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Aaron Pedersen hails 'unsung heroes', shares his own story in National Carers Week

Aaron Pedersen helps his younger brother Vinnie shave
Vinnie is a year younger than Aaron.

Supplied: Carers Australia

Aaron Pedersen has played well over 40 roles in his life — appearing in everything from Water Rats to Jack Irish, The Code and more recently Blue Murder.

But the role that has been his longest running has been as a carer to his younger brother Vinnie, who has cerebral palsy and mild intellectual disabilities.

For the past 40 years, the award-winning Indigenous actor and former ABC journalist has taught Vinnie how to tie his shoelaces, get dressed, brush his teeth as well as kick a footy and rap.

Aaron Pedersen
Aaron Pedersen often shoots in remote locations, bringing Vinnie along with him.

ABC News: Chrissy Arthur

Vinnie travels with Aaron to nearly all his location shoots, including the Western Australia town of Kununurra, where the six-part TV series called Mystery Road is now being filmed.

"He's the reason why I get up in the morning, he's the reason why I go to work, why I believe in myself," Aaron told ABC Radio Sydney.

"Every time I get home it's a reality check.

Like any pair of siblings, Vinnie makes sure Aaron keeps his ego in check.

"He thinks I'm alright [at acting] but he thinks he's much better," the actor joked.

Carers need support

Aaron Pedersen is the ambassador for National Carers Week, which recognises the 2.7 million unpaid carers that dedicate 36 million hours every week to looking after loved ones.

"It's clear that Australia counts on carers, so let's show carers how much they count," Carers Australia chief executive Ara Cresswell said.

"National Carers Week is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the issues faced by unpaid carers, without whom aged care and disability care would simply be unaffordable."

Portrait of Alan Gravolin
Alan Gravolin said he reached out to Dementia Australia for counselling support.

Supplied: Department of Family and Community Services

Alan Gravolin, who was awarded New South Wales Carer of the Year this week, said it was important to look after your own health as much as the person you are caring for.

His wife Lyn, who is 76, was diagnosed with early onset dementia in her 50s and Alan cared for her full time until she was put into care.

"There is support for carers if you know where to go and are prepared to say, 'yes I need help'," Mr Gravolin said.

"If you don't look after your own health, you get to a situation where you can't look after the person you're responsible for.

"It is significantly important that you make time for yourself, that you get good sleep, good diet and social outlets for yourself."

Mr Gravolin has also been an active member of the community and is working with the Law Reform Commissioner of NSW to ensure guidelines for dementia suffers is appropriate under the Guardianship Act.

Tell your story

Aaron also encouraged other carers to not be ashamed to reach out for support.

Aaron and Vinnie Pedersen with arms around each other
Aaron said caring for Vinnie was 'repetitive and relentless' but full of love.

Supplied: Carers Australia

"Carers are important. They are the unsung heroes," he said.

"I've always kept it quiet. I think we're all like that.

"We don't want to share our personal problems or personal journey, it's too private — but we should be proud to be carers; it's hard work, it's true work, it's unconditional love.