Who we support
A carer is a family member or friend who provides assistance with the tasks of daily living to someone who lives with a disability, a medical condition (including a terminal or chronic illness), a mental illness or is frail and aged.
A carer’s role can include assisting with daily living activities such as housework, transport, health care, shopping, and meals, reading and writing, emotional and mental support, and personal care.
Why we support
Carers ACT’s purpose is to support, connect and empower carers to maintain their caring role and personal wellbeing.
As a trusted partner in care, we aim to enable carers to undertake their role with capacity and capability whilst also enabling carers to participate in everyday activities such as employment, education, and social activities by providing a range of integrated services and supports.
We are the voice for carers in the ACT and work with industry and government to make Canberra a more carer-friendly community.
We are also a proud member of the National Network of Carer Associations, working in partnership to promote awareness of carers and the issues related to the caring role.
"...Carers ACT has been fiercely advocating for carers and their needs."
Carers play a vital role in creating a more inclusive, compassionate and kind community.
As the Minister responsible for Carers, I continue to be in awe of carers’ resilience and skills. They care for people in different and creative ways so more people are safe and have their wellbeing needs supported. Carers have been instrumental in the ACT’s social and health response to the COVID-19 pandemic and have stepped up to ensure Canberrans most in need have access to support.
In this midst of this challenging time, Carers ACT has been fiercely advocating for carers and their needs. I thank Carers ACT for their ongoing leadership in service delivery, engagement with government and advocacy to raise public awareness of carers’ needs and issues. Chief Executive Officer Lisa Kelly has remained passionate and committed to advocating for carers throughout the pandemic. Her dedication is a testament to the support carers provide for our communities.
I want to thank Carers ACT for their work over the past year to progress the ACT Carers Strategy and assist in the development of the Carers Recognition Bill. I look forward to their continued efforts to co-design carers policy and initiatives in the ACT over the coming years, and I will continue to work for improved support to carers in our community. They are doing a fantastic job supporting our carers and advocating for them to the ACT Government.
Minister for Justice Health
Minister for Mental Health
Minister for Disability
Assistant Minister for Seniors, Veterans, Families and Community Services
Greens MLA for Murrumbidgee
"...lived our purpose of supporting, connecting, and empowering carers to maintain their role and wellbeing and we saw our vision of being a trusted partner in care..."
The 2021 Financial Year can be summarized as a year of adaptation and change.
Having come through the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020, the year started with much uncertainty and trepidation. As a community we adjusted to a world changed by the pandemic and little did we know that we were far from over the impact and spread of COVID. Carers continued to carry the concern and threat of COVID on the health and wellbeing of their family and friends. For many carers, COVID exacerbated their isolation, drained their finances, increased their worry and anxiety, and impacted their general health. For many carers, COVID did not end when the lockdowns and restrictions within the ACT during 2020 were relaxed. I am proud of the advocacy Carers ACT has undertaken over the year to raise concerns about the health and wellbeing of carers, to obtain funding to support carers to commence their recovery from COVID, and to call on the community to acknowledge the role carers played in COVID by protecting and caring for those who were most vulnerable. In 2021 Carers ACT lived our purpose of supporting, connecting, and empowering carers to maintain their role and wellbeing and we saw our vision of being a trusted partner in care, in action.
The year was not only about COVID, pandemics and recovery (or as it turns out, waiting for the next wave). This year also saw the conclusion of the Royal Commission into Aged Care, and confirmation of the stories and experiences of many aged carers of how shocking, disgraceful, and lacking our system of aged care is. The Commission Report highlighted the valuable role carers play in supporting people who are frail aged, whilst condemning some of the practices of the organisations and systems designed to provide support. Carers ACT welcomes the report and looks forward to seeing change and a revolution in the way in which we, as a community, value and support people who are aged and the family members and friends who care for them. We embrace the challenges that these changes present to the organisation as a provider of in-home aged and carer supports and look forward to shaping our programs to continue to provide exemplary care. I am proud of the Aged Care supports that we provide and am touched by the positive impact that they make in the lives of carers and aged people.
