“Our purpose is represent, raise and monitor issues affecting unpaid family Carers through the representative participation of Carers as candidates in Federal and State parliaments. The Carers Alliance will represent the rights of unpaid Carers of people with disabilities, mental illness, chronic illness or issues of frail age who need assistance at differing times in their lives.” - from the Carers Alliance website.
The Carers Alliance has recently been registered as a political party and is in the process of putting together it’s national senate team for the upcoming federal election.
I have had the privilege of meeting their Queensland lead senate candidate, Felicity Maddison at the recent picket against the Queensland Adult Guardian.
Like all the Carers Alliance candidates, Felicity is herself a carer, looking after a family member with high support needs.
The Alliance states its task as follows…….
“We will be the watchdogs for the Australian people, ensuring the issues that affect families have political representation and caring families are not missed in the process”.
As I see it, the Carers Alliance is essentially an exercise in visibility. On so many fronts the needs of disabled, frail, the elderly and their carers are neglected and misrepresented by politicians and public servants.
Federal and State governments appear to dismiss the urgency and crisis that exists in so many Australian families who survive (and sometimes they don’t) without adequate or appropriate support services.
Disability is still a hidden issue in Australia even though it effects us all at some stage.
Issues of funding for disability support agencies as well as the financial security of carer’s including pension, taxation and superannuation justice, are not amongst the nation’s political debate and rarely in any debate at all, except within the families at the front-line of these issues.
Thousands of families suffer terribly in isolation but their suffering has not yet been acknowledged as a significant political issues.
News of the Carers Alliance registration as a party and its senate campaign has been widely publicised amongst disability, aged and carer’s networks around Australia. This network may well generate a significant vote for the new party.
Although the single issue of disability and carer support is amongst many important issues in the election, and it hasn’t the sex appeal or sensational profile that some other issues do, those families who suffer because of inadequate and inappropriate services will no doubt have the issues on their minds on election day, as they do every other day of their life.
Family first won a Victorian senate seat in the last federal election despite being a new minority party. The weird and wonderful process of senate preference distribution could also see the Carers Alliance fluke a seat somewhere. Unlike Family first which campaigns on vague and ideological notions of family, the Carers Alliance is campaigning on real, concrete issues that hundreds of thousands of real families experience.
In the probable event that the Carers Alliance does not win a seat, their preferences will be crucial in determining who actually does win in some states. In this sense they cannot fail in their goal of raising the profile of disability and carer’s issues.
They are now a force to be reckoned with, whoever forms a government after the election.