In 1975 the world’s first Carers Association was established in New South Wales. Six years later, in 1981, carers in the ACT held a public meeting to address concerns about the needs of those caring for aged people.
Soon after, the Carers Group was established under the auspices of the Council of the Ageing ACT. Originally called the Carers’ Support Group, it offered personal counselling and opportunities for carers to meet each other and discuss issues and concerns.
The Carers Group received funding from the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) Home and Community Care (HACC) program in the late 1980s. Due to rapidly increasing support and recognition, the Carers Group was incorporated as the Carers Association of the ACT in 1992, becoming the peak body for carers in the ACT.
The Carers Association of the ACT continued to develop and grow since the early 1990s. In 1993–1994, DoHA gave over $95,000 in funding through the HACC program to help provide counselling and information services and from 1996 funded a carer respite and resource centre for the ACT.
In 2006, the Australian government invested $1.9 billion for mental health programs to improve the national mental health system. This enabled Carers ACT to offer much greater support to carers looking after people with mental illness, psychiatric disability, autism and intellectual disability.
Carers Association of the ACT, which changed its name to Carers ACT in 2002, outgrew its centres of operation in Belconnen and Torrens and in 2010 moved to Holt, in the former Holt primary school.
“…there’s so much more awareness now about who carers are.”
We now operate with a budget of more than $6 million with 23 programs providing support to over 7,000 carers each year, while our membership currently stands at over 5,000. Carer support in the ACT has grown substantially in recent years with programs focused on information and advice, counselling, respite, support groups, and educational and social activities.
Since 2006, Australia began a process of social and health reform, including the disability, ageing and mental health sectors. It is hoped that these reforms will eventually lead to a much-improved system of support for the nation’s 2.6 million carers and their families.
Recent positive developments include the passing of the Carer Recognition Act 2010 (Cth), the endorsement of the ACT Carers Charter (2011) and National Carers Strategy (2011) as well as the framework for a National Disability Insurance Scheme. Much still remains to be done, and Carers ACT is currently working closely with both carers and government to help shape these reforms.