We continued to expand our service offerings to support the growing number of carers of frail aged people this year. We opened our second respite cottage, Naragana-Wali, in Isaacs. The name is a traditional Ngunnawal term meaning “Alive, Wellbeing and Coming Together” which aptly describes the feel and purpose of the cottage. We secured funding to establish a range of social support groups for people who are aged from culturally diverse backgrounds. As a result, we are happy to welcome and support our Indian, Sri Lankan and Muslim groups to meet, connect and support each other. We look forward to adding more groups in the future.
In partnership with Palliative Care ACT, we helped to realise their vision of a respite home for people requiring palliative care and their carers. In January we opened Leo’s Place as a space of rest and tranquility that provides non-clinical respite care to people with life limiting illness. The service has been a success and having now completed its establishment period we will continue to support its continued achievements whilst handing the operations over to Palliative Care ACT. It was a privilege to be involved in establishing this much needed service in the ACT.
Carers ACT in partnership with Shaw Building Group, was proud to sponsor a NAIDOC Award this year. It was tremendously rewarding to be able to recognise the value and worth that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders contribute to our community and culture. Shaw Building Group sponsored the Aboriginal Apprentice of the Year and proudly presented the award to a young woman (making it even more special). Together, Carers ACT and Shaw Building Group, see the sponsorship of the NAIDOC awards as a way of demonstrating reconciliation and our support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT. We look forward to continuing this as a new tradition.
In April 2020 amongst the first wave of the COVID pandemic we commenced service delivery under the new Carer Gateway service model. Over the past 12 months we have continued to work to implement the new programs under the Carer Gateway. We are really pleased to start seeing some longer-term positive impacts for carers who have been supported under this program and we will continue to work to refine the service model to ensure that the needs of carers are central to the program.
Our advocacy services remain strong as we continue to push for carers voices to be central to the work of government, business, and community. We proudly stood beside Suzanne Orr MLA as she drafted and tabled the first ACT Carers Recognition Act. This piece of legislation finally cements the recognition and acknowledgement of carers in law and outlines the principles by which services, programs and government bodies should treat carers. This is a game changer for carers in the ACT as it provides a guarantee that they will be seen and heard in government and service policy and program development. It is a significant step towards carers being seen and valued as equal partners in care.
This year we launched the new Mental Health Carer Navigation Website. As the mental health sector becomes more and more complex, carers are often left confused, frustrated, and despondent about helping the person they care for access and engage in the plethora of services and supports available. Traditionally we have provided support for this through a hard copy navigation guide which, while well received, is often out of date even before the print run is complete. This year we have worked hard to put the information online in a way that is engaging and user friendly. The new website aims to build confidence and competency in carers to navigate the system and obtain the supports they need for the person they care for.
In 2022 we look forward to celebrating our 30th Anniversary. This is a significant milestone as it marks the work of the numerous people who have worked to keep carers supported and recognised over the years. Carers ACT started from a group of carers connecting with each other more than 30 years ago. From there we have become the leading provider of carer supports in the ACT and continue to hold carers central to everything we do. We are hoping to conduct several anniversary activities during the year to mark the occasion.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Carers ACT Board Members for their time, guidance, and wisdom. To the staff of Carers ACT, I thank you for your passion, commitment, dedication, and the empathetic way you support and fight for carers every day. To the many carers I have spoken to in the past 12 months, thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to share part of your journey, I am humbled and privileged to have heard your story, shared your pain and joy, witnessed your dedication, and stood beside you in your fight. Thank you for all that you do in your family and the community, and for showing me every day what love looks like.
Chief Executive Officer
Our Strategic Imperatives
Carers ACT is a trusted partner in caring
- Partner with carers to be a trusted source of information and connection
- Drive partnerships with key influencers that build awareness and recognition of carers
- Collaborate with others in the community to connect carers to information, support and services.
