IF it were not for the support of her workplace managers and colleagues Traralgon’s Helen Johnson believes she would not be able to work and manage the needs of her son.
As one of the country’s leading champions of the carer cause, Ms Johnson has used Carers Week to call for widespread workplace flexibility recognising the needs of carers in the workplace.
Ms Johnson, who together with her husband Peter, cares for her 19 year-old son, Ben, who has multiple complex disability. She said she also enjoyed the ongoing support of her managers and co-workers at Traralgon’s Westpac branch, allowing her to both work and take care of Ben.
Ms Johnson covers many bases including serving as a director on the boards of Carers Victoria, Carers Australia and Interchange Gippsland.
She is keen to promote the theme of work and care and has spent part of this week, together with her workplace managers, attending a corporate breakfast to advance that cause.
“My own experience is that I have been very, very fortunate to have tremendous support in my workplace, including from my colleagues because if I can’t work they have to kick in extra time,” she said.
With her son Ben approaching his 54th surgery, in additional to countless other hospital specialist visits, the need for Helen to take time out from work duties was pressing.
“I have to spend lots of time with Ben in hospital, or when he is sick,” she said.
“I couldn’t do it without my husband Peter, he is wonderful and we are a team… I can’t imagine how single people do it.”
Ms Johnson encouraged other carers to access existing carer support systems “so they can draw on them when they are needed”.
“We have some terrific systems in place…it’s important, when things are okay, to tap into those services so you can use them later,” she said.
Ms Johnson said caring was a “tough job”.
“It is financially restraining, emotionally stressful and complex… so much goes into organising your own life and someone else’s.”
Ms Johnson said the national theme of ‘Care Aware’ aimed to improve the value employers placed on the caring role.
“It is also about having the people around carers identify their caring role, provide what support they can and show their respect for that role,” she said.
Ms Johnson called on Gippslanders to get behind an upcoming National Carer Awareness Initiative, the Impossible Orchestra, to be held at the Melbourne Arts Centre on 27 and 28 October.
The orchestra will attempt to play continuously for 24 hours and will be supported by numerous high-profile Australians.
Tickets are free; visit
www.carersaustralia.com.au for more information.