A man at a community gathering speaks into a microphone

Australia Cares

Together we can create new cultures, policies and systems of care
Australia Cares was launched in 2022 out of dialogues with public policy experts, care recipients and practitioners. The result is an ambitious project that builds on a deep desire for change.

Over 18 months, Australia Cares has brought people from across Australia together for online Care Labs and People’s Assemblies in Broken Hill and Westmead. These two main strands of work have been supported by recorded stories of care, lived-experience research and relational economy research. This program of care-focused work continues in 2024.

Why Australia Cares?

Care is fundamental to a good life and a fair society. But our care systems are in crisis and have been for decades.

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. Tinkering around the edges of our existing systems will not be enough. We need to respond with new thinking about policies and systems, developed in partnership with those who know how to provide care and those who receive it. 

We are all care-givers and care-receivers in different contexts and at different times of our lives. Yet, so often we have reduced care to the bottom rung of significance and importance.

People want us to challenge this. They want our society to value care and recognise its intrinsic value to our lives and the functioning of our society. We need to recognise that care is at once intimate, tied up with our need for comfort and our instincts to nurture wellbeing and ease suffering; and that care is also public, linked to rights, justice and power.

We need to recognise that, at its best, care is about our interconnectedness, building dignity and agency. We also need to acknowledge that, at its worst, ‘care’ can strip people of their power and entrench disadvantage. 

Valuing care is an investment in our shared future, making our society fairer, more resilient and generous.

We are working on three intersecting levels of changemaking:

  1. Shaping the landscape: creating a language and ethic of care with relationships, dignity and agency at their heart.

    Since our very earliest conversations in this project, we have been urged by those in our networks to challenge the deep undercurrents of culture, values and language that shape our thinking about care. Finding new ways to think and talk about care is an important part of the ‘reset’ that is needed in our society and across our economy if we are to transform care in Australia. We will continue to explore what this means through all our activities.

  2. Learning from practice: Australian stories of care.

    We know how much value there is in learning from how we are already practicing care, from those directly involved in those practices. We are building up a ‘care map’ capturing practical examples of community practices, policies, and innovations in care. We are researching how to best bring expertise from experience into our work. And we will be using ethnographic methods to examine community practices of care. We’ll share what we learn, and reflect on it as we develop concrete options for policy and practice.

  3. Policy, frameworks and infrastructure for care 

We are developing models for participatory policy making through a People’s Commission on Care and a series of Care Labs, building on our ‘relational’ method and our capacity to build new relationships and connections between those with diverse perspectives on care. We will develop options that embody our vision of care in specific policy areas including financing of care. 

We’ll make change together. People are already experimenting, reclaiming and sharing practices of care that meet our aspirations for relationships, agency and dignity, at all points in our care systems.

We know that we need to strengthen relationships across sectors, build unlikely coalitions and make change together. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the questions we ask, the process of seeking answers and together refashioning our care systems to care for all Australians.

If you would like to learn more or get involved in this project, please contact policy.lab@sydney.edu.au.

Academic Chair: Professor Brendan McCormack

Core research team: Louise Beehag, Dr Juliet Bennett, Dr Gareth Bryant, Dr Benedict Coleridge, Associate Professor Luara Ferracioli, Dr Kate Harrison Brennan, Dr Nikita Simpson. Professor Marc Stears (as director of the Sydney Policy Lab, and continuing during the transition of directors until December 2022), and Martin Stewart-Weeks (until March 2023). 

Advisory Group: Emma Dawson, CEO, Per Capita; Dr Sheelagh Daniels-Mayes, Lecturer, Indigenous Studies, University of Melbourne; Robert Fitzgerald AM, Ageing and Disability Commissioner NSW; Tamika Herschausen, Disability Support Worker, United Workers Union; Emma Maiden, General Manager, Advocacy and External Relations, Uniting NSW/ACT; Mark Peacock, General Manager, Strategy, Transformation and Impact, Hammondcare; Dr Kathryn Refshauge, Professor Emeritus, University of Sydney; Andrew Vodic, CEO, Community Disability Alliance Hunter 

Project partners: Paul Ramsay Foundation

Care Map: mapping the transformation

Many people have been working to change policies, practices and cultures of care in ways that align with Australia Cares’ vision of care that has relationships, agency and dignity at its heart.

We have started to map examples of this relational approach to care on the map below. These initiatives might be focused on: 

  • Shifting culture – to value care through relationships as core to a meaningful life
  • Changing policies – for care infrastructures that support every person to thrive
  • Learning from practice – by listening to people with first-hand experiences of care 

To bring this vision to life and help to amplify work in this space, we are experimenting with this Care Map: 

We invite you to email us with your suggestions and examples for the Care Map.

To add to the map, please send us an outline of the initiative, a website link, and tell us how it illustrates care that has relationships, agency and dignity at its heart. If you don’t have time to write this up, please do still get in touch with us so we can help.