Commonwealth Financial Planning launches study on support needed for carers in rural and remote areas

19 October 2009: Commonwealth Financial Planning today announced the findings of a major research project into the health, economic and social well-being of carers living in outer regional and remote areas of Australia.

The report was launched as part of Commonwealth Financial Planning’s sponsorship of Carers Australia at the official launch of Carers Week 2009 in Canberra hosted by Her Excellency, the Governor General Ms Quentin Bryce, and is the first to examine the geographic spread and social, health and economic well-being of carers in outer regional and remote areas of Australia. The report, The Tyranny of Distance? Carers in regional and remote areas of Australia, prepared by the Australian Institute of Family Studies shows of the 2.4 million Australians living outside major cities and inner regional areas, 363,000 provide unpaid care for family or friends. Despite providing invaluable services to these communities, many carers based in rural and remote areas of Australia are more likely to experience financial hardship and have difficulty accessing basic services from adequate medical support to transport and telecommunication services.

Commonwealth Financial Planning is proud to support Carers Australia in its efforts to improve the lives of people who provide unpaid care to those with a disability, mental illness or disorder, chronic illness, terminal illness or who are frail. Colonial First State Advice General Manager, Mr Paul Barrett said Commonwealth Financial Planning, the financial planning arm of the Commonwealth Bank, sponsored the research as part of its commitment to addressing Australian community needs. “I am pleased that Commonwealth Financial Planning could fund this important piece of research. We believe the study will significantly raise awareness on the well-being of carers in outer regional and remote areas of Australia and identify actions to improve the access to vital services for these members of the community,” Mr Barrett said. Commonwealth Financial Planning operates one of Australia’s largest and most diverse financial planning networks, with over 700 planners employed by the Commonwealth Bank operating in more than 1000 branches nationally. “There is a clear social and economic benefit to improving the financial position of carers. We can draw on the strength of our planning network to assist carers in all areas of Australia by providing access to advice from basics like budgeting and goal setting to developing plans for achieving ongoing financial independence,” Mr Barrett added.

The findings
The study was conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), an Australian Government statutory agency in the portfolio of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. It conducts research and communicates findings to policy makers, service providers and the broader community about factors that affect family well-being. The research was based on information about carers and non-carers from the 2006 Census of Population and Housing and the 2006 General Social Survey.
The Australian Institute of Family Studies’ Research Fellow, Dr Ben Edwards, said it was the first study in Australia to look at carers in rural and regional Australia, and the first to examine the impact of the drought on carers’ employment.

“People living in rural and regional Australia who regularly care for a family member with a disability, long term illness, or who are frail or aged have long faced multiple challenges, including lack of access to services, higher rates of disability or a long-term health condition and lower rates of employment, and now they are also feeling the effects of the drought. “The study showed that carers are vulnerable to the economic impact of the drought, with carers in drought areas more likely to experience a reduction in full time employment than those employed part time,” Dr Edwards said. Some highlights from the findings include:

  • The geographic spread and demographic profile
    • The largest numbers of carers in inner regional and outer regional areas reside in the most populous states—New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory are the states with the most carers in remote areas.
    • Carers are more likely to be Indigenous in remote and regional Australia— largely a result of the distinctive geographic distribution of the Indigenous population and the high level of caring required for many in that most disadvantaged sector of Australian society.
    • The age structure of the carer population in very remote areas was also much younger than other regions of Australia, with far more carers aged 24 years or less and fewer aged 65 years and over.
  • The challenges
    • Overall, almost one-third (30.4%) of carers reported having problems accessing services, higher than the one-quarter of those without caring responsibilities who reported having difficulties accessing services (25.3%).
    • Carers living in outer regional and remote areas experienced higher rates of disability or a long-term health condition and lower rates of employment than non-carers living in the same areas and carers in major cities.
  • Accessing support in times of crisis
    • Carers in outer regional and remote areas had more sources of personal information and advice available to them than non-carers in these regions.
    • By far the most common source of support to carers was family and friends.
    • However, carers living outside major cities were also more likely to rely on health, legal or financial professionals in times of crisis (17.0% in outer regional and remote areas and 16.0% in inner regional areas) than carers living in major cities (12.6%) or those without caring responsibilities (between 7.6% and 10.4%, depending upon remoteness of the area).

Joan Hughes, Chief Executive Officer of Carers Australia said: “This study demonstrates the need for coordinated strategies to improve carers’ access to vital services in rural and remote communities. Clearly, the health and well-being of carers in these areas is a significant issue and there is an urgent need to ensure that we, as a society, look after these carers. Appropriate education and training to support carers is vital”. “The age group of carers in very remote Australia is another cause for concern. Education is paramount to the lives of all young Australians. Innovative and creative programs will be essential if we are to ensure that young carers in these areas are able to enjoy the same choices and opportunities as all young people across Australia,” Ms Hughes said.
A full copy of the report can be obtained at


Media information:

Noelle Waugh

Media Manager Commonwealth Financial Planning

P: (02) 9303 6412

M: 0415 193 624


Alison Kemmis

Communications Officer

Carers Australia

M: 0417 604 305


Commonwealth Financial Planning

Commonwealth Financial Planning, part of the Colonial First State Advice Business, offers financial advice to customers through more than 700 planners employed by the Commonwealth Bank operating in branches across Australia. Financial planners advise customers on: budgeting and goal setting, building a financial plan, ongoing financial independence and protecting assets. Commonwealth Financial Planning has over 18 years of experience in providing financial advice and investment services.


Carers Australia

Carers Australia works with a network of carers associations in each state and territory to improve the lives of carers. They provide important services like counselling, advice, advocacy, education and training. They also promote recognition of carers to governments, businesses and the wider public.