Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, today I speak on a topic that we have recently had the opportunity of being briefed about. I am talking about Kin Raising Kids, an organisation which encourages and supports kinship carers, including grandparents raising grandchildren who are the primary carers of diverse families and kin. I thank the Leader's office for arranging this briefing, which I found to be eye-opening indeed.
Kin Raising Kids offers peer support, advocacy, information and referral services too and aims to have every Tasmanian child living in safety within its biological family, and to have an equal opportunity to develop to the best of their ability.
They aspire to establish a kinship care network across Tasmania, represent the collective views of such carers, raise public awareness and develop partnerships with similar organisations and support services related to looking after and raising children.
Of course, we hear the term parent or guardian often, but do we consider what being a guardian means or entails? Until now, I have mostly thought of 'guardian' as meaning a temporary carer such as a close family member or perhaps a foster parent. In reality, often when kids are not in the state care system, their caring arrangement is usually informal with costly and time-consuming court-mandated care arrangements being a disincentive to make alternative care arrangements official.
According to Kin Raising Kids approximately 80 per cent of all kinship carers in Tasmania are informal carers. Moreover, carers tend to often be grandparents raising grandchildren in situations where a child's biological parent is unwilling or unable to look after and raise their child. With the alternative of having a child placed in the state system, of course grandparents are usually the ones who step up to take care of the child.
Often the focus is rightly on the rights and welfare of the child. However, I will take a moment to consider the impact this has on kin carers such as grandparents. Included in the briefing material from Kin Raising Kids was a story from an anonymous grandparent carer to which I would like to refer here. In their words -
Our plans for retirement changed immediately. The long-awaited 'grey nomad' leisurely tour of Australia and other plans were set aside while we struggled with formula, baby food, nappies, daily bathing, walks in the stroller, trips to the park, play dates and stimulating a lively eleven-month-old ... Entering our sixties, we were finding our days filled with activities for the child and either falling asleep in front of the TV or falling into bed exhausted.
The life we had known changed dramatically. Too old to form firm friendships with the parents of other toddlers and finding our social lives very restricted, over the years we sadly watched most of our friendships fade away along with the activities we used to enjoy in their company.
This grandparent couple raising a baby to a teenager tell us they have spent the entirety of their married life, 32 years, raising two children who would otherwise have been in state care and during that time receive no recognition or assistance. Despite this, they also tell us that if they had to do it all again, they absolutely would and that it could never have been any other way.
What this should tell us, however, is the better we take care of and support kinship carers, the better the ultimate outcomes will be for those for whom they care. It is never a happy, feel-good story when a child has to be taken care of by someone other than their biological parents. This is usually something that has resulted from tragedy, with addiction, violence or abuse being additional factors. This makes the job of kinship carers all the more difficult and intimidating whether they be grandparents, siblings, close or distant relatives.
This makes the work of Kin Raising Kids all the more important because they are filling a gap that has so unfairly developed for carers in informal care situations who receive little to no recognition or support whether that be financial, mental or emotional. I again thank the Leader's office for arranging this briefing and also those from Kin Raising Kids who brought to our attention the significant issues at hand and how they are working to create a better system for kinship carers. Kin Raising Kids Tasmania and their affiliate and partner organisations deserve the support and recognition.
I commend the extraordinary work they do.