National Carers Week


During National Carers week, people are asked to become involved by attending or hosting an event. This can be a morning tea, afternoon tea, a walk or some other activity to raise awareness of the diversity of carers and caring roles, who they are and what they do.

What is a carer? – Well … a carer is anyone who cares (paid or unpaid) for a friend, family member or client who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support.

Today’s blog is about the ‘unpaid carer’.

Am I correct in thinking that carers come about through necessity and not by choice? I read and re-read this assumption several times and think about how I came to be a carer. I guess it was out of necessity, but also it was my choice  to do it out of love for a family member. So whilst it sounds a bit harsh it also rings true! 2013_05_31_elderly_people_holding_hands_large

Words you hear often are that carers tend to neglect their own needs for that of the person being cared for. To a certain extent this is true, but unpaid carers often find it hard to take time out. In the case of one documentary I watched recently, the carers felt that only they could provide the standard of care needed and because the illness was terminal they wanted their daughter to see their faces in her last moments. This type of caring puts a strain on the whole family and in this situation the two older sisters had been totally neglected … is this fair?

There are many reasons carers work providing unpaid care, from financial necessity to social interaction or down to the fact that placements are just not there.  Recently whilst looking for a place for Sharon I found there was not a place anywhere and our nearest offer was Melbourne which is 1000 km away. After having someone in my life for 42 years and her brother’s life for 60 years we could not dream of sending her there to be alone without any family members.

Although caring can and did have many positive and rewarding aspects, there were times when balancing these two roles was challenging.  Caring can have an impact on many facets of your life in that you can become physically as well as emotionally exhausted. This can be because of suffering,  pain or confusion on the face of the loved one. Time and time again you hear stories of emotional suffering of carers in caring for loved ones with dementia.  If you know a carer give them a hug, cup of tea or even just the time of day, not only during National Carers Week but all year round.

A current Honorary Member of CWA of NSW, Mr Jack Heath, is CEO of SANE Australia. Sane Australia offers the following advice and tips:

  • Caring can lead to stress, depression and other mental health issues.
  • Caring can affect your relationship with your partner or other family members.
  • If you are caring in a couple you may no longer be able to have the physical or emotional life you had together, nor enjoy shared activities or plan for a future together.
  • Find local care and carer services near you
  • Connect with other carers online and get support from our online communities
  • Young carers can find it hard to go to school/college/university or keep up with course work.
  • Give them time. Some people might prefer a text message or email rather than talking on the phone or face-to-face. This means they can get back to you when they feel ready. What’s important is that they know you’ll be there when they’re ready to get in touch. Others may prefer to hear a human voice, with a regular phone call instead.
  • Try to be open-minded and non-judgemental. This can be hard with some of the behavioural changes associated with symptoms. For example, if someone starts staying in bed rather than meeting their responsibilities it can be tempting to attribute this to the individual rather than the condition. It is best to focus on how to deal with the symptoms rather than judge the behaviour
  • Remember you are not to blame if things get difficult and try not to take hurtful comments personally. Some mental health conditions may involve increased anger and irritability that can be difficult for the person to control. At the same time, aggression and violence are always unacceptable. Do not hesitate to call on help in these circumstances, even if this involves the police.
  • If you know someone has been unwell, don’t be afraid to ask how they are. They might want to talk about it or they might not. Letting them know they don’t have to avoid the issue can be helpful.
  • Try to avoid clichés. Phrases like ‘Cheer up’, ‘I’m sure it’ll pass’ and ‘It could be worse’ won’t help and can make the person feel more isolated.
  • Don’t just talk about mental health. Keep in mind that having a mental illness is just one part of a person’s experience. People aren’t defined solely by their health problems.
  • Encouraging the person to do things without being unrealistic or demanding. For example, social contact is very important to our wellbeing and so encouraging outings and meetings with others can be helpful. Bear in mind this can sometimes feel daunting for someone affected by mental illness.
  • Consider the person as a whole. Remember that they have the same range of personal, emotional and sexual needs as anyone else. Is their physical health being looked after by a GP? Are there alcohol or drug problems that needs attention?

If you are concerned about your caring role or its impact on you, contact the SANE Help Centre on 1800 18 SANE (7263) for information, guidance, and referral for support.

See what support is available for carers? Click here or go to



Successful Annual Conference of CWA in 1954

Recently I received a package from June Files in Broken Hill.  It looked to me as if it had been lovingly stored away and forgotten about for many years.  Reading through it I recognised some of the names as descendants who are still in the district.  The Barrier Miner was our evening paper and the Barrier Daily Truth was our morning paper – today the BDT remains but the Barrier Miner is ‘long gone’.

Below I have taken excerpts from the Barrier Miner 21 September 1954 –

“Members of the Country Women’s Association from several branches in the Far Western Division gathered at Wilcannia on Saturday for the 24th Annual Conference.  Many decisions of general importance to women were reached.  Domestic matters concerning C.W.A. were also discussed.

Delegates were present from Cobar, Collerreina, Coolabah, Hermidale, Marra Creek, Narromine, Nevertire, Nyngan, Trangie, Warren, Wilcannia, White Cliffs … apologies received from Bourke, Brewarrina and Girilambone.


Photo taken: Sydney 25 October 1949 – Mrs Rawlings, Mrs Snell, Mrs Eddy, Mrs Ryan and Mrs Burford.

The Opening …
“Opening points – The Association is State wide and branches/groups are only part of the machinery said Mrs Noel Thompson Metropolitan Vice President. She said the successful working of the association depends on the co-operation and support of all members.  The State Executive was after all elected by the branches and it was their task to carry out the branches wishes.”

