A grid of short essays printed on coloured paper in all capitals are pasted on a wall

Facts & figures

Approach for community-led policy making

  • 9 Care Labs
  • 38 Care Lab collaborators
  • 40+ People's Assembly on Care collaborators
  • 20+ Academic collaborators across 13 disciplines

Community-led policymaking charts a path through care crises

20 March 2024
Care is fundamental to a good life and a fair society
A major report from the Sydney Policy Lab’s Australia Cares project establishes a framework for action to address the crises in our care system.

Multiple royal commissions and the pandemic have exposed Australia’s failure to provide the kind of care that people want for themselves and those they love.

Recognising diverse expertise makes for better policy, the Australia Cares project was founded to enable community-led policy development shaped by lived experience, and community and academic expertise.

Drawing together the findings of 18 months of collaboration, deliberation and experimentation, this major report (pdf, 18MB) marks the conclusion of the first phase of the project.

Australians have stepped up to the challenge of thinking deeply about care and caring, with the intention that ‘Australia Cares’. It’s time to listen and act. Together, we can create new cultures, policies and systems of care.
Professor Brendan McCormack, Academic Chair of Australia Cares

Reimagining care

“In this report you will find an unfolding story of care experiences, issues, challenges and pathways to finding policy solutions,” said Dr Kate Harrison Brennan, Director of the Sydney Policy Lab.

“The results of the report highlight the significance of community voice in shaping any care system. The findings reported here suggest complementary stories of care from those givers and receivers of care. Taken as a collective story, they direct us toward policy imperatives.”

In the spirit of curiosity and determination the project posed big questions about the place of care in the community and our economy, while working to invert the typical model of policymaking by enabling communities to set the agenda and give policy guidance.

The beauty of being a carer to someone we love, it’s enormous … And when my father for example, said to me, oh, living here with you every day, it’s a Sunday. Because he felt my love and care that made me feel tall and strong, no matter how exhausted I was.
Care Labs collaborator
Australia Cares collaborators participate in discussion in Australian Parliament House

New methods in community-led policymaking

The project explored community-led policymaking through two core initiatives: Care Labs and People’s Assemblies on Care.

The Care Labs, a series of online workshops convened a diverse mix of 38 people from different locations to collaborate on policymaking. Together, they generated four principles of care that transcend people, contexts and specialties. Many participants joined the final Care Lab in November 2023 at Australian Parliament House in Canberra with politicians and decision makers.

A group of people stand in front of Parliament House in Canberra holding signs that read "Australia Cares"

Canberra Care Lab, November 2023

In Westmead and Broken Hill where the University of Sydney has campuses, People’s Assemblies on Care responded to the weariness Australians felt at successive Royal Commissions doing post-mortems of policy failures in key policy areas related to care. Each community was supported to develop driving questions for subsequent deliberation.

In Westmead, this focused on the care ecosystem and how transcultural challenges get in the way of that ecosystem. While in Broken Hill, care navigation and the complexities associated with finding one’s way in, around and through the care system took the fore.

The Care Labs and People’s assemblies were complimented by work to collate Stories of Care, live experience research by a diverse group of expert practitioners and new analysis of the care economy.

A framework for action

This project demonstrates what can be achieved when people are given the opportunity to step back from systems as they are and to imagine what could be.

Governments at all levels now have the chance – and need – to look beyond their near-term agendas. Australia Cares sets out a forward-looking framework for action to enable a person-centred approach to care that:

  1. is holistic, binding together care, wellbeing and health, and therefore linked to other policy reform agendas
  2. listens to people throughout policymaking cycles
  3. builds a relational economy
  4. responds to community expectations
  5. is designed around the strengths and assets of specific cohorts and communities
  6. renews public institutions and invites partnerships
  7. spreads capital investment across the economy, especially to the forgotten parts.

This framework represents a way forward for care policy in Australia: community-led policies developed and implemented on an iterative basis. The Lab invites the community, governments and other partners to join us in this collaborative endeavour.

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