*This speech was delivered in the Senate on 28th September 2022.
There's a group of people in Tasmania who I really admire: grandparents raising grandchildren.
These grandparents have stepped up to raise their grandchildren in really tough circumstances. They're known as kinship carers or primary carers.
Let's call it for what it is: these people are parents. They take on the role of everything these kids need them to be. As a result, they miss out on the experience of being Nan and Pop. My heart breaks for them, and, having met them, I know they're some of the most caring people you'll ever meet.
But these grandparents are slipping through the cracks. There are issues with them being recognised as the parents of these kids, which leads us to all sorts of financial and legal problems.
One major issue I've heard is from grandparents with several children in their care. Some of their kids are recognised by Centrelink and others are not. All the kids have the same biological parents. It just doesn't seem to make sense. I
t's not just financial problems. Another grandparent told me he couldn't give permission for his 16-year-old granddaughter to get her drivers licence because he wasn't recognised as the primary parent.
Financial, medical, educational, legal—the issue of recognising kinship care spans across institutions and across governments.
It's a complex issue that's going to take a long time to get right. A lot of these things are up to the state governments, but I know there are things we can do at a federal level to make things easier for them as well.
It's important we do. I've seen the love and care in these grandparents' eyes. Despite their battle scars and the cost to themselves, they will do anything and everything to look after these children. It's time we looked after them.