The work of the Association had been formed to promote friendship and happiness among country women and thus make their lot a happy one.

Mrs Thomson asked for expansion of branches and membership.  The voice of the country women was already heard, but could be better heard by expanded membership.

Call to the Nation …
Miss Una Wilson welcomed Younger Set members and asked branches to foster this portion of the movement, for the Younger Set were the members of tomorrow.  They had a duty to the young people and if they did not help them someone else would and this could be the wrong way.

She also mentioned the association’s wish that the hand of friendship be extended to new migrants to the country.  Many things we took for granted were not understood by these people and we could be of help to them to assimilate our way of life by friendship and understanding.

General Work …
Miss Hall asked branches to be particularly careful when asked to attend various bodies as a representative of C.W.A.  This could be a dangerous practice for they may find their name linked where they least desired it.

Miss Hall also requested branches with a Baby Health Centre to keep accurate records of their expenses for it was headquarters wish to obtain.

A report from the secretary stated there were 19 branches with a membership of 1,074.

Motions carried from this conference …

  1. That the Railway department be asked to arrange for ice water on long distance country trains.
  2. That the association request the government to lift the means test of  the old age pension
  3. That the tariff to Keera House be raised to meet rising costs.


The meeting ended with all branches reporting successful years with many just completing new rest rooms or sufficient money to begin building.

My question to you in the year 2016 is … “what has changed”???


Opening of CWA accommodation in Broken Hill. Later all caught the bus to Silverton (ghost town 10 miles from Broken Hill) for a picnic.

Something to say and stories to tell … (if only we had the NBN to say it!)

I’ve been told that this blog really should be used to focus on issues that I have something to say about or to tell a story. For me, neither of these things should be too challenging (!). There is always plenty to say and I’m told I’ve always got a good story.

It is pertinent then, when we are considering “using our voice” to think about the very important theme that we have this week for the CWA of NSW’s Awareness Week around “Connectivity”. You won’t be surprised to know that I have both something to say and stories to tell on this very important issue.

I was pressed this week into really thinking about the human impact that a lack of connectivity in regional, rural and remote communities has. At first I found it hard, as I defaulted to the usual stoic demeanour of many like me that are simply used to “getting on with it” whilst we exist with third-world internet services.  Although, after sitting in my city CWA office and talking about the issues more with media and others throughout the week … it didn’t take me long to fire up.

Just how long are rural areas expected to wait for decent coverage? Really? I’m serious. We were promised the world with the NBN and most of us can’t help think we have been sold a pup. How long must we continue to hold our begging bowls out to government as we ask “please sir, can I have some more”…. more GB that is! The disparity between internet services in the bush and in the city is becoming more and more clear; and it’s not good enough. Readers, how would you react if, like a close community member of mine, you were locked into a $69/month contract for 2 years for a paltry 1 GB whilst on the interim satellite? It’s disgusting and the CWA have had enough.


Connectivity in the bush is so important. I would argue more important than the metro areas where increased investment, for the everyday person, means being able to stream a few more movies. A significant investment in telecommunications infrastructure in the bush means far more than simply streaming Netflix and getting sorted with your online gaming. It means jobs, regional development, better education, better healthcare and increased community resilience. The Better Internet for Rural, Regional and Remote Australia group has been doing great things to highlight this issue. They need to be listened to and their recommendations need to be taken on-board.

I can’t help but be frustrated when I see MP’s standing up in parliament asking for better internet and Wi-Fi coverage on the Central Coast train system, when we have whole towns and whole communities that are missing out completely.

I hope those Central Coast train commuters get their better services, I really do. I don’t envy the long commute that they have to do. Many people in our district have to travel thousands of kilometres just to see a medical specialist. Fine you might say … “that is the cost of living out there”. To a degree this might be true, but often these same people are offered follow up appointments via Skype and online … which they cannot utilise as they simply don’t have the internet to do it. I wonder how the Central Coast commuters might feel about that when they can stream the latest “House of Cards” series to their iPad on their way home.

Apart from the human cost, there is a very real financial cost that occurs every day that we go by without adequate service. The medical appointments I speak about above, can be subsidised by IPTAS, who often have to subsidise many visits instead of one because of the inability for many regions to have their follow up appointments online.

We are constantly hearing from government about how we need to “upskill” and “increase capacity” of those situated in the west. It sounds like a dumb question but can I ask how we actually do that without the internet?

I am sick of hearing the rhetoric about why we only “need” a certain speed to be built. How patronising. Again, these comments marginalise and disenfranchise people that live in the rural areas of the state. Build it and they will come is what I say. People can start to think about doing things that they have never done before.

Against this backdrop, I also see struggles with representation. It is hard to know what comes first, the lack of representation due to poor connectivity … or the ongoing poor connectivity due to lack of rural and remote representation. By not addressing this issue seriously we continue to disenfranchise the communities that need to be empowered the most.

This week, I urge all of you to join with us in making this issue one that is heard about by your local representatives and decisions makers. Get along to a local CWA event, write to your local member, share this blog and share the stories that you will hear the CWA branches from all over the state telling.

CWA of NSW started in 1922 with aims that are still as relevant today and we have become a force to be reckoned with.  Some people speak of CWA with reverence and in a ‘hushed tone’ others refer to us as the Tea and Scone Brigade or Cranky Women’s Association … to me it does not matter as what matters most of all is that the CWA of NSW is still being mentioned and in the news thanks to your efforts.

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