WALK A MILE IN MY SHOES - A National Day of Action by Unpaid Family Carers held on Tuesday 13th September 2005 –  cont

Many people who interacted on the post broadcast forum were not family carers and they expressed their dismay/disgust at the way unpaid family carers are treated by governments generally. There were 925 postings to the forum and many e-mail opinions in subsequent mailings. The ABC Four Corners Program was still receiving calls regarding “The Hidden Army” for weeks and weeks. 

This call for a National Day of Action comes from the ‘grass roots’ - unpaid family carers who are angry at their circumstances and angry that their voice is not being heard or their concerns heeded. Consequently, unpaid family carers from Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and South Australia collaborated to get the ball rolling on a National Day of Action. Carer solidarity, strength of numbers, vocality and visibility are the aims asked of participants of the action day.

The central focus of action was to take place in Canberra. Based on advice and careful research, that included checking the sitting dates for both houses of the Federal Parliament, Tuesday September 13 2005 was chosen for the day for action. Family carers and their supporters gathered on the lawns directly behind Old Parliament House from 10am. Speakers addressed the rally and all Federal politicians were issued with an invitation to listen to, meet and speak with carers at this rally.

Many Federal politicians were presented with the symbol for this rally – a pair of old, worn out shoes – and asked to “walk a mile in my shoes” by carers. Many family carers who made their way to Canberra set up appointments with their local Federal representatives before or after the rally on the Parliamentary lawns in order to personalize the issues faced by family carers. Family carers who could not make it to Canberra, due to costs, distance or the logistical nightmare that carers face in organising substitute supports for family members, were encouraged to take similar action at their State/ Territory Parliament House – on the same day at the same time.

These rallies took place in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane and in several regional centres across the nation. Family carers from every State and Territory who want change, harnessed and channeled anger, enthusiasm goodwill and lots of community support to  ensure they  had both-Their Day & Their Say on Walk a Mile in My Shoes Day. Carers asked the Federal Government:

1. To take immediate action to stop age discrimination in the provision of and choice in cared accommodation, by taking full responsibility for all Australians with dependant disabilities.  

2. To act to remove discrimination in access to facility-based respite care and in-home support services throughout the nation.  

3. To Implement a Parliamentary Enquiry and Review of Funding Policies and Delivery Systems for Cared Accommodation and Family Support Services for all persons with dependent disabilities.   

4. For urgent strategies to address years long disability waiting lists with particular emphasis on frail and aged parent carers. 

5. For a Parliamentary Enquiry and Review of Funding Policies and Delivery Systems for Mental Health Services so that all Australians with Mental Illness have access to adequate Mental Health Care and Rehabilitation Services, during and following a crisis, with adequate follow through services, throughout the nation.  

6. To ensure that People with Mental Illness have access to adequate housing and support .

As a result of the Walk a Mile In my shoes rally, carers agreed unanimously to form the National Carers Coalition with the view to keeping the lines of communication open and to continue the networking started as a result of the ‘Hidden Army’ 4 Corners Story. 

Felicity Maddison from Queensland, Nell Brown from New South Wales and Jean Tops  from Victoria Volunteered to act as Liaison  Carers to keep the issues before governments and to link carers across the nation. 

It is obviously clear in 2010 that nothing much has changed in the last five years for Carers.

The federal parliament held the Caring for Carers Inquiry with a host of Recommendations and a recognition that “the burden of care was unfairly placed upon family carers” and the Inquiry promised significant changes in Carer Support , but little progress is being made. 

Carers greeted the news that the Federal government would introduce Carer Recognition Legislation with high hopes that were dashed when the Text revealed there would be no Rights or Entitlements and that this Legislation specifically states that it has no ‘monetary value’. 

The Bill is currently in parliament for its second reading debate. This clearly gives politicians of all persuasions the opportunity to make amendments to ensure that the Legislation mirrors that which has been law in England for years; the Right to an Assessment of Need and the Right to Services to meet agreed need.   

We acknowledge the continued support of the ABC, Four Corners Program that has featured a number of follow-up stories to keep the issues of Caring without adequate support before the public of our Nation.