Coping with family life in Australia: A bit of a struggle


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Content type
Research report

December 1987


The case studies on which this book is based derive from a larger survey by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, carried out in 1982 in the city of Geelong, Victoria. First-hand accounts from sixty four families - low income and better off, one parent, migrant, with unemployed members - show how Australian families cope with everyday life, given very unequal resources and abilities. The book demonstrates the richness of family and community support, and the significant extent to which the extended family, often reinforced by friends and neighbours, continues to give practical, emotional and financial help to its members. At the same time the book demonstrates the essential need for public provisions. Although most respondents said that they would turn first to family and friends, most admitted that there were times when outside help was also required. The mediating structures of family, church, neighbourhood, and voluntary associations should be used, protected and nurtured, but government services exist, and continue to be needed, precisely because those mediating structures are often inadequate.

Author's preface

Author's preface

In writing these case studies of five groups of families I have not attempted to impose a uniform style or length but have allowed the writing to go with the data, and have tried to reproduce fairly what was recorded by the interviewers. Where possible the emphasis and use of language of the respondent is retained even when it is repetitive and ungrammatical. Sometimes the recorded indirect speech has been changed into direct speech and several passages in the interview put together to make a more coherent narrative. But the chief aim has been to let the respondents speak for themselves.

Much of the value of these studies depends upon the willingness of the respondents to discuss with us, often at a deeply personal level, the lives of their families. In effect, we asked them not only about their present situation but also to look back on their lives from their vantage point in the present and to reflect on those experiences in the lives of their families which seemed to them to have been significant. Their accounts are, of course, subjective, and reflect the respondents' perceptions of events and relationships. No doubt had we interviewed another member of the family the story would frequently have been subtly or even substantially different.

Case studies are essentially qualitative and cannot be used to generalise about the population as a whole. For that,' quantitative studies which can identify patterns and provide statistical analysis are necessary. Case studies cast light on the processes which underlie the patterns identified by quantitative analysis. They also remind us that statistical classification can obscure the infinite variety of human experience and blunt our sensibility to the fact that each statistic is a human being. As Rousseau said, 'Society has to be studied in the individual and the individual in society and those who want to separate politics from morals will never understand either.'



This book offers real stories, about real people, but they are stories with a purpose. That purpose is to show as vividly as possible how Australian families cope with everyday life, given very unequal resources and abilities. Such a demonstration, it is hoped, may jolt the pessimists out of their assertions that family life is declining, that too many people rely on the state for support, that people are losing the virtues of self-reliance. The evidence presented here is overwhelmingly in the opposite direction. The Australian family is alive and well, doggedly insisting that 'we can look after ourselves'; at times almost self-destructively independent.

The case studies on which Jean McCaughey's book is based derive from a larger survey by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, carried out in 1982 in the city of Geelong, Victoria. Geelong was chosen because it offered a diversity of economic and social situations and because it is a stable community large enough to have a developed system of social" services, both government and voluntary. Similar surveys were conducted in Darwin and Jabiru in the Northern Territory, and in Ashfield, an inner suburb of Sydney.

Although these case studies present the subjective viewpoints and interpretations of the individuals interviewed, they give a most important perspective. It shows how people see themselves, not only in relation to their families and friends, but also in relation to the society in which we live, and its systems. The respondents were selected because they provided a wide range of experiences, were willing to tell their stories and could do so effectively. Their case studies have been presented in five groupings. Four groups are of families considered to require specific consideration, whether through poverty, unemployment or the problems that can arise in the families of immigrants. The fifth group, of better-off families, provides a useful comparison of experiences.

The Institute's purpose in conducting such a study was to test the validity of attacks on the welfare state and of the often-expressed view that families are becoming too reliant on the state for support. The argument, expressed perhaps even more vehemently now than when we began the study, is that the family is a private institution which should accept responsibility for its own. This argument takes many forms, and assumes that all families are the same and/or have equal resources to cope with their family problems. It assumes, for example, that children are the family'S responsibility, so parents (usually mothers) should provide for child care; that ageing parents should be looked after by the family; that divorce is caused by couples themselves, so the costs of break-up should be carried by them, or the offending party, and not covered by supporting parent benefits or pensions; that a retarded or handicapped child is the family's problem, so the public should not have to pay for special appliances, or medical care or short-term holiday relief for parents.

Put baldly, the argument looks absurd, and is absurd. But it takes more subtle forms that confuse people, causing guilt and hardship for many families. Women are made to feel guilty either because they go out to work for money or because they choose to stay at home with their children. Young people who cannot find jobs are blamed, even by parents, as 'dole-bludgers', and are sometimes forced out of home by parents who forget that their own early job-finding efforts were easier in a time of affluence and growth in the job market. Families struggle to keep senile and incontinent aged parents at home, though hospital or paid home help might be better for everyone's sake. The hip-pocket-nerve reaction to rising taxation, frozen wages and inflation makes most people wonder why so much tax revenue must be spent on others who seem to be paying and contributing nothing.

Also, in Australia we now have close to two million people living below the poverty line, the majority of them being two-parent families with children. The alienating consequences of such poverty have implications for every part of our society, and policy-makers and bureaucrats alike must ask themselves how to address those implications.

The basic assumptions behind the view that families should look after their own members are: that everyone has a family of some kind with the money, time, ability and willingness to help when needed; that families live close enough to one another to help when called upon; that the family exists in some sort of vacuum, unaffected by economic and political circumstances, or by changing demands; that the public, the government and the community have no responsibility to assist those in need or to ensure that families have a basic level of public support.

This book challenges such assumptions as based on generalisations to which there are many exceptions. Many people have no family, either of their own making or from the wider extended family of relatives, who could give help when needed. They may live alone, may be immigrants whose families have not come with them, may be old, widowed, divorced and so on.

Not every family has the money to support unemployed children or parents, the time to offer child-care, to do household repairs, to help look for jobs for other relatives. There is a basic minimum level of income without which families cannot be expected to help their own, whether the person in need be a handicapped child, an unemployed teenager, a divorced sister or an aged and ailing parent.

Further, it is naive to assume that every family is a big happy clan, getting on well together, always ready to buck in. Marriage creates divisions as well as. unions, separations between people and their parents, in-laws and friends, their interests, preoccupations and locations. As these case studies show, socially deprived families tend to reproduce their state of social and economic deprivation from one generation to the next. There is a black side to family life which should not be forgotten, and no amount of exhortation, certainly no policy dictates, can hope to turn every family into a mutual-help society.

New families frequently move away to live and work apart from their families of origin. Telephone links and visits may still be important, but a young family isolated from grandparents or other relatives and old friends must look to their new neighbourhood and workplace for friendships and support, and in some cases these may be difficult to find. Most people, of course, do manage to build networks of new friends, acquaintances, workmates, who play an important part in enriching everyday life. We often forget how important such contacts are as support for family life, because no money or formal services are exchanged. You hear things, learn about jobs, preschools, where to buy goods cheaply, who may have some leftover paving bricks, or which local GP is the most understanding, from informal contacts, over the back fence, at the local shops, the infant welfare centre or the football club. A neighbour looks after your dog, helps build a barbecue; watches the kids when you rush off to the doctor, but we fail to think of these as family supports.

There is a danger though, and there has been a tendency in recent years for governments to believe, that informal networks of local support can be treated as substitutes for formal governmental income and advisory support. In some instances an absurd situation has arisen where problems caused by the inadequate resources of families and communities are referred back to them for solution. No self-help groups, voluntary agencies, or neighbourhood networks can solve many of those problems without adequate financial backing and technical know-how.

Among those surveyed in Geelong, half had family living nearby and more than three-quarters had at least one relative close at hand. Ironically, perhaps, the survey found that those least likely to have relatives living nearby or to have contact with them were those who most needed them - the old, lone parents with young children, and the immigrant population. The case studies reported in this book support our survey finding and provide evidence that help from neighbours and friends is less likely to be given when a family is in serious or socially unacceptable difficulty. A clear division of labour between males and females also emerged, giving rise to the question of how well the welfare state would survive without the assistance of the family unit and of women prepared to bear the brunt of social care.

On relatively simple matters such as houseminding when at work or on holidays, offering a lift to work or to shopping and doing household repairs and renovations, friends and neighbours are more significant than relatives. Caring for the sick is more a family thing, overwhelmingly provided by women, but also mostly received by them as well, and the number of local family is very important when such a need arises. Neighbours are obviously close but people prefer to protect their privacy, and reciprocation is more difficult with such intimate, tending needs, though neighbours frequently step in to help in a moment of crisis. Neighbours are even less likely to be called upon when there are personal upsets such as domestic violence, teenage drug problems or marriage breakdown: the risk of self-disclosure is too great. The danger of relying upon community-based notions of social support as opposed to more formal welfare services is most apparent in such cases.

The survey findings and these case studies also show that the pathways to competent support in such crises are characterised by chance encounters and blind alleys, indicating an urgent need for better information systems and more active informing of local 'gatekeepers' (such as teachers, GPs, infant welfare sisters, factory foremen, shopkeepers and the clubs to which people belong) by professionals about the services that are available. While people are suspicious of formal welfare providers, they may sometimes approach them for help if advised to do so by someone they trust, someone already part of their informal local network of support.

There is thus an important distinction to be made between utilising local support networks and relying too heavily on them as substitutes for more formal sorts of advice and care. This book offers striking evidence of the importance of family and kin networks as providers of support, but it also highlights the limits of family and neighbourhood care. The local GP may not be the best marriage counsellor but is often the first port of call and there is no excuse for doctors not working in co-operation with local marriage counselling agencies. Building up referral networks, linking professionals with others who have different expertise, developing information and advisory services through the workplace, neighbourhood organisations and across functionally separate government departments will yield better returns in social justice terms than expecting some ill-defined community or neighbourhood or informal support system to carry the entire load. Such activities would also be preferable to a narrow focus on service-delivery, with all the overload and professional burn-out that result.

The analysis of case-study families in this volume attests to the varying capacities of families to tap into the networks of support, both informal and formal, that exist in their own communities. It also shows how risky it is to expect every family to cope alone. The move towards promoting voluntary effort and self-help, building 'on informal networks, does not absolve governments of. their responsibility. Rather it redirects the human-service professionals towards active dissemination of information to local 'gatekeepers' whom people will trust. It redefines state-provided social services as instruments to enlarge freedom, promote social betterment and aid greater equality. And it sounds a warning against asking too much of informal networks. The aim is surely to enhance people's capacity to cope, to empower people to make use of the resources available within their wider community, thus decreasing the need for social support.

This book demonstrates the richness of family and community support, yet at the same time it demonstrates the essential need for public provisions. The me~iating structures of family, church, neighbourhood and voluntary assoCiations should be used, protected and nurtured, but government services exist, and continue to be needed, precisely because those mediating structures are often inadequate. The essential balance must be maintained.

Jean McCaughey returns here to the same problems she analysed so well in Who Cares?1 as part of the Henderson poverty inquiry. But these case studies have a sharper edge in that the five groups were chosen for comparison and contrast, and Jean's own long experience of family issues has honed her very humane sensibilities and policy concerns. She would be the first to acknowledge the extensive involvement of a long list of others in the design, coding and field-work stages of the study. But her special talents shine through in the moving, inspiring, sometimes anger-provoking discussion of these case-study families. Names and details of family size, location, and problems encountered have been changed to protect confidentiality, so some of the richness had to be sacrificed, but the analysis is faithful to what we were told.

As Elizabeth Bott says in Family and Social Network, 'Family life goes on inside homes, not in the streets or in universities, schools, clinics, churches, factories, or any of the other institutions to which researchers have easy access. Unless one is invited inside a home, one cannot learn much about a family as a working group.2 Jean McCaughey, and I on behalf of the Institute, want to thank the families who were willing to let our interviewers into their homes and take part in the study. I hope readers, both lay and professional, will find that the book contains stimulating ideas about how to structure supportive community services as well as fascinating views of real lives. The Institute is grateful to Jean McCaughey for completing the book despite her onerous new duties as wife of the Governor of Victoria.

Don Edgar
Australian Institute of Family Studies

1 McCaughey, J., Shaver,S., Ferber, H. & others, Who Cares? Family Problems, Community Links and Helping Services, published by Sun Books for the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne, 1977.

2 Bott, E., Family and Social Network, Tavistock, London, 1957.

1. Low-income two-parent families

1. Low-income two-parent families

Introducing the Families

Eleven low-income, two-parent families were selected as representative. All had recently experienced poverty. For some it was a long-standing condition and seemed likely to continue: for others it had been a temporary crisis, often due to the loss of earning power of the breadwinner. All the respondents were women, the men of the families were either unavailable or unwilling to be interviewed.

All the families were described by the interviewers as working class. Five of the fathers were unskilled or semi-skilled, two were skilled, two were self-employed, one was a salesman and one was an invalid pensioner. Five families had a combined income comfortably above the poverty line; five, including those of the two self-employed, were very close to it, and one, the invalid pensioner's, was well below it.

Only two of the wives were in regular employment. Both worked part time. One, in a skilled job, earned approximately $100 per week, the other approximately $20 per week from child minding. Three other women admitted somewhat reluctantly that they had done house cleaning when the families were short of money but had stopped when they no longer needed to do so. Only necessity had driven them to look for work. They were fully occupied with their household tasks and caring for their children, especially those with large families or with illness in the family.

Three couples were in their twenties and three in their thirties, with a mixture of young and school-aged children; five were in their forties with adolescent and adult children. Two had married children who had left home.

All these families were buying their houses: four through the Housing Commission and seven privately. Of the latter group, five had set up home when house prices and interest rates were lower; one had bought their first home through the Housing Commission and another had bought an exCommission house cheaply on the open market. The Housing Commission had thus played an important role in enabling six of the eleven families to obtain their first homes.

All families had at least basic furnishings and all but two households were clean, tidy and well kept. The general impression was of families who did not have the inclination for, or the money to spend on, such things as luxurious carpets and furniture and who took a fairly utilitarian view of what was necessary. The mothers regarded it as their job to see that the house was as comfortable and the children as well fed as possible. All felt that mothers should not work while their children were young, unless it was absolutely necessary, and many were critical of those who worked for 'luxuries rather than necessities'. Several said that they thought the Government should pay mothers an allowance to stay at home and look after their children.

Ten of the respondents and eight of the husbands had been born and brought up in Geelong. The others had lived there all their married lives. As a result, most had many relatives and friends nearby and this had a considerable effect on their lifestyle.

Background to the Families

All the respondents described their backgrounds (and those of their partners) as working class. Although some had been better off than others there was a similarity of lifestyle and expectations. As one put it: 'We had all the basic things but nothing flash.'

Eight remembered their families as poor, mainly because their fathers had been unskilled or semi-skilled workers on low wages. In some cases their poverty was increased by large families, by decreased earning power (usually due to illness of the breadwinner), by the high proportion of income that went into buying or building a house, or by the amount spent on alcohol.

Most respondents did not remember feeling deprived as children because everybody around them was in the same boat. As one of them, Millie, said: 'My mother had eight children to feed and we only had very plain food, but it was the same for everybody. We never ate like the children eat today.'

Another, Margaret, remembered the family living with her grandparents for a year while her father built their house. When they moved in they had no carpets and only kitchen chairs. Although her father was a skilled tradesman and worked very hard seven days a week, most of their money went into finishing the house.

The two respondents from the poorest families had fathers incapacitated by chronic illnesses throughout their childhoods. Their poverty did make them feel different. As one, Eileen, said: 'I felt very different from everyone else. I did have one friend who was in the same boat. We had free books but we had to wait for them to be given out at school and we weren't allowed to take them home.'

Several respondents remembered their fathers as always working - taking extra jobs at the weekend and all the overtime they could get. Most remembered their childhoods as happy. This was due to the quality of family relationships rather than their families' financial position. As Millie described it:

There were eight of us and during the Depression my Dad had to work at all sorts of jobs to earn money. Sometimes we were a bit short but we were never lonely. Mum and Dad were always around and there were plenty of kids to play with. It was a great life - really lovely. My Dad never drank or smoked - a real, down-to-earth guy who went to work and came home to his family. I never remember any big rows. We never had a lot of money, never much at Christmas. One bike between us all and we shared.

Another respondent, Dorothy, said:

My parents had a stable marriage. They supported each other. Dad was always home when he wasn't working. We went fishing and rabbiting as a family and Mum would sit in the car and knit. We always had meals together. Dad had a car before he was married but he had to sell it to buy things for the house and a pram for the first baby. He didn't get another car until I was about ten.

Other respondents spoke in a similar vein about their childhoods. The better-off families had had a car for family outings; clothes that were bought in a store rather than home made or from an opportunity shop; and could go to the cinema regularly. However, the general picture was of families in which children felt loved and secure even though they were poor.

Four respondents had less happy memories of childhood. In two cases this was due to parental conflict. Margaret, explained:

When my parents had violent arguments my brother and I were frightened and upset and just kept out of the way. It still upsets me to think about it now. I never talked about it to anybody, not even my brother. It has affected my relationship with men - even now I can't stand arguments.

In Val's case the situation had been. complicated by the father's heavy drinking:

The hardest thing for me was my father's drinking bouts. Mum and Dad didn't get on, they were always fighting. Dad used to go to the pub and get fighting full and drunk. I remember wishing I could blow up all the pubs he drank at before he could go back to them and drink more. He used to bash Mum up when he got drunk. If he was too violent I had to ring the police. I remember once Dad was chasing Mum round the backyard with a shovel. I ran into the neighbour's for help and he wouldn't come. I hated him for that.

The two poorest respondents also had less than happy memories of childhood. In Marion's case her only brother, as well as her father, was sick for most of his childhood and had spent long periods in hospital. She said that, although her childhood had not been particularly unhappy, the family's life had been very hard.

Eileen remembered greater unhappiness:

I grew up knowing I was an unwanted child - my mother always told me that. After my father died my mother often went to the pub in the afternoon and didn't come home till closing time. I remember vividly standing at the wire door and every car that came past I used to say 'Please Mum come home.' I still have nightmares about it. I can't understand how my mother didn't care for us. After Dad died she just seemed to abandon us.

The respondents' accounts of their early years indicate clearly the absence of outside social activities and the strength and closeness of the extended family. Pauline's was a typical response: 'I cannot remember my parents or any of my brothers and sisters belonging to any organisation or sports club. In fact, we rarely went out anywhere at all, except perhaps for a short drive on Sunday.' Dorothy said, 'We had very little social life apart from the church. We didn't entertain or go out apart from going to Mum's and Dad's brothers and sisters.' A few had belonged to sports or youth clubs but they were the exception. As they grew older, some had been allowed to go to dances. Parental discipline was remembered as strict, but was accepted.

This limited involvement in social activity was balanced by visiting among the extended family. As one respondent said: 'We didn't go out much except for trips in the train to visit aunties and uncles. And sometimes all the relatives hired a furniture van and we went for a picnic to Ballarat.'

Most respondents remembered families giving and receiving help. They minded each others' children, kept the household going when the mother was sick, provided accommodation in a crisis, cared for elderly parents, comforted families in bereavement, and in innumerable ways stood by each other. As Joyce said:

My Mum was always the one to support others - she went to help my aunt in Bendigo when she was sick and stayed with my Nana when she was dying. Generally in those days help came from the family as a whole and also from a few close neighbors.

Other respondents also mentioned help from neighbours, especially in emergencies. Several remembered their fathers giving practical help to family and friends with house maintenance, repairing cars or other odd jobs.

The respondents from big families strikingly pictured the interlocking strength of a large, closely knit family. For example, Norma said there were eight children at home during her childhood. The house was a small weatherboard and the family lived in the kitchen because all the other rooms were used as bedrooms. Two married sisters lived nearby. She said:

Dad used to drink a bit at times and got very argumentative, especially with Mum, and he used to hit her sometimes. When that happened we kids used to run up to my sisters' and they would come and try to calm Dad down. If that didn't work, Mum and all us kids would sleep at my sisters' houses. The next day Dad would be okay and as good as gold. In return Mum and Dad minded my sisters' kids when they went to work and often cooked tea for them in the evenings.

Another interesting facet of this family's story was that when the children still living at home grew old enough to go out to work, they gradually bought their mother the 'luxuries' she had never had. They combined to buy her a washing machine, a refrigerator and finally, a lounge suite. Norma concluded the story by saying: 'All the neighbours used to say we were all a credit to our Mum.'

The two poorest families were exceptions to the general picture of family support. Neither had had any support from their families, nor could they remember friends who helped. Marion said:

We had no social life at all and no friends. I was never allowed to bring anyone to the house, not even school friends. Mum had no outside help in times of sickness. In fact, I can't remember anybody being in the house except the family. Our next door neighbours did help Mum with the arrangements for Dad's funeral and they came and talked to her. I don't remember us giving any help either. We went to church on Sundays and that was about the only place we went to except for doctors and hospitals. And once or twice a year my aunt and uncle visited us from Ballarat.

Eileen's family was equally bereft of support. The mother found her only social outlet at the pub which didn't help the family. She went once or twice to Parents without Partners but wouldn't go back because 'they were too stuck up'. Eileen said: 'No-one helped with sickness or anything and Mum just wouldn't ask for help. My life would have been happier and more stable if Mum had had some sort of help.'

So, the two families who most needed help and support did not receive it.

All the respondents had left school when they turned fifteen or before. All except Marion and Eileen had wanted to leave and had made the decision themselves. Some had hated school, some wanted to get a job and earn money. A surprising number said that they were not coping well at school, especially those who had been at high school. They said they had lost confidence in their ability to cope with the work and pass exams so there was no point in staying on. All said their parents had had no objection to their leaving school. Dorothy expressed the general attitude succinctly: 'Education was not big in our family.'

All but four went straight into jobs when they left school. Most were unskilled, poorly paid and had little chance of advancement. All paid their mothers something for their board. Of the four, one did a secretarial course, one a parttime dressmaking course, one was trained as a telephonist and one, forced by her mother to leave school at fourteen, stayed at home. Eileen said: 'My mother just told me "you are leaving school, your brother needs education and girls don't." She didn't want me to have a job either and I never had one.'

The respondents' partners had also left school at around fifteen. Most had started in unskilled occupations and about half had had some training on the job. Most respondents and their partners were content to remain in unskilled jobs and those with plans to re-enter the workforce when their children were older, intended to seek unskilled, part-time work.

The respondents' accounts of their early years illustrate two important aspects of the family: its ambivalence, that is its potential to be damaging as well as supporting, and the strength of its ties. Much has been said about the positive aspects of the family, less about the negative, which were less evident. The following examples help to fill out the picture and to indicate the family's capacity to survive conflicts which would finish most other human relationships. Eileen described her experiences:

I was lonely when I left school and had nothing to do. Then I got my first boyfriend. He had had an unhappy childhood too and we comforted each other. I was fourteen and he was twenty-two. I really wanted someone to love and I couldn't love my mother because she wouldn't respond. She used to leave me alone a lot and my boyfriend used to come and stay with me and sometimes I went to his place. Mum never said anything to me or him about it, but she went to the police and told them that I was under age and was in moral danger. The police came to my boyfriend's house and they just knocked on the door and said they had come for me ... The whole way up to Melbourne they kept pumping me as to whether we had had sex. I said: 'No, No.' They didn't care anything else about a fourteen-year-old. No one gave me the chance to say anything. And they took me to the Convent and locked me up and that's where I stayed. And they said I must break all ties with my boyfriend and he was the only person that loved me. And it was my mother that started it all. After four months at the Convent I was allowed home for the weekend. Soon after I got home Mum said: 'You don't mind if I go down to the pub, do you?' and she left me on my own. So I took a whole pile of her tablets and nearly killed myself. I thought the one person I loved was my boyfriend and they took him away from me, and after all those months she couldn't stay at home one evening to be with me. I was in intensive care for three days and nearly died.

In due course she was reunited with her boyfriend and married him. However, in spite of this shattering experience, it was to her mother that Eileen turned for help when she was very sick during her first pregnancy at the age of sixteen. She and her husband moved from their rented flat into her mother's house and lived there for over a year. The relationship remained ambivalent but survived many conflicts.

Val came from a family with many stresses. She said:

I became pregnant when I was sixteen and in my first job. Mum found out and arranged for me to go and live with an auntie a long way from Geelong. Mum also went to the priest and he told her about a home for unmarried mothers I could go to for the last four months. I was very unhappy and lonely there. I was taken to hospital to have the baby. I wanted to keep it but Mum wouldn't agree because she would be embarrassed. They never even let me see him but I asked the other girls and they said he was lovely. When I came home I was always wondering who had my baby. I was very hurt at what my mother did. I started running away from home and once my girl friend and I hitch-hiked to Sydney. On the way back the police found us and they talked to Mum and she agreed that I should be put in a Remand Home. I hated it there. After six weeks I was allowed to go home and first thing my Dad gave me a hiding.

Yet in spite of these traumatic experiences she later got on well with her parents. She and her husband lived with them for over a year when they first married and when their first child was born. Her parents lent them money for a house deposit, minded their children and became the chief support of the family.

The families

All but one of the families were better off than their parents had been. All owned or were buying their homes, and most owned a car. They ate better, had more possessions and more social life but, although their standard of living had improved, it had just kept pace with those around them. They were still working class in occupation and ethos. None expressed any great ambition to rise above their fellows, though some wanted their children to have a better education and training so they would have a good chance of obtaining a job.

Although the fathers of the families were in the workforce at the time of the interview (except the invalid pensioner) and had not suffered prolonged unemployment, all had experienced or were experiencing poverty. Seven had been or were in debt; six had no savings at all, five had saved a little.

The causes of families' poverty were often due to a combination of circumstances, but common patterns could be observed. In all cases family life had begun with little in the way of financial resources. When the respondents married, usually at an early age, they and their partners had little or no savings. Most had been low wage earners and had spent most of what was left from their wages after paying board. As Margaret said: 'I was never brought up to save a cracker.' Josie had spent all her savings on a holiday to New Zealand shortly before she married.

The families' economic vulnerability was often first evident when setting up home. None had the money to pay a deposit on a house, nor could their parents lend them the money, so they began their married lives in rented accommodation or living with parents. However, all expected that they would buy their own homes eventually. Most wives had worked for only a short time after marriage and had given up work during their first pregnancy.

Housing costs often took up a high proportion of income, increasing the possibility of falling into poverty. Joyce said:

When we were married we lived with my husband's mother for over a year and after our first child was born we moved into a rented flat. The rent was $10 a week and my husband was only earning $32 driving a truck. We didn't have much money. Gee, it was a struggle! Just enough to live on. I had three children there and we had our name down with the Housing Commission. We only had to pay $100 deposit and $9.60 a week to pay it off, but even.that was a battle. We lived very cheaply there, about $1 a week for briquettes for the stove and food was cheap. We could never do it again.

