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National Carers Week celebrates Australia's unsung heroes

National Carers Week kicked off on Monday, running from 11 - 17 October, celebrating the 2.65 million unpaid carers in Australia that provide their hard work and time, taking care of their loved ones.

In Australia, one out of eight people provides unpaid care and support to a family member or friend with a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, or to an older frail person. [Source: iStock]
In Australia, one out of eight people provides unpaid care and support to a family member or friend with a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, or to an older frail person. [Source: iStock]

In Australia, one out of eight people provides unpaid care and support to a family member or friend with a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, terminal illness, alcohol or other substance issue, or to an older frail person.

The theme for this year's National Carers Week is 'Tell us why you care', which aims to showcase the realities of caring and to help build a carer-friendly Australia.

Peak body for carers, Carers Australia, is also asking non-carers to highlight the importance of unpaid carers in their community.

Chief Executive Officer of Carers Australia, Liz Callaghan, says, "National Carers Week is a chance to recognise and celebrate Australia’s unpaid carers for all that they do, and it’s something we here at Carers Australia look forward to every year.

"Throughout 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, carers have experienced a significant increase in stress and caring responsibilities. 

"Research from Carers NSW revealed that many carers, like other members of their communities, experienced reduced employment and income, with some being stood down or losing work, especially young people and women in lower paid, casualised sectors.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has added another level of complexity to the role of carers, often requiring them to isolate with the person they care for. In addition, reduced respite options due to a reduction in services and an increase in digital delivery have made the task of balancing caring, employment and home-schooling harder."

Even before the pandemic, unpaid carers were estimated to be providing 2.2 billion hours of care in 2020, which is over 42 million hours every week.

Carers have also played a big role in assisting with flattening the curve of the COVID-19 infection by taking care of their loved ones at home.

Prime Minister (PM) Scott Morrison launched National Carers Week by thanking unpaid carers for their remarkable contribution to Australia's most vulnerable.

"So many Australians are carers. Men and women, boys and girls, people of all ages. It’s often hard to know who they are because it’s work that goes on behind the scenes," says PM Morrison.

"It can be incredibly tough, especially when you’re juggling other responsibilities like a job or, indeed, school work. This year doubly so, protecting loved ones from a pandemic and dealing with the restrictions of a pandemic yourselves.

"So, I just wanted to say thank you. You’re making an enormous difference. Even if sometimes you may feel that that’s not the case and may doubt, don’t. Your efforts, your sacrifice are an expression of a great love.

"We wouldn’t be the good and decent country we are without our carers, so thank you for everything you do. It’s appreciated so much."

Over the week, carers are encouraged to share their caring experiences on the National Carers Week website. These care stories will be shared on the National Carers Week story wall for all to see.

Ms Callaghan explains, "By publishing authentic accounts of caring in Australia, we will raise awareness of the realities of the caring role and continue to work towards a carer-friendly Australia. 

"It’s also a good opportunity for all carers to engage with their caring community and share common experiences.

"It’s wonderful to see the local community engaging with carers who ordinarily may not have the opportunity to socialise due to their caring responsibilities. We hear a lot of touching stories from carers about why they care for their loved ones, and it goes a long way towards informing our advocacy work throughout the year."

To find out more about National Carers Week, head to their website.

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