar and a bit lost in translation. The majority of CALD and ATSI carers don’t see their role as something they should be getting help for because it’s just what they do; it’s their responsibility.”
Ms Weijers added many carers were adult children who were open to the idea of receiving support, but reluctant because of their parents’ wishes.
“Many of the people being cared for are extremely private and don’t want anyone outside the family knowing their personal circumstances. And while we clearly respect their cultural beliefs, we also just want to let them know that there is no stigma attached to getting support, and that we’re just someone else they can draw on as a resource in the absence of family members.”
She said while the rewards of caring were many, so too were the challenges, such as health problems, social isolation and financial disadvantage.
“A lot of carers, no matter what their cultural background, tend to just do it tough for a very long time and aren’t aware there is support and help out there.”
Support can take many forms, from providing help at home to giving carers a break, to attending a social outing or activity, or simply having a person to talk to.
In a bid to reach out to CALD and ATSI carers, Villa Maria has joined other local services such as Centrelink, Upper Murray Family Care, Ovens and King Community Health, North East Multicultural Association, and the Rural City of
Wangaratta, to hold a Multicultural and Indigenous Carers Pamper and Information Day on Tuesday, 21 August from 10am to 3.30pm.
The event, to include live entertainment, massages and wellbeing activities, will act as a one-stop-shop for carers, providing all the information they need to know about the many types of services available to assist them in their caring role.
“Navigating the carer support system can sometimes be complex, so by bringing the services directly to the carers we’re trying to simplify the process,” Ms Weijers said.
For carers who may be working and unable to attend, another event will be held on 20 September from 5pm to 6.30pm in Wangaratta.
To register, or for more information, call Sarah Weigers on (03) 5720 2020 before next Friday (10 August).