- Collaborate with the National Network and Carers Australia to form a trusted partner for carers and government nationally.
Responsible Decision Maker
- Implement business processes and governance that allows the organisation to respond effectively and efficiently to the changing environment.
- Ensure the organisation remains viable and capable of delivering services of value to carers.
- Maintain accreditation and identity as a quality service provider.
- Actively pursue opportunities that enables our purpose and mission
- Use our expertise and sphere of influence to raise awareness, affect policy and enhance services for carers.
- Ensure the voices of carers are heard in the formation of policy.
- Influence the implementation of the ACT Carers Strategy.
- Partner with carers to influence the services and systems they interact with and that impact the caring role
- Collaborate to ensure that carers are able to access quality services in the community that respond to and meet their needs.
- Provide services that have a positive impact on carers and enables them to continue in their caring role.
- Assist carers to navigate through service systems to ensure they can access the services and supports that are available to them and the person they care for.
2020-2021 Key Strategic Achievements
- Collaborated with Palliative Care ACT to open the first non-clinical respite care cottage specifically for people with life limiting illness
- Supported Shaw Building Group to generate their highest donation to Carers ACT thus far
- Partnered with Office for Disability, Community Connections, Community Options and AFI to implement a COVID Communication Strategy for people with disability and carers
- We partnered with Capital Health Network to update the ACT Carer Needs Assessment
- First ACT Carer Recognition Act was tabled at the Legislative Assembly to pass a law that recognises and acknowledges the contribution of carers.
- Completed all of the actions allocated to Carers ACT under the ACT Carers Strategy
- Developed a Mental Health Recovery Model incorporating the carer as a key element to recovery
- Participated in the review of the Out of Home Care Strategy
- We ensured a carer voice and perspective in decision making relating to COVID
- Secured additional aged care funding that enabled us to develop social support groups for people who are frail aged from diverse cultural backgrounds.
- Implemented a Health Pathway Program to facilitate referrals to Carers ACT from GPs
- Provided more than 150 young carers with COVID recovery grants
- Opened our second respite cottage for people who are frail aged
- Piloted a program that provided support to mature aged carers to connect to the NDIS
- Delivered a suite of wellbeing programs to more than 150 carers
Responsible Decision Maker
- Implemented an Accountability Framework to help the organisation achieve excellence
- Achieved an overall staff satisfaction rating of 91% with an overall satisfaction with the organisation of 90% and a satisfaction level of 93% for the way the organisation responded to the COVID outbreak.
- Passed accreditation under the NDIS Standards, QIC Health and Community Services Standards, Aged Care Standards and ACT Secure Local Jobs framework.
- Created a new specialised client record management system
Service delivery snapshot
carers were able to share and connect with other carers in more than 210 educational, social and wellbeing group activities.
carers learned strategies to maintain their wellbeing and build resilience through 76 wellbeing sessions.
carers enhanced their wellbeing through our social respite program activities such as craft groups, lunches, and art groups.
carers were able to have a break from their caring role, enhance their wellbeing and make social connections by attending 4 Carer Wellbeing retreats.
carers were able to take a break with the aged person they care for during 6 ACT Walking the Journey Together Retreats.
carers were able to take a break with the aged person they care for during 4 Illawarra Walking the Journey Together Retreats.
carers were supported through 689 counselling sessions and 10 therapeutic group sessions.
carers attended 73 educational workshops which equipped them with vital skills and knowledge, boosted their confidence, and strengthened their capacity to care.
carers in the ACT were provided carer support and planning, respite care, information, and links to local services.
carers of people with mental health conditions were provided relevant information through our Mental Health Carers Voice E-Bulletin.
carers were able to have a vital break from caring through Deakin Cottage.
carers attended weekly social support groups for our aged Indian and Sri-Lankan clients and their carers.
carers and foster and kinship carers were supported to have their rights as carers recognised and to learn self-advocacy skills in the process.
