In 1997 Diane Vivian and her husband Erin took on the full-time care of their two grandchildren. When she looked around for support, she found none.
It’s a memorable image, and a powerful one: Dunedin mum Sandra Jones decked out in an orange fluoro suit holding a large sign reading “crime doesn't pay, caregiving doesn't either" in Dunedin’s Octagon. She was one of the battlers in the struggle for family carers to be paid - something which ultimately resulted in the Funded Family Care payment.
I never met the iconic social and women's rights campaigner Sonja Davies, but she played an important role in the development of New Zealand's carer movement and the national charitable trust that is now Carers NZ.
Sonja died in 2005, years after I contacted her when, as a family carer living in rural Northland, I felt dismayed by the lack of help for people like me.
On the day the PM announced her pregnancy, a letter pinged into Carers NZ's inbox from her office.
It was her statement of support for She Cares, supporting and celebrating our country's women family caregivers.
Keri didn’t grow up with her Dad, but when she ran into him as an adult, the former rest home caregiver knew he needed her help.
“I bumped into him in Wellington and all my experience with caring and servicing people kicked into place after seeing the way he was living and being treated,” the 51-year-old says. “And so began my journey looking after my Dad.”
Hamilton mum of four Shannon cares for her beautiful youngest child Tailen, who has Cystic Fibrosis.
Her days generally stretch from 6am to 1am, and include an intensive medication regime, two to three physio sessions, up to 30 nappy changes and the ever-present fear of infection.
The financial pressures are immense and she admits most days, she sits down and cries, but manages to keep going for the love of her family.
In the late 80s, Jenny Noble’s two young children Hayden and Sarah were diagnosed with Mucolipidosis Type III.
Now young adults, they remain the only two people in New Zealand with the rare condition, a slowly progressive Lysosomal Storage Disease that affects many parts of the body.
We still have the notes Carers NZ co-founder Laurie Hilsgen took during an historic telephone call with Jill Pitkeathley, then CEO of the United Kingdom's Carers National Association, in the early 1990s.
Laurie and Dorothy McCaw were in the process of finding out how other countries supported their family carers. Those were pre-internet days when discovering who was who in the world of caring wasn't as simple as a Google search.