The stress of caring for disabled family members is the subject of a Western Australian documentary released today as part of National Carers' Week.
Disability Services Minister Eric Ripper launched the documentary at a seminar which included a panel discussion on the risk of personal and family breakdown that carers faced in their everyday lives.
The documentary, Driving with Richard, shows just how much carers' own lives could be restricted by their responsibilities. Even a simple car trip to the shops could pose tremendous practical difficulties.
"The stress involved in caring for people who cannot care for themselves often is not publicly realised, because it usually occurs in the privacy of people's homes," Mr Ripper said.
"The time and energy commitment from parents and other carers in providing support and around-the-clock supervision for family members is enormous but often at the expense of their personal and family relationship.
"Personal and family breakdown takes its toll on the entire community. We all have a responsibility to help shoulder the burden of care so that families with a handicapped member do not become handicapped themselves."
Mr Ripper said an estimated 52,700 Western Australians were considered to be severely handicapped and 40,000 of them were cared for in their own homes.
The State Government's Social Advantage had included specific initiatives to help carers. Funding in this year's budget for the initiatives included $200,000 for a grants scheme through which carers could apply for assistance to help pay for support services.
A further $150,000 was allocated to co-ordinate the services available to people with disabilities and $450,000 would go towards increasing the number of therapists in schools to assist children with disabilities.
Driving with Richard was produced and directed by Andrew Wiseman and funded by the Australian Film Commission, the Western Australian Film Council and Film Victoria.
It focuses on two mothers of children with disabilities and tells the story of a six-year friendship between the two.
"The mothers, Deirdre Croft of Fremantle and Carley Pakullus of Stoneville, show what can be achieved if carers are supported in their caring role," Mr Ripper said.
"Not only have these women provided emotional support for each other over the years, they also have babysitting and respite care support from a wide range of Government and Government-funded community agencies.
"This has enabled them to balance their responsibilities to their children with their own needs."
Mr Ripper said the caring role should not mean a life of self-sacrifice.
"Carers have the same rights and needs to be part of community life," he said.
"Given adequate support from the community, they can lead full and productive lives themselves while meeting their responsibilities to the people who depend on them."
Driving with Richard is one of four films nominated for the 1992 Australian Film Institute Awards for the best television documentary. The awards will be announced on October 16.