Buying their house had also been a drain on Millie and her husband's resources:

When we had three children my husband wanted us to get a house of our own; so then he took two jobs. He drove a taxi at the weekends and two evenings a week after work . .'. He drove the taxis for three years until we had the deposit saved. By that time we had five children and we had to be very careful but we managed, and have done ever since on one wage. It was a big drain on our finances when we came here (bought their house) but it was worth it. Our eldest is married but her husband won't even think of buying. He can't ever see them having the money for the deposit on a home.

It was interesting to find that when many of these families had set up home they had chosen to live near their parents, and the two families with married children had them living nearby.

The most common cause of poverty in the families was the illness or unemployment of the breadwinner. In some cases the father had been unwell and off work intermittently before illness was diagnosed, so that any resources the family had, including sick pay, had been used. Pauline's case was one of many examples:

It all started when my husband fainted at work one day. He was taken to hospital by ambulance, various tests were done but the results showed nothing so he was sent home. He went to his own doctor who said his nerves were bad and that he should take some time off. He did and was retrenched and had to go on the dole. After three months he got another job. He worked there for a year but had to take a lot of time off and finally was retrenched again. All that time he was attending the doctor and taking tablets for his nerves, but he always felt sick and often went to work when he was poorly because he was afraid of losing his job and we badly needed the money. Finally he became too ill to work and the doctor referred him to Epworth Hospital where they diagnosed it as a chronic illness which he would have to live with for the rest of his life. They told us it would take a year to get it under control and during that time he would be unable to work. I immediately went round and got myoid job back again, but I had to take shift work. The morning shift began at six am so that I was not at home to get the children off to school, and when I was on evening shift I worked until eleven pm. It was very hard going. Also we had to live on my wages, which were much lower than my husband's. I went round to the Social Security Department to see if we could get some supplementary income, but I was told we were not eligible for any financial help because I worked full time. Apart from all the worry about my husband's illness it was a big struggle financially. The children suffered. They got no new clothes and sometimes we couldn't spare the money for things like school outings.

Several other examples could be given of the financial effects of long-term illness, including psychiatric problems which sometimes resulted in prolonged loss of income. One case of drug addiction produced special problems for Josie:

My husband had his own business but he lost it when he became a drug addict. He was on heroin for seven months but I never suspected anything. It never crossed my mind. It was a terrible shock when he told me about it; I just couldn't believe it at first. Among other things, I was horrified at the amount he had taken out of the business to buy drugs. He was not able to work for months while he was having treatment. In the meantime, we had to live on what was left of the business, and by the time he was well enough to register with the C.E.S. and look for work we had practically no money left. We had to wait six weeks for the first dole cheque and we had not enough money for food and rent. It was a terrible time.

Illness of others than the breadwinners also created financial difficulties. Two respondents said they would have liked to have taken a part-time job to help the family finances, but in one family four children were asthmatics and their mother had to look after them. In the other family a child had a speech defect which necessitated frequent visits to the speech therapist.

The fathers of two families were self-employed and the recession had severely reduced their incomes. One was a builder whose business was almost at a standstill. His wife, Dorothy, described the effect on the family:

For the first time for many years we won't have a holiday. The kids will get clothes for Christmas instead of toys. We will all have less clothes. I sew myself and I always have a new dress for Christmas day but this year I am wondering if I should spend $5 on material. We cut back on the Ball we always go to. Food consists of basics and no luxuries. We have'more minced steak and then I can put in half sausage meat with it. There will be no extras this year. The money I earned in a temporary job was to be for a sun blind but instead we'll have to use it just to live on. I did go up to the employment exchange to ask about the dole but they said it is hard to get on to it if you have your own business. So we just hang on and hope things will improve.

Low wages were also a cause of poverty, particularly for large families. Millie said:

Yes, we've had money problems bringing up a big family, although my husband is a good provider and has never been out of work. Just clothing and feeding them and the cost of education seems never ending. Three of our children were unemployed for over a year after leaving school and that was a big worry. If I had my time over again I would not have such a big family - it's just too hard.

Even moderately sized families had to cope with severe financial constraints and several respondents described themselves as 'battling'. Eileen's husband had worked for ten years for Vicrail as an unskilled worker earning little more than the poverty line. Eileen described their family life:

We don't have much recreation as a family. We haven't got a car so if we ever go anywhere we have to go by bus. We sometimes go to the pool in summer but that costs money so we rarely go. My husband and I go out to dinner for our wedding anniversary and occasionally for my birthday but that's all. We rarely go to the pictures but I did take the children to see the Muppet movie. If we had a car and more money we would go out a lot more. But we manage on our income and we're not in debt. At present we're paying off the T.V. I need a new washing machine and a frig. but I say 'One thing at a time. Wait till we've paid off the T.V .... Bills are a problem, but we budget carefully and we can cope with them. Sometimes it's hard to find the money for extra things at school. Swimming starts soon and that's $3.25. It's not a lot but I have to find it. The eldest girl wants to go to the school camp. The school pays $15 and we only have to pay $10 but we really can't afford it. The girls want to do jazz ballet and you can pay $1.50 each week so I'll try to manage that, at least for the eldest one. I would like to give my girls everything but I won't let them go unless we can pay.

Our oldest girl had her teeth x-rayed at school and the school dentist gave me a letter for the orthodontist. I didn't have to pay for the x-ray but the orthodontist cost $25 and I only got $4.50 back from H.B.A. He said that she must have braces on her front teeth and that will cost $300-400. But we'll manage it - we'll scrape it up from here and there. I have $50 already saved for it.

For most of the families in this group dependence on sickness or unemployment benefits had been a temporary experience of poverty from which they might hope to recover when the father went back to work. However, Joyce's family had been living for years on the invalid pension and would continue to do so. She and her husband were in their forties and had been married for twenty-five years. They had two married daughters living nearby and four children at home, of whom one was working, one was at a technical college and two were at school. The husband had been an unskilled worker and they were still paying off their home. All her married life this woman had struggled to raise six children on a low income. Four of the children suffered from asthma. One of her married daughters and her husband were unemployed. The mother was trying to help them and their young child from her own meagre resources. She described the family's experiences:

Some years ago, my husband's health got very bad. Some weeks he could only work one or two days, and sometimes he would be off for a whole week at a time. He was not bringing much money home. We were really battling and there was no help from Social Security. He was told he was not eligible because he was only off work for a few . days at a time. Finally he had to give up work altogether and was put on sickness benefit and, after two years, on the invalid pension. We were very short of money but we managed. We always paid the loan repayments on the house first and if there were other bills we cut down on food.

We only have the bare necessities in clothes. The boys have one good pair of pants and shoes, and a good shirt and pullover to go to church on Sunday and maybe a social. The good clothes are taken off and put away as soon as they come home again. The boys used to play football but that really was a hardship because the boots are so dear and they only last one season. My daughter is fifteen and she would like to do aerobics but we can't afford the money. When the family is under stress because of illness or not having enough money to do things we all have family discussions together and talk it out and cope that way. Battling is the hardest part ... When the . children were young we never went out - we couldn't afford it. We couldn't even take them into town (Geelong) in the bus - it cost too much. We could never take them to the pictures - it was too dear for our pocket. The only time the family went for an outing was in the summer around Christmas, when we all went down to the Trotting Complex. The children were admitted free and they all had the time of their lives. We could walk there and back. We have never had a holiday. I've never had a break away from home since I was married twenty-five years ago.

Asked what she would do with an extra $20 a week she replied:

More food would come first and better type of food. We could have a roast every Sunday and maybe sometimes roast pork. Educating the children has been a problem. School uniforms have been a big expense in January, when we've been recovering from Christmas', but at least they got free books. One boy is at the technical college. He has a T.E.A.S. allowance which makes it possible, but it doesn't cover everything, for example, fares. They cost $6 a week and that's a big hole in our budget, but he is doing well and we'll find the money somehow, But we have no generation conflicts or problems and no trouble with alCohol or drugs. Everything, including money, is discussed openly with the children and they understand and are sensible.

Aspirations for my children? I would like to see them all with a secure job and the chance to have their own home - not a flash home but comfortable and their own. Maybe, for them to have a little bit of money to go away for a holiday now and then, say just to Melbourne for a few days.

The foregoing examples provide some insight into the causes of poverty, its effect on these families and their ways of coping. Some of these women were good managers who budgeted carefully and adapted their lifestyles to what they could afford. Some had the stamina to continue to do so year after year and yet provide a happy and secure family life for their children.

The interviewer described one such woman as: 'the mainstay of her family and has battled for them all. She has been a good manager, always on one limited income to support a large family. She has also welcomed other young people into home who were in trouble and had nowhere to live. The family is close-knit but is also involved in the community, largely because of the attitude of the mother.'

Other families adapted their lifestyle to sudden loss of income by cutting down expenditure or by the mother going out to work. One woman who went back to full-time work during her husband's long illness continued to work part time after he returned to work, to provide the security of some savings in the bank. Some respondents whose husbands' jobs were insecure (including the wife of the selfemployed builder) had gone to the Department of Social Security to enquire about their entitlements to unemployment benefit so that they could plan ahead.

Some were not such good managers and lived hand-tomouth. They spent money when they had it and when misfortune struck they borrowed to tide them over. Asked what they would do with an extra $20 per week, a typical response was: 'It would all get swallowed up with the rest.' However, most respondents said they managed on their incomes even though it was 'tight'.

These families had had to cope with other than financial problems. These included serious illness, nervous breakdown, the death of a child, marital problems and violence. In coping with them they drew upon a variety of informal and formal support systems.

Informal support

Almost all of the families had a wide network of extended family, usually spanning three generations, and many friends. These networks could be of significant support in setting up house, financial crises, illness, personal upsets and child care.

A striking feature of family support was the extent to which parents provided accommodation for their married children. Eight of the eleven families had lived with parents or other close relatives for considerable periods in the early years of their marriages. Another couple had continued to live in the parental home after the death of the wife's mother.

Most couples had to wait four to five years after marrying before they could afford a house deposit. During this time most lived part of the time with parents and part in rented flats. Moving in with parents seemed to be accepted by both parties as the normal way of solving the accommodation problem, though it sometimes strained family relationships, as Val made clear:

I was five months pregnant when we got married and we lived with my parents until after the baby was born. We applied to the Housing Commission and got our names on the waiting list. Mum got sick of having us around and she and Dad spoiled the baby rotten. After another eight months Mum said if a house didn't come up soon she'd kill us. Finally the Housing Commission offered us a house to rent. We lived there for three years, then we wanted to buy a bigger house from the Commission and Mum lent us $200 for the deposit. She was real happy to see us buying our own home.

In ]osie's case it had been grandparents who came to the young couple's rescue:

When we got married my husband was unemployed. We had very little money and we spent it all on our honey" moon. So we went to live with my grandparents. I went on working and after a while my husband got a job. After a few months we had saved quite a bit and we were getting under my grandparents' feet so we rented a flat.

The two respondents with married children deplored their inability to help them get homes of their own, but here again, the parents had given accommodation to married children. So, although these families were not affluent enough to give or lend their children money for house deposits, most were very much involved in, and strongly supported, their efforts to buy their own homes.

The extended family also gave practical help with setting up house. A kitchen setting seemed to be the standard wedding present from parents and many families started off with little more than that and a bedroom suite. Friends also helped with loans and gifts of odd pieces of furniture and equipment and with moving in. Val's account is typical:

My auntie and uncle gave us a washing machine. It was an old model with a wringer, but it worked. A girlfriend gave us a set of bunks and another lent us a cot. Mum and Dad gave us a kitchen setting and a carpet square for the lounge. And we got an old frig. for nothing from 5t Vincent de Paul. My brother had a car and he helped us to move in.

We bought an old house with the idea of doing it up and selling it again. My auntie lent us the money for the deposit. But when we got possession it was putrid and before we moved in we had to clean it up. My Mum and auntie and my mother-in-law all came and we scrubbed for two whole days. Then my Dad and uncle and cousin and brother all came and helped us to move in.

In addition to providing accommodation the extended family also gave direct help when money was short. Most families had experienced some financial crisis, sometimes acute enough to leave them without money for food or rent. Only one had ever asked for emergency aid. Another had been offered it and had accepted it on one occasion. Most relied on the extended family - usually parents - for loans or gifts to tide them over crises, as the following accounts of Norma and Val's experiences demonstrate:

When my husband was ill for several months we had the problem of loss of income and high medical costs. At first I didn't want to accept money from anyone but in the end I had to. My husband was the same way but he had worked with a welfare agency and they helped us. They gave us $200 to pay the medical bills. Other friends were very good - they gave me $70 for groceries once, and my husband's family helped us along with small amounts for food when we needed it. So we got by until my husband went back to work again. We are still a bit in debt and although I work part time we just manage on our income.

My husband's family are very supportive.

My husband was supposed to get a job with Alcoa but it fell through, so he registered with the C.E.S. While we were waiting for the first cheque to come through he got a part-time job. It was only for two weeks so he didn't bother telling the C.E.S. - we hadn't got anything from them anyhow. But somebody dobbed him in and they stopped the dole for six weeks. We had nothing. The phone was cut off because we couldn't pay the bill- we didn't even have money to buy food. A friend told me about the Brotherhood of St Laurence and they helped with food and clothing. Mum helped too - she paid the rent and gave us money for food for the whole family. She also bought our freezer from us to help with the bills - and let us buy it back when we recovered. One of our neighbours also helped by giving us meals sometimes - she knew we were having a hard time.

Bev's family was in trouble when her husband had a car accident incurring a bill for $1600 damages for which he had no insurance cover. He could not pay and was declared bankrupt. Bev's mother lent them $300 for arrears of rent and other bills. Her stepfather lent them $1800 to pay debts. These loans were being repaid by paying all their family allowances into her parents' bank account, thus reducing their own resources. Bev had also given small amounts of money to her girlfriend and had lent her $150 which had been repaid. The impression conveyed was of a family existing from day to day, relying on Bev's mother to supplement their 'Weekly budget in small ways and to bale them out with large loans when necessary. The heavy drinking of the husband was an element in their instability.

Most of the families said they did not ask for financial help from anyone outside the family, and some not even from them. Joyce said she had never asked her parents or parents-in-law for money, but she was grateful that the eldest son sometimes paid the gas or electricity bill. Like several other respondents, this woman was very independent and would rather do without than ask for help.

One or two respondents gave the impression of being less self-reliant. They frequently ran short of money and didn't mind borrowing small amounts until the next pay packet came in. One such family had decided to have their first holiday ever and had booked a caravan at the beach for a week. To make this possible the father would have had to ask his boss for an advance on his wages - they didn't worry about what they would live on when they came back.

Serious illness, especially if it were prolonged, also put strains on the families. As Norma said: 'When my husband has a bad turn family routine is upset and we all become tense and anxious. We get over it by talking it over with each other and the children are very helpful.'

These strains were often mitigated by support from the extended family and friends. When Pauline went back to full-time work during her husband's illness she had financial and many other problems. She was deeply concerned about caring for her children and having to leave her husband alone. Her mother, who lived nearby, was her strongest support. She often stayed with the husband, did some of the housework and helped to care for the children. Pauline said this was the only help she had or wanted. She much preferred to be independent and would not ask anybody outside for help.

Help from relatives was not always so acceptable. Norma described her husband's long illness after an operation:

He developed bad nerves because he had never been sick before. He had always been very active and he just couldn't cope with illness. My patience wore very thin at times and so did his. The children got on edge too, and I used to discuss it with them and try to get them to accept their father's illness. But for all that seven months I lived on my nerves. His family visited a lot and they meant to be helpful but they often only made matters worse. They always wanted him to see another specialist or try something as though he was just sitting round not trying to get better.

She said that their friends had been more helpful because they weren't so anxious and they used to come and take him out in the car, sometimes for a whole day, and that gave him a real lift.

Betty, whose husband had long-standing psychiatric troubles which made family life difficult, said she could never . talk to her parents about it because they had never liked her husband and had tried to dissuade her from marrying him. However, in other ways they had received a lot of financial and other support from the husband's family.

Most families turned to their extended family for support during periods of illness - and some who were very independent would not seek or accept it from anyone else. Most also gave support, not only to their own generation, but also to elderly parents or to their children and grandchildren. The occasion on which families rallied round most was the birth of a new baby. Relatives from both families visited the mother in hospital and she felt the centre of attention. All sorts of practical help were given. The mother or mother-inlaw looked after the children, cleaned the house, cooked meals, did the washing and generally kept the household going until the mother was re-established with the new baby. Even Pauline found such help acceptable. Marion, who had no mother, mother-in-law or close friends, accepted some support from her neighbours, including once having the Home Help Service which a neighbour arranged.

Another striking aspect of the arrival of a baby was that the fathers helped with the house and cared for the children. Some had paternity leave and some took part of their annual leave. It was noteworthy that those who usually accepted little or no responsibility for house or children accepted it for both at this time.

Friends also gave support in various ways during periods of illness, for example by minding children or taking them home for a few days or by doing the shopping. Several respondents said that when their husbands had had long illnesses workmates were very good at calling in to see them.

These families had had to cope with a wide range of personal worries:' psychiatric illness, drug addiction, unemployment of children, a severely handicapped child, the death of children, childlessness, relationships with teenage children, marital problems, heavy drinking, violence, temporary desertion of the father, depression and the strains caused by chronic illnesses. Some families had experienced a whole syndrome of problems which seem likely to have been interrelated. The problems were so diverse and the ways of coping with them so particular that it is difficult to generalise about the help sought and received by the group a sa whole.

Whatever the problem (or problems), the immediate family had to bear the brunt of the hardship, and it was often the support of the immediate family, especially the quality of the marriage, that mattered most. Husbands, wives and children could help each other to cope with the most difficult problems. Valuable help could also be given informally by the extended family and close friends, as well as more formally through health and counselling services, and such help was often vital in enabling the family to maintain its caring role. It is not possible to describe every aspect of informal support used and given by these families, but the following examples outline the experiences of some families.

Josie described her experience after learning of her husband's drug addiction:

When he told me he had been on drugs for seven months it was a terrible shock. I just couldn't believe it at first that it could happen to us and I hadn't seen it. He told me and asked me to help him, but he would never tell me how he started or who supplied him. We went first and told his parents. They were deeply shocked and horrified that such a thing could happen to their son. Right away they drove us up to the Drug Centre and stayed with us until he was admitted to hospital.

I realised that I would have to get over my feelings and pull myself together, so that I could give him as much support as possible when he came out of hospital. I was pregnant at the time with our second child and I was petrified of losing the baby. My sister-in-law was very good - she took our two-year-old home and kept him until I could pull myself together and my husband was out of hospital. Both our parents were very helpful. They got over their feelings of shock and gave us both a great deal of help. They really stood by us.

Other respondents gave less detailed accounts of support received. Many said they had had moral and practical support from their families but their emphasis was more on the specific help they had received from formal support services. The hardship of families with no relatives nearby can be seen from Marion's account. Her only relative in Geelong was a brother who was an invalid. Her second child was born severely handicapped:

It was a terrible shock. I knew I had had a contact with German measles when I was pregnant and I worried the whole time, but still it was terrible when the doctor told me. When I came home from hospital it was very hard. He was a difficult baby to look after and I had a boy of seventeen months as well. Then when the baby was three weeks old my husband left and took the older boy with him and I was left with the baby. I just fell apart, I couldn't cope. I went to the doctor and he referred me to a psychiatrist and I was under him for a year. I also went to the police and asked them to find out where my husband was. After three months he came to his senses and came back again. An auntie from Ballarat visited me one day but she was the only person I ever could talk to.

After a year Marion felt she could no longer cope with the baby and he was made a ward of the state and taken into care. She said this had been a very difficult decision for them and that she could not talk about it to anyone except the doctor. Her next door neighbour sometimes helped and Marion said that though she was very kind, she did not discuss personal problems with her. However, she reiterated: 'We have no close relationship with relatives or friends. Both my husband and I think that families should work out problems themselves.' This view was shared by many of the families. Sometimes 'family' included the extended family, and most added that if a family couldn't solve a problem it should seek professional help.

The families did not have much need for regular child minding because the mothers regarded this as their job. Some fathers made comments such as: 'We never needed child care. My wife stayed home and looked after the children.' The only family which had used full-time day care was that in which the mother returned to full-time work for a year when the father was ill.

For casual child minding they used extended family, mostly parents or married siblings with whom they shared child minding. Some used friends or neighbours, especially in a crisis, but many said they would never ask anybody outside the family. It was striking how many of these families said that they never went out or that they never went out without the children. The only time they had the children looked after was on special occasions such as weddings or funerals.

There were two large families in the group: one with seven and one with six children. One had a barely adequate income while the other was poor. Both showed many of the characteristics noted in the previous generation, in that they were to a large extent self-supporting. In the early stages, both respondents had relied heavily on their mothers for help. As they grew older and less able to help, the older children took over the role of helper. As Joyce said: 'I have plenty of friends but I never need to ask them for help because there are so many in the family. We have two married daughters close by and they would always come.' Thus the give and take of help moved from one generation to the next, including all members according to their need.

This self-sufficiency, combined with poverty, tended to cut Joyce's family off from outside contacts, but Millie's family had their doors wide open. Over the previous few months they had had four unemployed teenagers staying with them at various times. Millie said that with five children of their own at home it was easy to take in another. She was very aware of the social problems of young people in Geelong and was prepared to do battle on their behalf. Asked about the best ways for families to support each other, she said: 'To care for other people, to be interested, to get involved, to welcome young people into your home, especially if they have nowhere to stay.'

Much has been said about the quality and quantity of extended family support which can underpin a family over a long period or prove vital in a crisis. In this group of eleven families, however, there was one for whom the extended family was more like a millstone around its neck than a source of strength. In their case both husband, and wife came from very deprived backgrounds. The husband was the eldest of thirteen children and had been regularly beaten by his father. The wife was the neglected child described earlier. She became pregnant at fifteen and was married at' sixteen. Her family had had a long history of psychiatric problems. Before her marriage she herself had taken a massive overdose, which she considered had been more a cry for help than an attempt at suicide. Although a very intelligent and articulate woman, her family inheritance created in her fear about the soundness of her own mind. This fear was shared by her husband who reacted by ordering her to keep away from all psychiatric services and institutions. He has said that if ever she goes to Dax House (a Geelong psychiatric centre) as a patient he 'won't be here when you get back'.

Although she was not close to her mother and sister they always fell back on her in a crisis. This increased her fear of her own instability and her feelings of guilt because she didn't wish to help or even see them. Her husband deeply resented the trouble they caused. Some weeks before she was interviewed this problem had reached crisis point. Her mother and sister came to unload their problems. Her husband told them to get out and in future to leave his wife and family alone: 'We don't come to you with our problems and we don't want to hear about yours'. That night her sister took an overdose and her mother told her that if she had died it would have been her fault.

This woman was trying hard to overcome the deprivation of her own and her husband's childhoods, to educate herself and to provide a good home for her children. She was determined to give them the love and security she herself did not have, but this was made extremely difficult by the destructive effect of her extended family. Fortunately she had been able to build up a good friendship network through the children's school and with her neighbors.

These families tended to be more involved in community groups and organisations than their families of origin had been. Eight of the eleven had sent their children to kindergarten, even when it was hard to find the $10-18 per term for fees. This gave the respondents the opportunity to meet with other mothers and to discuss their children with the staff. Some were involved in kindergarten committees and made new friends there. School mothers' clubs performed much the same function. Seven families had church connections which provided considerable support for some and made various youth groups available to the children, so increasing the social involvement of the family. A few respondents belonged to sporting clubs: one played netball, two ten-pin bowls and one had taken up aerobics but had had to stop when money was short. Many of their children were also involved in sports. At least two families were involved in the local football club, the father coaching, the mother helping with the canteen, the children (presumably) as cheer squad.

Three respondents were involved in community work: two as youth leaders and one as a financial counsellor until the service was cut. One husband was involved in a church organisation which provided financial aid and welfare. Only two of the women were seeking outside involvement on their own account. Eileen said:

My husband is funny about doing outside things. It's not that he wants to deprive me and the children, but he would be quite happy if we stayed at home seven days a week and did nothing. I'm not like that. I go down to the school every day and he.lp with the canteen and with the children's reading. I'm on the committee for the Safety House. I don't want to be just Eileen the housewife. I want to be part of the community. I love my home but I need to get out and meet other people and make friends.

Dorothy started her community involvement with the school:

Then I helped with Meals on Wheels for a time. Last year I trained as a financial counsellor and went round helping people to make a budget and manage on their income. This brought me into contact with a lot of people, and although I got depressed with all the problems these families had, I felt it was very worthwhile. I sometimes took their children out for a treat and sometimes brought them home to give the mothers a break. This work did a lot for me too - mainly it gave me a lot of social contacts and satisfaction. I love kids.

Most respondents, however, found their involvement through their own children: in parents' clu1;>s at school and kindergarten, and through their sporting activities. They regarded these activities as an enjoyable break from household routine rather than as fulfilling a personal need for outside interests of their own. Nevertheless, they did provide a meeting place with other people who shared their interests. Several respondents, however, said firmly that they belonged to no clubs or organisations, because they had not the time, the money or (perhaps) the inclination.

Formal support

All the families had used health services such as doctors and hospitals. For some this had been for more or less routine matters such as the arrival of a new baby, minor illnesses or accidents. Others had experienced serious health problems leading to extensive use of health services.

Most families were, on the whole, satisfied with the services they had received from doctors and hospitals, especially those of a routine nature. Those with more serious problems were more likely to be critical of hospitals than of their own general practitioners. Hospitals were sometimes said to be uncaring and unwilling to tell families about the nature of the treatment and the care needed when the patient returned home. Those who were referred for specialised services to hospitals such as the Royal Children's and Epworth spoke highly of the treatment of the patient and the support of the family. So long as they were kind and sympathetic, general practitioners seemed to be almost immune 'from criticism even when their advice was clearly astray. Millie described her experience as follows:

My first baby was born a perfectly normal, healthy baby. One evening at home she was breathing funny. I took her to the doctor and he just said: 'Oh you young mothers, you worry about nothing.' When I got home my Mum was there and she said: 'That baby has got pneumonia.' I told her what the doctor had said and she said: 'Go back', but I didn't like to so I went to the chemist and he said there was nothing wrong. Next morning I took her to the Baby Health Centre and the sister sent her straight to hospital. She was put in an oxygen tent, but she died of pneumonia. It was terrible. Everybody was very kind, but I just couldn't bear it being talked about. My mother-inlaw gave us the money to go to Adelaide for a few days just to get away. When I went back to the doctor he said: 'Have another baby - that's the best answer.' So I got pregnant again, but after about a month I got very ill and was rushed to hospital for an operation. I was very ill after that and got very down and depressed because the doctor told me I couldn't have another baby. Well, after that I had eight more children, so I needn't have worried!

In spite of these experiences she still had faith in her doctor. When Pauline's husband contracted a chronic bowel disease, the doctor treated him for two years for 'bad nerves' before he was referred to a Melbourne hospital where his condition was diagnosed and proper treatment initiated. But Pauline seemed quite uncritical of the long delay.

