Issue 27

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Family Matters No. 27, 1990

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Australia's children: Their rights, our responsibilities

This issue of Family Matters ...

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Meredith Michie

Assistant Editor

Allyson Trainor

Editorial Assistants

Sandra Marsden and Allyson Trainor

Publications Committee

Don Edgar, Rob Kidston, Peter McDonald, Meredith Michie, Gay Ochiltree, Liz Sharman, Allyson Trainor, Ilene Wolcott, assisted by Helen Brownlee.

Publication details

Family Matters No. 27
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, November 1990, 64 pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Director's report: Mixed messages about children

Don Edgar

What are the messages being given to Australians about children? Children cannot speak for themselves, yet their futures seem clouded by adult contradictions and confusions. A number of issues concerning the place of children in our society are discussed, including: the costs of not caring for our children; the significance of providing high quality child care; and the importance of fathers and mothers sharing the responsibilities of parenting. The author asserts that there is a need for a flexible mosaic of child care options rather than a monolithic system of either child care centres or family day care homes.

Bird's-eye-view of Australia's children

A number of key statistics on Australian children and adolescents are presented including facts on the child population, smoking, suicide, school retention, birth rates and death rates.

Saving the world's children?: Children's rights and the United Nations Convention

Margaret Harrison

In August 1990 Australia signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This article documents the history, objectives and principles of the Convention and assesses its value to the welfare of children everywhere. The author asserts that the protection of children is a global issue; children are being exploited, harmed and neglected in undeveloped, developing and developed countries. The implementation, monitoring and enforcement of the Convention is discussed within an Australian context. The difficulty of drafting a Convention which accommodates the many differences of the eventual ratifying states without producing a document which is so bland that its impact would be miniscule is discussed.

Literacy: a matter of social justice

Robyn Hartley

This article focuses on the extent of literacy in Australia and the International Literacy Year (ILY) campaign. The results of recent surveys of literacy are summarised including the results of a Queensland survey which shows a link between parent's literacy and children's reading ability. The three elements of the ILY campaign: community awareness; literacy and the labour force; and the concept of a reader-friendly Australia are discussed. The author asserts that social justice must remain the focus of any efforts to improve literacy levels.

The costs of children: A review of methods and results

Peter McDonald

The difficulties of estimating the direct costs of children are examined. There are essentially three ways in which the direct costs of children have been estimated: the opinion survey approach; the budget or basket-of-goods approach used by Lovering (1984); and the expenditure survey approach used by Lee (1989). Two tables, one based on Lee (1989) and the other on Lovering (1984) provide estimates of the costs of children. The author argues that the cost of a child is not an objective fact but varies according to tastes and preferences and according to the amount of money that parents have to spend on their children.

Fathers are parents too: Parental leave in Australia

Helen Glezer

The Australian Industrial Relations Commission's recent ruling on a parental leave test case mounted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), decided on a package of leave and part-time employment for both parents involved with the birth or adoption of a child. The Commission granted fathers the right to 52 weeks unpaid leave thereby giving male employees the opportunity of being the primary care-giver of the child. The Australian Institute of Family Studies' support for the parental leave ruling is discussed along with a discussion of the ramifications of parental leave and part- time employment for employers and breast-feeding mothers.

Getting to work in Sydney and Melbourne

Andrew Burbidge

Data from the 1986 Census reveal the use made of public transport by men and women travelling to and from work in Melbourne and Sydney. The data indicate that the proportion of people using public transport is higher in Sydney than in Melbourne and that in both cities women, particularly women from low income areas, are more likely to use public transport.

Homelessness still a problem: Burdekin Equiry reconvened

Robyn Hartley

This article reports on the Australian Institute of Family Studies' submission to the re-convened hearing of the National Enquiry into Homeless Children. Issues addressed by the Institute include: the lack of evidence of a drop in the numbers of young homeless people or an increase in the level of appropriate accommodation and services; the importance of developing preventative approaches to youth homelessness; and the need for well-designed projects to assist young homeless people.

Location of child care in Melbourne

Andrew Burbidge

Using statistics gathered for the Australian Institute of Family Studies' Living Standards Study, this article reports on the types of child care available in different suburbs of Melbourne. Ranking the suburbs on the basis of child care relative to the numbers of 0-4 year old children revealed that the fringe suburbs of Melbourne had the least number of places, and the inner suburbs had the most.

How divorced parents perceive their children's schooling

Christine Millward

Findings from the Australian Institute of Family Studies' Parents and Children after Marriage Breakdown (PCMB) study has provided an opportunity to assess the views of parents on the effect of their separation upon their children's education. The majority of parents interviewed felt that marriage breakdown had not affected their children's education. Of those who noted effects, non-resident parents were more worried about type and level of school, interest, competence and opportunities than were resident parents. Resident parents were more concerned about financing education. Parents were largely pleased with school performance, but rated the performance of their daughters higher than that of their sons.

Lift Off: New initiative in TV for early childhood.

Don Edgar

Lift Off is an entertaining and educational television series of the Australian Children's Television Foundation (ACTF) for children aged three to eight years. The aim of Lift Off is not merely to enhance the quality of early childhood; it is to make the whole community aware of the significance of early childhood and assist in its development. Lift Off's associated Outreach Program aims to extend the impact of Lift Off in the way Headstart did for Sesame Street.

How is it going to affect the kids?: Parents' views of their children's wellbeing after marriage breakdown

Ruth Weston

In 1987, 523 divorced parents were surveyed for the Australian Institute of Family Studies' Parents and Children after Marriage Breakdown Study. This was a follow-up survey of parents who were first interviewed for the Economic Consequences of Marriage Breakdown Study. The parents' views were elicited about the wellbeing of their children over the course of the marriage breakdown and in the longer term and the importance of the children in the lives of the parents. The survey indicated that parents considered their children's wellbeing to be adversely affected prior to separation and even more seriously affected during the early separation period. In 1984, resident parents were highly satisfied with their children's wellbeing and they remained so another three years later. In comparison, non-resident fathers were less content in the longer term. Indeed, while the majority of resident parents in 1987 believed their children were better off as a result of the separation and divorce, only one-quarter of non-resident fathers considered this to be the case.

An ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on: The use of child health services in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

Gay Ochiltree

The first stage of the Institute's Early Childhood Study examined among other things the current use of child health services in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, and assessed the extent to which these services were meeting the needs of infants and young children. A questionnaire was sent through the school system to mothers of five year old children in their first year of school. There were 8446 respondents. This article examines: how many mothers use the service, their ethnic and working background; the mothers' views of child health services; and a brief history of child health services in Australia with particular focus on South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. A comparison is made between Australian child health services and the British and French systems.