October 10 – 16 is National Carers Week, a time to recognise and celebrate the 2.65 million Australians who provide care and support to a family member or friend.

VMCH’s Carer Support program provides a wide range of support services, so carers can take a break and enjoy some time for themselves.

Sonya Smart, VMCH CEO said while normally this happens through face-to-face events and activities, the last two years have meant pivoting to an online format.

‘We have been hosting watercolour art classes, wardrobe organisation tips and tricks, along with educational resources such as NDIS Q&A sessions – all online.

‘This has been a huge challenge, but still a very successful way of keeping our carers connected. Our Carer Support team does an exceptional job, especially in such difficult times, when face-to-face contact is so important for those who need a break from their incredibly busy lives.’
Christina Johns, supported by the VMCH Carers Support Program

Christina Johns, who has been a carer for over 30 years, is supported by the VMCH Carer Support program. As a mum and carer to her son Ashley, 42, Christina says that the program has been a great support to her over the years.

Christina and Ashley live in the Dandenong Ranges, which has been a beautiful part of the world for them to be at home during lockdown. Ashley lives in a self-contained unit on the property, and helps Christina out with her new business as a life coach. Together, they run a daily art class for kids in Melbourne’s lockdown, with Ashley leading the session.

‘Ashley loves not having to go out, he has social anxiety, so he tends not to want to socialise, so lockdown suits us well. Throughout COVID he has been able to resolve his drug and alcohol issues, which is amazing, that through the worst time in the world for people with mental illness, he has been able achieve a lot.’

Christina has also met some lifelong friends, through VMCH’s Carer Support Program.

‘We get together when we can and talk and talk and talk. We all bring some food and wine, and sit and play cards. It’s just a connection, a way to debrief with other carers,' said Christina.

'We all have different sorts of challenges, but what unites us is that we care for someone and we know how taxing it is on our lives. We can just be who we are, there’s no pretence, and pretending that everything is fine, when everything is actually falling apart. Sometimes we just cry with each other because it’s hard. It is that camaraderie outside of that organised setting, where like-minded people can get together and have fun, it is just precious.’