Page 2499 - Week 07 - Thursday, 3 August 2017

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Understanding these gender differences is important to governments and policymakers alike. When we see this sort of data we have to make sure that our policy responses, our programs and our approaches take these gendered differences into account.

For single parents, our efforts to provide employment options to get people out of poverty have to take into account school times and other demands. Single parents provide many, many hours of unpaid work undertaking domestic and parenting duties. There are many reasons for sole parenting, such as choice, divorce, death of a partner, work requirements and illness. But one I want to specifically mention is domestic violence. These are parents in the position of having to separate from either the other parent or a partner, often because of concerns about their children’s welfare and safety or because of the impact of witnessing or having been subject to violence. These people are forced to become sole parents because they fear for their safety or their children’s safety. After having made that hard decision, they have to negotiate with the person who has been threatening violence and threatening their children. It must be incredibly hard to do those sorts of negotiations.

On a brighter side, importantly there is no evidence to suggest that children are worse off if brought up in single-parent households. There have been many, many studies on this, and what seems to matter is not how many parents there are or even whether the parents are biologically related to the children; instead, the factor that influences whether children have problems at school or with their siblings or their friends seems be whether or not there is significant conflict at home, between parents or between parents and kids. That is clearly related to problems at school or with their friends.

Unfortunately, there is clear evidence that being a female single parent is not good for the long-term financial health of that parent. Many live in poverty while they are raising their children and, unfortunately, they tend not to be able to rebuild lives financially after this. Years of not working or working part time due to child-raising responsibilities can lead to single parents having low savings and super balances. As I said earlier, most single parents are women and, on average, women have half the super balance of men. Most single parents are not home owners, which further adds to their financial stress, especially in retirement. As Mr Steel mentioned, ACT Housing has a disproportionate number of single-parent tenants.

It really is important to make sure that single parents feel valued in our society. We often carry a greater burden than someone who has a parenting partner, as there is no-one to share the load. The challenges of parenting are numerous and sometimes feel overwhelming. I am very happy to agree that it is, indeed, important to support single parents in the Canberra community.

MRS KIKKERT (Ginninderra) (3.43): I thank Mr Steel for bringing this important matter before the Assembly today. I know from firsthand experience how important it is that single parents in our community receive the support they need. I was still in primary school in Sydney when my mum made the important decision to flee domestic violence, even though it would mean she would have to raise us kids alone.

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