Young Carers were supported to balance school, home and caring duties through our Carer Gateway services.
Young Carers were provided Covid-19 support packages specifically tailored to help them cope with the impact of the pandemic.
carers were supported to apply for ACT Government Respite Effect and Recovery grants.
adults living with disability attended our Hub program which enabled them to maintain social connection and develop essential life skills.
Our services were impacted by COVID-19 with many of our group activities moving to online delivery. Other services, such as Cottage Respite, temporarily ceased service provision and then returned to operating on reduced numbers.
Results from the monthly Carers ACT Carers Satisfaction Surveys from July 2020-June 2021 show:
of carers felt heard, supported, and respected by Carers ACT.
of carers reported that the support Carers ACT provided helped them to manage their role as a carer.
of carers felt satisfied with the services they had received from Carers ACT.
of carers felt able to deal with issues that they sought help for from Carers ACT.
Carers ACT and their wonderful staff have supported me, added value to my everyday life, offered opportunities and been a light in the dark during harder times. I value this organisation and the beautiful people immensely.
The support and advice I’ve received has been very helpful, but more than that I have made friends who have helped me smile through difficult times.
The services that I received from Carers ACT have made a huge difference to my life. Counselling, support group, information courses and the yoga group have improved my mental health and physical ability to cope with my situation.
When I required emotional support, Carers Act provided me with the assistance I needed to continue to look after my husband and have done so for the last 20 years. I am eternally grateful for the support and care they provide to me to help me continue in my role as my husband's carer.
I felt valued and heard. I know I can reach out and have someone to talk to without feeling like I need to fill someone else's bucket. It has been a while since someone understood how hard it can be. Having someone to talk to gave me a boost and left me feeling I was doing a good job as a carer.
A very useful, helpful and much needed service for carers. It gives us an outlet to recharge and be appreciated for doing a job that is often overwhelming, under-appreciated and misunderstood.
These Carer Journeys show how we support our clients through various stages of their caring experience. We recognise that every carer’s experience is unique and constantly endeavour to respond to the individual needs of our clients and support them through various stages of their caring journey.
Follow Anna's journey
Anna is a 16-year-old carer who joined the Young Carer Group at school after becoming a young carer for her father with a mental health condition.
Anna was supported by a Young Carer worker to develop a care plan to ensure that she received the supports needed to look after her dad, succeed at school and spend time with her friends.
As part of the care plan Anna accessed cooking lessons with a friend so she could learn to prepare nutritious meals while sharing memories with her friend.
Anna had the opportunity to build friendships and skills through participating in the Young Carers programs and workshops, which were funded through our sponsorship with Shaw Building Group and their supporters. They provided Anna with a chance to have fun and to feel less isolated by meeting other young carers in our support groups.
Follow Xi's journey
Through conversations with his care planner Xi developed a wellbeing plan that enables him to manage the stress of balancing all the roles he has in his life. The plan helps Xi to focus his limited time in the areas of his life that will build his wellbeing. Following the plan helps Xi to feel in control and enables him to take some time out to focus on him.
With Xi’s daughter attending the Hub Day Program and his newfound confidence in applying for jobs, Xi has now secured employment and is managing to juggle all of his roles with renewed hope for the future.
Follow Amara's journey
Amara is a 75-year-old carer of her spouse who has Dementia. Amara was referred to Carers ACT following her spouse having been admitted to hospital.
Amara’s husband was assessed as requiring additional support to remain at home. Amara found it more difficult to leave her husband whilst she went to the shops or to the hairdressers. Amara had given up completely on having her hair done as this meant she was away from the house for too long. Through our flexible respite program we provided a support worker to stay at home with her husband so Amara could have her hair cut and coloured.
