Ageing, Disability & Home Care

NSW Carers recognised for their dedication and selfless contribution to communities

17 October 2011

NSW Carers recognised for their dedication and selfless contribution to communities

NSW Minister for Ageing and Disability Services, Andrew Constance, has today paid tribute to the tireless work and immense contribution carers make to communities across the State during an awards ceremony at Parliament House.

Mr Constance said the NSW Carers Awards recognise outstanding individuals and groups and help to raise awareness about the vital role carers play in communities across the State.

“There are about 850,000 carers in NSW and they all deserve our recognition and thanks for their selfless efforts in supporting people with a disability, mental illness, chronic health conditions or people who are frail,” Mr Constance said.

Held during NSW Carers Week, one of the highlights is the presentation of Ambassador Awards in eight main carer categories following state-wide nominations. This year’s recipients are:

Antonia Kapsalis - Caring Partner and NSW Carer of the Year 
Jann O’Connor - Senior Carer 
Carmel Flavell - Caring Volunteer/Community Member 
Helen Baczynskyj - Caring Family or Parent 
Carreen Dew - Young Carer 
Susan Murphy - Caring Partner 
Railcorp - Carer-Friendly Workplace 
Candles Cancer Support Group - Carer Support Group 

This year, NSW councils have been encouraged to get involved and ceremonies are being held across the State to present 143 local awards.

To commemorate NSW Carers Week, the Minister also launched a new publication - Identifying and Supporting Young Carers - designed to specifically raise awareness of people up to 25 years of age who provide care to the most vulnerable in the community.

“Unfortunately, many young people do not identify themselves as carers and they do not get the support they are entitled to which can affect every aspect of their life, especially their education - so it is vital to identify and support them,” Mr Constance said.

“This resource is aimed at frontline staff in relevant public departments, including Ageing, Disability and Home Care, Family and Community Services, Education and Communities and Health and non-government organisations to help them recognise young carers and help them get the support they need,” Mr Constance said.

In early 2012, a series of train-the-trainer sessions will be held at key locations across the State. 

A host of materials will support the resource and its message, including fact sheets and an e-learning tool, both on the ADHC website - at - and as a CD-ROM.

Ageing, Disability and Home Care provides funding to Carers NSW to enable carer support groups and organisations to run local events during NSW Carers Week.

This year, 341 applications for funding have been accepted by Carers NSW representing a broad cross-section of the caring community across the State.

Other events being conducted during NSW Carers Week include a Carers Day Out in Martin Place tomorrow (18 October). It will feature entertainment and exhibitors including Ageing, Disability and Home Care.

“The O’Farrell Government is committed to ensuring carers are appropriately recognised and supported,” Mr Constance said.

“I am proud to be the initial sponsor of legislation to recognise carers in this State through the NSW Carers (Recognition) Act 2010.”

“The legislation includes a NSW Carers Charter, established a Carers Advisory Council giving carers a say in policy affecting them and provides public sector employees who are carers support in their working lives.”



Antonia Kapsalis
NSW Carer of the Year; Ambassador, Caring Partner

Antonia established a support group for Greek carers of people with a mental illness. She also became a bilingual community educator and ran courses for Greek women on women’s health. Recognition of her pioneering work in the Greek community came with an invitation to join the Transcultural Mental Health Centre as a Non-English Speaking Background carer representative.

For most of her life, Antonia has been caring for her daughter, 45, and her son, 42, both of whom have chronic mental illnesses, and her husband, who has a number of medical conditions.

Jann O'Connor

Ambassador, Senior Carer

Thirty-two years ago, Jann's son was diagnosed with a severe mental illness.  He requires a high level of care at home interspersed with weekly visits from his case manager and periods of hospitalisation.  

Jann has always worked full time as a senior English teacher to ensure the family's quality of life. The family was struck with a further tragedy when the youngest son was killed in a car accident at 26 years of age.  For more than two years, Jann also cared for her late husband who had advanced kidney disease and liver cancer.

Since 1990, she has thrown herself into voluntary community work focusing on mental health. She has made a significant contribution in raising awareness of the needs of people with mental illness and their carers through her membership of Area Health Service committees, including The Special Commission of Inquiry into the Delivery of Patient Care within the NSW Public Health System and as Chairperson of the North Coast Area Health Service Mental Health Forum.

Carmel Flavell

Ambassador, Caring Community Member

A single mother with four children, Carmel has had to give extra care to her son who has Down syndrome and autism. 

The experience has made Carmel an inspiring speaker. She gives regular addresses at Carer Safari and other forums and conferences.  She is also a Carers NSW representative and works as a special needs caseworker providing case management for families with children with disabilities in Camden and Wollondilly. 

Helen Baczynskyj

Ambassador, Caring Family or Parent

Helen provides care for her daughters and elderly stepfather at home in Toronto, NSW. Her stepfather and one of her daughters rely on Helen for care around the clock. Helen also supports her other daughter and advocates for her medical health.

She dedicates her spare time to community work. For 11 years, she chaired Newcastle Temporary Care Limited, a community-based respite care service for children and young adults with a disability and their carers and families. She coordinates support groups for mothers of children with autism, making herself available on call 24 hours. Helen attends the Ageing Disability and Home Care Hunter Regional staff induction program every fortnight to share her insights as a carer.

Carreen Dew

Ambassador, Young Carer

The eldest of four children, Carreen scored a UAI of 97 in her Higher School Certificate and completed a Bachelor of Law and Media.  She followed this up with a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law, allowing her to be admitted as a Lawyer in February this year.  Her motivation was to be able to fight for carers’ rights. 

Carreen’s brother Alec was born with multiple disabilities, including Moebius Syndrome - a neurological disorder that prevents people from making facial movements.  He is medically very frail, uses a wheelchair and communicates by using sign language. Alec's extremely high medical needs require 24 hour care and has resulted in more than 200 hospital admissions. Carreen is a legal advocate informed by personal experience and a deep understanding of the carer’s commitment.

Susan Murphy 

Ambassador, Caring Partner

After caring for her mother who had memory problems for many years, Susan cares for her partner Graeme who has Younger Onset Dementia. Graeme writes songs promoting greater awareness of Dementia and the couple often speak publicly about their experience. 


Ambassador, Carer-Friendly Workplace

Since 2006, RailCorp has implemented a number of initiatives to help staff who have carer responsibilities. Its Carers Network plays an advisory role in the communication of carer-friendly employment conditions and opportunities. 

RailCorp maintains a Carer’s Register whereby those registered need not produce an additional medical certificate for each occasion they require leave to fulfil their carer’s duties. It also has a Keep-in-Touch Program for employees on parental leave, Staying Connected workshops to assist separated fathers, delivers Carers’ Responsibilities Training Workshops for HR practitioners and provides Flexible Working Practices to help employees balance work and carer responsibilities. 

Candles Cancer Support Group

Ambassador, Carer Support Group 

More than 400 people have been touched by the Candles Cancer Support Group, formed in 2001 as a meeting place for cancer survivors, their families, carers and friends.  

The group has since gone on to help raise awareness and recognition for the vital role of carers and to raise funds for other cancer support organisations such as Relay for Life and Biggest Morning Tea.  The Friendship Angels Network was formed as part of a Candles community project in 2006. Since then, more than 26,000 knitted, sewn or crocheted items have been provided free of charge to cancer patients and others experiencing life challenges across the State. 

Candles organises special meetings for carers as part of its annual program so their unique needs can be adequately addressed. Issues raised at the meetings are formalised and reported to relevant providers to inform the planning and development of health support services. Candles assists various research studies and accepts social work students during their annual placement with local hospitals.

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