With the healthcare debate relentlessly focused on Medicare, hospitals and doctors, it’s easy to forget that most sick, disabled and elderly people spend much if not all of their time at home. There, they are cared for by family and friends, many of whom are untrained and sometimes in poor health themselves. We rely heavily on these informal carers; in their absence, the healthcare, mental health, disability and aged-care sectors would be even more stretched than they are, and many people would lose the comfort and dignity of living (and dying) in their own homes.

In 2015, an estimated one in eight Australians, or 2.86 million people, were providing informal care to people with chronic physical or mental conditions, terminal illnesses, disabilities, or alcohol or other drug issues, or to frail aged family members or friends. Of these, 825,000 were primary carers — people who provide a majority of the recipient’s care. Most informal carers were female, a surprising number were young (306,000 aged under twenty-five), and around 670,000 were aged sixty-five and over.

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