Millie, who had brought up a large family, was more critical. She considered that the individual care given by doctors had decreased in the past decade and that general practitioners were overly inclined to refer patients for unnecessary tests.

Several respondents turned to their doctors for other than strictly health problems. Marion went to her doctor about her problem with caring for her handicapped baby. He helped them to decide to have their child made a ward of the state and taken into care. This woman had no extended family or close friends with whom she could discuss her problem and she said the doctor had been most helpful.

All these mothers had used Infant Welfare Centres regularly and found them useful sources of advice in caring for their babies and, when necessary, in referring them to other health services. This was also true of the nursing sisters who visited kindergartens. For example, one family had a child with a speech defect of which they were not aware. The nursing sister realised that treatment was necessary and advised them to go to their doctor who referred them to a therapist. Treatment was begun at once so that by the time the child went to school the defect had been substantially overcome.

In eight of these families at least one member had been treated for psychiatric problems or 'bad nerves'. Six of these were episodic and seemed to be largely due to other pressures and anxieties. For example, Val, a young mother with two children, had many pressing problems and felt she could not cope. She rang up Lifeline who referred her to the psychiatric clinic at Dax House. She attended group therapy sessions and, although she only went for two weeks, she found it very helpful. She said it gave her the chance to meet other people with the same problems and to talk over her troubles and get it out of her system. After that she felt she could cope on her own with the help of her mother and a girlfriend.

The other two cases, both fathers of families, were of longer standing. One had been receiving treatment from a private psychiatrist for almost a year and though well enough to return to work he was still under medication and 'up and down'. Although they had health insurance the cost of drugs was a financial burden. The other husband had been under treatment for more than eight years and, though he was working full time, he still suffered from bouts of severe anxiety and depression. At first he attended a hospital clinic (after a period as an in-patient) and his wife found it hard to get information about his treatment. Later he was referred to Dax House and this seemed to have helped him more. The respondent said: 'The psychiatrist at Dax House was the greatest help I ever had and am still having. He takes time to talk to me and explains about my husband's condition, and how to cope when he flies into a rage. I feel he really understands my problems. I can ring him up any time and he understands.'

All these families felt entitled to health services and did not hesitate to use them. All were covered by health insurance or as pensioners, and the only cost they complained of was that of long-term medication. Access to health services was usually through the general practitioner, though in a significant number of cases it was through their Infant Welfare Centre or the nursing sister attached to the kindergarten. Apart from the Community Health Centre, which seemed to have a very effective referral system to a wide range of services, there was little 'flow on' from health services to other support services.

The desire to be independent and to solve problems within the family often prevented families from seeking help from other services even when they knew it was available. Nevertheless, a wide range of welfare services had been used, from personal counselling to formal services such as the Commonwealth Employment Service.

Five families had used counselling services apart from doctors and psychiatrists, and one respondent had trained and worked for a short time as a financial counsellor. Two respondents were Catholics and knew about Catholic services. Norma had been through marital problems and she and her husband had had effective help which enabled them to sort out their problems. Millie had sought help for her daughter's problems. She had been deserted by her husband and was left at the age of eighteen with a three-monthold baby. Millie said:

She wasn't eating or sleeping and I didn't know what to do with her. So we went to the Catholic Family Welfare. She wanted to give the baby up for three months to see if she could cope on her own, to see if she could live without him and give him up for adoption. Her sister-in-law offered to have him and so did I, but she didn't want that, she wanted to be free. The welfare people listened but they really didn't do what she asked. They made her feel she shouldn't. We went to Mercy Care. I told them it was too much for her but they only tried to talk her round to their way of thinking - that it would be bad for the baby. We came away feeling it was a waste of time talking to those organisations because they won't listen to what you want. They try to force their opinion on you. Those places can change you, they can turn you around. They only thought about the baby - they didn't help his mother. Anyhow she gradually fought her way out of it. She came and stayed with us for a year, then she got a Housing Commission house.

Millie admitted that her daughter was now glad that she kept her baby, but still resented, unreasonably perhaps, the way she felt they had been manipulated by the service.

Eileen was helped by the Community Health Centre. She was referred to a financial counselling service which enabled her to budget, and to a family counsellor for :.:narital problems. The counsellor visited them and was very helpful, discussing their problems and explaining to her husband how she felt. However, her husband would not see the counsellor again. Eileen thought this was because:

It is a male thing - he feels he is less of a person if he has to have help. I am happy to have professional help and I know sometimes I need it, but he is not willing for me to use it. He thinks we should be able to work it out on our own. But he doesn't know how to help me - he is an emotional cripple from the way he was brought up himself, but he won't accept help or let me accept it.

The Community Health Centre also helped when Eileen was worried because their eldest child was a bed wetter. They discussed the problem with her and referred her to a psychologist. This woman felt she could take any family problem to the Centre, get advice and, if necessary, referral to a specialist service. Its effectiveness was limited only by her husband's non-cooperation.

Another respondent was in difficulties because her husband was unemployed, was drinking heavily and frequently bashed her. She was also very short of money and could not cope with her three young children. In desperation she rang up Lifeline who referred her to a psychiatric clinic at Dax House, to a financial counselling service and to Legal Aid for help with her marital problems. All provided a good service. Subsequently her husband was declared bankrupt and they could not understand the letter they received notifying him. A friend told them about the Citizens' Advice Bureau. They took the letter there and had it explained. A friend whose husband was also an alcoholic told her about AI-Anon and she attended meetings with her and found it very helpful. To complete the picture, this family had also used the Brotherhood of St Laurence for emergency aid of food and clothes and the Small Claims Tribunal, to obtain pay owing to the husband.

The fifth respondent to use counselling services was Josie, whose husband was addicted to drugs. They had received excellent service from Dax House, both for personal counselling and for advocacy with a hospital unwilling to admit him as a patient.

There were several families who might have benefited from counselling services but who did not use them. Pauline admitted that during her husband's long illness she became worried and very depressed, but she preferred to talk it over with her mother rather than seek professional help. She said that although her mother's sympathy and understanding were helpful she knew she had to overcome it by herself. She did not and would not use outside help or services, not even doctors in times of depression: '1 prefer to cope by myself.'

Marion, who might have benefited from counselling about her handicapped child, did not seek help from either priest or welfare services although she was a practising Catholic. She went to the police to find out where her husband was and, at the suggestion of an aunt, to Legal Aid to get advice about her legal position. It was only when the child was made a ward of state that she received counselling, from social workers from the Community Services Department.

Although several families had experienced periods of acute poverty, only one had sought emergency aid and had applied to the Brotherhood of St Laurence for food and clothes. Joyce's family had received food vouchers from St Vincent de Paul when short of food. Although they were very grateful at the time, and knew this help was available, they had never sought it subsequently. The interviewer commented: 'This respondent is fiercely independent'. Several families had also used the Brotherhood of St Laurence and St Vincent de Paul stores to buy cheap furniture when they set up house.'

Most families had used the C.E.S. at some stage, usually when the fathers or school leavers were seeking work. It had been reasonably successful for the fathers but not for the schoolleavers. In one family the two eldest children had been unemployed for over a year and another had had all three teenage children unemployed for longer or shorter periods, despite strenuous efforts on their part. They said they had not found the C.E.S. helpful for obtaining jobs and that eventually they had found them for themselves. A major concern of parents of teenage children was their chance of finding a job when they left school, and many were encouraging their children to continue with education and training as long as possible. This was in marked contrast to their own experiences.

Val was strongly critical of the C.E.S. because her husband had been 'dobbed in' for doing a part-time temporary job without notifying them. She said: 'The C.E.S. needs a bomb under them. They could have been more understanding when my husband had his dole stopped for six weeks. How did they think we were going to live?'

The main criticism of the Department of Social Security was the inadequacy of pensions and benefits. All families dependent on them said it was impossible to live on them and they had been forced into debt or depending on their families for help. This was serious enough for those who were only temporarily not working, but for the family who depended on the invalid pension it meant a life of continual privation.

There was also some criticism of the inflexibility of the Department. Joyce said that before her husband finally gave up work he had often been unable to work for a week at a time. At these times he got no pay and was not eligible for benefits, so they were left without income. Pauline's husband, who was off work for a year, was not eligible for a pension or benefit because his wife had gone back to work. They had three children and found it hard to live on her earnings, especially with the extra expenses of a long illness.

Only two respondents had used the Department of Community Welfare Services: Margaret to adopt, and Marion to have a child taken into care. Families with general problems did not seem to think of seeking help there. Margaret was very dissatisfied with the many protracted interviews and long delays after they had been accepted as adoptive parents. They had been told it would take about two months for them to get the baby but it took almost two years. She said: 'I would never do an adoption again through the Welfare Department. We had too many hassles.'

By contrast, Marion was pleased with the help she received for her handicapped baby. When he was a year old the parents decided to have him made a ward of state and taken into care. The mother had been very upset at "making the decision but she felt it had been right. He was well cared for and the social worker from the Department was very supportive and understanding. Later the staff and social worker discussed with them transferring the child to a special school in Melbourne. They visited him at weekends and took him home sometimes and felt that he was well looked after. He died suddenly at the school and again the social worker was very helpful to them both. The Department also helped them with the cost of the funeral.

Only two mothers had used the Home Help Service and although they had found it very helpful, both had used it only once, after the birth of a baby. One had been referred by the sister at the Infant Welfare Centre. In the other case the mother needed rest after a Caesarian birth and her next door neighbour had arranged it with the Council. It is difficult to say why this valuable service was not used more. The reason seemed to be a mixture of the desire to be independent, the availability of extended family help and reluctance to have a stranger in the home. As one respondent said about help generally: 'We are a close family group and we would not like outside people interfering.' Also, the extended family networks in this group were so strong that most families had available personal, practical and financial help when they needed it.

There are certain occasions when the extended family rallies round and supports the nuclear family particularly strongly: the arrival of a baby, moving into a new home, illness in the family and financial crises. Buying a home is another focal point for family support. Home ownership has a high priority for most families, and parents and relatives are prepared to make sacrifices to enable young families to achieve this goal. Of course, not all families are supportive and helpful and, as has been shown, at least one family in this group found its relatives to be a destructive influence on relationships within the immediate family. Only one of the families seemed to be isolated and lacked close friends or relatives; the others seemed to have all the everyday support wanted. Most were on good terms with their neighbours and had as much social life as they considered desirable.

It is more difficult to sum up the diverse attitudes and practices of this group of families in relation to welfare services. Clearly government services such as the Commonwealth Employment Service and Department of Social Security were well known and regarded as a right for those needing employment or income maintenance. For many families these departments were their only contact with welfare services and this experience tended to confirm their view that such services were not places to look for help with family problems. Other family support services were less well known and finding them seemed to be largely a· matter of chance. The usual pathway was a friend or relative, often one who had used" the service in a similar situation. Emergency services such as the Drug Centre and Lifeline were known to some families through advertisements on radio and television, and those who sought help were referred to appropriate services. But even though they were satisfied with the help they received, it seemed likely that they would not use services again until another crisis occurred.

Catholic families seemed to be more likely to know about Catholic services. They had access to marriage counselling and other Catholic welfare services. However, this access to advice and help was not effective for all Catholic families. Marion's family, the most isolated in this group, received no help through their church, although going to Mass was their only link with any community group. When Marion desperately needed help the only person she thought of turning to was her doctor.

As already described, almost all these families preferred to seek help when necessary from their strong networks of extended family and close friends. Some ofthe respondents were described by the interviewers as fiercely independent, and however heavy the burdens they had to bear, they preferred not to seek help from services. Viewed from outside, it seems a pity that many of these families were not willing to use the help of services that might have made life a little easier or even averted crises, but in their view it was better to be self-reliant and independent. Perhaps these qualities enabled them to retain their self-respect and to cope with. their problems with dignity.

2. Low-income one-parent families

2. Low-income one-parent families

Introducing the families

The families in this group brought to mind the opening sentence of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina: 'All happy families are alike but an unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion'. Not that all these families would have considered themselves unhappy, but all were under some degree of stress and had known periods of unhappiness, each 'after its own fashion'.

The ten families were selected to cover as wide a range of experience as possible. They included lone fathers and lone mothers; respondents who were separated, widowed or divorced, and families at different stages of the life-cycle. Although not necessarily representative of one-parent poor families they present a range of circumstances that such families may experience.

Two of the respondents were fathers and eight were mothers. The fathers were aged forty and fifty-two; three of the mothers were in their twenties and five in their thirties. Most families had two or three children of school and preschool age, but four had one teenage child living at home.

Four of the respondents were divorced, one was widowed and five were separated, two from de facto partners. One was working full time in a semi-skilled occupation and was supporting her children; all the others were dependent on pensions or benefits and were below the poverty line. The respondent who was widowed was better off, although she had suffered a big loss of income because of her husband's long illness and death, and she and her three children were substantially dependent on the widow's pension.

All the families were reasonably well housed, most renting from the Housing Commission. Most houses had only basic furniture and few comforts; only one was pleasantly and comfortably furnished.

Only two respondents had been born and brought up in Geelong, but most had lived there for at least five years. Four had no close relatives in Geelong and three had only one. It was characteristic of this group that families were frequently on the move and had had seven or eight changes of residence in the previous ten years. This lifestyle made it difficult for them to make satisfactory relationships and create networks.

All the families were experiencing some difficulties. For most there was the continual struggle to make the pension or benefit stretch out to meet their basic needs until the next cheque arrived, plus the necessity to put away some money for the relentless arrival of bills. For most there was also conflict in some of their close personal relationships: with parents and siblings, with marriage partners, with friends, and with children, especially as they grew up.

Background to the families

None of the respondents remembered childhood and adolescence as happy and secure. Some had known periods of happiness, usually in early childhood, before the family had been disrupted in some way, but some could remember only unhappiness and poverty. The commonest cause of disruption had been the loss of a parent through death or marriage breakdown. Seven respondents had grown up in one-parent families - two through the death of the father at an early age, five through separation or desertion.

Most respondents remembered their families as being isolated, neither giving nor receiving much help from relatives, friends or neighbours. If help was given it was usually in the form of accommodation during a crisis. Few of the families had been involved with community groups or social clubs.

Poverty was another factor in their unhappiness. Eight of the respondents said their families had been poor and, for most, poverty was associated with a deprived lifestyle. All the respondents had experienced some conflict in their backgrounds and some could remember little else. This conflict influenced their attitudes and shaped their relationships with parents, siblings and, later, with their own partners and children.

The experience of each family was individual so generalisations are not possible. However, the following examples illustrate the causes and effects of conflict within families.

Norman and Sylvia, the two with the most disrupted backgrounds, had each gone with their fathers after their parents' marriages collapsed, while the other children in the families had stayed with their mothers. Both had been virtually homeless from an early age. In Norman's case the father's heavy drinking led to many fights before the parents split up. He was taken away from his mother and the family home. For some years Norman stayed with relatives. As he said: 'I was kicked around from one lot of poor relations to another.' Sometimes his father turned up very drunk, caused a row, and he had to move somewhere else. Sometimes a family could not afford to keep him any longer and he was put into a Home. He said that none of the relations had ill-treated him but he was always an extra where there was little to spare. He never saw his mother again but was still in touch with his father. He had had no support from his family in later years.

Natalie had been about nine when her father deserted the family. Her mother took the children to live with an aunt in the country but, after two years of increasing conflict, her mother moved to Geelong to live with her mother and sister. They were poor and lived in an old dilapidated weather-board house. The only outings she could remember were going to church on Sunday with her grandmother. After a year or so, her mother moved into a Housing Commission house, even though they had no money to buy furniture or a heater. They kept to themselves and had very little to do with their neighbours. One of her childhood memories was of being sent by her mother to borrow money from her grandmother. She often grumbled and said she had none to lend, though she usually gave the child something.

The death of a parent could also be disruptive. Rosalie remembered a happy childhood in a small country town, except that her mother worked and was not at home much of the time. Her father worked from home and took more interest in their doings. It was a friendly community and there were always plenty of children to play with: 'We had the bush all around us and lots of picnics. We called the neighbours auntie and uncle and we never minded being left next door.' The children were very close to their father and when he died suddenly of a heart attack the family was devastated: 'My whole world collapsed that day.' She said that her mother then worked longer hours than ever and 'withdrew into her own grief'. They no longer had much social life and as she grew into adolescence she felt lonely and unloved.

Change of circumstances also affected some family relationships and could have long-term damaging effects. Karen remembered her early childhood in Geelong as happy with lots of children to play with and school nearby which she enjoyed. Then her parents bought a dairy farm in the country and this marked the end of her happy childhood. On the farm they were poorer, more isolated and life was much harder. Her parents quarrelled a lot which frightened and upset the children. She was very unhappy at the small country school, where she felt an outsider. Although she was lonely, her parents were too busy and preoccupied with their own problems to give her much attention.

Poverty was also a cause of family deprivation. Alf, whose father had been an invalid pensioner, remembered the family as always poor and struggling. Poverty, combined with his father's ill health and his mother's deafness, cut them off from neighbours and potential friends. The only time he could remember any contacts with neighbours was when his father 'had a bad turn, when one of the neighbours would drive him and Mum to hospital. Otherwise we didn't talk much to anyone.' This isolation and loneliness continued to be the pattern of his life.

The two respondents who came from comfortably off families had other problems which destroyed family relationships. Alice, from a professional family, had all the comforts and material security of a middle-class home. Her parents were loving but the whole family's life was overshadowed by her mother's 'dirt phobia', which drove her to endless washing, cleaning and obsession with dirt. This condition made her a very difficult person to live with and precluded any social life for the family. When Alice was eleven her father could stand it no longer and left the family. Her mother's problems had increased and the burden had fallen on the children.

Maureen, one of six children, remembered her early childhood on a farm on the edge of a small country town as happy and secure. Her family was working class but was comparatively well off. They were well respected in the town and had plenty of social life, with many playmates and plenty of freedom. They were devout Catholics and Maureen's troubles began in adolescence when she began to question Catholic teaching and practice and to rebel against tl)e rigid system. Her parents' response was to send her to a strict convent boarding school when she was twelve. She was unhappy at school but her parents would not allow her to leave until she was sixteen. This experience only increased her rebellion and her determination to reject the church. This caused acute tension in the family and she felt the whole weight of family disapproval, especially from her brothers and sisters who conformed to the family pattern and were even more intolerant of her attitude than were her parents. This conflict continued after she left home and largely cut her off from the family support she later needed. It also cut short her education, even though she was quite capable of continuing it.

These examples illustrate the different family backgrounds of the respondents. None had grown up in warm and secure family relationships and, while this cannot be directly related to later circumstances, their experiences in early life strongly affected the quality of family support available to them when they were raising their own families. Moreover, since most people derive their concepts of parenthood from their own parents, their childhood experiences may be presumed to have influenced their capacity to be good parents to their own children.

Most respondents had left school by the age of fifteen, having taken the decision to do so themselves. Parents had little objection to their children leaving school and some welcomed the extra income their working would bring. Karen said: 'I left school as soon as I was old enough. I hated school- I just couldn't keep up with the work. I left the day I turned fourteen. Mum and Dad were pleased. They needed the money I brought in to help payoff the house.' In contrast, Natalie loved school and wanted to stay but had to leave at fourteen due to 'family circumstances:

I went to a small country school. I had to walk three miles each way but I really enjoyed it, especially in the later years. I was good at school work and if the teacher of the lower grades was away I was able to teach them. I loved that and I wanted to go to high school and train to be a teacher. But I didn't have the chance. We couldn't afford it. We could hardly afford to live. I don't know how Mum got enough money. She wouldn't go on the pension.

Only Alice had received tertiary training. Her parents were divorced and home had been a depressing and demanding environment. Her training required that she live-in and she spoke of her feelings of relief and liberation when she left home and was able to live her own life and no longer had to bear the burden of daily responsibility for her mother's psychiatric condition.

All the other respondents went straight into jobs when they left school; usually obtaining them by going to shops, mills and factories and asking for work, or by answering job advertisements. Most had unskilled jobs with poor prospects and had changed jobs several times before they married. Norman had been a rolling stone all his life and had never stayed long in any job. Alf had found a job as a labourer when he left school and remained in it for thirtytwo years until a serious back injury forced him to go on the invalid pension.

Seven respondents had married before they were twenty. Some said they were looking for the love and security they had not found in their family life, some married because they became pregnant. They were, on the whole, unprepared for marriage. As Maureen said:

I was very young and immature when I married. I had lived in a small country town all my life and knew nothing about the world outside. My head was full of romantic ideas. I could only think that Geoff was the best catch in the town and I got him. Neither of us had any ideas of the responsibility of marriage and parenthood.

The families

As already indicated, none of the respondents had grown up in a happy and secure family. Their own attempts at family life were proving to be much the same: eight of the ten marriages (de jure or de facto) had ended in desertion or separation, usually culminating in divorce. In families with adolescent children, relationships between them and their parents were poor, providing little hope of breaking the cycle of unstable family relations in the next generation.

As in the families of origin, each of these families was or had been unhappy; each 'after its own fashion'. It is therefore difficult to group them except in the most general way as families disrupted by death or disablement, by conflict and violence or by other factors.

Two families had been disrupted by death or disablement. Alice's family had been comfortably off, the husband earning a good income, the wife working part time when she felt inclined, and the two children doing well at school. They were buying a pleasant and comfortable house. This secure family life was radically changed by the husband's terminal illness and death at an early age. Alice supported her husband through his long and painful illness with little support from family or friends. Her parents lived interstate and needed help rather than being able to give it. Her parentsin- law helped care for the children while she visited her husband in hospital, but were not close enough to give emotional support. Alice said emphatically: '1 would never, never confide in my parents-in-law.' A girlfriend with whom she stayed while her husband was in hospital in Melbourne provided 'a shoulder to weep on and shared my troubles'. The family's isolation was transformed when they were visited by a member of a Pentecostal Church:

My husband had been reading the Bible a lot - he believed there had to be an answer somewhere. One day there was a knock on the door and when 1 answered it there was a girl standing there whom 1 only knew vaguely. She had heard about my husband's illness and she came from a church who preach healing from the Bible. She came to bring us a message and pray with us. That was the day which was to completely change our lives. From that day on everything just fell into place and accepting my husband's illness and death became so much easier because we accepted the Bible teaching and received the Holy Spirit. The church and the church members have been our biggest support both before his death and also ever since.

Alice and her husband became members of the church and from then on the family drew its social and personal support almost entirely from their church. Alice's involvement with the church tended to separate her more from her parents-in-law. She said they were not antagonistic but 'do not see the need for it'.

Although dependent on the widow's pension, she had some capital to fall back on and could go back to her professional job when her children grew older. She also owned her house outright. In spite of the father's death this family seemed likely to remain secure so long as they stayed within the close-knit fellowship of their church. Alice said that she would not use other counselling services because the answers to problems' are always to be found in the Bible'.

Karen also had a tragic story. When she was eighteen she had moved in with her boyfriend. His parents disapproved and were hostile to her but her parents didn't care. Soon she became pregnant and they married. She had two children in two years and had little time to herself, but her husband helped a lot with the children and she was coping well. Their family life was shattered when her husband was nearly killed in a car accident. He suffered extensive brain damage, was unconscious for three months and for the next year was in various hospitals and rehabilitation centres. Finally she was told they could do no more for him and that the brain damage was permanent. He had been allowed home for weekends but he had the mentality of a child and she had found it almost intolerable to look after him. She did all she could to support her husband, visiting him daily in hospital while he was in a coma for three months, and afterwards in rehabilitation centres. When it was decided that he should be discharged from hospital she felt that she could not undertake having him permanently at home. He was discharged to his parents' home and she later obtained a divorce.

She had other troubles. The older child had been extremely ill and was admitted to hospital. While she stayed with the older child she left the younger one in a creche at Bethany (a family support agency) but she became ill and had to be sent home. So at the age of twenty Karen had two sick children and her husband semi-conscious in hospital. When the older child came home: 'It was pure bedlam for a while. The children had to be taken to the paediatrician every week for checks and I had to visit my husband in hospital. Gradually things improved and finally the bedlam got better.'

Karen also had financial problems, being totally reliant on sickness benefits which she found extremely inadequate, and this added further stresses. In all these trials Karen said she had received little support from her family. She had never been close to her parents, especially her mother, and felt that her parents-in-law did not like her. After her husband's accident her mother had kept the children for an hour or so each day while she visited the hospital. But after some weeks her mother told her that she could no longer look after the children on a regular basis. Her parents-in-law had also given some help in the early stages by minding the children occasionally and supplying her with vegetables and fruit, but as time went on their relationship also deteriorated. As it became evident that her situation was not just a temporary problem she received fewer offers of help. As she described it:

Mum deserted me and simply said she would not mind the children any more so I had to take them both with me when I went to the hospital. Nearly all my friends deserted me too. They didn't know what to say or do so they just stayed away. Then my husband's family - his parents and brother and sister - also deserted me. I only had two special friends who stuck by me and they gave me a lot of emotional support.

Her parents helped by reducing the rent of her flat, which they owned, but she still found it hard to payout of sickness benefits. They also sometimes gave her money for food or to buy clothes for the children, but she said that this got less as time went on. Karen said she had never had a close relationship with her mother and there was probably a limit to what the mother was prepared to do for her children and grandchildren. She added with some bitterness that her parents would rather see the children in Bethany than care for them.

Karen said she would like more support from her family. She had virtually no contact with her siblings and saw her mother only once a month or less, though she lived nearby, as did her sisters. She got on better with her father who helped with odd jobs in the house. However, she considered that her parents did not realise how hard it was to be a single parent and had little sympathy for her. She had made extensive and effective use of health and welfare services and, since moving to a Housing Commission house, had built up a supportive network of friends, mainly other single mothers. She saw these as the source of the support she felt had been lacking from her own family.

Six families had been disrupted by conflict: five headed by mothers and one by the father. Four had grown up in poor one-parent families and the two from better off families had married very young to get away from.conflicts at home. The five women had all made disastrous marriages or de facto relationships: one to a husband who was violent; one with a de facto who was selfish and irresponsible; and three to husbands who were poor providers and heavy drinkers - all too like the fathers some remembered as making their own childhood homes unhappy. As Natalie said:

My husband was a typical Australian male who didn't believe in working and spent most of his time in the pub drinking with his mates. I kicked him out after thirteen years. It got too much getting into the same bed with someone who was always drunk and didn't shower for days. Love dies. I suppose if I had still loved him I would have kept trying. Once when I had to go to hospital for a few days he came in drunk and tried to drag me out of bed ... When I kicked him out I had no support. Mum was dead then and I didn't know where to look. So many things are happening to you you don't know what to do. I had never gone out on my own till then.

