In Australia, as in many other countries, recent years have seen dramatic changes in the organisation of caring labour. Despite this, it is still true that the care of children, frail adults and people with disabilities of all ages remains mainly women's work. Much more of this labour is, however, now paid rather than unpaid work, and unpaid carers are increasingly seeking to combine their caring labour in domestic settings with paid work in the labour market. These changes have, in turn, resulted in a continual process of change in the government institutions and programs providing support to parents and other carers. Pressures for further change are still strong, however, not least in the field of income support and related taxation policies. In the light of these changes, in 1994 the Department of Social Security requested the Social Policy Research Centre to undertake a study examining the underlying principles and rationales for providing support to parents and other carers in Australia in the 1990s and beyond. The report presented here provides an overview of the historical development of support for carers in Australia and then goes on to consider the principles that might underlie such support in the future.