Issue 73

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Family Matters No. 73, 2006

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Family relationships through life

The Institute's research plan 2006-2008, and relationship trends in marriage and parenting

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Editorial panel: Matthew Gray, Alan Hayes, Daryl Higgins, Catherine Rosenbrock, Denise Swift, Sue Tait, Ruth Weston

Editor: Ellen Fish and Lan Wang

Cover: BMP Stock image, Jupiter images.

Publication details

Family Matters No. 73
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, June 2006, 72 pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Family relationships through life: An illustration of the Australian Institute of Family Studies' Research Plan (2006-2008)

Alan Hayes, Ruth Weston, Matthew Gray, Lixia Qu, Daryl Higgins, Kelly Hand and Grace Soriano

This paper summarises the development of the next Research Plan (2006-2008) for the Australian Institute of Family Studies. The Plan seeks to position the Institute to contribute strongly to connecting research, policy and practice. The frame for the Plan is 'Families through life: diversity, change and context'. In this paper the authors illustrate the elements of the Plan, focusing on one of the four themes from the Plan, family relationships, and explore aspects of Australian relationships. They highlight the following aspects of families: diversity of families, primarily in terms of family form; change, especially related to family formation and the dynamics of relationships; and context, particularly as it relates to the impact on families of population ageing. By examining aspects of family relationships, the authors highlight the interconnections among diversity, change and context, and explore the links between research, policy and practice.

Family trends: Starting early, starting late: Socio-demographic characteristics and parenting of new mothers

Ruth Weston, Grace Soriano and Lixia Qu

Over the last few decades, the age at which women give birth to their first child has not only increased on average, but has also become more diverse. Based on Growing Up In Australia: the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), this article first outlines trends in the age at which mothers have their first child and some of the forces behind these trends, then compares socio demographic characteristics, a general approach to parenting and confidence in parenting of new mothers of different ages.

Lost in translation?: Remote Indigenous households and definitions of the family

Frances Morphy

The definition of the 'family' by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) takes the nuclear family as a starting point. Using an anthropological approach to kinship, this paper argues that the nuclear family structure is not a 'natural' outcome of Aboriginal Australian kinship systems, and explores the implications of this for the quality of Indigenous household data in the national Census. The purpose of the research as explored in this article is twofold: to evaluate the ABS Indigenous Enumeration Strategy and to assess the quality of the data that were collected. The paper focuses on the responses to the questions designed to elicit information about family and household structure. These data are supplemented by genealogical information that the author collected in the course of independent anthropological fieldwork.

Family law update

Catherine Caruana

The Australian Government's reform of the federal family law system takes a more concrete form with the passage of amendments to the Family Law Act (1975) and the announcement of mooted changes to the child support scheme. With a similarly busy reform agenda, the states and territories move towards a more encompassing definition of family. This family law update provides information on modernising the Child Support Scheme, the assent to the Commonwealth Powers (De Facto Relationships) Bill 2004 (Vic) which brings Australia one step closer to having a uniform family law jurisdiction for married and de facto couples who separate, and broadening the definition of de facto by South Australia to include same sex couples in a range of state provisions impacting on families and couples.

Assessing family and community life through the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey: An evaluation

Ruth Weston and Matthew Gray

This article provides an overview of a survey of Indigenous Australians, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), and describes the key measures of family and community in the survey. The authors describe and evaluate a selection of key measures of family and community used in the 2002 NATSISS, and then examine in greater depth the utility of two of these measures, namely child care use and the incidence of 'stolen generations'. They also suggests aspects of family and community life that may be valuable additions to future social surveys of the Indigenous population and provide suggestions for improvements to the NATISS.

Sowing the seeds of innovation: Ideas for child and family services

Mary Salveron, Fiona Arney and Dorothy Scott

In child and family services in Australia and elsewhere there is a range of promising approaches emerging in response to problems such as child abuse and neglect. However, little is known about how and why some innovations spread from one context to another and others do not. This paper draws upon the 'diffusion of innovation' literature to highight the complex interplay of the innovation, the individual, the organisation and the wider environment on the spread of innovative policies, programs and practice.