Natalie also had a problem with her eldest son, aged fifteen. He left school at fourteen, had been in trouble with the police for offences such as stealing cars, had been in custody and had been made a ward of state. Natalie said he had been close to his grandmother and had been worse since she died. The breakdown of the marriage also affected him:

He hasn't forgiven me for kicking out his father. He bashed the other children up because he saw his father hitting me. I wouldn't hit him now for not doing what he's told because he might hit back. He is supposed to be the responsibility of the Welfare Department but they don't know what it's like to have him living in the house, being wakened up at three in the morning when he comes home drunk. My friends say, 'Why don't you have him put away?' but it isn't that easy. They are supposed to be finding him a place in a special boarding house for kids like him, but in the meantime they expect me to keep him at home. I have had no support from his father in coping with him, and the welfare worker doesn't care. He doesn't know what it's like to live with him.

Natalie had had virtually no family support since her mother died. She had two married sisters in Geelong but rarely saw them. She had had support from services and had four girlfriends 'in the same boat' who supported each other with food and money and went out together. She also had a steady man friend.

Tracey had lived in a de facto relationship for three years. She already had a child by a very early casual relationship, and she and her partner had two more. At first things had gone well. He usually had a job and brought home good money. When he was unemployed he helped her in the house and soon found another job. Then he began to have drinking bouts and they had frequent quarrels. He lost his driving licence for five years for drunken driving. They had a few 'punch ups' and periods when she went back to live with her mother. Then he lost his job and this time he could not find another one. At first he went regularly to the c.E.S. and looked for jobs himself but after a few weeks he became depressed and spent most of the time drinking in the pub. The respondent believed that his drinking problems were largely due to the frustration of not getting a job. She described her situation:

I was not getting any money for rent or food. The money just kept disappearing. I had to borrow from Mum and she didn't have much to spare, but whatever she had she would lend it. He began selling off all the lovely furniture we had bought when he was working, first the wall unit, then the freezer and the air conditioner. He was always drunk and we argued and fought all the time he was at home. Finally I had no money to buy anything at all and we were six weeks behind with the rent, so I kicked him out.

The interviewer commented that the house was in a chaotic state and the respondent quite unable to manage her three young children: she constantly screamed and swore at them with no effect. 'The home was that of a young Mum having a real battle to make ends meet and a bigger battle trying to cope with her children.'

Tracey said that her chief support in the previous year had been her partner's mother. She had minded the children, lent them money and often paid bills. But since they separated she had not seen her and felt she could no longer ask her for help. Her own mother and sister had been more helpful when her partner left, but she did not feel close to them, although she turned to them for financial help. She had one girlfriend but they quarrelled and she had had virtually no one else to talk to. Her only contact with services had been with the Department of Social Security for her benefit and the Housing Commission over arrears of rent. She had also applied to the Clerk of Courts for money to pay her gas bill, but she was receiving no help for her personal needs and seemed to have no idea of how to find appropriate services.

Rosalie had to cope with the problem of violence not associated with drinking. She went to live in a small country town when she married. At first she was happy enough:

I was glad to give up work and quite content to live in the country and look after the house and cook. We didn't have much money but we seemed to manage all right and we never got behind. I was very happy when our first child was born but after that my husband changed and he started bashing me. I used to leave the house and go to friends but when he found out he forbade me. Once when I was badly beaten I went to the police but they wouldn't do anything. I had another child to try to save the marriage but it was no better. When he was violent I used to take one child by the hand and the other on the hip and walk the streets till I recovered a bit. No one knew what was happening for a long time. I didn't know many people there and I didn't talk to anyone. I began to have a real fear of the nights and decided I would have to leave him. I told my Mum and she found me a flat and gave us money for food and rent. I got a letter from the doctor about being beaten up by my husband and then I got on to the widow's pension - but I couldn't have done it without Mum.

Rosalie had continued to struggle with problems, financial and social. Her mother was a help financially and in looking after the children. She had also received help on 'many occasions from St Vincent de Paul. Her personal supports were mainly 'girlfriends in the same situation' with whom she went to pubs and parties.

Sylvie had had a long and unsatisfactory relationship with a man much older than herself. She had had a very deprived childhood. Her parents were divorced when she was very young. She had gone with her father, but had been shuttled between her parents in various crises. She said when she was with her father she had affection and not much else, while with her mother she had plenty of food and clothes but no affection. While she was still at school she became pregnant and 'had to go to the Welfare till the baby was born and adopted'. At about sixteen she moved in with her boss, who was separated from his wife, and remained with him intermittently for five years. They moved interstate where she was very lonely and unhappy. He was furious when she became pregnant and told her he didn't want to have anything to do with her or the child, so she moved out and supported herself. After the child was born he came to see her and they resumed their relationship, but he ignored the child and couldn't bear to be disturbed by him. Although she was on the Pill she became pregnant again and he told her that he never wanted to see her again. In this crisis she got in touch with her father who was now living in Geelong with his third wife. As in the past his affection did not fail and he drove all the way to fetch her and her belongings. Her stepmother would not have her in the house so he took her straight to Bethany where she was very well looked after. They helped her transfer her benefit and to apply to the Housing Commission; they also invited her to a young mothers' group where she began to make friends. After a few weeks her father found a derelict house at very cheap rent and bought the necessary furniture from St Vincent de Paul. While the respondent was in hospital having her second child her father and stepmother looked after the older child.

About this time the respondent had a visit from a member of a sect-type church which she said began a process that changed her life. After instruction she became a member and drew most of her support from them. As well as spiritual and emotional security they gave her practical support in many ways, including $200 to pay bills and buy essentials, and she also helped other members of the church.

Sylvie, at twenty-three, had had many traumas and crises to face with very little support from anyone. She said that her parents had inflicted some of the traumas and had been prepared to help only in times of crisis. Although she still had an affectionate relationship with her father she drew most of her support from the sect that gave her a strong sense of belonging and security.

In two families marriages had broken down after many years. Alf was a deserted father whose wife had left him after twenty-three years of marriage; Celia had left her husband after twenty years of marriage.

Alf, an invalid pensioner of fifty-two, had been deserted by his wife and daughter one year before the interview. He had been in poverty all his life and remembered his family as always being poor and isolated. He had left school at fourteen and had remained in the same labouring job for thirty-two years until a back injury forced him to go on the invalid pension. When he married, his family still depended on his contribution to the housing loan, so he and his wife set up house in the backyard in a caravan bought from a wrecker. When his parents died they moved into the house. They had one child, aged ten at the time of interview. They lived very quietly with no friends and no social life. Even after thirty-two years in the same workplace, Alf said he had no workmates: 'I didn't want to know their business and 1 didn't want to talk to them about mine.' When he was in hospital for several months his wife visited him regularly and when he was discharged she looked after him devotedly, he said. The neighbours offered to help her at this time by driving her to hospital but she refused. She would rather go by bus than be beholden to them. Even when their daughter went to kindergarten and school, they took no part in school activities and had no social contacts with the parents of her playmates. But Alf said that he and his wife had no quarrels or disagreements and it had been a great shock to him when she left with their daughter. He was still distressed over a year later and could hardly bear to talk about it.

Since she left he had been extremely lonely. He had one friend, an elderly man, almost deaf, who visited him every day. He also had a married sister nearby who helped him with housekeeping jobs, but he said that she did it grudgingly, and he would never confide in her or her husband. He had been to Parents without Partners but said he had had no social contact with the people he met there and would not go back.

He also found in hard to live on the pension. Housing repayments were a problem as were all the other bills, and he had had to juggle his small resources by paying the most urgent bills and getting extensions on others. Always in difficulties, always behind with one payment or another, always worried that he won't be able to cope, he was still upset by his wife's desertion and hoped that she would come back to him.

Celia was thirty-seven and had left her husband after twenty years of marriage. They had three children of whom the two younger were living with her. She had grown up in a poor working class family in England. She married at seventeen and after ten years of marriage, in which they had three children, they emigrated to Australia. They settled in Geelong and after a time moved into a Housing Commission house which they were buying. They lived there comfortably for six years but one of their ideas in coming to Australia had been to own some land, so they bought a large block on the outskirts of the city on which to build a house. She worked full time to make it possible and it took them two years of very hard work to build their home. Then, when they had realised their dream, she suddenly decided to leave her husband. She said there was no particular reason, he hadn't done anything wrong and she hadn't got another man, but: 'I just didn't love him any more. I didn't want to be with him any more so there was no reason to go on with the marriage . . . It hit them very hard, the three children hardest of all. It was a shock to all of them, they had no idea. It was a sudden decision. I was working. I felt I just had to do it. I just went.' Her husband was shocked and very distressed and couldn't understand, but the main emotional setback for her was that her eldest son, who was very close to her, decided to stay with his father. He blamed her for wrecking the home and causing them all so much misery. For a long time he wouldn't meet her or have anything to do with her, but since he had visited once or twice and she believed that he was 'coming round and would get over it'.

When she left her home the only accommodation she could find was a dilapidated house which she cleaned and made liveable. She continued to work to support her two younger sons. She said she could not have left her husband had she not had a full-time job. She would not have been prepared to apply for a pension or benefit: 'Why should the Government support me because I decided to leave my husband?'

In all these crises Celia did not discuss her problems with anyone except her solicitor, for advice about her legal position, and the police about restraining her husband from following her around. She said that, looking back, it might have been helpful to talk over problems with someone, but she didn't want to do so at the time. She described her attitude to friends:

I cut myself off from everyone else when I left my husband - I didn't want to make it hard for those who had known us as a couple - you know, picking sides and that. Since then I have renewed some of those contacts again. At first I didn't give anyone a chance to help. It wasn't till a while later that I let people come back into my life. When I decided to leave, the only person I told was a friend at work. She was an older woman and she caught me at a moment of weakness on an off day. She said I could stay with her till I found somewhere to live and that was what I did.

Celia said that she had had a financial struggle, paying rent and supporting her two children. She had only $100 when she left home and her husband had paid no maintenance except to keep up payments on the house which was in both names. She had since divorced him and had a man friend whom she expected to marry soon. He had helped her financially and given her a feeling of security, though she admitted that another marriage might add new complications to her tangled relationships with her children.

It will be clear from the stories of these respondents that they had other problems to cope with besides breakdown of marriage or the death of a partner. The chief among these was poverty, and all those who were entirely dependent on the widow's pension or supporting parent's benefit were well below the poverty line. Their income was barely enough to buy food and clothes. There wa" little left for bills and nothing to save against a crisis. Any major expense, such as the washing machine or car breaking down, was a disaster. If a family got into debt it was extremely difficult for it to get out of it without help from a welfare agency or borrowing from a friend, which only moved the indebtedness around. The following comments illustrate the effects of poverty on the family.

I have no savings, not a cent. We just live from week to week. If I'm short I go down to St Vincent de Paul. When the frig. broke down, I had to use the rent money to get it fixed, and they paid the rent for me. It's very hard to pay the bills. I try to put away something every fortnight but if the children need shoes or something it all goes. I don't want to borrow. I've been in so much debt before, I would rather do without. If I had an extra $20 a week it would all go on food and clothes.

The biggest_ problem is keeping up housing payments even though they were reduced when I went on the pension. The pension isn't nearly enough to live on - it would need to be doubled. I'm always having to get extensions on the phone bill and things like that. And I once had to borrow a lot of money from a friend and I'm still paying that off.

You just can't manage and support children on the pension. Often we have no money for clothes, even op. shop clothes. I couldn't go to my niece's wedding because I had no decent clothes. The kids can't go on school excursions - I'm always saying 'no'. Don't know what I would have done without St Vincent's. They keep me in firewood and they never question a food voucher when we're short of money.

I think the Government should give up their posh jobs and lunches and live one week like a pensioner. I'm living on $125 a week with four kids. I spend $70 a week on food and that's basic, no luxuries. Pensioners are on their own. No one cares how they live. Often the Commission rent increase is more than the pension increase, so pensioners are going backwards. On the pension the first week you can eat, the second you just survive - boiled or fried rice three or four nights ... Some of the welfare people are all right but some of them make you feel awful - you would think the money came out of their own pocket.

Since I left my husband it has been very hard with a baby and two other children, especially when we were in a rented flat. I had a lot of emergency help from the Court Poor Box and from the Children's Protection Society who have been a great help for several years. Then last year I got fed up with the whole business of debts, bills and borrowing and I went to a Credit Union. They helped me to get it all straight and now I pay in $140 per fortnight and they pay all the bills. This takes away all the anxiety but does not leave us enough to live on - $100 per fortnight for four people.

Only two respondents owned or were buying their homes: Alice, who owned her house outright, and Alf, who was still struggling to payoff the house bought by his father, and which had been a burden to the family from the day the deposit was paid. None of the others expressed any aspirations to own their own homes. They assumed it was beyond them.

For those on low incomes housing is of central importance, and for seven families in this group the Housing Commission provided comfortable rented accommodation at rates they could afford. Some who were in older houses were less satisfied, but all agreed that rates were reasonable compared to commercial rates and that maintenance was good, if sometimes slow. The following comments illustrate the importance of this service:

It was the most important thing in my life for the last five years when I got this house. It is $25 per week compared to $55 when I was renting, and that was only a flat.

This house is a dump but to get anything better I would probably have to go on the waiting list for five years and move out of the area. Anyhow the rent is only $26 and elsewhere it would be $70. And I have to give it to them, they are good about repairs.

The situations of these families indicate the ways in which poverty is a basic cause of social deprivation. Quarrels about money and the friction which ensued had marked many of these broken marriages and partnerships and had apparently speeded their breaking. Further, the inadequate levels of pensions and benefits and the penalties incurred on earned income locked the families into a life of poverty, insecurity and anxiety. It was difficult for mothers (and fathers) who constantly had to pinch and scrape and worry about bills, to provide a happy and secure home for their children. Lack of money also denied many of these families the opportunity to take part in social activities which might have increased their circle of friends and lessened their feeling of isolation. Several respondents said they could never afford to have a holiday and even going to the cinema or out for a meal had to be rare treats. Often there was not enough money for children to go on school outings or holiday camps, or for extras like dancing and sport. In the summer, visits to the swimming pool had to be rationed. Children were deprived of the activities which most families take for granted and through which they make a circle of friends.

Informal support

None of these families had a supportive network of extended family on which it could rely. Some had no relatives at all in Geelong; some rarely saw those who did live there; some had one or two fr6m whom they received minimal to moderate support and some received help only in a crisis. None belonged to a closely knit, warm-hearted family that could provide a security net of personal sympathy and practical help. As Karen said: 'My family never provided a shoulder to cry on when things were black.'

The lack of warmth and security in the respondents' family relationships had its roots in their childhoods. As they grew up and left the parental home to form their own families, the distance between them and their parents and siblings tended fo increase. Some of the respondents, such as Maureen, also felt that, as they had not conformed to the family expectations and lifestyle, they were likely to be estranged from their families, especially from siblings who were often less tolerant than the parents. The women whose marriages had broken down and who were lone parents sometimes felt rejected by their more conventionally successful brothers and sisters. Natalie had two married sisters in Geelong she rarely saw. She said somewhat defensively: 'They aren't happy with their husbands either but they haven't the guts to leave them. At Christmas-time I felt left out - they all had their families and they didn't want us.'

None of these families had had any financial help when setting up their first homes. Some had been given pots and pans or some odd bits of furniture but most of their parents were in no financial position to help. It was typical of their relationships that one respondent said: 'Mum just gave us all the old junk she wanted to get rid of.'

Nevertheless, it was to their families, usually their parents, that they turned in a real crisis and most received help, though often of a limited kind.

The attitude of these respondents towards their parents, and their relationships with them, were complex and almost impossible to summarise. Each family was dissatisfied 'after its own fashion'. In most cases extended family support was given by the parents, usually the mother, but it often seemed that the respondents expected a great deal of help and were disappointed and even indignant if it was not forthcoming. In one case, for instance, the mother, who was not well off herself, seemed to have given considerable help but the respondent claimed she had not received enough support. Again, the young mother whose husband suffered brain damage received daily help from her parents for several weeks in the early stages, but when they felt they could not continue this level of support indefinitely, she was hurt and bitter. Perhaps one of the keys to their dissatisfaction is to be found in Alf's account of the help given by his sister who was his only relative. He said: 'She comes every week and cleans up the place a bit and does the washing and that; but she does it grudgingly and 1 would be just as happy if she didn't come. 1 would never ask her for anything.' Perhaps, because these people needed relationships which 'Ye re accepting and not judgemental, help given in a reluctant or critical spirit, useful though it might have been, increased their feeling of inadequacy. It is relevant to recall Sylvie's enthusiastic account of joining a religious sect: 'It didn't matter to them that 1 was poor and an unmarried mother with two children. They accepted me into the membership and gave me all the help 1 needed, and then 1 was expected to help others when they needed it.'

Most respondents had gone through periods of isolation after their marriage broke down. Many felt cut off from their old friendship networks sometimes because they chose to cut themselves off, sometimes because they no longer felt welcomed by their married friends. Rosalie said: 'Your friends change when your marriage situation changes. There was this woman 1 got to know at the school. 1 used to run round after her children and drive them home and that. But when we split up she got very cool and wouldn't take my kids to basketball with hers. She told me 1 should find friends in my own situation. That hurt.' Natalie said: 'Christmas and Easter are the worst times, when everybody else has their families and you're on your own - you feel left out'.

Some said they had kind neighbours who would sometimes mind the children. Usually, but not always, these were women. Others had little contact with neighbours and preferred it this way. Rosalie said: 'I don't bother with anybody - 1 don't even know my next door neighbour. I've never had much to do with neighbours anywhere I've lived.'

For several women their chief supports were 'girlfriends' in the same situation. These friendships were more easily formed when they moved into Housing Commission areas where many one-parent families lived. For example, Norman, the lone father with five children, had very good support from two neighbours, single mothers who kept an eye on his children and helped with buying their clothes. He said: 'Most of us in this street are either single parents or pensioners. 1 have good help from two neighbours in particular. We see each other nearly every day and we help out with the children. 1 can always depend on them.'

Most respondents said that their girlfriends gave them needed emotional support. They understood each other's problems and helped each other out in practical ways with child care, transport and small loans when they were short of money. Rosalie said: 'I now have four very close girlfriends in the same situation. They are always there to talk to and if 1 break down they come and get me... 1 do some driving round for them and we help each other with food and money. Mainly we can talk to each other - we've gone through the same things. You realise you're not unique.'

Sometimes, because of the closeness and emotional nature of these friendships, they were unstable. There were rows and quarrels, which could be quite devastating for these lonely and vulnerable women, as was the case with Tracey who had quarrelled with her one girlfriend and had no one left to talk to. The interviewer said of her: 'This young woman was desperately lonely without her partner and with no friends to lean on. The house was in chaos. She could not cope with the children. Bedlam prevailed throughout the interview, the mother screaming and swearing at the children who took no notice.'

Those single mothers who relied almost entirely on friendship with girlfriends 'in the same boat' were in danger of becoming shut into a sub-culture. As one woman said: 'Hotels are the only places we meet people. 1 go there with my girlfriends and we meet men who take us on to parties till three or four in the morning. If we can get our kids minded we sometimes go away for weekends to country music festivals and things like that.'

Some expressed ambivalent attitudes to men: they were hostile, even contemptuous, yet they sought out male society and were pleased to have a steady 'boyfriend'. Those who depended on meeting men in hotels seemed more likely to be exploited than supported. As Rosalie said: 'After a while you get fed up just going out to have a good time at parties when the pub closes.'

Two respondents were about to remarry and others said they would like to, partly because they were lonely, partly because they wanted the status of married woman rather than the stigma which, in their eyes, was attached to being a single parent.

Alice and Sylvie, who had been lonely and had few supports in Geelong, had become members of sect-type churches. Belonging to these churches transformed the lives of these families, providing them with a community in which they felt accepted and became wholly involved. For both these women, all their friends and social supports were centred on their church and, if they ever lost their faith in that church, they would also lose their entire support network.

Most respondents had little contact with any community organisations or social or sports clubs. A few had tried various activities - an exercise class, a course in human development, a singles club and Parents Without Partners - but after one or two sessions they became bored and stopped going. Only a few of their children took part in sports or youth organisations. Maureen, a strong supporter of welfare rights who had received a great deal of help from services, was planning to repay her indebtedness by training to work as a volunteer for services such as Lifeline and St Vincent de Paul, when her youngest child went to school. She was active in the Poverty Action Group. She was also seeking more education and had completed a course in behavioural studies. She had enjoyed the contact with other people and said the course gave her greater insight into her own life and the problems she had had with her family. However, she was the exception.

Very few of the families had used kindergartens, and in two cases their use had been the result of a welfare contact which had helped the family greatly. One mother had been referred to a play group, but she had been asked to stay with the child and didn't go back because she didn't like the other women. Another took her child to kindergarten but he didn't like it on the first day so she didn't take him back.

None of the respondents had taken any part in school or kindergarten mothers' clubs and some were antagonistic. Natalie said: 'I haven't belonged to any community groups. They are full of gossip and backbiting - like school canteens and mothers' clubs. 1 know they just talk about you behind your back so 1 don't go.' Several respondents were apprehensive about going to see the teachers at their children's school and said they only went when they had to.

Formal support

All the respondents had used health services and had had no problems in gaining access to them. For some their use had been limited to standard services during pregnancy and birth, and to infant welfare services for advice about caring for their babies.

Several respondents had sought help from health services for problems that were more personal and emotional than medical. Two described brief and not very satisfactory contacts with general practitioners. Rosalie, who had been repeatedly bashed by her husband, said the doctor was sympathetic but did not want to be involved beyond giving her a letter 'to the welfare people' which enabled her to obtain the widow's pension. Celia said that she went to her doctor when she wa~ in a very emotional state after leaving her husband, but he prescribed tablets which made her feel 'unreal' and she threw them away and decided not to go back.

Other respondents described longer standing contacts. Rosalie, who had returned to her husband after a period of separation, was under a great d~al of stress for a year until the marriage broke up and ended in divorce. She said her doctor was one of her chief supports in a period of isolation. She could see him or telephone him at any time and he would always talk to her and calm her down. She said she would always prefer to go to him than to a counselling service.

Maureen had suffered an acute crisis when her marriage broke up. She was admitted to hospital and was referred to a woman psychiatrist who, she said, not only helped her to get through the crisis but also to rebuild her life. She had acted as counsellor to the whole family for six years and had won the confidence of the children. Maureen said that without her help they would have' gone under'.

In several cases health services had provided access to welfare services. Alf said that he was very well cared for during his long stay in hospital. The medical social worker had helped him to obtain the invalid pension and had referred him to Legal Aid to get his housing repayments and his hire purchase payments reduced.

Community Health Centres also provided useful combinations of health and welfare services. Norman, who was caring for five children, said that he had received good support from his local Centre. The nurse often called in when she was passing to see that the children were all right and to ask if he wanted any help. He did not find these visits threatening. Natalie said that the social worker at the Centre was much more understanding about the problems of single mothers than the welfare services.

Two respondents had used the Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre; Norman to break his addiction to alcohol, and Maureen for counselling about her alcoholic husband. Norman said the Centre and Alcoholics Anonymous had enabled him to break the habit; Maureen said she had received information about her husband's condition and valuable support in coping with it.

Two women had been through long and traumatic experiences of illness, one ending in the death of her husband, the other in permanent brain damage after her husband had a car accident. In Alice's case the cause of her husband's illness was not diagnosed for a long time and he was treated with pain killers until eventually referred to a neurosurgeon who diagnosed a tumor of the spine and decided to operate. This process had taken two years. Two years later the disease recurred and he was again admitted to hospital, and treated by chemotherapy. The drugs had terrible side effects and after a few treatments he decided he did not wish to continue with that or any other medical treatment. At this time they came under the influence of a Pentecostal Church and found there a way of coping with his illness and eventual death. In this case the health services, once the condition had been diagnosed, provided all that the best medical technology could, but not the personal support needed. This case underlines the failure of technically excellent hospitals to provide the case management and family support needed in terminal disease.

The other case was the prolonged illness of Karen's husband after a car accident. During this time Karen did all she could to help her husband. She had many contacts with doctors and social workers which she did not find very helpful. She said that the hospital doctors were usually too busy . to talk to her about her husband's condition and she found the social worker too professional and unsympathetic. Her own general practitioner was the most help. He arranged Home Help for her after the accident and was someone to whom she could talk. Later, when she was under a great deal of strain, he came to visit her and suggested tranquillisers which she refused. Then he arranged through her local Community Health Centre for the sister to visit her regularly. She found this helpful and she was glad when her doctor finally realised that what she needed was someone to talk to in her own home.

While the staff at the rehabilitation centre were very good at teaching her how to look after him when he came home for weekends, they never asked about how she felt about caring for him. She could never explain how she dreaded having him at home for days or weekends and, when he was finally ready to be discharged with irreversible brain damage, no one discussed with her what options there were for his on-going care.

In general these families had been well served by health services. Their experiences underline the importance of family support as well as medical care in public hospitals. Several respondents had received valuable personal counselling and referrals to non-medical services from social workers while they were patients in public hospitals. Specialised services such as the Rehabilitation Centre and the Drug Centre had provided support for both patients and their families. Community Health Centres made available a wide range of health and support services such as marriage, family and financial counselling to which the respondents may not otherwise have had access. General practitioners offered a sympathetic ear in addition to providing their professional services. It seemed that one-parent families were more likely to be referred to family support services by doctors and hospitals than two-parent families, perhaps because they were more likely to be recognised as needing them.

Welfare services had been used by this group of families more than by any other group. Some had used a wide range of services; others, equally in need, had had only minimal contact. The amount of help received seemed to be more a matter of chance than of need.

Celia, for example, had opted to work full time to support her children and had used no welfare services on principle. By contrast, another respondent had used the following services effectively: Marriage Guidance, the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau, the Children's Protection Society, the Family Aide Service, Lifeline, the Salvation Army, the Court Poor Box, Financial Counselling, Mercy Family Care, St Vincent de Paul, the Barwon Attendance Centre and Parents Without Partners. She had also used statutory services, medical support services, and specialist educational services. This was not a case of shopping around to exploit services but one of using effectively those available to a mother beset by the hardships of two disastrous marriages, poverty and children's behavioural problems. It was also a case of referral and cooperation of the support services used. Most respondents fell somewhere between these two extremes.

Almost all had made use of one or other of the various government departments or statutory welfare agencies. The nine respondents dependent on pensions or benefits had, of course, all used the Department of Social Security. All said they knew about pensions and benefits and had had no difficulty. Some had been helped to apply by health or welfare agencies.

The main complaint was the inadequacy of their incomes and the inflexible conditions of eligibility. All respondents felt that pensioners and beneficiaries should be allowed to earn more without loss of money or fringe benefits so that there would be some incentive to work and families would not be locked into poverty. Another cause of complaint was the visits of Department officers to their homes to examine their living arrangements. Several found these visits intrusive; one was particularly indignant about being questioned. She described it as follows:

They are a pack of shits. Apparently they were tipped off that my boyfriend was living here. They hounded me and questioned me and wouldn't believe what I said. I knew I was wrong to have him living here, but he was on the dole and it was cheaper living. They kept insisting I was lying. It was all so degrading, I was in a terrible state. They kept trying to trip me up...But if the pension cheque was late, they wouldn't care.

