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Sunshine Coast Photographer Commits to Recognising and Celebrating Carer Support Through Community Event


QUEENSLAND, Australia February 2015 – Sunshine Coast photographer Paula Brennan “didn’t really think [her] life was any different to anyone else’s” until she started school. “For much of my younger life, we hung around families that had kids with disabilities, so I didn’t really know we were different,” Paula says. “When I got to school I began to take note though. Other families would go away for the weekend. They played sports and went outdoors. But we were always restricted by Ryan’s access to places.”

Ryan is Paula’s younger brother, a sibling born with cerebral palsy.

“Thirty years ago, wheelchair access to most places was pretty poor. Add to this Ryan’s constant trips to specialists, surgeries and his on and off fragile health. We couldn’t really leave the house easily. It became easier for the world to come to us.”

Paula spent most of her childhood at home, where her parents had “created a world that revolved around the house”. Her mother and father started home-based businesses and held community church events at home. Paula witnessed her parents’ “peer group radically change” after her brother’s birth, as old family friends began to “disappear” and new friendships were formed with families that could relate to their own situation.

“It can be tough having a family member with a disability that needs carer support, but if you met my brother you would know that his quality of life is worth every bit of it,” says Paula. “My dad always said that Ryan had the best life; his needs are simple, and when met, he is the happiest person I have ever known. And that happiness is so infectious; it is worth all the sacrifices made over his lifetime.”

Today at 35 years of age, Ryan’s life varies on a day to day basis. His health continues to deteriorate, and trips to doctors and specialists have increased. Changing plans, especially at the last minute, has become the new norm for Paula and her family.

Paula describes her mother as “completely selfless and caring beyond any person I know”. Now, with Ryan’s ailing health, her mother has had to reduce Ryan’s involvement in programs and his hours of respite, to give him a better and more comfortable quality of life at home.

“This is the gift of the many hundreds of thousands of people who offer carer support, who just get on with it day-to-day. They don’t often have the luxury of time to talk about the wonderful work that they do, so I’d like to shed a light on it and share my family’s story,” Paula says.

Australia currently supports 2.7 million dedicated people that provide informal care to the elderly, disabled and ill, with almost 800 000 of those being primary carers. Of the primary carers in the country, 70 per cent are women. To celebrate these women, Paula and Sunshine Coast not-for-profit disability support service, Equity Works, have organised an upcoming hosted event for International Women’s Day. The community event - Pamper Day 2015 – will focus on celebrating women who care, by offering 30 Sunshine Coast primary carers a respite day full of nurturing, relaxation and pampering.

The event will also give others an opportunity to express their gratitude, and “let carers know they are appreciated for what they do in this world”.

Discover more about the Paula Brennan, the Sunshine Coast photographer trying to make a positive difference to the lives of Australian carers at


 Cerebral palsy
 International Women’s Day
 Community event
 Disability support
 Primary carers

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