Work and family debate – where is the child?
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Larry Anthony, today expressed his concern that what is best for the child is rarely mentioned when discussing work and family issues.
“This has been clearly demonstrated in the debate around paid maternity leave. The impact on women’s career opportunities, potential burden on business and current and projected fertility rates have been centre stage in the debate.
“These are all important issues. But what should be considered first and foremost is giving a child the best start in life.
“Caring for our children is a social and an economic issue. Not only are we talking about the future workforce and economic generators of the country, but also how stable, assured and optimistic our future decision makers and citizens are. A happy childhood will deliver these qualities in our adults.
“My concern is that in the to and fro of debate, the language cements what then become accepted norms.
“I am concerned about the language of 14 weeks – the current period of time being debated for paid maternity leave. I would be very concerned if this came to mean that the community believes you only need to be at home for that period of time and then you should return to work.
“In an ideal world, the primary carer, whether that be the mother or father, would be able to be at home for the bulk of those vital early years of a child’s life.
“The Prime Minister and the Coalition Government are to be commended for taking a deep and considered look at this issue to ensure the Federal Government is doing all it can to best support mother’s and family’s choice. However, this is an issue that anyone interested in the future of the nation has a stake in.
“In future consideration of these complex issues, I hope that what is best for the child is placed as the top priority,” Mr Anthony said.