Most respondents, however, blamed the system rather than the staff. As one succinctly put it: 'The staff are okay but the whole system is rotten.' They regarded the Department as a bureaucratic institution, geared to testing eligibility and enforcing regulations, not as a place where they would find help or support.

Natalie, when her husband had walked out and left the family destitute, went to the Department of Community Welfare Services to find out about the pension. They helped her to apply for supporting parent's benefit and, much to her relief, gave her $200 to pay her most urgent bills and buy food. She had also had considerable contact with this Department when her fifteen-year-old son had been in trouble with the police and had been made a ward of state. The boy had been in a youth training centre and was back home again. Natalie did not want him and felt unable to cope with the responsibility. She was angry and fearful. She said:

The Welfare Officers are just people in offices - they should try living with him for one week. He often comes home drunk at two or three o'clock in the morning. I've told them three times of his drinking but they don't do anything. They are waiting for a place for him in a special boarding house and they say just wait a bit longer, but if I have to have him much longer I'll be in a nut house. While he is here I'm responsible for him and what if he does something really bad? He was caught stealing a car last week, what will it be next? The Welfare Officers just don't care.

Seven families were living in rented Housfng Commission houses and, as already described, this was a most important service for these low-income families, especially in its provision for rental rebates. Some were critical because rent increases usually followed pension increases so they felt they were no better off.

Five had called on the police during episodes of domestic violence but, although in three cases some action was taken, the general impression was that the police did not want to be involved. Natalie's frequent contacts with the police about her delinquent son were mostly hostile. There was no evidence that these crisis contacts with police led to families being referred to other services.

All these families had had to cope with major problems, but the amount of help received from Family Support Services varied greatly. Four families had received extensive support. For example, Norman had been able to keep his five children at home because of help from the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau, Bethany, Mercy Care, St Vincent de Paul, the Community Health Centre and the Education Department. The services had combined to provide access to treatment for Norman's alcohol problem; to move the family from a caravan into a rented house and then into a Housing Commission house; to help Norman through divorce and custody; and to help him to deal with his financial problems, including being declared bankrupt. Between them they had provided all-day care for the two pre-school children; holiday care for all five children; and cooperated with the Community Health Centre over the children's health and with the Education Department on their education. They had also provided financial help when necessary. Access to all these services came about through a contact with the Industrial Chaplain at Norman's workplace. He referred Norman to the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau and from that point help from the other services became available. One of the striking points about this process was the cooperation between welfare agencies; the Health Centre and the Education Department which enabled th~m to continue to function ~s a family in their own home. The interviewer wrote: 'This home would not win a prize for tidiness and cleanliness, but the children all looked well and were lively and friendly. The impression was of a somewhat chaotic but happy home.' No clearer example could be given of the value of family support services, but it is disturbing that access came about only as the result of a chance contact with an Industrial Chaplain.

Three other families had received a wide range of services which, the respondents said, had carried them through various crises and helped them to get back on their feet. These services included family aides, child care, help with problems of adolescent children and financial counselling. In several cases crisis intervention was followed by developmental activities which helped the family regain confidence in handling its own problems. Most of these respondents knew about and gained access to services through their own informal network of family, friends and neighbours or through their church connections. Some families preferred to rely on their doctors and other health services in times of stress.

In some cases where family support appeared to be needed contact with services had been minimal. For example, Natalie had had little contact with any services except the police and the Probation Officer from the Department of Community Welfare Services. She felt that her needs had been ignored and little support provided for the family. She had received emergency fi~ancial help and financial counselling from the Community Health Centre, but she saw this as a short-term measure rather than as an opportunity to learn budgeting skills for the future. As well as poverty, this family had had acute problems which culminated in the breakdown of the marriage and the violent anti-social behaviour of the son, but seemed to have received little constructive help. Or, more likely, Natalie was unable to use the help offered.

Two respondents had had virtually no help in a time of crisis. Celia was too independent to accept help or advice after she left her husband. Tracey was overwhelmed by problems after her de facto deserted her, and was in despair. She seemed to have little idea of available services except that a neighbour told her she could get money from the Poor Box from the Clerk of Court. The interviewer told her about services which could help her but she said that she preferred to keep things to herself.

Only two respondents had used child care services, both initially in a crisis. Norman received invaluable support from family agencies, including full day care for his preschool children. Without this help, he may well have been unable to continue to care for them. Karen turned to a family agency when her mother said she could no longer mind the children during her daily visits to the hospital to visit her husband. The agency not only coped with the practical problem by taking the children, but also provided on-going support which enabled the mother to care for her children adequately and to develop confidence in herself. The key to the support was child care. Other respondents in this group did not think of using child care services. They had opted to live on supporting parent's benefit and so were at home with their children, which usually meant being solely responsible for them twenty-four hours a day. Their only sources of child minding were neighbours, friends or parents, who could be used only on special occasions.

These case studies support the view that child care could be one of the most valuable support services for all families, and especially for those with only one parent, yet such services are still not widely available and are regarded by both providers and even potential users as needed only by working mothers.

Many of the respondents had used emergency aid for food vouchers and money when they could not pay rent or bills or feed their children. One said her family could hardly have survived without St Vincent de Paul. Other families had been helped by the Salvation Army and the Brotherhood of St Laurence. Others had used Lifeline when they needed help and did not know where to find it.

What almost all of these families needed most was more income. Money would not have solved all their problems but it would have relieved them of the continuing stress of poverty, increased their options and given them some small sense of security.

Most respondents were happy about the help they had received from voluntary agencies. Unfortunately, often they had no contact with these services until a crisis occurred. Even in crisis, some families received effective help while others did not. In some cases the difference was related to personal resources, with some able to use services to learn skills and gain control over their lives, while others could see them only as a solution to immediate problems.

Some respondents were able to reach out for help and to find out about services, either through friends and relatives, by using the telephone book, or by telephoning Lifeline in an emergency. Some had the tenacity to follow up referrals until they found the help needed, some gave up at the first difficulty. Others did not know where to turn and took refuge in passivity. As one said: 'It's safer to keep your troubles to yourself'. Those who were able to relate well to the staff of the various agencies were likely to be given a more sympathetic hearing and a better service than those who were aggressive and demanding.

Some respondents were able to use services to learn new skills and to gain more control over their lives. For example, one mother used financial counselling to learn how to organise her finances better and later this led to her joining a Credit Union, which was of great benefit to her, whereas another woman in a similar situation saw financial counselling only as a way of getting out of the mess she was in and preventing her electricity and telephone from being cut off. She was either unwilling or unable to learn to budget to avoid future' crisis.

For all these reasons, reaching the appropriate service and using it effectively depended to a large extent on the personality and ability of the individual seeking help.

Equally important was the personnel and organisation of the services. Here we have to rely on the perceptions of the users which mayor may not be accurate but which are nevertheless important. All were warm in their appreciation of the help received, often over long periods, from the staff of the support services. Most referred to these men and women by name as though they were friends. They visited the struggling families in their homes, often staying for only a few minutes but long enough to make them feel they were not forgotten. As Rosalie said of one: 'He kept our family going when things were bad. He would just drop in and have a cup of tea in the kitchen and I could talk to him about any problems. He was more like a friend than a welfare worker.'

Another strength of the family support services in Geelong was the network linking them to each other that enabled them to work together to meet the many needs of families. The impression was of cooperation rather than overlapping. However, the onus was still on the family to locate and approach services, so those with least initiative and fewest contacts often missed out. The case studies suggest that once the initial contact had been made an effective referral system usually came into action, but that first contact was often a matter of chance. It is noteworthy that, although nine of the respondents had been in touch with the Department of Social Security, none of them reported it as having referred them to any other service.

Geelong has many advantages. It is big enough to support many health, education and welfare services and it is small enough for many of their staff to know each other and to be able to work together to maximise their overall effectiveness. That this can and does happen is exemplified by Norman, the lone father left to care for five young children, who after two years was managing well with support from health, education and welfare services. Another advantage, which may have something to do with the stability of Geelong, and which was apparent in the case studies, was that many of the staff had remained with the same agency for several years, so that they knew and understood the community and knew and were known by the families needing support.

These families were all struggling with major problems, usually with very uncertain support from family and friends. Their problems were social as well as personal in that they felt, to a lesser or greater degree, alienated from the society in which they lived. This alienation was associated with poverty, with being a one-parent family, possibly with being 'a welfare family living in a Housing Commission estate'. Whatever the cause, it made it difficult for these families to build support networks of their own extended family, of friends and especially of community groups. Consequently, the families in this group had had less support from informal networks and had made more use of formal services than any other group.

Their stories underline the importance of the family of origin. Those who grew up in families where relationships were not good did not have the warm support of parents and siblings when they came to found their own families, thereby missing out on what was for other families their most important source of help. Extended family relationships were often limited to parents, mainly mothers, and links with siblings became increasingly tenuous.

Many respondents also had very limited networks of friends, partly because they had moved frequently, partly because they were poor and thereby deprived of many social activities, and partly because they felt that a stigma was attached to being a single parent which made it difficult for them to join in social activities except with other single parents. Unless they were closely involved in a community group, like the respondents who belonged to sect-type churches, their range of social contacts was small and their sources of informal support limited, usually to other single mothers as needy as themselves.

The dependence of these families on formal services was partly due to their lack of informal support, partly to the fact that they were beset by problems and situations which could not be coped with through a family's own efforts and resources. In such situations some were able to find effective help and others were not.

Unlike the families in the other groups, there was little said about the virtues of independence and 'standing on one's own feet'. Only one respondent was determined to be self-reliant and said it was possible to leave her husband only because she had a full-time job and could support her children. The other respondents had accepted the fact that their poverty and other problems could not be resolved by the efforts of the family alone. This failure to live up to community expectations of self-reliance and independence was one source of the stigma which they felt attached to being 'a welfare family'.

3. Immigrant families

3. Immigrant families

Introducing the families

This group of seventeen families was selected to represent the main ethnic groups in Geelong and to provide a variety of social backgrounds and experience. Some had come as adults and some as young children; some had lived in larger European cities, some in remote villages; some had brought considerable assets with them, some had arrived with nothing but a few personal belongings; some were well educated and had trade or other qualifications, some were unskilled and knew nothing but subsistence farming; some spoke English or had the capacity to learn it, some were barely literate in their own language. Of particular interest to this study, some had relatives waiting to welcome them, while others had minimal or no contacts in Australia.

The immigrants included eight nationalities: Dutch, German, Austrian, Swedish, Ukrainian, Italian, Yugoslav and British. They also covered a wide range of periods of residence in Australia: some had been here for nearly thirty years, others for less than'ten. The general survey that preceded selection picked up only one Asian immigrant, reinforcing Census data that Geelong has not had the level of recent South-East Asian immigration experienced by some larger cities.

All the respondents had been born overseas but six had arrived with their parents as very young children. In addition to telling us about their own experience of growing up in Geelong, they described their parents' experiences in Europe and in making the transition to Australia. Eight of the respondents were men, eight were women and one couple decided to be interviewed jointly.

Background to the families

The immigrant respondents could be grouped in several ways: for example, by birth place, urban or rural background, or socio-economic status. After study of the interviews, the most useful criterion seemed to be the period of migration, distinguishing between those who arrived in the decade after the war and those who came between the mid-1950s and mid-1970s. There were, of course, dissimilarities within these groups but there were enough common factors to provide a basis for comparison.

While the basic distinction is between earlier and later arrivals a further subdivision exists in both groups; that is, those who arrived as young children. Where relevant, they have been treated as a distinct group who had grown up in Geelong.

Eight respondents had immigrated between 1949 and 1953. Three of this group had arrived as young children with their parents (one from England and two from refugee camps in Europe) and had grown up in Geelong. The English respondent, Penny, said that the transition to Australia had not been difficult for her family and her childhood had been quite happy. The other two remembered their early years as a time of hardship and deprivation as their parents struggled to establish homes. From an early age they were expected to help with household tasks and to look after younger brothers and sisters. Elzi said: '1 remember my childhood as being fairly happy but as soon as we were old enough we were all expected to work and there was much responsibility placed on me as the eldest to help in the house and look after the younger children.' At least her family had been successful and she could look back to the early hardship as a preliminary to a better life. The other child's family was beset by problems of poverty, alcoholism and marriage breakdown.

The other five respondents (and the parents of the three who had come as children) had come to Australia as adults after living through World War H. Most remembered happy and secure childhoods in a remote world before war devastated their lives. They had experienced such traumas as the invasion and occupation of their country; deportation to German labour camps; the loss of home, family and livelihood in air raids; and permanent separation from other members of their families. The German families had lived through the defeat and total collapse of their country. Some were were so mentally and emotionally scarred by their experiences that it was difficult for them to build a new life in Australia.

Most did not want to talk about their wartime experiences. They had blocked out the memories and had no wish to revive them. The following accounts indicate the disruption war brought to their early lives.

Anne was born in a small town in Holland. Her parents owned a small business and were comfortably off. She remembered her childhood as happy and carefree. Their lives were shattered when her country was invaded and occupied. Her mother was killed, her father injured and their business destroyed in air raids. Even after liberation life was still very difficult. Food and other essentials were very scarce and her father was severely depressed and for a time had no heart to start again. Anne finished school and entered a Teacher Training College, but when she had the chance to emigrate to Australia with her sister she seized the opportunity without completing her course.

Sonia was born in Ukraine. While she was a small child her father was killed in the war against Russia, in 1927, and she grew up on her grandfather's farm. Sonia remembered life on the farm as very happy. Her grandparents were respected in the neighbourhood and the house was always open to visitors. 'They were proudly Ukrainian,' Sonia said, 'and insisted that their grandchildren retain their Ukrainian culture despite attempts by the ruling authorities to suppress the Ukrainian people's language and customs.' When she left school she began training as a nurse, but after one year the war broke out and she was sent to nurse in a Russian military hospital. When the German army invaded Ukraine she was taken to a labour camp in Germany where she remained till the end of the war. She remembered those years as extremely harsh. Immediately after the war she married a Ukrainian in the camp and they were moved to a refugee camp. They decided to emigrate and, after unsuccessfully applying to the USA, were accepted by Australia.

Many of these respondents had arrived in Australia with feelings of insecurity due to the traumas of the past and anxieties about the future. Their apprehensions were well founded: most had little or no money, no friends or relatives and, in most cases, no English.

Two significant factors distinguished these immigrants. They had come to Australia by chance rather than choice: some were resettled as refugees, some had applied to several countries and Australia was the first to accept them. Also, they had no relatives or friends in Australia.

Most had come to Geelong because they heard, usually through other immigrants, that there were jobs going or that land was cheap. The chance nature of their coming to Geelong is illustrated by a couple from Northern Europe who had a row with the staff at the migrant reception centre in the Victorian country town where they had been living for six months. They packed their bags and walked out. With no idea of where to go, they took a lift in a truck which happened to be going to Geelong. When they were passing Ford, the driver suggested that the husband, Hans, go in and ask for a job. He was taken on immediately and the driver then drove them to the nearest migrant hostel where they stayed for over a year.

Nine respondents had immigrated between 1956 and 1974. They came from very different backgrounds. Five were from small villages, mostly poor, where life was a constant struggle to obtain the bare necessities. The other four came from urban backgrounds where life was easier but there was little hope of advancement.

All had belonged to families closely integrated with relatives and friends around whom their social life revolved. Village life was especially closely knit and families lived an interdependent life. The following examples illustrate the lives of the families in which they had grown up.

Alberta grew up in a small farming community in Scandinavia. There was much daily social contact and often neighbours would help work one another's crops. Their food was product::.d on the farms and there was often exchange between neighbouring villages. Not only did they live close together but they belonged to the same clan. The children were brought up as a group and some of the older children looked after the little ones while their parents and other older siblings worked in the fields. Until she went to school, Alberta knew only her immediate family and the villagers. The village lifestyle was communal, based on sharing crops, labour and skills such as joinery and building, as well as festive occasions such as Christmas and weddings. Alberta said that she could not imagine a happier, more secure environment.

Vera was born in a small village in Yugoslavia, one of a family of eight children. Her father had a very small farm, not large enough to grow enough food to feed them all. Everyone in the village was poor, but her family was among the poorest because they had so many mouths to feed. The neighbours gave them bread, milk and potatoes to help feed the children. She remembered that they had so few clothes they had to stay in bed while they were being washed and dried. The only social occasions she could remember were weddings to which all the village came and to which they all contributed food. Her chief memories of her childhood were the lack of food and clothes. When the children grew older, they sometimes worked on neighbouring farms or minded children for a meal or some food to take home. There was no other pay. Vera decided to run away to the nearest town where she had a girlfriend who had found her a job. She said that she was sick of being so poor and wanted only to feed and clothe herself. Her father traced her and ordered her to return home and, when she refused, disowned her. After a very unhappy marriage and divorce she emigrated to Australia.

Carlo was born in a city in Italy. His father was a factory worker. They were comfortably off in a very simple way. They had many relatives living nearby and most of the family's life revolved around them. Relatives were always ready to help if needed. Carlo stayed at school until he was seventeen and then obtained an apprenticeship. After two years military service he found his job boring and saw little hope of advancement. Then, after a period in the navy, he and his wife decided to emigrate to Australia. They came to Geelong because they had relatives there.

Frank was born in a Northern Irish city. He described his early life thus:

I was the youngest of eleven children and although it was hard for my mother to make ends meet, we always had enough to eat. It was a happy home though we never had the toys and amusements that children have today. Our family was very close and we were all healthy. At home we all had to help and do our chores and we had to do as we were told immediately. By today's standards, we had a very strict upbringing, but we were happy. When we went to school we were happy there too. It was a good life, though in some ways it was narrow, but everyone in the street was a friend not just neighbours. We used to walk into each other's houses just like our own home - not like here.

Frank made it clear that his decision to come to Australia was a positive one, not merely a desire to leave Ireland. 'I could always get a job in Ireland, no worries,' he said. 'And we had our own house there, but I liked the travelling and the idea of a new country appealed to me.'

These later arrivals presented quite a different picture from the earlier arrived immigrants in that they had all emigrated to Australia from choice rather than necessity. They believed that it would provide a better future, particularly for their children, as one explained:

My parents decided to emigrate to give their children a better future. In Holland the government used to do everything for you and stifled initiative. And it was so crowded - there were just too many people. My parents wanted a whole new start in a country with plenty of space and opportunity to do things for yourself. That is why they came to Australia.

Another significant characteristic of this group was that they all had relatives in Australia who encouraged them to come and were prepared to help them find their feet.

The families

Six of the eight families in the earlier arrived group had come to Australia with no' or very young children. One was a single girl of twenty who married soon after arrival, and one was an older family with six children, aged four to sixteen. The families had three urgent needs when they arrived: finding a job, finding somewhere to live and coping with a foreign language and a foreign society.

Most had found jobs within a matter of days. For some these jobs were more menial than those they had had in their home country, but even labouring jobs were comparatively well paid and all were willing to accept them in order to get a start. For those who were able to keep their place in the workforce, employment prospects were good.

The immediate problem of accommodation was met by living in migrant hostels, to which all the families were taken on arrival. Most remained in hostels for periods of up to three years, although two families, who were somewhat better off, were able to move into rented accommodation after a few weeks. The hostels provided the security of a roof over their heads at rates they could afford, but most families found them alien places at best; and at worst, reminiscent of refugee camps. In some cases the wife and children remained in the hostel while the husband was sent to work elsewhere. Sonia said: 'When we arrived in Australia with our two young children, my husband was contracted to the government for two years and was sent to Geelong. He could visit us only once a month and I remember that the separation from my husband was one of the most difficult aspects of our early life in Australia. It took us a whole year to save the deposit on a block of land.' For most families getting a home of their own was the top priority and most things were sacrificed to achieve this. To that end, both husbands and wives might work long hours, taking all the overtime they could get, with the men doing two jobs. It was assumed that the women would look after their households as well as work for ~ages. In some cases this pattern continued for years and, as the children grew old enough to work, their earnings might also be pooled. As one respondent said: There was never any money when we were growing up. We had our home and everything went into that. Apart from that we only had the bare necessities.'

Some families lived in appalling conditions to save for their house. The family with six children lived in a tent and a makeshift sleep-out made out of Ford hoxes for three years. Another lived in an old garage until it was condemned by a Health Inspector. Some families, once they had saved the deposit on a block of land, built one room, adding further rooms as they could afford.

Language was a barrier for many. As Kurt said: 'Amongst the greater difficulties we encountered in our early years was the inability to speak English and to communicate with people. In those days there were very few interpreter services and we often felt so helpless.' Hans, who spoke English, recalled the advantage this had been: '(knowing English) meant that we were not completely powerless or dependent on others when we had to. make decisions and plan our way ahead'. Those who did not have this advantage were dependent on other immigrants for information. An interesting sidelight was that several respondents who had been in labour camps in Germany, and subsequently in refugee camps, had a working knowledge of several languages, as the camps had provided a crucible of languages.

It was against the background of such problems that these families had brought up their children in Australia. In many cases the unfamiliarity of the environment turned a family in upon itself. In Australia, self-reliance and 'staying together' became very important. The whole family was seen as a unit: parents never thought of going out without their children, and children were expected to help their parents and share responsibility from an early age. As Otto said: 'We didn't go out anywhere without our son. When you have no relatives and don't speak English, you do not use other arrangements. Anyhow, we considered that children are no one else's responsibility but their parents'.

There was often tension between the need for the mother to go out to work and the desire that she should be at home to care for the children. All the women had worked at some stage since coming to Australia, some over long periods, some intermittently, depending on the needs of the family. Some had started work only after their youngest child had gone to school. Child care was kept as far as possible within the family by husbanp and wife working different shifts and by older children caring for younger ones.

There was also tension in some families over the need for the children to start earning and the need to achieve the best education possible. In those days of full employment most working class children left school at Year Ten to enter the workforce, but in five of these families children went on to post-secondary training or apprenticeships.

The nine families who had arrived between 1956 and 1974 had emigrated at a slightly later stage in the life-cycle than the earlier group. In five cases their children were all born in Europe; in four, one or two children were added to the family in Australia.

All these families had relatives waiting to welcome them, to provide accommodation and to help them to find a job, often in the same workplace. All lived in a household in which their language was spoken, and all were introduced to services such as schools, shops, health and welfare services and to ethnic community organisations. Once settled they were able to draw-on relatives in times of crisis.

Naturally, these arrangements were not always ideal and sometimes created their own problems. The new immigrants, especially if they had no English, were entirely dependent on their relatives and this sometimes became irksome. The following examples illustrate the good and not so good aspects.

Carlo and his wife Lucia decided to emigrate to Australia after their second child was born, because of the poor economic prospects in Italy. He had relatives in Geelong to whom he wrote for advice, and their description of the opportunities for employment and home ownership influenced their decision to come to Australia.

When they arrived, they stayed with an uncle, who found a good job where Carlo could start immediately. A few weeks later a friend of the uncle found them a cheap flat to rent, and their relatives lent them basic furniture and kitchen equipment until they could buy their own. Neither Carlo nor his wife could speak any English when they arrived and both felt they were very fortunate in being able to rely on relatives for interpreting and translating. In the early weeks, Lucia's aunts helped her become acquainted with Geelong and passed on essential information. An uncle helped them to enroll their eldest child in primary school. Not surprisingly, Carlo and Lucia were delighted with the ease of their transition to life in Geelong. He said: 'We have been very lucky in Australia - we certainly never expected to be settled and have a place of our own so soon'.

Alberta married very young and she and her husband worked on her parents' farm. After their second child was born they decided to emigrate to Australia. Her husband had close relatives in Geelong who encouraged them to come. On arrival, their relatives offered them accommodation and also work for the husband in their business. But the arrangement was not a success. Alberta explained:

In one way, staying with them was useful to us because my sister-in-law explained many things to me, like how to get child endowment, where to shop etc. and also introduced us to other Scandinavians living in Geelong. On the other hand, they really 'conned' us into coming because they wanted my husband to work for them. They had visions of him doing all the work and them benefiting from it. Again, we had no English and needed their help, but the disadvantage was that we were dependent on them and had to rely entirely on what they said. Sometimes I thought they just told us what suited them.

Eventually Alberta and her husband decided to move out. They rented a shack with no light or running water and he found another job.

Although these families had had an easier transition to Australia than the earlier group, they still had to cope with the basic problem of establishing a home. Two families brought assets with them and so had no difficulties, but the others arrived with little except a few personal possessions.

All lived with relatives for periods up to one year; then, with some savings behind them, they moved into rented accommodation while they continued to save for the deposit on a house or block of land. All had achieved this within two to three years but often at considerable cost to the family. One respondent said that she and her husband had lived on $10 a week for over a year while they saved $800 for the deposit on an old house. Another woman did shift work for eight years, sometimes working twelve hours a day. In what must surely have been an understatement she said: 'This kept me away from my family a little more than I would have liked.'

Language was not such a barrier for most of these families. Two were English-speaking, four were from urban backgrounds and had had sufficient education to be able to learn a new language. The three from remote villages in South-Eastern Europe, however, were barely literate in their own languages and even after ten years their English was poor.

These families faced some of the same tensions between the need for the mother to earn and for her to care for young children. Five of the mothers had never worked in Australia, partly because they had not done so in their home countries and were disinclined to begin in a new environment, partly because their families could manage on one income. Three of the other four mothers had gone to work soon after their arrival, realising that two wages would be needed to achieve their own homes quickly. The fourth mother stayed at home until her youngest child went to school and then worked part time.

Child care was regarded as the responsibility of the family. Elzi said: 'I worked night shift for over two years so that one of us was always at home with the children - we would never have left them on their own'. Lucia said: 'Our youngest child was just old enough to go to school (when we arrived) so I was able to work full time. The children were able to look after themselves before and after school. When they got home they cleaned the house and started to prepare tea. They were very good - they realised we all had to work.'

As with the earlier arrived group, parents were little involved with their children's education and regarded schools as places where their children would be given the education that would lead to a good job. In seven families, children stayed at school until they completed Leaving or Higher School Certificates. Most went on to further training in apprenticeships or on-the-job, and two went on to tertiary study. The value these families placed on education and training is illustrated by Mika's case. Her family, with two children, emigrated from a poor village in Yugoslavia in the seventies. The marriage broke up and Mika had to support the children. In spite of her poverty, she told the interviewer that she was shocked when her son wanted to leave school at fifteen. She felt very strongly that he should 'go as far as he could with exams'. It became a continuing feud between them and she even tried to enlist the help of her estranged husband 'to make him change his mind'. The fact that he had been offered an apprenticeship for a skilled trade modified her indignation only slightly.

