Launch of Carers New Zealand and the New Zealand Carers Alliance, 'We Care!' social awareness campaign Aotea Centre, Auckland
Mon 23 May 2011m 1.30pm Speech
If you were to explain the concept of 'care' to someone who had English as a second language, it would no doubt create confusion.
It could imply the practice of care as a noun - such as healthcare, or childcare.
It might denote that sense of responsibility associated with the duty of care - like a child in the care of the state; or in your care.
Or it might be care as in the verb to care, to look after, to be concerned about someone's wellbeing.
Today, at this launch of the We Care social awareness campaign, we embrace all of these meanings as we celebrate the capacity to care that all of us are able to give and all of us are entitled to receive.
I am so pleased to be part of this very special event which pays tribute to the selfless hard work and relentless dedication that is associated with the caring role.
Some of you in this room may be gardeners. For those who are not, let me share with you a little secret.
There is no such thing as a green thumb.
There are gardeners who care - whose gardens reflect the quality of care they are exposed to. That care might extend to some pretty unorthodox approaches - gardening under moonlight; with mood music; with teabags or potato peelings as fertiliser.but whatever it is, the quality of care is immediately observable by the vibrancy and the strength of the plants.
Today we are talking about a different garden - the garden of humanity.
Our human garden is full of diversity. As everyone here can attest to, carers come from all walks of life.
Some of you might be caring for a friend or family member who is elderly, ill, disabled or has a mental illness.
You might have been caring for someone for a short time or you may have been caring for someone for many years.
You may have become a carer suddenly, or your role may have increased over time as the needs of your loved one have become greater.
And the caring role itself is as varied as it is the same.
Caring can range from helping someone with basic everyday tasks such as shopping or cleaning, to around the clock commitment.
And of course life doesn't stop to allow you to take a break and immerse yourself in caring for another. Carers are often juggling your caring responsibilities with other work and family commitments.
In the last fortnight, I have had the most deeply affecting personal experience of caring, as collectively, as a whanau, we helped to support my brother following a sudden heart attack and cardiac arrest.
As we sat with him in ICU, I was reminded of the power of prayer; the miracle of faith, and the potential that optimism and positive thinking can bring.
It made me think about those words from Abraham Lincoln: "I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go." What carers do, is to help us rise again, to be restored in our faith, to hold out hope for another day.
But of course, caring is rarely a temporary activity.
Caring requires long hours of commitment, hard work and sacrifices that may be made without even being noticed - and you all know that.
The role of caring can test even the most compassionate of us - it can be exhausting, frustrating, agonising and bring the most intense set of emotions to the fore.
The "We Care!" social awareness campaign is about giving carers the recognition that you need and deserve. It is about making people across New Zealand more aware about the issues you face everyday.
Today is an important day to acknowledge the more than 420,000 New Zealanders who every day care for family and friends, at what has been estimated as accruing an annual economic cost of more than seven billion dollars.
Your work is integral to the fabric of our communities and underpins family life in this nation.
From whānau, friends and neighbours, to co-workers, employers and decision-makers - today is an opportunity to bring greater awareness to your roles, so that you can be better supported and we can work together as a society, to keep supporting those who are vulnerable.
I am also thrilled to bring with me today, a very special message from the Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key.
He sent me a message to read out, and it said:
Carers play a vital role by supporting people in their daily lives and helping them to stay connected to their family and community. It is very important that the rest of New Zealand - and indeed all of my parliamentary colleagues understand and appreciate the work that you do everyday.
I want to thank you for everything you do, that makes this country the wonderful caring place it is.
I absolutely agree with the Prime Minister and I want to acknowledge the fantastic work that Carers New Zealand and the New Zealand Carers Alliance carry out to advance the interests of carers and their families.
I am also pleased today to be able to launch an updated version of "A Guide for Carers: He Aratohu ma nga Kaitiaki", on support and services available to you in your caring role.
A range of government agencies provide services and support for carers and the person they care for. However it can be difficult to navigate the system to find out what help is available or even where to find help.
The original guide was a single, practical and accessible resource about all government support available to carers. It was widely distributed and I received very positive feedback on it.
However, like every budding gardener, I think we always knew we could improve upon this first effort.
So over 370 people took time out from their busy lives to respond to our online survey. We also gathered some feedback from non-government organisations.
Their feedback has highlighted the sort of information that carers most need - namely financial help; help at home; respite care; information on needs assessment; transport and travel, and what your rights are.
Carers New Zealand, the Ministry of Social Development and other government agencies have worked together to update the guide so that it continues to meet your needs.
I will be really interested to hear how you find it, and I hope it provides a level of support to help every carer in the vital work you do and face everyday.
Finally, I want to acknowledge your initiative in instigating the "We Care!" campaign to share your stories.
I am committed to working with Carers NZ, the NZ Carers Alliance, and whānau to progress actions under the NZ Carers' Strategy, so that carers are well supported to carry out their caring roles, and that they can provide care in a sustainable manner.
We want to make sure that you are valued and well supported.
Today is a fantastic opportunity to take time to recognise and celebrate the important role you play as carers. I am proud to stand here, on behalf of Government, and to mihi to you all for the incredible personal sacrifice and the huge generosity of spirit each of you demonstrates in supporting those who are most vulnerable.
Thank you for caring; for supporting others; for keeping life flowing. Our garden is all the more beautiful; all the more resilient; and all the more dynamic because of you.
Tena tatou katoa.
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