When Amara needed a rest and some time to focus on her health and wellbeing, we supported her by providing her husband with a week’s respite in our cottage program. During the week her husband was looked after and enjoyed gardening, cooking and chasing the chooks. Amara benefited from the break so much that her husband now has a week’s respite every 3 months.
As her husband’s care needs increased, he was provided with a Home Care Package to purchase the supports he needs. Carers ACT worked with Amara and her husband to develop a care plan to meet their needs and through the Home Care Package administration program has purchased the supports to enable Amara to continue to care for her husband in their home.
ACT Carers Strategy 2018-2028 Progress Report
Carers ACT continues to work in partnership with the ACT Government, carers, and the community sector to develop the ACT Carers Strategy 2018-2028 - a framework to support and recognise the work of carers and make Canberra more carer-friendly.
A Three-Year Action Plan was launched in October 2018, which outlined 25 actions that will deliver on the vision, outcomes and priorities established in the Strategy. These actions fall broadly under five themes: services and supports for carers; recognition and awareness; inclusion; support for young carers; and workforce and skills recognition.
Year 2020-21 saw the completion of the third year of the first action plan. Building on the work we have already undertaken and the services and programs we provide, we proudly share the ways in which Carers ACT has continued to contribute to the implementation of several actions in the ACT Carers Strategy:
Deliver programs and activities to help carers, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) carers, navigate available services and supports, such as mentoring for new carers.
Carers ACT developed the following programs to enable caring communities to navigate and access services and supports to maintain their health and wellbeing in accessible and culturally safe environments:
- Carers ACT received funding through the Commonwealth Home Support Program to develop and deliver CALD-specific social support groups for people who are frail aged and their carers. Groups have been established for people from Sri Lankan and Indian backgrounds, with more 30 people attending weekly.
- Carers ACT runs both the Ngullaway Art Group for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers and a retreat for Mental Health Carers, which provide respite and assist carers to access and navigate services.
Define respite care and promote access to suitable respite care.
- Carers ACT established a partnership with Palliative Care ACT to implement a respite care cottage for people receiving palliative care. This new facility can support people requiring overnight care, enabling carers to have a break from their caring role.
- Carers ACT secured a second facility to provide cottage respite care for people who are frail aged. The second of its kind in Canberra, the cottage can support 4 people who are frail aged for overnight respite per night and can provide day respite for up to 12 people. This provides carers with a short break and opportunities to engage in other activities. These facilities allow carers to access suitable respite carer, helping them maintain and prioritise their health and wellbeing.
- Carers ACT promoted access to respite care during the COVID-19 health emergency, by sponsoring the Winter Wonderland Community Activity Packs. This initiative provided respite to carers during a challenging period and encouraged engagement with fun activities to support mental wellbeing. They included activities and resources for children, Know Your Neighbour cards, a Carers ACT Information Sheet, and telehealth resources. The Winter Wonderland packs were distributed in several neighbourhoods and were available at local shopping centres, ACT libraries and community organisations.
- Carers ACT contributed to the co-design process established by ACT Health Directorate for the implementation of two Safe Haven Cafes for people with mental health conditions. These will provide a safe space for mental health consumers, providing carers with reassurance so they can take small breaks from their caring role.
Support carers to advocate for themselves and the people they care for.
- Carers ACT supported carers to advocate for themselves through staff training to build carers’ capacity and capability to self-advocate; education programs to inform and empower carers; and online training and tools.
- Carers ACT has developed the Carer Navigator, a website for mental health carers. This will assist carers to navigate their way in the mental health system, better understand the service system, be aware of their rights, and access tips to support advocacy.
Promote carers in the ACT during National Carers Week.
Carers ACT coordinated Carers Week activities to increase awareness and recognition of carers, support carers to advocate for themselves and celebrate the contribution they make to our community. These activities raised the ACT community’s awareness of carers, and recognise carers in a formal, intentional, and consistent way.