Families from both groups had many other problems to face as well as those associated with settling in a new country. At the time of the interview, five families were dependent on the invalid pension and most had been so for several years. In four of these cases the fathers had had traumatic experiences in Europe and their health had deteriorated in Australia. After an initial period of hard work they were unable to sustain the pressure and continue in the workforce. Two began to drink heavily, two became depressed and were labelled 'war neurosis' cases. All were unable to support their families financially or otherwise. It was interesting that none of the mothers suffered such collapses, and in each case the sustaining role was taken over by the mother. The fifth case was a family in which the father was permanently incapacitated by an accident at work. The following examples illustrate these experiences.

A family with six children arrived as refugees soon after the war. The respondent, Bruno, who was a young boy at that time, described their problems:

I was the youngest of six children. My Mum was always a goer. When we were in the refugee camp in Germany she used to go out before dawn to look for food for us children, and when we arrived in Australia she was ready to work and look after things again. She had a very difficult time. My father suffered from nerves, war neurosis it was called, and it affected him a lot after we came to Australia. I remember once we were travelling in the train and we were held up outside a station. My father had such a fear that there was going to be a bombing attack like he had experienced when he was an engine driver in Germany during the war that he made us all jump out. That's how bad he was at times. He got a job at Ford and was all right for a time but he was not used to having money and he just couldn't handle it. He and Mum used to argue all the time. She worked at labouring jobs like picking peas, harvesting onions and potatoes. She had no English and farm work was all she knew.

With the Australian way of life, my Dad started drinking with his workmates and because he was still suffering from the war he drank too much. He was very hard to get along with and all his good ideas like buying land for a house just went to pieces. Then he started leaving home for weeks on end. Once he went to Sydney for eight months. He took all the money he could lay his hands on and came back broke. In those days you didn't get any Social Security money and Mum used to walk everywhere looking for work. Then she fell off a truck and hurt her back and couldn't do heavy work any more.

By that time my older brothers and sisters were working and we pooled our money and put down the deposit on a house. Then my mother took in boarders - other migrants - and through one of them she heard that she could get compensation for her accident. The case lasted four years and eventually she got a couple of thousand dollars. By this time Dad wasn't supporting us at all and he died quite young.

Bruno later experienced many difficulties himself, including back injury, unemployment, drug addiction and marital problems. At the time of the interview he was enrolled in a technical course under a rehabilitation scheme, but he was about to drop out because, he said, it would not help him to get a job. The future of the family seemed precarious.

Inge, who came to Australia from Germany with her husband in the early 1950s, described their experiences as follows:

After we arrived in Australia we were sent to the migrant hostel in Geelong. My husband worked in a factory - he was under a two-year contract to the government and I got a job house cleaning. We saved hard and after two years we bought a block of land and my husband built a couple of rooms for us to live in. We continued to work flat out, taking all the overtime we could get to buy building materials. I took a job in the mill where my husband worked. It was better paid but I hated the mill. It was boring and the noise was terrible but I stayed because we needed the money. Our wages were low and both of us working full time only earned about one decent wage. My husband's health began to give out and sometimes he wasn't able to work. Then he had a bad heart attack and hasn't been able to work since. It was just the years of hard work to get our house that wore him out.

In our case it's difficult to live on the invalid pension. I'm still young - I was only in my early forties when I had to give up work to care for my husband. Being that age the pension money is not enough to live a decent life. You miss out on too many things. We need blankets and other furnishings - the ones we bought twenty years ago are wearing out - but there is no money for extras like that. If you can't work in this country it's no good.

We both worked hard for twenty-two years in Geelong but that wasn't enough time to save much on the wages we earned. We have our home and it is paid for, but all our money went on that and on doctors and hospitals. We would like to have a holiday sometime and I would like to take up hobbies but we can't afford any extras like that. We have too long to live still and there seems to be nothing much in the future for us.

A family from Holland suffered disruption of their life through a serious accident to the father. The mother, Marika, said:

Our first home in Geelong was an old downtown garage. It was an awful place and after a year it was condemned by the Health Inspector and we were able to move into a Housing Commission house. We were very happy then. My husband had got a very good job, we could live on his wages and I could stay at home with the children; And we had a good home and a garden. The future seemed bright. Then everything changed. My husband injured his back seriously in an accident at work. He was in various hospitals for over a year and had several operations but he has never been able to work since. For the first few weeks the firm paid his wages, but when it became a court case they stopped and we didn't get anything. We were desperate in that time. I went to Social Security but they said they could not help us. I was lucky because through a friend I got a job as kitchen hand at the school. So we were able to make payments on the house because we were behind. When my husband was in hospital I got very nervous because of the worry about him and also having no money and all the bills coming in. I couldn't let him carry the worry when he was so ill, so I took it all. It was so bad - all those threatening letters for money. Apart from a few weeks before I got the job we were never behind with the house payments. Food was another thing. Sometimes the children just got a slice of bread with margarine and sugar. I often didn't eat because the children needed it more. Even in that time, we didn't want to ask for help. When I think of it today, I wonder how we came through it. Eventually some friends told me to go to our local M.P. He took up our case right away and got on to the Social Security people and we had our first cheque that afternoon. We had to pay it back when the court case was settled but at least we had some money to live on. That was twenty years ago and since then we have had to live on the invalid pension. The compensation money paid off the house and that is a help, but even so we have to watch every cent and we know it will always be like that.

The experience of emigrating and starting again in a new country affected marriages differently. In some cases it brought husband and wife closer together as they worked to achieve common goals. As Hans said: 'Leaving family and friends was difficult but we were both young and strong and willing to work and hopeful about the future.' As these hopes gradually became realities, their family life remained stable and secure.

In other cases the stresses of emigrating strained marriages. Franco, who had come out as a child with his parents from Italy, described their relationship:

Our family arrived with nothing but the suitcases we carried. We stayed for over a year with my father's relations. They had found a job for Dad and he started work right away. He worked all the overtime he could get and we had no social life. This situation was difficult for my mother. She did not get on very well with her in-laws, and she had no relatives of her own, no friends, no paesani and this also limited her social life.

All through my childhood there was constant conflict and tension between my parents. My mother was more modem than my father - she learned to speak English and she learned to drive the car and got her licence. All my father ever did was work and sit around at home. After more than ten years here, my father decided to go back to Italy. My mother did not want to go and she threatened to leave my father, but family friends intervened and persuaded her not to break up the family. We sold up everything and returned to Italy but it was not as we expected it would be and after a year we returned to Geelong and started again in a rented house.

My parents were still quarrelling - my father worried incessantly about money and my mother wanted more social life. After a few years we had saved the deposit on a house and were able to move in. Buying the house helped my parents' marriage a lot. My father became more settled and able to relax and enjoy life more and my mother was happy being in her own home and entertaining her friends.

Other families did not resolve their problems so happily. In three other cases the husbands began to drink heavily and this led to great unhappiness and, in two cases, to divorce. Mika described the situation which led to her divorce:

When we got married my husband came and lived with my parents and worked on the land. We got sick of always working and always being so poor so we decided to come to Australia. We came to Geelong because my brother and his wife were here already, and we could live with them to begin with. For the first six months I stayed at home with the children. My husband was earning good money but we soon realised that if we were going to get a home of our own quickly, we would need two wages coming in. Everything went well to begin with, but then my husband began to learn from his Australian mates to drink and gamble heavily. He changed completely in Australia. I put up with it for a long time but then I thought I would be better off on my own, so I decided to leave him. I was working full time and could manage on my own. It was a very unhappy time, but I got over it when I became independent.

George, who came to Australia from Britain with his wife and three children, described his experience:

We came to Australia with our children in the sixties. We brought some assets with us and I had a good job so we had no money problems. My wife did not work and all our social contacts were through people I met at work and she didn't make friends of her own. She was never happy here and soon we started having marital problems. We just didn't get along any more as we had back in England· and in the end we were just living in the same house and our relationship was finished.

At the same time, I was being promoted and promoted up the scale and often went to the hotel for a drink with clients and people from work. It was a vicious circle - I went to the pub more and stayed longer because things were unhappy at home and the more I drank the worse things got at home. Part of the trouble was that my wife had no relatives or friends of her own here to unload on to, and kept most things bottled up.

When we were finally divorced, I fought to get custody of at least one of the children, but what really hurt was that they did not want to come with me. At the time I was very bitter because they didn't love me, but looking back, I realise that in the last couple of years of our marriage, I was hardly ever at home, and when I was I was usually drunk.

Several respondents said that family relationships were happy until their children began to grow up, then the authoritarian style of parents, especially fathers, conflicted with the more permissive style of Australian families. We heard this story from both sides - from respondents who were parents and had brought up their children here, and from respondents who had been born overseas but brought up in Geelong. Elzi said:

I was the eldest of five children and the only one born in Europe. I remember my. childhood being quite happy though there was very little money and I had to take a lot of responsibility for looking after the younger children and helping my mother from a very early age. There were few conflicts in the home when we children were still young, but as we grew older our parents, and especially father, became very restrictive in terms of the rules of behaviour which were laid down for us. The strictness of our upbringing at times infuriated me and, as I grew older, I began to contest my parents' judgement. I was not allowed to go out with friends until I was eighteen, and even when I was engaged we were constantly under my parents' supervision. During my late teens, there was much conflict between me and my father and we were always arguing. It was more difficult for me because I was the eldest and a girl. Finally, I went to Sydney and lived with friends there for one year. When I came back I married and since then my parents have been a great support.

Franco expressed some resentment at the way his parents had handled his education:

My parents sent me to a Christian Brothers' Technical School. I hated the school but I had to stay there. The Brothers were too strict and too religious. Also, I wanted to go to the high school and do more academic subjects instead of just technical training. My parents didn't know anything about schools in Australia. They were not at all religious, but they thought that if I went to a Catholic school I would get a better education. But they weren't really interested in my education or my future career. They were mainly interested in me being a good son, not going out too much with girls or staying out too late. They wanted us children to follow our traditions and we mostly accepted that. I wanted to be independent so I married before I was twenty and my girl was seventeen. My parents were against it, they thought we were too young. We lived with them for a while but there was so much conflict with my father that we had to move out.

Mika, from a village background in Yugoslavia, described an embarrassing incident involving her thirteen-year-old son and a neighbour:

I hit John because he had been disobedient and he ran across the road to the neighbour's house crying that I had hit him. The neighbour called the police who came at once and said I would be visited by the Community Welfare Services Department. But when the situation was explained nothing further happened. John burst into tears and said he was sorry he had gone to the neighbours. But I was very embarrassed and annoyed that they had called in the police.

Lucia described the difficulties of bringing up children in their ethnic tradition:

There is now some tension between us and our eldest daughter. My husband says it must be difficult and confusing for her being exposed to an Australian view of life at school and an Italian way of thinking and doing things at home. We both feel at fourteen she is too young to go out independent of the family and we are afraid that she is beginning to resent our authority on this issue because she doesn't understand our point of view. I don't know. Perhaps we are old fashioned in our thinking, but it was the way we were brought J,lp. What .I'm afraid of is that we'll come to the point where we can't really communicate with our daughter: I think it would be easier for us all to understand each other if we were still living in our home country. But here our daughter learns to express herself in English. At home we speak dialect, but often she cannot say what she wants to tell us in dialect and changes to English. I can understand everyday English but not complicated expressions and ideas. This is what saddens me most. Both my husband and I would like to see our children grow up appreciating their own culture and values, but it is difficult for children when they are young to appreciate something which goes against what the majority of their own age group are thinking and doing. My husband says that children of immigrants in Australia do not get a chance to experience the way of life in their own country and to learn what it is all about. They have ethnic festivals here but that is only for a day or two, perhaps once a year. In our own city in Italy, all the year round there is so much variety in terms of cultural activities and recreation. At weekends and in the evenings there is always something happening in the heart of the city where people live. Cities there are not like here - just commercial centres. On the other hand, we are glad that our children have the opportunity to grow up in our own house with our garden and space to play rather than a small apartment as would have been the case in our home city. We also appreciate the money we can earn here and the standard of life we have here.

Although jobs had been easy to find when both groups of immigrants arrived, it was a different matter for their children.

The earlier arrivals were better placed because their children joined the workforce when there were still plenty of jobs. In fact only Marika's family was suffering from unemployment at the time of the interview. Their son was a victim of the recession. He had had several promising jobs after leaving school at sixteen but each time had been laid off when workers were retrenched. Marika said:

My son has not had a steady job for over a year. His father expects him to have a job - he does not understand how impossible it is now. My son is bitter about not having a job and about his father's attitude. They clash a bit sometimes. My son will probably apply for a full-time course at the Gordon next year, but he is doubtful if he will get it.

The children of the later arrivals were more likely to have difficulty finding jobs. Of the five families whose children were old enough to be in the workforce, four had young unemployed. One of the families from the United Kingdom was having its first experience of unemployment. The father, Frank, said:

The only problem we have had in Australia has been and still is that my daughter aged twenty can't get a job. After she left school she had a job in a supermarket but when she turned eighteen she was paid off. She has been out of work for over a year now. She hates it - hates sitting around the house with nothing to do. She applies for job after job and sometimes gets interviews but nothing comes of it. I've tried to get jobs for her where I work and I've asked all our friends, but so far it's no use. If she was younger she would have a better chance but at twenty she is too old. She goes to the C.E.S. nearly every day and she has had a couple of temporary jobs under the N.E.A.T. scheme but they didn't lead to anything. She even tried to get into the Air Force but she got knocked back on that too. It is a big worry for the family.

Vera, who spoke poor English and understood little about Australian society, was bitter about her daughter's experience. She had paid for her daughter to learn a trade and when she completed the course, at eighteen, bought her a small business of her own. She did not realise that as a minor her daughter could not legally sign contracts, and the business was closed down. The mother was very indignant because she lost a lot of money over the transaction and also since then her daughter had been unemployed. She said that if 'the government' had not closed her daughter's business she would not have been unemployed and 'got mixed up with all those no-hope dole bludgers'.

All these families had come to Australia with the hope of establishing a home and providing their children with better opportunities. It was easier in many ways for those who arrived in the 1960s and 1970s. They had come to Australia by choice and were reasonably confident that they would find a good life here. All had relatives who were able to help them establish themselves. On the other hand, as the recession set in, from the mid-seventies, unemployment became, and has remained, a major problem. The steep rise in interest rates has made home ownership much more difficult to achieve.

These changes in the economic situation had affected the lives of a number of these immigrant families. Most of the earlier groups had seen their children established in good jobs, and many in their own homes, before the recession began, but the later arrivals were in a different situation. By 1981 unemployment in Geelong had reached nine per cent making it the worst region for unemployment in Victoria. Parents who had been pleased with the job opportunities open to them when they arrived were faced with much bleaker employment prospects for their children. Their hopes of providing the good life for their children seemed less promising.

Informal support

In dealing with this central theme of the study, a third group is distinguished from the original sample: the six respondents who were born overseas but who grew up in Geelong. Three were from the group of earlier arrivals and three from the later. Their patterns of support are sufficiently different to require a separate description.

All the earlier arrivals began their lives in Australia in migrant hostels. Most found these early years extremely hard and felt very much on their own. Nevertheless, most families did find some form of assistance to meet their immediate needs.

Those with friends from the same refugee camps in Europe had already faced hardship together and clung together for support in Australia. Although there was some reluctance to recall those early years, Kurt said:

It was very difficult for us in the first few years. We didn't speak any· English and we were desperately short of money. The only friends we had were families who had been in the camps with us in Germany - mainly Yugoslavs, Germans and Russians. We kept mostly to ourselves as a group. Some of our camp friends could speak English and they helped us a lot.

Some respondents made their first friends among the residents in the hostel in Geelong. One young woman met her future husband there. Some moved into boarding houses run by immigrants for immigrants. There was much pooling of information and experience. An English family found the hostel a very congenial place and made lasting friendships with other English immigrants which were a source of support when they moved out, often to live in the same suburb. Some refugee families also shared rented accommodation when they moved out of the hostel.

Several respondents said that they received much useful information from people they met in the workplace, mostly other immigrants. As Hans said:

I remember that among the workers at Ford there was much sharing of information between migrants who had been there for a long time and the newer arrivals. They told us such things as where to shop, where land was cheap, where houses were available and which organisations to contact for various problems.

Sometimes there were valuable individual contacts. For example, Inge, who got a job house cleaning for an established immigrant family from the same ethnic background, was offered a room in their house. She and her husband lived there for nearly a year while they saved for a block of land.

Franco's family also made a valuable personal contact through the workplace. Franco described this:

After living for a year with my uncle, we moved into a house of our own. An Australian friend of my father's - an old guy he worked with on the railways - rented a house out to us for practically nothing. He was sort of like a grandfather to us and helped my parents a lot with interpreting and writing letters in English for them. He had no family of his own and liked to spend time with us. He was very good to us kids. We stayed in his house for eleven years.

Several respondents bought land in outlying areas where it was cheaper. Other families did the same and gradually established small immigrant communities which provided mutual support. Sonia described her experiences:

When we first bought our block of land and started to build our house there were very few other houses in the area and very few facilities - not even made roads. But gradually quite a few other Ukrainian families and other migrants too moved into the area. Soon we began to raise funds to build our own church and provide a centre for Ukrainian language classes for our children and for other activities. I knew all the Ukrainian families and also most of the people from other ethnic backgrounds and we all helped each other with jobs like building houses, minding children, etc.

Experience of neighbours, even of th~ same ethnic background, was not always so positive. A Dutch respondent, Marika, who had to go out to work suddenly when her husband was ill and could no longer support the family, said:

I used to look after my neighbour's kids until she got home from work, but when I asked her to look after mine, she refused. She said that she was too nervous to handle other people's children. That's what some Dutch neighbours do for you! I was very upset!

Attitudes to Australian neighbours were somewhat ambivalent. Some respondents had had little or no contact with their neighbours, others had received practical help when needed. For example, Anne described her family's experience of building their first house:

We were lucky - we had neighbours who were good friends and if I needed help I could always go to them. In the beginning we did not have a car and they used to drive us quite a lot, and even lent us their car to fetch building materials. In return, I helped them to look after the baby when the mother was ill for quite a few months. But it didn't develop into a deep friendship and since we moved to a different area we hardly ever see them.

Inge described the kindness of an Australian neighbour in a crisis:

I was very ill after I lost a baby and had to stay in bed when I came home from hospital. My husband had also been in hospital after a heart attack and he couldn't do much. An Australian neighbour was very, very good. She came in every day and looked after us. She helped in many ways, shopping and sometimes cooking a meal for us and things like that. We still talk if we meet in the supermarket, but she never comes to our house any more. I'm sad about that and I have no idea why she doesn't come. So often I have asked her but she never comes. I think Australians are a bit like that if you are a migrant. They are kind but they don't want to be involved.

In the early days of post-war immigration there were few ethnic clubs or organisations, but immigrants from the same ethnic background did form social groups which were of great value, especially to new arrivals. For example, Kurt and Elzi were among the early immigrants soon after the war. They had no contacts in Australia but when they arrived in Geelong they found a few other Austrian families living there. Elzi said:

These families made a point of keeping in close contact with each other. They would often meet as a group and also visited each other informally whenever possible. They were determined that their children should grow up in their way of life, to appreciate their customs, traditions, language and cultural identity.

The value of a larger, more organised ethnic group was described by Hans:

A great deal of emotional support in our early years in Geelong resulted from the establishing of contacts and making friendships with other German families. We all shopped regularly at the same places and certain German shops were good sources of information on all sorts of things. While we were still living in the hostel, my wife and I joined the German Carnival Club which was established in Geelong in the early fifties. When we were ready to buy our own home, friends at the club passed on much advice and information. I believe that the club provided a valuable service for German immigrants in the fifties and that the organised social life around which the club then revolved provided a venue where much emotional support and friendship could be exchanged between members. This was particularly important for those who were alone in Australia. The club also provided language classes, thus enabling the children to maintain a knowledge and appreciation of their own language and culture.

In addition to the ethnic organisations there were certain individuals in the community who were known as useful contacts because of their 'know-how'. For example, a refugee family who had many pressing problems in their early years in Geelong, heard of a man who could assist them fo work the system on a fee-for-service basis. The respondent, Bruno, said:

There was this Yugoslav chap who used to help the New Australians, as they called us then. He spoke four or five languages and could always tell people what to do. He was known as the Godfather. He did help a lot of people but he exploited them as well. In the sixties he went back home to Yugoslavia, a rich man. We knew he was exploiting us, but we all took our problems to him.

Building support networks was spread out over many years. Some respondents who had begun their lives in Geelong knowing only a few people from refugee camps or migrant hostels had gradually extended their range of contacts to include workmates, other families in their ethnic communities and, as their English improved, the wider community. For example, a few respondents who were good linguists became involved in interpreting at hospitals and other institutions and, later, at the Migrant Resource Centre. This widened their contacts and gave them a sense of belonging in the community. Some found they got to know people when their children went to school and started bringing friends home, thus involving them with their families.

Not all families, however, had this experience of a widening circle of friends and acquaintances. Some remained isolated and, as they grew older, their circle narrowed rather than widened.

At the time of these interviews, the earlier arrivals had lived in Geelong-for around thirty years, during which they had brought up their children, seen them educated and established in jobs, with many in homes of their own. It is not surprising, therefore, that the most important source of help for most was their children and grandchildren. Family ties which had been severed by war and migration were now being re-established, sometimes in new forms, in a different society. Sonia said:

The last five years have been a very hard and trying time and I have relied very much on the support of our children. They are all married now in homes of their own, but we remain very close and they are all willing to help. After I was in hospital with a serious illness, I went to stay with one son until I was strong again. My health is not good and they have all tried to persuade me to ~ive with them when I can no longer look after the house, but I would not consider doing so. It would not be fair to place so much responsibility on young families. I will go into an old people's home, but I will still rely very much on their support and love.

Other respondents spoke with equal warmth of the support and comfort they received from their adult children and their families.

Close ties with children were not universal. One couple, of whom the husband had become an invalid pensioner after a long illness, had one son who lived in another part of Geelong but the relationship was not close. The mother, Inge, felt that their son's family was mainly interested in their own careers and activities and had little time for them. Her son rarely brought their grandchildren to see them and had not offered to help when his father had been seriously ill in hospital. Inge said:

He would call in for a while and ask how his father was but he never offered to do anything to help. We are disappointed in him and his wife and the way they bring up their children. They should encourage them to go and see their grandparents, but it's their life. I find it disappointing.

All the earlier arrived respondents said that they had never asked for, received or given any financial help. Sonia said: 'We have striven to be financially independent at all times and have never requested or received support of a material or financial nature'.

Practical help was a different matter. Several respondents said they had given and received help from other immigrants with building houses, renovating etc., though some were too independent to accept even this. Some had given and received help during crises and this help was usually of a practical kind - shopping, cooking a meal, looking after children or providing transport. This was the only kind of help respondents mentioned as having been given by Australians. Most respondents either relied entirely on their own family for emotional support or on friends from the same ethnic background or who spoke a common language. It is not surprising that families turned almost exclusively for this kind of support to other immigrants who understood the pangs of homesickness and the feeling of being an alien unable to communicate with people across the barrier of language. It would require considerable sympathy and imagination for an Australian who had never left Geelong to understand the experience described by Inge:

In the early years I used to get very homesick. I missed the closeness of our family and having relatives to drop in on any time and be always welcome. I missed my brothers and sisters and, even in later years, I was homesick for the little town in Germany where I grew up.

In contrast, the later arrivals depended largely on their relatives for help in their early days· in Geelong. As time went on the new arrivals reached out and made their own circles of friends and acquaintances, who provided various kinds of support.

All the husbands from this group went to work very soon after arrival and three of the wives had also done so within six months. They joined a workforce that was largely immigrant, especially in the unskilled jobs where some of the men and all the women were employed. For most, the workplace was the most important place for meeting people and making new contacts. For example, Vera found friends when she began working six months after arrival:

I stayed in the factory where I got my first job for eight years. In that time I met women from Yugoslavia and many other countries. It was a growing experience for me personally. One friend even taught me some English and also how to read and write a little. I found out about government s.ervices and the factory was for me a meeting place. When I was worried about my son wanting to leave school early, a friend from work went up with me to the school to interpret so that I could talk to the teachers. As time went on these contacts widened and through them I got a better job which I still have.

Alberta had had a difficult time when her husband became an alcoholic and she had to work full time to support her children. Her workmates in the small factory where she was employed were mostly Australian and, as her English improved, she found them friendly and helpful. When she was buying her first home they gave her good advice about houses, estate agents and lawyers. They also became aware that she was under stress at home and frankly asked her about her problems. She had come from a small, closely related village where family problems were generally known and shared. She was not used to confiding in anyone outside the family circle and felt very uncomfortable when they discussed her family situation. She did not know how to take their interest. Sometimes she felt grateful for their kindness, sometimes she considered it an intrusion. Later she realised that they had wanted to be kind and helpful, but their attitude was new to her and she did not know how to respond.

Another example of help given by friends at work was the case of a family whose son was killed in a road accident.

Another son said:

When we went through the trauma of my brother's death we were helped mainly by our friends and neighbours, especially Dad's friends at work. Mum was very ill and Dad just couldn't take it in. Dad's friends just moved in and took over and organised everything. They gave us all the support we needed.

All these later immigrants had been introduced by their relatives to families from the same ethnic background, so that even those who did not get on very well with their relatives had others to whom they could turn for help and advice. Also, by the time they arrived, ethnic communities' organisations were much more established than they had been when the earlier group arrived.

Sometimes the most effective help came from one individual. This was the experience of Vera whose brother had brought along another Yugoslav woman to meet her and her family when they arrived at the airport. This friend found Vera a job and went along with her to interpret and make sure she knew what to do. Although Vera and her husband joined an ethnic association and enjoyed the social activities, when serious marital problems arose this friend became the only person from whom she drew emotional and practical support. She also offered temporary accommodation to Vera and her children, which made it possible for Vera to leave her husband.

The only respondent from this group who mentioned neighbours as a source of help was Alberta. Her family had been through a crisis when her husband suddenly became ill and they were left without income. She said:

I didn't know anything about government help then. If there were services, they didn't tell you about them. We had no car and I had two small children, but I was lucky in the people I had near at hand. The baker gave us free bread and the milkman free milk for a few weeks until my husband could go back to work. Also I have a very good neighbour who helped me and often brought us food. It was a case of real Aussie mateship and generosity. When I needed help, the Australians helped me. Not a single Scandinavian helped me, though we belonged to the Walhalla Club. And our relatives explained all the reasons why they couldn't help us.

This was help in a crisis when the need was manifest, and this same neighbour also helped with child minding when Alberta went out to work. Yet when she was asked about her friends she mentioned only other immigrants. She maintained the distinction between neighbours and friends.

The other families had little contact with neighbours, in some cases due to the barrier of language. All these respondents said that their close friends were other immigrants. One respondent summed up a general attitude when she said: 'Our friends are German, Yugoslav, Polish and Russian. We don't pick them for their race or nationality or colour but Australians don't seem to want to be our friends.'

