Anyone can be a carer.
In fact, one in nine Australians are.
This week, 15th – 21st October, marks the beginning of Carers Week. An annual campaign to raise awareness of, offer support to and bring to light the challenges faced by the 2.65 million Australians who provide care to family members or friends living with a disability, experiencing mental ill health, or struggling with a chronic illness.
Carers’ work is often unseen, unsung and, not to mention, unpaid.
Australian carers provide 2.2 billion hours of informal care each year with the cost of replacing this care valued at $77.9 billion.
This year’s theme, ‘Millions of Reasons to Care’, aims to recognise and celebrate the outstanding contribution unpaid carers make to friends, family and neighbours — our local community.
Our carers make up a diverse range of ages, cultures, experiences and responsibilities but what they all have in common is their ability to balance their caring responsibilities with other responsibilities like work, study and their physical and mental health.
Uniting Vic.Tas is one of the providers of Carer Gateway, a national program funded by the Australian Government, which offers a diverse range of support services for unpaid carers to improve their own wellbeing.
Watch the full video about Kiara’s story.
Between balancing high school, dancing, piano practice, and spending time with friends, the 14-year-old is also a young carer.
“At the age of four my dad passed away due to a skydiving accident, flipping my world upside down,” she says.
“After this, my mum’s mental health suffered a lot. Her illness is invisible, but she faces lots of challenges.
“She has to be really strong and I have to be strong with her. That’s how I became a carer.”
Kiara’s caring responsibilities range from washing dishes and vacuuming to offering emotional support and simply being there for her mum.
For Kiara, caring for her Mum has only made their relationship stronger. However, her caring responsibilities don’t come without their challenges.
“The hardest thing about being a young carer is time. As for anyone, time is precious and sometimes it can tear a chunk out of my week. I can be tired and pushed to my mental capacity,” she says.
“However, I would do anything to see my mum smile.”
Meeting Kiara and her mother, Elisha, it is undeniable the love they share for one another.
“My message to other young carers out there is despite the daily challenges and obstacles of life, never give up and trust the ones you love,” says Kiara.
A pillar of resilience and tenacity, her life story is one you might one day read about.
“People say I need to write a book about my life,” says Danielle. “We will see, maybe when I get the time.”
Leaving home at just 11-years-old, Danielle has learnt to be self-reliant from a young age. Despite the challenges she has endured, her positivity, humour and passion for life is contagious.
Danielle has been navigating family court for nine years, fighting for the custody of her five children after she escaped a violent 10-year relationship.
She became a carer when her daughter experienced an extremely traumatic event at school, causing her mental health to deteriorate. Danielle also cares for her six-year-old son who lives with autism.
“The support that Uniting gave me and my daughter, I don’t say this light heartedly , but I don’t know how I would have gotten through that first year without them,” she says.
“Uniting was always there. Whether it was to come over in the mornings to try and get my daughter up for school, book psychiatrist appointments or just to sit there with me and let me cry it out.
“They really held my family together in that first year.”
Uniting supported the family to get a therapy dog.
“The dog changed our lives,” says Danielle.
“My daughter left the house for the first time in six months. She suffers from agoraphobia and the day we got the dog she took him for a walk with me. And then the day after went on her own.
“I cried like a baby.”
When asked how Danielle has managed to stay so resilient in the face of extreme challenges, she answered, “by always looking for the positives.
“With everything I’ve been through, I’ve just chosen to learn from it. Take the positives and that’s what made me who I am today.”
A gateway to care.
If you’re looking to improve your wellbeing and quality of life as an unpaid carer, Carer Gateway is here to support you.
For more information visit Carer Gateway.