Issue 30

You are in an archived section of the AIFS website.

Family Matters No. 30, 1991

Journal issue feature image

Ageing: Everybody's future

This edition of Family Matters looks at issues for the 1990s:  Unemployment, Homeless families, Marriage trends, Child and family care, Family law and Becoming adult.

Articles in this issue of Family Matters are only available as PDF documents and do not meet the latest web accessibility standards. If you are unable to access any of the articles in this issue of Family Matters please contact us and we will endeavour to provide the article/s you need in a format that you can use.


Meredith Michie

Assistant Editor

Claire Miller

Editorial Assistants

Sandra Marsden and Allyson Trainor

Publications Committee

Helen Brownlee, Don Edgar, Peter McDonald, Meredith Michie, Claire Miller, Gay Ochiltree, Liz Sharman Allyson Trainor and Ilene Wolcott.

Publication details

Family Matters No. 30
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, December 1991, 64 pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Job seekers and the social security system

Helen Brownlee

In this article the author argues that the Newstart Program, introduced in July 1991 to replace the old Unemployment Benefit fails to offer adequate employment and training to the vast numbers of long term unemployed people. Furthermore, when job opportunities start to improve sufficiently for the unemployment rate to fall, the people least likely to get work are those who have been unemployed for the longest period of time.

Nomads in a settled population: Families and homelessness

Jean McCaughey

In 1991 the Australian Institute of Family Studies undertook a study of families and homelessness in response to a request from Hanover Welfare Services, a non government welfare organisation in Victoria which was concerned about the increasing number of families with children seeking assistance with basic housing needs. The study was qualitative rather than statistical, and designed to provide a view of individual experiences of being homeless. Discussed are some of the preliminary findings of the study including the pathways to homelessness and how families cope. The article concludes with a consideration of what solutions to homelessness exist, and suggests the fundamental causes are more structural than personal.

There's no work here, eh: The future of small Australian towns

Robyn Hartley

Five years ago, the residents of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory envisaged a thriving community with an increasing population and employment opportunities. But the outlook now, as the recession settles in, is bleak and typical of that facing most small Australian towns. Towns such as Tennant Creek, argues the author, are important in sustaining the rural and mainly inland fabric of Australian society. They need to be supported in such a way that they offer a genuinely viable alternative to living in cities. Tennant Creek is one of the communities included in the Australian Institute of Family Studies Study of Australian Living Standards.

Ageing: Everybody's future

Don Edgar

The ageing of Australia is often regarded with trepidation as social planners try to implement policies that will adequately provide for the health and welfare of next century's elderly. But, argues the author, the potential advantages of there being more old people far outweigh the perceived drain on resources. He suggests the ageing population promises a spreading pool of competence and human help to be drawn upon with enthusiasm. Furthermore, rarely are the figures emphasised that show how centrally involved our elders are in supporting family life. What Australians do need to face, however, is a system riddled with outmoded structures, outmoded work regulations, outmoded retirement and superannuation provisions, inadequate community family support systems, and a media archaic in its social understanding, stuck in the cult of youth.

Divorce, change and children: Effects of changing family structure and income on children

Kate Funder and Simon Kinsella

Evidence suggests that children living in sole mother households fail to reach the educational and occupational levels of children reared in two parent families. It is unclear, however, to what extent the disadvantages are due to changes in family structure or to the reduction in resources available to the child. The Australian Institute of Family Studies, Parents and Children after Marriage Breakdown Study which tracked family changes and household income in the five to eight years after parents had separated, enables the relative impact of these factors on children's lives to be examined. Children in both one parent families and stepfamilies were included in the study. Among the findings are: the importance of household income before separation in terms of its effect on children's wellbeing five to eight later; current household income or even living below the poverty line did not affect children in terms of the indices of wellbeing examined, and further children in the poorest families in the study - those of sole mothers and children fared somewhat better than stepfamilies where children seemed not so happy with life at home and somewhat lower self esteem.


Helen Glezer

One of the focuses of the Australian Institute of Family Studies Australian Family Formation Project is cohabitation. This article draws on evidence from the second stage of the study in which 1500 respondants now aged 27-44 were interviewed again. It examines the incidence of de facto relationships in the last decade; the characteristics of those who have lived in a defacto relationship compared with those who have not; and the reasons why they chose to live together rather than marry; and the kinds of de facto relationships formed.