Only four respondents mentioned the church as a place where they found support. Alberta said she had received some help from the pastor to apply for sickness benefit when her husband was ill. Mika had come to Australia on a scheme for single mothers sponsored by the Roman Catholic church. A priest had met her at the airport and had arranged for her to stay with another Yugoslav family. The church also provided essential material needs for herself and her child but she said these were not nearly adequate. She had arrived with nothing and for the first few weeks she had virtually no money. As she defined support almost entirely in material terms she was dissatisfied with that provided.

The third was Frank's family who had developed a wide circle of friends, many through the church which played an important role in their lives. Sonia was also much involved in the life of her church and had helped to raise the money to build it. She regarded it as an important centre, not only for worship but also for the preservation of Ukrainian language and culture, and for the social contacts and support provided by its members.

All these families had been in Australia for several years, during which their children were growing up. Most had children still at school but some had adult children who had left home. For many, they were their parents' chief support. For example, Sonia said that she and her children had supported each other through her husband's long illness. The children had married and all moved out into homes of their own, but all lived in Geelong and she was in touch with them almost daily. She said:

In Australia I have lived through my children. First when they went to school and brought their friends home we made contacts with other families, and as they have grown up they have been an increasing source of support and companionship.

In Frank's family, the daughter's unemployment was a matter of concern for the whole family and all did their best to help and encourage her. In other later arrived families the relationship with independent children seemed to be less close. The two Yugoslav families had married children living away from home, and they rarely heard from them. Both were doing well, lived their own lives, and the parents seemed content that it should be so.

None of these respondents, except Mika who had been sponsored by the church, had given or received any financial help. Some had received material help from relations who had sponsored them, including accommodation and loans of furniture and household equipment. One family had been given free bread and milk when they had no money. Those who had married children had not helped them financially to set up house, partly because the parents did not have the money to spare, partly because the children were doing well and could pay their own way.

All respondents said they had not, and would not, ask for financial assistance. If they were short of money, for example, if the husband was not earning, the wife took a job. Similarly, if they wanted money to improve their house or buy a better one, the wife would go out to work and/or the husband take a second job. They preferred to save the money needed rather than ask for a loan.

Practical help was readily given and received, particularly in regard to information about houses, jobs, doctors, lawyers, shops and all kinds of services. Parents helped their children to find jobs and often used their personal network to do so. They also advised them about setting up house and helped them with building or renovations. Child minding was usually kept within the family, but in a crisis relatives or neighbours were likely to come to the rescue.

All these respondents turned to their relatives and friends from their ethnic community for help with emotional problems such as marital breakdown or anxieties about their children. They also relied almost entirely on other immigrants, including their relations and adult children, for everyday support and understanding.

The six respondents who had grown up in Geelong had at least one parent living in Geelong. Four of the six had married Australians and had thus acquired extended families of in-laws, most also in Geelong. It was not surprising, therefore, that most of these respondents turned first to their extended families when help was needed. Although several had experienced conflict with parents when they were growing up, this had been resolved over time and most had warm and close family relationships. These respondents, therefore, had many kinds of help that had not been available to other groups.

Four of the five who were married had had substantial help with setting up their first homes, either in the form of gifts or loans of money or furniture, or by having accommodation provided for quite long periods after marriage. The fifth respondent had not needed help when buying a house.

Milo, a university student who was still living at home, said that his parents often gave gifts of money and other things to him and to his married siblings. Gus described the give and take in his family:

In our family we always help one another. This house belongs to my parents and they are happy for us to live here on a low rent. My brother will sometimes borrow $200 from me and I borrow from him if I am short. We always pay it back soon - no worries.

These young people had also received help from their extended families to find jobs. Gus said he had got his job through his father. Franco had found most of his jobs through his own or his wife's extended family, and said:

I have found working for relatives both an advantage and a disadvantage. I can usually get a job whenever I need one but they expect you to get up and do a job for them at any time of the day or night. Often I was working all weekend at my uncle's farm and at the fruit market - they're family and you can't say no.

The extended family also provided much day-to-day support as well as help in a crisis. For example, Kurt described the close relationship his family enjoyed with parents on both sides:

Our children regularly spend a great deal of time at the weekend at their grandparents' home, and also visit them nearly every day. This made a tremendous difference when their mother had a serious illness. I was on shift work at the time, but my wife was never left alone at home - either my mother or mother-in-law would come and stay with her. After my wife had major surgery, the hospital offered us help, but we didn't need it because we had so much from our families and from neighbours and friends.

Franco described his relationship with his extended family:

As well as our own family and my aunt who sponsored us, we children all had godparents who were also considered as family. When I was growing up I would often stay at my aunt's house and sometimes at my godfather's. Both had sons about the same age as me and we all got on well together. The links between the families were very strong. They would buy bulk food together, such as whole pigs for sausage making, tomatoes for sauce making and grapes for wine making. We also depend on each other in many other ways. My closest friend is my brother's godfather, and I always go for advice to him. When I was leaving school, I talked to him about what I wanted to do in life. The same when I was thinking of getting married.

Bruno, who was married to an Australian, mentioned the help they had received from her family, particularly when she was in hospital having a baby and after she came home.

Bruno alone in this group had been beset by longstanding and almost insoluble problems which had strained family support beyond the limit. His parents had been refugees and had experienced considerable hardship during the settling process. He himself had experienced unemployment, back injury, drug problems and marital strife. He had several brothers and sisters nearby but said they were not willing to help:

My family don't know or realise what I've been through. They are too involved in their own lives and getting ahead and they don't want to hear about our problems. I wouldn't ask them for help even. But my wife's family are good. Her brother and sister give her a lot of help. They helped us to move into our house and they help with the children.

This group had attended school in Geelong and spoke English fluently. They were all, therefore, able to develop a wide range of friends and acquaintances both outside and within their ethnic communities. As one, Milo, said: 'We are the product of two cultures but my parents only understand one.'

Members of this group joined in community activities such as football, a church youth group, a local jazz band. One family had belonged to a baby-sitting club and a playgroup when their children were young and had now started a local craft group. These activities led to many friendships with Australians and it is significant that four of the five who were married had married Australians. This wide circle of friends and acquaintances also provided the possibility of support outside the family. For example, Gus said:

When I had trouble with Dad we went to the school counsellor. That didn't really help, but one of my teachers heard about it. She talked to me about my problem and was sympathetic. She had two boys of her own and she was very understanding. The outcome of it was that, after talking to my parents, she arranged for me to board with her family and I stayed there for over two years - until I left school, in fact. I became good friends with her boys and through them I joined the church youth club and made many more friends there. After I left school I travelled round Australia for six months and when I came back she found me a temporary job. I was back then living with my parents and we have been the best of friends ever since. But it was a great help both for me and my parents that I was able to live with another family for those two years.

Later in the interview Gus described his own attitude to helping people:

I have made a lot of friends in Geelong now and I like to help them with things like gardening and renovations. I also like to tune motor bikes and I do it for nothing. I like restoring things too. Dad helps me a lot by giving me the loan of his car and sometimes the tractor if I need it to take stuff to the tip. And again, I help him when he needs it.

Kurt and Elzi, who lived in a small community on the outskirts of Geelong, described the many offers of assistance they had received from a wide range of local people during a period when Elzi was seriously ill. Kurt's account was reinforced by the experiences of another respondent living in the same locality. Both attributed this neighbourly support to the small community in which they lived, consid~ ering they would not have had so many friends among neighbours had they lived in Geelong itself.

Nevertheless, in spite of their wider contacts some respondents remained deeply involved in their own ethnic communities. For example, Franco had found all his many jobs through friends and acquaintances: '1 know practically all the Italians in Geelong'. Milo had made many friends through school and university and through playing football. But if he was in trouble he said he would rely mostly on his family because he had been brought up that way and relatives and Yugoslav friends were also able to help 'because they understood us'.

The workplace was not a significant social centre for these respondents. None had been in the same job for any length of time and they all had many other sources of friends and acquaintances.

Of these groups, the earlier arrivals had few sources of support when they first arrived. Their range of contacts gradually increased through the workplace, their ethnic communities and, for those who became fluent in English, through neighbours and community activities. As their children grew up and established homes of their own, they became the most important support. This widening circle was not the experience of all. Those who because of ill health had to drop out of the workforce lost an important source of friends and acquaintances. Those whose English was poor were cut off from Australian neighbours and activities. Those who did not get on well with their adult children lacked the support they most wanted. So it was possible for a family to live in Geelong for thirty years and still have very few close friends and only minimal contact with community groups.

The later arrivals had the advantage of the support of relatives on arrival and a quick introduction to their circle of friends. By this time clubs and societies for most ethnic groups were well established and provided an important social centre. This group, therefore, was in a better position to widen its range of friends and acquaintances. The older families also had a valuable source of support in their adult children. As with the earlier arrivals, however, a few of the families were isolated by factors such as ill health, poverty, lack of English, or by constrained relations with their adult children and the relatives who had sponsored them.

The most notable thing about the group that had grown up in Geelong was that financial help was more readily available. All had parents and relatives who had established themselves in Geelong and were now in a position to help their children. Many sources of practical help were open to them and they were in a position to give as well "as receive. Because of their fluency in English they were on a much more equal footing with their peers and were equally well informed about opportunities. They were also fortunate in having a wide range of emotional support - from peer groups, from their families, and from relatives and friends in their ethnic communities. Some remained closely involved with their ethnic communities but all felt at home in the wider Geelong community. They were all the 'products of two cultures' actively engaged in synthesizing the two.

Formal support

In spite of the importance of mformal support the respondents acknowledged that at times they also needed professional and what were generally referred to as 'government services'. Hans described a fairly common attitude:

The best way in which support can be provided for people throughout their lives varies according to the circumstances. For instance, assistance in the day-to-day needs such as transport, child minding and housekeeping is best provided by friends and neighbours. Friends, especially other migrants, are an important source of emotional support, particularly for people without families to rely upon. People should be prepared to help each other, and themselves, whenever possible. Professional support is also necessary at times, depending on the nature and seriousness of the situation. But it is preferable that, where possible, support is sought and given through informal services.

All respondents had used legal services, usually for routine transactions such as buying a house or land. Other uses involved divorce proceedings, claims for workers' compensation and obtaining a loan. Respondents said that they were advised on solicitors by friends, usually other immigrants, and through their ethnic clubs. Where possible, they used solicitors who spoke their own language and in complex cases, or where they were not proficient in English, this was very important.

The respondents regarded solicitors as simply providing a necessary legal service. If a result was according to their wishes they were satisfied. If not, they tended to blame the solicitor and feel that they had wasted their money. They expected only a professional service. One put it succinctly: 'They did what they were paid for.'

The findings of the general survey showed that immigrants had made more use of health resources than had the population as a whole. It was not surprising, therefore, that all respondents had used health services, mostly doctors and hospitals. Here again, they expected only a professional service. Many did not have enough self-confidence - partly because of language difficulties - to ask questions about treatment and prognosis, although two who had been referred to doctors who spoke their own language found that their confidence and understanding of medical advice increased. They were grateful if doctors and nurses were kind, and left matters entirely in their hands. They did not expect to be consulted, nor did they expect hospitals or doctors to be concerned with their home situations. At home they preferred to rely on their informal network. One respondent summed it up by saying: 'We had our families and friends and neighbours - no other help was necessary'. But in cases where informal support was inadequate, illness could plunge families into a crisis in which a respondent could say: 'We had no idea where to turn for help', even though they were involved with doctors and hospitals at the time.

It seems likely that one consequence of this failure to refer patients to support services was that only a few families used domiciliary services to augment informal help. In all cases where such services had been used they had been provided at the initiative of a hospital or general practitioner and were considered very helpful.

Most dissatisfaction was expressed about psychiatric services. Some of the earlier arrived male immigrants had been referred to psychiatrists, but they either refused to go at all, or went only once. In one case the wife went back alone to get advice about how to treat her very disturbed husband. It seemed that the problems were too deep-seated, and the difficulties of communication too great, for effective help to be given.

These families did not have ambivalent feelings about the purpose and value of education. They believed that if it led to a good job for their children, it was good: if it did not, it was bad. For most, providing a better future for their children had been one of the strongest motives for emigration. They saw education as the best way to achieve this. Most, therefore, wanted their children to stay at school as long as possible and to go on to tertiary education or apprenticeships. However, there was no evidence that parents sought advice about their children's schooling. At primary level they went to the nearest school and were apparently borne on to secondary school without much consultation. In some cases young people felt that they had been disadvantaged by their parents' ignorance of the education system and felt that they would have been better off at a different kind of school. Parents considered a teacher's job was to teach and did not expect to be involved in the school, nor did they expect teachers to be involved with their children outside the classroom.

Only two respondents mentioned approaching the principal and teachers for support. In both cases, children wanted to leave school at the end of Year Ten against their parents' wishes. Both respondents felt that the teachers were not sufficiently interested in the children or aware of their situation to give more than routine, even perfunctory, advice. Vera said: The headmaster and teachers just said that she should leave if she wanted to. I was upset by their attitude and felt so helpless. I think teachers should be able to pick a child's qualities and encourage them.'

The respondents who had grown up in Australia understood the system and were able to use it more effectively. Gus had persuaded his parents to seek help from the school counsellor about their inter-generational conflicts. Milo, whose parents had minimal education, found that he could do well at school and enjoyed it. At the time of the interview he was a full-time student at Deakin University. His parents were somewhat mystified about his studies but were proud of his success and willing to support him at home while he attended university, even though they were living on the invalid pension.

Most families had used the Commonwealth Employment Service at some time or other. Some who had used it in the sixties and seventies were quite satisfied: one had obtained six jobs through the C.E.S. Those who had used the C.E.S. more recently were dissatisfied. Some blamed the government for not creating more. jobs, some also blamed the service for not being helpful or interested·. One fairly general complaint was that when applicants for a job were interviewed they were told that they would be notified within a few days. This rarely happened to unsuccessful applicants who stayed home for days waiting for a telephone call. This, presumably, was the fault of the employers, rather than the C.E.S.

Many of the earlier arrivals did not know about such basic services as sickness benefit or special benefit, so that when illness struck the breadwinners they did not know how to get financial help. Most eventually found out through friends at work or through their ethnic clubs, but there could be long delays before an application was made.

Almost all respondents thought that pensions and benefits were too low and that they should be increased to a level at which families could live without constant anxiety. Most also thought that young people should not receive the dole unless they were contributing by doing some community service.

Two respondents had had bad experiences with the Department of Social Security. The first, several years previously, had involved eligibility for benefits during a workers' compensation claim. It had been sorted out by a local M.P., although not until the family had suffered considerable stress.

A more recent case was that of Sonia whose husband was unable to work and who was an invalid pensioner. She had a part-time job and when her pay was increased by $6 per week she did not inform the Department as she did not, realise this was necessary. Long afterwards, she was notified that she owed the Department $2000 which would be deducted from the pension in small instalments. By this time she was no longer working and life was made even harder for them.

None of the respondents thought of 'government services' as potential sources of any support except income maintenance. Even if they knew about these services they did not think of them as places where other types of help could be found, even in a crisis.

Only one of the earlier arrivals had used the Housing Commission and that was because a Health Inspector had condemned the garage in which they were living and had referred them. The other three respondents who had bought their houses through the Housing Commission were from the later arrived group. They had heard about it from their relatives" and had applied soon after arrival. They had waited for about two years for a house to become available, but all had been pleased with the result.

None of these families had used voluntary agencies, or what they called 'welfare service'. Most would have found it went against the grain to approach organisations for money, or even accept it if it were offered. Remarks like 'We never had any use for welfare services - we prefer to manage on our own', were common.

Two families had used Marriage Guidance; significantly perhaps, both were from the group who had grown up in Geelong. Both said that the service had saved their marriages, which had been at breaking point.

It is clear that talking with friends was the usual way for respondents to find a service but even these referrals were not always successful. Alberta, whose husband had become an alcoholic, was given advice by workmates who

explained to me what help was available. They told me that I could go to a women's refuge; that I could go to a solicitor and get a divorce and then go back to my home country if I wanted to; that medical help was available for alcoholics and that I should take my husband to a doctor. I did try to persuade my husband to go to the doctor but he absolutely refused. So my life went on miserably because I didn't take the other advice they gave me. But at least I had my own home. If I had left my husband, my children and I would have had no home.

Only one family had used a child-minding centre to enable the mother to work full time. This was in the late seventies when such centres were much more available. As described, most families believed that child care was entirely a family responsibility.

One source of support not generally recognised but mentioned by several respondents was the boss or foreman at work. Two respondents said that the management at Shell had been very helpful and sympathetic when they were in trouble. In one case a son had been killed in a road accident and the father was given compassionate leave with pay to look after his wife. The company also offered to pay funeral expenses, and although this was not accepted it was greatly appreciated. Vera, who had decided to leave her husband, was having a struggle to support her children. Her boss heard about it and made overtime work available to her whenever she wanted it.

Hans was very frustrated because he could not get his German qualifications recognised. His boss heard about this and took up his case, but again without success. The boss then devised a way round the obstruction by moving him into a supervisor's job and he became manager of one section. When Hans decided to build a better house, but underestimated the amount of money, the firm came to the rescue and offered him a loan.

Although some respondents, especially the women, worked for years at hard, boring and dirty jobs for low wages, these examples show some felt that they had been dealt with generously and compassionately by the firms and bosses for whom they worked.

Several had been involved in a variety of community services as volunteers, including working at the Migrant Resource Centre as translators and interpreters. This involvement opened up many new friendships and they felt that they had gained as much as they had given.

Some of the earlier arrivals contrasted the amount of help now available with the lack of it in their early days. Sonia said:

When we came we didn't know anything about the services available. Today they tell you about day care centres, health centres and all those things. Then there was nothing ... I don't think the government of that time should have brought us out here if they weren't going to provide services for us.

Hans took a slightly different view:

Migrants have it easier these days - there are so many more government and community services available to them. When we arrived (in 1951) there was nothing. In a way that was good. You had to help yourself and that made you work hard to get ahead. The help given to migrants now is also good, but eventually they will have to learn to survive on their own, to stand on their own feet. All this talk about multiculturalism can be dangerous if it means that migrants come to expect help just because they are migrants. This might create bad feelings towards them from Australians who think they are getting a better deal than they themselves.

Although most of these families made minimal use of services, there was a definite increase in use between the earlier arrivals at one end of the spectrum, and those who had grown up in Geelong at the other.

Most respondents were reluctant to approach government services. Even the Housing Commission had been used by surprisingly few. The services likely to be used were limited to those for specific purposes, such as solicitors, schools and health services. There was little use of what some respondents called 'welfare services' either for counselling, emergency aid or other forms of family support. Overall, it seemed that many families who badly needed the help formal services could have given did not receive it. Such support could have supplemented the informal networks and shared the burden which was largely borne by family and friends.

A number of factors acted as barriers to the use of services. Many, especially the earlier arrivals, said that they knew nothing about the services available except what they picked up from workmates and other immigrants. All had lived in Commonwealth migrant hostels and it seems likely that the information had been given but was not understood. They did not know how to locate services as there was a bewildering array of departments and agencies but no central source of advice such as the Migrant Resource Centres of today.

Lack of English was another barrier. Respondents felt it was useless to approach any agency when they could neither explain their problem nor understand the response. In the early days, interpreter services were non-existent or inadequate in health, education and welfare services. Even the respondents who arrived in the sixties and seventies, and whose English was still poor, avoided the services as far as possible because of language problems.

Those who came from self-sufficient villages found the idea of services, especially welfare services, quite strange. For example, Vera said that she had used no services because she had never been taught to use any supports, apart from family and close friends. By the time she arrived in Australia she had been through so much and had coped with it in her own way that she was not inclined to change. Anyhow, she said, as her life was so much easier in Australia than it had been in Yugoslavia, no outside support was needed.

Respondents who came from urban backgrounds were more familiar with such services, but some said that they did not understand the Australian system and were reluctant to become involved in it. Carlo considered that: 'As far as advisory or support services are concerned, outside help is second best and only to be resorted to if there is no family available.' Hans, who had used no services, would have turned only to professional services, as: 'I feel that if you have money, you get a good service. If you're poor there is nothing much for you.'

Common among these immigrants was a strong desire to be independent. The earlier arrived group were all 'survivors' who had come through testing experiences in Europe and had learned to rely on themselves. They were determined to retain that independence. They made comments like 'when we built our house we did it all ourselves, we never had any help from anyone. We cleared the block; built the house and painted it together. We like it that way.'

One respondent was very worried about her daughter who was unemployed and caught up in the drug scene. Her doctor had referred her to a psychiatrist but the girl refused to go. The doctor then said that nothing more could be done. The mother was very bitter and said that there was no one who could help her or her daughter. Paradoxically, when the interviewer told her that there were agencies where she could get help the woman said she would 'never go to those places'.

Thus, for these respondents, the barrier of language, the habits of their earlier life, their distrust of services they did not understand and their determination to be independent combined together, not always in the same mixture, to inhibit their use of formal services.

All these families had come to Australia hoping to find a better life for themselves and their children. Materially, all said they were better off than they would have been in Europe, some markedly so. One couple, who had arrived thirty years before with nothing, now owned their own business and a large house in a prestigious suburb. Their children had graduated from university, travelled overseas and were doing well in their professions. Other families who had emigrated from poor villages now owned their own cars and were proud of their material achievements. All owned or were buying their homes. The only families who had not achieved some degree of affluence were those whose male breadwinners had had to drop out of the workforce and who were dependent on pensions or benefits. However, achieving a rewarding and socially enriched life was not always determined by material success: Sonia, who had always been poor, had wide contacts and was herself a focal point in creating support networks.

What then were the factors that determined, or at least strongly influenced, a family'S ability to build informal support networks and to avail itself of appropriate services in a new country?

The importance of the family of origin was clearly demonstrated by those families who came from remote villages in Europe where 'everyone knew what was happening and help was always there - it was taken for granted that it would be so'. There was no possibility of re-creating such an interdependent, closely knit community in Geelong. Therefore, they tended to rely on concentrated networks of extended family and a few fellow immigrants. A background of village life, where needs were generally known, left some with no experience of a society where it might be up to them to seek help actively from outside sources.

Those who came from an urban industrial background found it easier to establish wider contacts, especially if they belonged to a large and well-organised ethnic group. Ideally, they had a combination of a concentrated support network of family, relatives and close friends, and a more diffuse network of friends and acquaintances in the ethnic community.

Those whose lives had been devastated by war did not easily establish new contacts. They preferred to remain selfsufficient and related mainly to those who had shared the same experiences. As they became established they grew less distrustful and more able to make friends, but their networks remained small and usually consisted of other immigrants. However, as so often in these case studies, there were exceptions. Inge said that through all the disruption of the war years her family had remained closely knit and she felt closer to her sisters in Germany, whom she had seen only twice in thirty years, than to anyone in Geelong.

Those who had grown up in Geelong were the most favourably placed. They had the concentrated network of family readily' available and a wide network of peer-group friends from both the general and their ethnic communities.

Lack of English was a formidable barrier for many of these families. It cut them off from their Australian neighbours, workmates, people they met in the shops and from those casual relationships which give a sense of belonging. It also prevented them from developing close relationships with Australians. Some had very little English after ten years in Australia, others spoke it fluently but with a European accent which they regarded as a handicap.

Lack of English was also a barrier to their use of formal services. Only within the past few years have most services provided interpreters, and the supply is still inadequate. Most of these families, if they needed to visit a service centre, had to find a friend or keep a child home from school to interpret.

Language barriers and cultural factors also cut most of these families off from social activities. They did not belong to play groups or school mothers' clubs, they did not play games or go to 'keep fit' classes, they did not run fetes or belong to service clubs. For all but one or two, their social activities were confined to ethnic communities and organisations. The size and cohesion of their local ethnic community was therefore another important factor in establishing support networks. Large, closely knit ethnic communities, such as the Italians, provided a wider range of social activities and opportunities for developing friendships.

Material success was also a factor, though not a very important one. Those who moved upwards into good jobs and built or bought good homes were more likely to be accepted and accorded some respect in a consumer society than those who were struggling.

One strong impression which comes through all these case studies is the overriding importance of being an immigrant. This common experience transcended other divisions and bound people of many nationalities and social backgrounds together. Thus it was common for respondents to say things like: 'Our friends are mostly Germans and Poles and Russians.' Even the English immigrants, who did not have language problems, tended to live in the same suburbs and stick together. This tendency was modified in the next generation who still had a sense of belonging to the ethnic community but also felt at home in Geelong.

For these families, the extended family was the preferred source of support for most needs, and where this support was not given and relatives were not helpful, respondents expressed feelings of resentment and loneliness. But for many families the effect of making a fresh start in a new country was to unite the family. In the early days parents concentrated most of their energy on home and children and were rewarded when their children established themselves in jobs and homes of their own and supported them as they grew older.

Most families run into problems at some time or other. Some can be openly discussed and help sought or offered without loss of self respect. Others, a family may consider unable to be discussed outside itself. Help may only be sought, if at all, from relatives or close friends. If even this help is not available, the problems must be borne alone. Such problems among these immigrant families included marriage breakdown, alcoholism, drug addiction and poverty, all of which tended to isolate the families concerned.

These factors - language problems, distrust of a system they did not understand, the desire to be independent, the difficulty of discussing personal problems with strangers - combined in various ways not only to prevent many of the respondents from building informal support networks but also from seeking outside help from formal services. Cultural factors, when they differed from the Australian norm, could also make such help unacceptable.

Ignorance of and unwillingness to use welfare services probably accounted for the greater than average use of health services. Doctors and hospitals were more easily accessible and were more like those in their own countries. Unfortunately, in some cases at least, help was restricted to medical matters, leaving other problems unmet.

These case studies confirm the importance of the workplace as a centre through which contacts can be made and information about and referrals to services given. Sometimes the service itself can be effectively located in the workplace, for example, a language teacher, a doctor or nursing sister. Also, English classes during working hours could make a significant contribution to overcoming language problems.

In the past, services do not seem to have planned enough outreach to where the potential users are. It has been considered enough to set up a service, often in a central location, with little thought given to the pathways which might lead users to it. Finding services has been the users' responsibility and this means that some will never even know of their existence.

More outreach is also needed by individuals and groups if immigrants are to feel at home in our community. Many respondents said that they missed the friendliness and sense of belonging they had in their own countries. Even after several years many still felt like outsiders in Geelong and they longed for acceptance and friendship. Such things are difficult to plan or organise but there are natural meeting places where Australian and immigrant paths do cross, for example, the school, the play group, the local shops, and the local church.

Several immigrants were warm in their appreciation of the practical kindness and generosity of Australian neighbours when they were in trouble, but were often disappointed that the warmth evaporated when the crisis was over. This situation can only be improved by individual effort.

