Issue 56

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Family Matters No. 56, 2000

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Family futures: Issues in research and policy

Family futures: Issues in research and policy - keynote addresses from the Institute's major research conference

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Publication details

Family Matters No. 56
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, June 2000, XX pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Family futures: Issues in research and policy

Peter Saunders, Belinda Fehlberg, Wendy Stone, Sarah Wise and Ruth Weston

The theme of the Australian Institute of Family Studies Seventh National Conference, held in Sydney in July 2000, was 'Family futures: issues in research and policy'. This overview of the conference briefly introduces the opening addresses, discusses the organising themes of the conference, the key themes that emerged from the conference, and the key issues which seem likely to dominate work in family studies over the next few years. Discussion includes children and parenting issues, relationship and family law issues, social participation and community issues, and new responsibilities, new moralities.



Divorce and changing family practices in a post-traditional society: Moral decline or changes to moral practices?

Carol Smart

Families encounter a diversity of experiences in achieving satisfactory post-divorce arrangements for parenting. The author conceptualises divorce as a catalyst and an opportunity for personal growth, arguing that a new 'moral terrain' is emerging which prioritises the quality of relationships between children and their parents. The paper is based on findings from three related studies conducted in Britain, the 'Negotiating Parenthood' study, and two studies with the children of divorced or separated parents.



What role for social capital in family policy?: AIFS conference 2000

Wendy Stone and Jody Hughes

In theory, social capital promises something for everyone. This paper outlines some of the potential benefits of social capital for government, business, communities and family life. It goes on to demonstrate, via review of the literature, that a gulf exists between social capital theory and empirical understandings of the concept. This gulf, it is argued, has resulted in confusion about the meaning, measurement, outcomes and relevance of social capital, and threatens to undermine the realisation of its potential. In an attempt to bridge this gulf, the paper concludes by presenting a conceptually sound and theoretically informed measurement framework for empirical investigation and understanding of social capital, and sets out a research agenda for interrogating the value of social capital for Australian families, communities, business and policy.  

Valuing children, young people and families

Gillian Calvert

One of the most important issues in Australia today is the way we care for, develop, value and celebrate our children and young people. In this paper the New South Wales Commissioner for Children and Young People outlines some of the challenges facing communities, researchers and policy makers. She argues that we need to rethink our directions and reshape the relationship between public policy and children, young people and families by: listening to families, young people and children; starting from what works for children, young people and families and developing policy from there; basing our conversation on wellbeing, not problems; and getting serious about research into adolescents, their families and peers. This means a reorienting of much of the policy, research and practice activities of governments, community organisations, corporations, communities, and individual practitioners, suggests the author.

Welfare reform in America: AIFS conference 2000

Lawrence Mead

In the United States, a major reform of the welfare system has dramatically reduced the number of sole parents claiming benefits, with most former claimants now in employment. The author describes what welfare means in America, the background problem of poverty, how and why work requirements have become progressively more demanding, and consequences to date of welfare reform. He then considers whether some of the lessons learned in America might be applied in Australia, noting that despite the differences between the two countries, the Australian government is now moving in the same general direction as that taken in America, and suggesting that it is doing so for a very good reason. There is a need to raise work levels and limit dependency in Australia, just as there was in America, states the author. He argues the 'need to be more demanding than the Welfare Reform Reference Group's proposals seem to be'.  

One language, three accents: Welfare reform in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia

Julia Perry

The terms in the welfare debates - mutual obligations, welfare dependency, the third way, social exclusion, the underclass - assume a shared framework. Given different social security traditions, how transferable are the concepts? This paper gives a context for this question and describes recent developments in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. (Journal abstract)



Parents, participation and planning: AIFS Conference 2000

Vic Pearse

The Parenting Payment Intervention Pilot was conducted by the Department of Family and Community Services between September 1999 and March 2000. The aim of the pilot was to trial active interventions that assist parents to reduce their reliance on income support, and to measure the success of interventions for particular Parenting Payment customers. This paper describes the background to and design of the pilot study, outcomes, and next steps.  

Minister opens AIFS conference: AIFS Conference 2000

Jocelyn Newman

In opening the Institute of Family Studies July 2000 conference, the Minister for Family and Community Services reports on the Department's research program and in particular on the partnership on family research between the Department and the Institute. Research initiatives and activities in the area of supporting families and communities are reported, and information is provided about the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy.  

Family law update: New legislative developments

Belinda Fehlberg

This family law update covers proposed changes to the Child Support Scheme in three areas: contact - child support nexus; high income non resident parents; and non resident parents with subsequent families. Also discussed are developments related to the Federal Magistrates Service; the Family Law Amendment Bill; and superannuation and division of property under the Family Law Act 1975. Finally, the author considers two recent decisions on the issue of resident parents who wish to relocate with their children. The cases are important for the principles set out, and these are described and discussed.