Australia's largest family: Institute conducts Defence Force Census

Gregg Snider

In March 1991 a census was undertaken of the 69,275 full time active duty members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) by the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Because little was known about the families of serving members, the bulk of the questionnaire was designed to elicit information on family composition and service related family problems. This article presents an overview of some of the findings of the census relating to family composition; characteristics of serving members; partners and partnerships; children at home; and work and family issues.

The legal system and de facto relationships

Margaret Harrison

Property rights in de facto relationships are, in legal terms, poorly defined. In an effort to clear the way, the Joint Select Committee on Certain Aspects of the Operation and Interpretation of the Family Law Act is considering whether to extend the Family Law Act to cover disputes arising out of de facto relationships. The author discusses the background to this inquiry and the implications of recognising such disputes. Issues discussed in this article include the role of the Australian Constitution; the common law position and early legislative remedies; the threat to marriage; attempts in Victoria to introduce legislation similar to that of New South Wales; children born to unmarried parents; the extension of Commonwealth power to cover the property and financial disputes between parties to a de facto marriage; and the role of public opinion.

Motherhood, fatherhood: The legal balance

Kate Funder

After parents separate, children can end up being treated like part of the matrimonial property, as something to be fought over in terms of who has the greatest right to ownership. That mothers most commonly get custody is seen to be the fault of a sexist family law that ought to be reformed to reflect better the roles played by mothers and fathers in parenting. This article looks at the law and parenting after separation. The author argues that the law should look to separating parenting matters from family matters.

Child care: A contrast in policies

Gay Ochiltree

This article looks at child care policy and practice in Sweden and the United Kingdom, two countries whose policies will most likely shape the provision of child care in Australia during the 1990s. Child care in Sweden is largely provided by the State and is one of the world's most progressive and comprehensive systems. In addition Sweden has a comprehensive range of parental leave provisions. In Britain, the picture is vastly different. Child care is largely a matter of private arrangement when relatives care for more than two-thirds of Britain's preschool children whose mothers work. The only parental leave available is maternity leave. The article concludes with an examination of the situation in Australia.

Cycles of care: Support and care between generations

Helen Glezer

Concern is often expressed about the isolation of the nuclear family and the decline of extended family networks. This article reports some findings from the Australian Institute of Family Studies Family Formation Project. The study shows that in fact strong links do exist between the generations. The older and younger generations do take responsibility for one another, and there is reciprocity between the generations. Families are supporting one another financially, practically and emotionally.

Mothers with young children: Should they work? Do they want to work?

Audrey VandenHeuvel

Drawing on data from the 1989 National Social Science Survey this article looks at women's employment when they have preschool children. The subject is considered from a number of angles. First, women's preferences for work at this stage and the preferences of men for their wives' employment. Second, these preferences are compared to what women and men consider is best for the average woman. Third, for those women who have a preschooler at the time of the survey, preferences are compared with actual employment status.

Adulthood: The time you get serious about the rest of your life

Robyn Hartley

Both age and the status markers by which we judged adulthood in the past are no longer clear cut indicators. Today's 23 year old may have a partner but no job, a child but no partner, be a student and married, have a job but be living with parents; he or she may have no job, no partner, no child and be living with parents, but still feel adult. In 1990, the Australian Institute of Family Studies Becoming Adult Study asked 138 23-year-olds what adulthood meant to them. Findings from the study showed that adulthood meant responsibility, independence and, to a lesser extent, a stage of psychological development involving growth, learning and consolidation of self.

Director's report: Economic humanism: New national direction for the 1990s

Don Edgar

The author proposes a new doctrine for the 1990s: that of 'economic humanism'. He argues that to expand some of the necessary changes and benefits of so called economic rationalism and to help our theorists, planners and politicians recapture the elemental point of the public/private mix, the best balance is one that improves the quality of people's lives. The main policy issues for a decade of economic humanism are: increased investment in early childhood; support for parents and families; jobs, income and secure housing; a restructured work system; a reincorporation of youth into mainstream civilian society; a new vision which sees our elders as a resource, not a burden; the eradication of poverty; and a better tax mix.