Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 3 August 2017) . . Page.. 2498 ..
I also want to acknowledge the solo mothers by choice community here in the ACT. That is a group of women who have chosen to have a child without a partner, often through a gamete donation or through foster care and adoption, and are raising happy and healthy children. Solo mothers by choice and open community forums like HerCanberra are enabling these women to provide each other with peer support online and through regular meet-ups.
Our government values single-parent families. When it comes to access to information, child development, early childhood education and care, education for parents, employment, housing and community services, we are providing services to them through the ACT government and in partnership with the community. I finish by acknowledging my Labor colleague Bec Cody’s interest in this issue. Despite her unavoidable absence today, I know that she will continue to advocate strongly for single-parent families as well.
MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (3.36): As a single parent myself, I am pleased today to discuss the importance of single parents in the Canberra community. In May this year, on the International Day of Families, the Australian Bureau of Statistics told us that the vast majority of families—84 per cent—were couple families but that the next largest group of families was one-parent families, at 14 per cent. It is significant to note that, of the single-parent families, 83 per cent are headed by single mothers, so single parents and single mothers are not an insignificant part of our community.
Members may have recently seen that the University of Melbourne released the HILDA report, the report on household income and labour dynamics in Australia. This has tracked 17,000 people in 9,500 households over about a 20-year period. It painted a pretty dark picture for single-parent families. It described the likelihood of child poverty for single-parent families as very high—between 20 per cent to 25 per cent—and well above the general community rate of 10 per cent.
Child poverty in single-parent families has increased every year between 2012 and 2015. This is despite an otherwise downwards trend in overall poverty in Australia. In particular, single parents have borne the brunt of rising childcare costs, which the HILDA survey found doubled in real terms over 10 years for single parents. But even for couple families, who have a lot more flexibility, costs still increased by a large 74 per cent. A significant reason for the increase in child poverty in single-parent families over the last 10 years has been the changes in social security arrangements for single parents, who have been moved out of the parenting system into the general unemployment system. That is clearly not adequate to support people and children above the poverty line.
Yesterday we talked about related issues and how women bear a disproportionate burden when it comes to child rearing. That is why 83 per cent of single-parent families are headed by a woman. Women, of course, face significant disadvantage as single mothers. Again looking at ABS statistics, for single-parent families with dependents 83 per cent of mothers were employed compared to 72 per cent of fathers.