- Carers Week flags on Commonwealth and Kings Ave bridges
- Radio interviews with Carers ACT, carers, and the people they care for
- Carers attending the Carers Australia Afternoon Tea with the Governor General
- Annual cocktail party
Deliver an annual event to celebrate the role and contribution of carers.
Carers ACT organised a cocktail party in February 2021 with 100 carers, to recognise and celebrate the contribution carers make to the community.
Collaborate to link existing programs to provide tailored support to meet the education and training needs of young carers.
- Carers ACT, through a donation from Shaw Building Group, provided young carers with scholarships to support their engagement in education and training.
- Carers ACT continued to resource young carer support groups in 5 secondary schools in the ACT and provided support and information to teachers and pastoral care staff. This financial assistance supports the operation of young carer support groups, ensuring an ongoing connection to community.
Advocate for the provision of mental health and wellbeing support to young carers.
- Carers ACT, in collaboration with CYCLOPS, advocated for and provided mental health and wellbeing supports to young carers by developing and delivering a new young carer support group (carers aged 15-18 years) that focuses on wellbeing through a fun and social space. The support group creates a space for 15 young carers to connect and have a break from their caring responsibilities by engaging socially with others.
- Carers ACT, in collaboration with CYCLOPS, conducted a young carers camp during Youth Week 2020, with 12 young carers participating in the activity.
Employ engagement approaches that enable participation by carers, including in policy development.
- Carers ACT is represented on the Oversight Group: COVID-19 Plans for People with Disability (the Oversight Group) and attends monthly meetings to contribute to the ACT Government’s pandemic response and works closely with CSD’s Office for Disability. Carers ACT also participates in relevant out-of-session meetings related to the Oversight Group, such as a recent discussion about ACT Health website information related to carers and the issue of quarantine.
- Mental Health Carers Voice, through Carers ACT, continues to employ a range of engagement activities to ensure that the voices of people with lived experience as a mental health carer are included in policy and service development.
- Carers ACT supports carers to sit on a range of committees and forums to ensure the voice of carers is included in policy development. Carers ACT supplements this with staff participating in committees to represent the interests of carers.
- Carers ACT conducted a range of consultations, surveys, focus groups and forums to engage carers in a range of policy development discussions across government.
When you are caring for someone, the focus is constantly on them, not you. Caring is a tough gig, it is great attending activities at Carers ACT, as the focus is on you and you feel that you matter too. The Carers ACT staff are always friendly and supportive.
Results from the Carers ACT Employee Satisfaction & Engagement Survey Report, conducted by Your Say on Nov 2020, show:
of staff say Carers ACT has a good culture and provides an encouraging and inclusive workplace
of staff say they are treated fairly and with respect, and feel supported by management
of staff feel they have a good balance between their work and personal lives
of staff say they derive personal satisfaction from their work
of staff feel their work is valued and recognised
of staff say they were well supported while working through COVID-19
Our partners & supporters
Shaw Building Group
Carers ACT would like to thank Shaw Building Group for its continued support for the past 16 years. Through their annual Bowls Day, Shaw Building Group raised almost $124,000 for carers, the highest amount of donations throughout the history of our partnership. This generous support enabled us to provide respite services, retreats, tuition assistance, scholarships, and essential equipment to those who need it most. We greatly value our longstanding relationship with Shaw Building Group and thank them for their ongoing support.
Carers ACT would like to express our gratitude for the financial and volunteer support from numerous individuals and companies throughout the year, whose generosity has made a huge impact in the daily lives of carers and the individuals that they care for. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank the carers who gave their time to share their stories and promote carers’ needs in the media, government, forums, and committees which have helped shape policy and bring awareness to the valuable contribution that carers make to our community.
Carers ACT would like to acknowledge and thank the following organisations for their continued support and funding:
- Australian Government Department of Social Services
- Australian Government Department of Health
- ACT Government Health Directorate
- ACT Government Community Services Directorate