Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Australian families changing

Changes in Australian families over the past two decades and the challenges they face have been tracked in a research report launched in Melbourne today.

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, launched the publication, Diversity and Change in Australian Families: Statistical Profiles, which was commissioned by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS).

‘This book provides a comprehensive picture of life in Australia over the past 20 years,’ Senator Patterson said.

‘Some of the topics covered include family and household types; marriage; fertility; relationship breakdown; spending; time use; caring for children, older people and those with disabilities; and work.’

The book highlights key trends and challenges facing families including:

  • Over three-quarters of Australian children still grow up in households with both their natural parents.
  • More than a quarter of both men and women over 45 would have like to have had more children. One quarter of all women will never have children.
  • The employment rate of mothers whose youngest child is aged five to nine increased from 58.5 per cent in 1986 to 67.1 percent in 2002.
  • The divorce rate has been fairly stable since the mid 1980s. However following relationship breakdown 30 per cent of children have no contact with their non-resident parent.

‘This new research endorses the importance of the Howard Government’s programs to support families and the choices they make, highlighted by the $300 increase to Family Tax Benefit Part B and 30% child care tax rebate,’ Senator Patterson said.

‘It will prove invaluable to Australia’s government, community, welfare, business and academic sectors.’

Professor David de Vaus, the Head of Sociology at La Trobe University and the former AIFS Research Manager, authored the book, which shows the current, diverse situation of Australian families.

‘It is equally important for discussion and debate to be informed by key research such as this report and it will provide valuable information for future policy decisions of the Howard Government,’ Senator Patterson said.