Eating disorders carers desperate: Unprecedented demand for world’s first lived-experience counselling service


March 20, 2023

Exploding demand for a unique, lived-experience counselling service for people caring for someone with an eating disorder has shocked leading experts, with carers from around Australia taking advantage of the free sessions.

Eating Disorder Families Australia (EDFA) launched its Fill The Gap service in October last year and expected strong demand for the service, which is understood to be the first of its kind in the world. However, the strength of the uptake has surprised even the carers responsible for the service.

It was anticipated the Fill the Gap service, funded by the Federal Government, would provide 787 counselling sessions between October 2023 and 30 June 2024. At the close of February, more than 65% of these sessions have been provided. 

“Eating disorder carers have, for decades, fought this insidious disease largely on their own. We knew that carers felt isolated and desperate for support, however, we did not anticipate the level of relief a service like Fill the Gap would provide, nor did we anticipate the speed at which carers would take up this service. There is an overwhelming demand for the Fill The Gap counselling service, and it is growing every day unfortunately,” EDFA Executive Director Jane Rowan says as the national charity releases the counselling service’s initial results in Canberra today.

With many clinicians now referring families to the counselling service and word of mouth spreading, EDFA will soon bring on another full-time, lived-experience counsellor to the team and has plans to add Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander counsellors later this year. 

More than 90% of the carers accessing the service are women, 76% are aged between 40-59 years, and most are caring for someone with Anorexia Nervosa. About 19% are located in rural, regional or remote Australia. 

Nearly all of the carers accessing the service (92%) said caring for someone with an eating disorder had impacted their own mental health. 

Accessing the Fill The Gap counselling service meant carers felt understood for the first time. 

Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Eating Disorder Awareness Zoe Daniel MP says her conversations with many carers, most of them mothers of girls with an eating disorder, had made her aware of the hurt and suffering the whole family experiences. 

“It’s these conversations that are driving me to push for better treatment options, support, and prevention programs. These families deserve better,” Ms Daniel says. 


“You need to be heard because you feel so isolated on this journey,” Victorian carer Jo, whose daughter lives with Anorexia Nervosa, says. 

Jo describes her family’s experience of an eating disorder as “violence”, accompanied by the overwhelming stress of trying to keep her daughter alive.

There are currently 1.1 million Australians living with an eating disorder, an increase of 21% since 2012. EDFA estimates this means at least 4.4 million Australians are impacted by the disease. 

The economic and social cost of eating disorders to Australia has risen 36% to $67 billion over the same period, according to the Butterfly Foundation and Deloitte’s recent “Paying the Price Report 2024”. 

Many carers are forced to give up work to care for a loved one with an eating disorder, relationship breakdown is common, and carers often experience their own physical and psychological ill-effects. 

EDFA is the only national organisation focussed solely on providing support, education, advocacy, and counselling services to carers and families of those living with an eating disorder. Established in 2016, EDFA currently has more than 3,000 members and has helped thousands of carers and families over the years.  


EDFA Executive Director Jane Rowan and Carer Jo Foggo are available for interview at Parliament House, Canberra, on March 20. Please contact Susan Donald at EDFA on 0413 606 351 or