In recent years more attention has been given to service outreach but constant effort is needed if those who most need help are to find it. There have been improvements in interpreter services, communication in community languages through multicultural television, ethnic radio and the ethnic media, and increased translation of information. Health, education, legal and welfare services have the potential to become more accessible and effective so that no immigrant need say: 'There is no one who can help me and my daughter. No one.'

4. Families of the unemployed

4. Families of the unemployed

Introducing the families

Sixteen families were selected to investigate the effects of unemployment and their ways of coping with it. Eleven respondents were the unemployed subjects of the interview, two were wives of unemployed husbands and three were mothers of unemployed young people. Five were women and eleven were men. In families where several members were unemployed the interview was focussed on one person though information was collected on other unemployed members of the household. Of particular concern was the effect of unemployment on the family and the effect of the family on the individual's capacity to cope with unemployment.

As in the other groups of case studies, the respondents were chosen to represent a wide range of experiences. Some were teenagers, some men and women in their fifties; some families had a long history of unemployment, some had never experienced it before; a few were well housed and comfortably off, several were poor and deprived; some had lived all their lives in Geelong, some had moved around Victoria and even interstate looking for work.

There were three discernible groups of unemployed among the sixteen families: teenagers unemployed since leaving school or completing their training; respondents mostly in their twenties who had had a number of unskilled jobs and now found that the sources of such jobs had dried up; older respondents who, for various reasons, were trying to get back into the workforce.

Unemployed school leavers

There were six families with members in this group, and although they had a common problem, their circumstances were very different. Two were comfortably off middle-class families, two were average working-class families and two were poor.

Margaret belonged to a strong, closely knit middle-class family with five children, very committed to independence and self-reliance. Her mother, Beth, was the respondent. Margaret had been unemployed for one year.

Beth described the strong support networks the family had been able to call on when the children were young, both from their extended family and from friends and neighbours. The father's work had entailed moving from one country town to another every few years, but in each place they had made many friends and become integrated into the local community through involvement with church, schools and community groups. Their children had followed the same pattern and had a wide circle of friends and social activities.

Beth stayed at home while the children were young but when the youngest went to school she decided to go back to teaching. She was glad of the stimulus of working outside the home and her earnings helped to educate the children. Beth and her husband told their children that they would provide them with the best education available up to Higher School Certificate, but that they would have to support themselves if they wished to go to college or university. Although they had willingly lent money to their older children for specific purposes they had insisted on it being repaid.

Like her brothers and sisters, Margaret had a successful school career, passed the Higher School Certificate and was offered a place in a Melbourne university, which she did not accept. Instead she decided to work for a time before deciding on a career, as her older siblings had done. So it was something of a shock for this family when she could not find a job. For months she tried without success. She went to the C.E.S. several times a week, answered advertisements and asked around in offices, shops and factories, but to no avail. Her parents helped her with applications and by driving her to job interviews. Her mother said:

We believed it was very important to keep Margie busy and active and to give her every encouragement to keep trying. It is soul destroying to go to interview after interview and never get a job. She did lose a lot of confidence and had to be bolstered up by the family. Inevitably she felt let down every time she missed out and had to be helped to get up again. Employers didn't help matters -lots of them never bothered to notify her that the job had been filled and she spent days waiting for a telephone call that never came.

Her father was shocked when the realities of the situation were brought home to him. He never thought that one of his family would be unemployed. After three months, the parents were sufficiently concerned to waive their commitment to self-reliance and offered to pay for Margaret to go to university, but she still felt it was not for her.

With the encouragement of the family Margaret remained busy and active. She accepted all the casual jobs she could get, including chopping onions in a pickle factory and washing up in cafes, did some courses at the university, learned to drive the car and got her licence, went sailing every week and met her friends at the local pub when they had halfprice evenings for the unemployed. Beth said:

I encouraged Margie to regard looking for work as a job in itself and the dole as her pay for her efforts. I took board out of her dole money to make her feel more independent. Also, I wouldn't let the rest of the family act as though she were sitting around all day with nothing to do and so could be left with all the menial jobs round the house. I said to the boys: 'She is working just as hard as you are looking for a job so you must take your share of the chores.'

She was out of work for one year before she found a job as a housemaid in a hotel in another town. She found that she liked hotel work and decided to stay in it. She consulted a careers adviser, who was a friend of the family, about training. He suggested ways in which she could take up a career in catering and hotel management, combining part-time work with training and study. This worked out well.

Beth was critical of the service provided by the C.E.S. on the grounds that the staff at the desk were too young and inexperienced. She said: 'Why put someone behind the counter who knows less than the person they are supposed to be helping?' She said that service improved after she made a personal contact with a senior member of staff through a friend: 'He was a great help in keeping Margie motivated and propping up Mum.'

She was even more critical of the Department of Social Security:

Their attitude was very unhelpful. Of course, the benefit was helpful but there were so many foul-ups in the paper work and mistakes in the cheques. Declaring earnings for part-time or casual jobs is virtually discouraged, as the cheques would be wrong for weeks afterwards. It was all right for Margie because she had parents to support her, but if young kids were on their own and had to pay rent, etc. it could be quite disastrous.

This family relied mainly on its personal network in coping with unemployment, as it had when coping with other problems. As the interviewer summed up: 'Due to their ideology of self-sufficiency, this family prefers to deal with things first at the personal and family level, then with the extended family, then with friends and neighbours, and 0nly when these sources of help are not sufficient to look to formal services for help'. When formal services were used they were seen very much as in partnership with the family. Beth spoke frequently of the family doctor and the family solicitor. They were also prepared to use services as family supports, for example, they had used the Home Help service when Beth was ill.

Margaret coped well with her long period of unemployment and retained enough initiative and confidence to begin a career largely because of the support she received from her family. She had always been encouraged to be involved in activities outside the home that helped her to avoid the isolation and depression which often results from a long period of unemployment.

Anna belonged to the other comfortably-off family in this group. Her parents had emigrated from Hungary soon after the war with nothing. Thirty years later they owned a large brick home, a farm and a flourishing business. Anna had been unemployed for over a year.

Anna remembered her childhood as basically happy, though her earliest memories were of being minded by others because her parents worked long hours saving to build a home. After this was achieved life was much easier and her mother was at home much more, although she still helped out with the family business. Her mother had been the dominant one in the family:

My mother was very severe but my father was indulgent. He used to give me money and chocolates and say, 'Don't tell your mother'. Mother often belted me - everything she said was right and no one else could have any say. If I didn't do what I was told immediately, I was belted.

Anna left school at the end of Year Eleven; although her parents were willing to support her through H.S.C. she didn't want any more study. She said that she was not very 'brainy' on general subjects but she liked typing and was good at it so she decided to get a job and take an advanced secretarial course at night school. However, she could not find a job.

Anna tried every way to find work: she made personal approaches to many companies and offices and answered advertisements, but was successful in finding only part-time casual jobs. She went regularly to the C.E.S. and they arranged several interviews for her but without success. Later, again through the C.E.S., she was offered a good job which would have involved a year's training and study at a low wage. After much dithering she turned it down. The C.E.S. was annoyed at her refusal and cut out her unem~ ployment benefit for some weeks. It was restored after she wrote letters of explanation and had a special interview.

Several months later Anna was again sent by c.E.S. for an interview with a la:rge business firm for a temporary secretarial job. This time she was successful and, according to her account, she worked so hard that her time was extended until she was made permanent.

Anna was a personable young women who, in spite of reasonable qualifications and some temporary work experience, was unemployed for eighteen months. This seems to have been partly due to lack of confidence and her unwillingness to accept any job offered. Also, she was able to live comfortably at home until she found a job which she really wanted to do. She described her situation as follows:

I sometimes became despondent when I was unemployed but I usually had plenty of things to do, such as casual, part-time typing jobs or helping out in my parents' business. I was never really seriously disadvantaged as rent, food and clothes were all supplied by my parents and the dole covered personal expenses. I think if I had been desperate enough to take any job I could have found work.

Anna relied mostly on her family and relatives for support. She said that she had made friends at school but was not close enough to them to discuss personal problems. She felt much closer to her cousins and would always talk things over with them: 'We are always seeing each other and doing things together'. The family was also very involved with its ethnic community.

Anna was satisfied with her contacts with the C.E.S.:

I was more fortunate than most. I had five or six interviews through the C.E.S. which seems pretty good. The staff also helped me with job interview skills and in the end they found me the job I wanted. The only time they were not helpful was when I turned down the receptionist job. I was made to feel guilty - it was a very bad experience. Also I think gatherings or meetings for unemployed people would have helped. It. gets very lonely and you lose confidence.

She was also quite satisfied with the Department of Social Security except when they cut off her benefit for some weeks.

The family was quite happy to use professional services when the need arose. Like Margaret's family, they relied on the family doctor and the family solicitor, with each of whom they had had a long relationship. They saw these services as supports, supplementing their own networks of relatives and friends in the ethnic community.

Neill was an eighteen-yea.r-old, who had been unemployed for one year. He lived with his parents, brothers and sister in an old but well kept and comfortable Housing Commission house. The family was not poor but had to be careful about money. They had not experienced unemployment before and Neill's lack of work was a source of anxiety.

Neill had had an unsuccessful high school career. He had failed Year Ten, had been in trouble over breaking into the school in the evenings, and had been expelled. He didn't want to talk about this experience though he admitted that he probably 'deserved to be kicked out'. He said that he had never liked high school, had had difficulty keeping up with the work, and believed this was why he got into trouble. He then went to a technical school where he enjoyed working with his hands and was much better able to cope with class work. He left at the end of Year Eleven.

Neill wanted to be a motor mechanic but couldn't get an apprenticeship. For the next six months he was out every day on his bike looking for a job. He said he covered 2500 kilometres in this period. He also went to the c.E.S. once or twice a week and applied for many jobs. His family and relatives were also trying to find him a job. His father organised several interviews and drove him at least six times to Melbourne without success. The C.E.S. notified him about a part-time job at a service station which he took, but after one week he was laid off. No explanation was given.

The family were staunch members of a sect-type church and for three months Neill was part of a team who worked under a builder extending the church. He worked without pay, more or less full time, and learned a lot about building in the process. He said that several employers who were members of the church had told him they would like to give him a job but business was so bad at the time that they were laying off staff. He had not given up trying, however, and had applications in for several apprenticeships.

His father said Neill's unemployment was a big worry for the family:

His personality has changed, he has become much more irritable. There is an undercurrent of aggression - it is all because he hasn't been able to get work. We discuss the situation with him and that helps to get over the problem. His whole attitude changes when he gets a part-time job for a few weeks, but when the job ceases, he is back to being depressed again.

Although they had not found him a job or apprenticeship, Neill had had two positive experiences through the C.E.S. He was notified by letter about a Transition Building Industries Construction Course at the Gordon Institute. He applied and was accepted. The course lasted twenty weeks and Neill described it as 'really good'. He said that it was much more related to what he wanted to do than school, and he was encouraged to find that it was within his ability. The teachers encouraged him to attend a night school class in maths. This he found much harder, but he kept going to the end and, although he did not pass the exam, he said he would try again next year if he had not found a job.

It was also through the C.E.S. that he heard about the Community Youth Support Scheme. Since, he had attended his C.Y.S.S. centre regularly and found it valuable in helping him develop skills for job seeking. C.Y.S.S. also provided activities such as woodwork, photography, pottery and cookery, all of which he enjoyed. He said that C.Y.S.S. provided something to do and a group of people in the same situation.

Although his search for work had been largely unsuccessful, Neill received very positive support from his family, relatives and members of his church. He had found in C.Y.S.S. a congenial centre where he was able to acquire new skills and to find friends among other young unemployed. Also, he had the satisfaction of successfully completing a course which he hoped might help him obtain an apprenticeship.

Geoff belonged to a poor family. His mother, Bev, the respondent, was a widow in her forties. Her husband had died ten years before and her only income was the widow's pension. She lived with her three children aged sixteen to twenty-two, all of whom were unemployed. Geoff, aged sixteen, had been unemployed for eleven months.

Bev said that her early married life had been difficult:

My husband couldn't settle down to one job - he was always chopping and changing and we were always behind with the rent. He was a real bugger with money and wouldn't pay the bills. We had plenty of fights, mostly over money, but we never used to knock the kids about. We had very few friends except he had his mates he drank with at the pub. But we could never afford to go out and I never was one to be friendly with the neighbours. His family were a dirty, rough lot and the less I saw of them the better.

Things changed when her husband got a steady job outside Geelong where a house was provided. Money was no longer a problem and they made friends with the other workers' families who lived round abouL Everything changed again when her husband died in his thirties leaving her with three young children. She had to leave the supportive community and move back to Geelong. Life was much harder with a greatly reduced income. She did not make new friends or have much contact with the neighbours and the family became very isolated. Bev said that she had had a lot of trouble with the children at this time. They were always wagging school, she found it impossible to discipline them, and the boys fought all the time.

All the children disliked school and left as soon as they turned fifteen. Geoff was particularly wild and uncontrollable and only got as far as Year Nine. Bev wanted him to stay until he was sixteen so that he could learn a trade, and she even went to see the principal. He told her there was no point in Geoff staying - he wouldn't learn and was only wasting his own and the teachers' time. Bev said:

Since then he has not had a job and has not really looked for one. He hangs round with other unemployed kids and gets involved in petty crime, like joy riding. He has been in trouble with the police and has a court case coming up soon. Apart from registering with C.E.S., Geoff has not tried to find work. He never looks at advertisements or goes round asking for a job. He just sits round and does nothing. He doesn't want to help me with anything at home. No one knows what his ideas are, he doesn't talk to us.

The eldest son had been unemployed for five years, since leaving school, and made no effort to find work. The second boy had had a series of unskilled jobs which usually ended in a row with the boss.

Bev, who herself had had a very deprived childhood, seemed to be in the unhappy situation of deploring the lifestyle of her children and yet being unable to do anything about it. She appeared to be a withdrawn, passive woman, unable to cope with the problems of her children. The family had very few relatives or friends to help them. Her mother was too old and frail to help. She had only one cousin, who had given practical support by helping her to move back to Geelong. He had also tried to advise the children about the need to look for work. The only friends the family had ever made were in the country. They gave a lot of support when Bev's husband died but later lost touch with the family and no other friends had filled the vacuum.

All the children were registered with the C.E.S. and were dependent on the dole. Bev said:

I don't know what they would have done without the dole, but at the same time, they're not going to bother looking for a job while they're getting it. If they chopped it off, it would force more kids to find work, but there would be more stealing and robberies.

She said that the C.E.S. had little to offer young people like hers:

Most of the jobs are for kids with much higher qualifications - it's no good for the ones who don't have them. Two of my kids will never get a job, the second one always finds something when he really wants to.

She had also had contact with the police and the court over Geoff's behaviour but saw these as a threat rather than a possi9le source of help. Although they had a very good family doctor she had not talked to him about her worries with the children.

The most positive source of help for this family had been through Legacy. After her husband's death a Legatee had come to visit them and had given them on-going support. He had helped them to move to Geelong, had arranged for renovations to the house, and visited them every fortnight and helped her financially. He had also spent time with the children, taking them for weekends to his farm and, in Bev's words, trying to 'help them along the right path'.

This family seemed locked into a situation of isolation and poverty. The children had had little schooling and two were not motivated to seek work or undertake any course that might equip' them to find it. Socially the family was very isolated, with its members apparently belonging to no groups nor participating in social activities outside the home. Bev was aware of the problem and said:

Just sitting round the house watching T.V. is no good for them. They should take courses to give them a better chance of getting a job - at least they would have something useful to do with their time.

Perhaps because of their inability to relate to others, their experience of services such as the C.E.S. had also been negative. Even Legacy, which provided continuing financial and personal support, appeared not to have touched their biggest problem - the apathy of the children and their indifference to the future.

Wayne was aged seventeen and had been unemployed for almost one year. He lived with his parents, an older employed brother and a younger brother still at school. His father was a semi-skilled worker whose work often took him away from home. His father had always had a steady job and his mother had not worked since the children were born. They owned their own house which was reasonably well kept and comfortable. Two older boys were employed, though one had been unemployed for a year after leaving school. Wayne said that his childhood had not been happy because of his father's temper and violence:

Me Dad is a big problem, he's just about an alcoholic. We don't tell him nothing and nobody likes him. Me Mum would like to leave him and get a divorce but she's too scared to ask because he would bash her up. Anyway she hasn't got no money. We've had to get the cops round sometimes. It's not so bad now because Jim and me can look after ourselves, and we can get him down on the floor if he starts mucking around. Once when I was still at school he started bashing me up and Mum called the cops. He told me if I said anything he would get me later on, so I just said he didn't touch me and the cops went away.

Wayne had a poor school history, culminating in being 'kicked out'. He had always had difficulty in keeping up and had been for a time in a special class for slow learners. He said that this was the only time he had had decent teachers and had been happy. One of those teachers remained one of his few friends and confidants long after he had left school. At the technical school he was constantly in trouble with the teachers. He admitted that he had 'mucked around a lot' and sometimes was violent. However, in Year Eleven he realised he would have to work to qualify for an apprenticeship:

I really wanted to finish Form Five so as I could get a job. I was trying me hardest and doing real good, but the teachers still thought I was just mucking around but I wasn't, not one bit ... Then one of me mates got into a row with the cleaners after school and there was a big fight and me and me mate got kicked out. Me Mum was angry because she wanted me to finish Form Five and get an apprenticeship. She wanted me to go and ask to get back, but I wouldn't. Then I went to night school for a few weeks but it was too hard and I couldn't understand the homework. Then I tried the Gordon but I didn't like it either - the other students were too old and anyway it was too hard for me. So I gave up and went on the dole and I've been on it ever since.

Wayne had had other problems at school. His girlfriend became pregnant at fourteen and there was a lot of trouble with her family. He said with some surprise:

Her mother was real nasty the whole time I was round at their place. She used to call me names and shout at meshe was real crazy. My girlfriend was a real bitch to me too. Then she had an abortion and I never saw her after that.

At about the same time he started to use marijuana. He usually bought it at school and smoked it at home. After he and his mate were expelled from school they used it more and more until they were spending about $100 a day. To meet their needs he became a pusher. He said:

I used to pick up about $200 a day quite easily and take it to the dealer so I could get enough for myself and me mates ... It's good at the time but afterwards you feel very depressed - I sometimes felt like killing myself. I got so I couldn't eat and was very skinny - only six and a half stone. Mum said if I didn't stop it would kill me, and I did stop. I only smoke it occasionally now. It was me Mum and me new girlfriend got me off it. But it's better than alcohol. On pot you feel very happy and friendly and quiet. When I used to drink a lot I'd go into town and fight and beat people up and things like that. I was in with a very wild crowd. We used to steal cars and do housebreaking jobs and get chased by the police. I got caught twice ... I'd never do it again. I had real bad friends then, they all used to do it all the time. The kids I muck around with now are all pretty quiet.

Since he left school, Wayne had not actively looked for work. He visited the C.E.S. every week and looked on the notice board, but was too lacking in self-confidence to go round and ask for jobs. He said: 'I'm too embarrassed to go round to places and ask for work in case I get put down in front of a lot of other people.' As for the dole: 'It's for free so I don't mind. I don't need no more. I go out with my mates and they sometimes pay for me and Mum always gives me money if I'm short.'

One of the stranger aspects of this family was the subterfuge used to keep things from the father. Almost a year after Wayne had been expelled from school his father still did not know about it. When his father was at home on a weekday, Wayne put on his school clothes as if for school. Nor did his father know about his girlfriend's pregnancy or his drug involvement.

His mother, always referred to as 'me Mum', was his great support and refuge. Always she supported him and tried to protect him: for example, she had offered to look after the girlfriend and baby if the girl did not want to have an abortion. But the only time she took action outside the home was when Wayne was expelled from school. She tried unsuccessfully to find some means whereby he could finish Year Eleven and so have a chance of an apprenticeship. She did succeed in getting him off marijuana and through the subsequent acute depression. When asked where he would turn for help if he were in trouble, Wayne replied: 'Just to me Mum, to me Mum all the time.'

The family seemed isolated and to have few. friends, although they had lived in the same house for more than twenty years. Wayne said:

I don't like people in this neighbourhood and none of them like us. I don't know why. Just over the road don't like us and down the road don't like us either. They never talk to us, hardly anybody round here talks to us. They talk to other people and each other but not to us. They were friendly when I was little but not now. I think Mum and Dad had a big fight with them one day but I don't know much about it ; .. Me Mum has only got about one friend. None of our relatives comes to visit us now. They used to come quite a lot when we were young but they don't come no more. It's a pity - I liked my cousins.

The only friends Wayne had were his 'mates', mostly unemployed boys like himself; Many were drop-outs he had met at school. None of them belonged to any group or organisation or took part in any purposeful activity.

One of Wayne's few sources of help was the remedial teacher who had kept in touch with him. When he was going through the trauma of his failures at school and his girlfriend's pregnancy this teacher had told him to come and talk to her once a week. He said: 'She was real helpful. She knew I was upset. She understood everything and she used to help anyone who was really worried. She was the best teacher I ever had.'

This family had had few contacts with services. Wayne's contact with the C.E.S. had been minimal but he still had some vague hope that they would find him a job. His contact with the police and the court seemed at least to have determined him to keep out of trouble in future. He had stopped going round with his 'wild' friends and intended to live within the law.

Wayne managed to survive the traumas he experienced by relying almost entirely on his mother and by living in the present and not worrying about the future. He admitted that he often spent his dole money the day he received it at discos or amusement arcades. His only hope of continuing to cope appeared to be for him to remain at home with 'me Mum'.

Con was twenty-two and lived with his parents. He had been unemployed for almost a year. His family were Macedonians who had emigrated to Australia in the seventies. They had friends to welcome them, provide accommodation and help his father to find a job, so their settling-in period was not too difficult. Con said that in their early years his parents had worked very hard to get their own home and money was spent only on essentials. They were successful and owned their home outright. He said that in spite of the hardship his childhood had been happy and the family had many friends in the Macedonian community.

Con started school soon after the family's arrival:

I went first to the local primary school. The ortly other migrants there were two Croatiankids. They were very friendly and helped us with English. The teachers treated us well and my older brother and I felt welcome. Soon I started mixing with more Australian kids and I got on better and learned English quickly. By Grade Six I could speak and write English almost perfectly. I had three years at high school and two years at technical school ... I always loved school and I cruised along pretty easily. I had no real problems with any subject.

After I left school, I did one year's full-time business studies at technical college. It was good. There was more freedom, I found the work interesting and I intended to take the diploma. Then I met my first girlfriend and started to spend a lot of time with her. By this time I was nearly nineteen and she began to talk about getting married. So we both decided to give up the course and find jobs. My parents were not happy about me giving up the diploma but it was my decision. It was one of those crazy things - my girlfriend and I split up soon afterwards.

When Con gave up his business studies course he expected to find a white-collar job quickly and did not anticipate a long period of unemployment. He described his search for work:

With all the years I had spent at school and technical college I thought it would be easy to find work, but it wasn't. I wanted a clerical job in a shop or office but, although I looked everywhere, I couldn't get anything. I registered with the C.E.S. but they were no help. If you're going to find a job you have to go out yourself every day and ask around, leave your name, and keep asking. Friends can also be a big help by letting you know when firms are putting people on. But although I tried every way and went to lots of interviews I was unemployed for over six months ... Those months were very hard, especially as my father was also out of work at the time and I was also trying to help him to find a job. Finally I realised that I would have to take a labouring job. I got a casual job in a factory. At first it was part time, but now it is full time. It is hard unskilled work and there is no prospect of promotion. I hate the work and the way they treat us like dirt. They make us work shifts and overtime yet they are laying people off that want to work. If we protest we are told we can leave or we get sacked. We all feel very insecure and the union does nothing. I feel quite bitter about the job - all the studying I did was just a waste of time. I would go back to night school if I knew what qualification would get me a better job, but no one can tell me. I only stay on in the factory because any job is better than only having the dole to live on.

In all his frustrations about unemployment and the badly paid, unskilled job he had had to accept, Con had had much personal support:

My parents have always helped me when I needed anything. When I was unemployed they gave me money to go out and do things so that I didn't get depressed, although they did not have much money themselves. Dad was unemployed too, but all their lives they would go without themselves for their children. Now I can also help them. I give them money when they need to buy things as well as paying regularly into the housekeeping. I also take them to the doctor and interpret for them. I also do interpreting for my uncle and for friends of my parents when they have to go to hospital or see a lawyer or something like that: The whole Macedonian community is very closeknit and we all help each other.

When he was unemployed Con relied very much on his large extended family for social activities. He got on very well with his brother and sister-in-law and they often did things together at the weekend. He also had many cousins, god-children, aunts and uncles and all were very much involved in their ethnic community. He had two other significant centres of social activity which provided him with wider networks of friends: the Orthodox Church and its youth club and the soccer club. Of the church youth club he said:

You feel good inside. You know it is for your young people and you are contributing something in love and helping others as well . . . we ran dances every week, not so much to raise money but so that people could have a good time together. The youth club also wanted to do something for the whole local community so we planted trees for the City Council. To me the importance of the church is that it is part of our national way of doing things, like the way we celebrate Christmas and Easter.

The soccer club also provided an important centre of social activity:

I love playing soccer and I am completely involved in it. We spend a lot of time talking about it as well as playing it. There are lots of people involved from other clubs and other nationalities ... Also it helps to keep you fit. I go to the gym and play indoor soccer and swim to keep fit. I spend a couple of hours each night at the club training, and often the whole day at the weekend. I could go anywhere in the town and know someone through soccer - some nights I have three or four parties to go to. Most of my friends I have got to know in this way.

Con had had two very different experiences of the C.E.S. While h~ was still at technical school he was taken there with a group of schoolleavers. The staff explained to them the procedures of looking for a job: how to dress for an interview, answer questions and so on. Con said it was really good and the staff were very friendly. It was quite different when he went there to register as unemployed. They were not at all helpful and did not get him a single interview. When he notified them about going interstate to look for work it took four weeks to get the dole restored after his return. He said: 'I thought I was doing the right thing reporting my absence, but when I had no money I wasn't too happy about it. They were real nasty about it too and gave me the run around.' The only other service he mentioned was the careers advisory service at the Gordon Institute which he said he had found excellent, as had several of his friends.

Con was able to cope with the frustrations of unemployment, his dislike of his present job and his uncertainty about the future, largely because of the support he received from his family, relatives and the ethnic community. His me membership of the youth club and his involvement with soccer also gave him self-confidence, a wide social circle and the incentive to be active in the community.

Unemployed twenty to thirty-year-olds

There were seven families in this group in all of which at least one member had experienced periods of unskilled work alternating with periods of unemployment. Four of the unemployed subjects were single and lived with their parents; three were married with young children.

Lorraine was twenty-eight, had been unemployed for seven years and, at the time of the interview, lived with her mother and her sister who had a three-year-old child and had recently left her de facto husband.

Lorraine remembered her early childhood as happy though her parents did not have much money. The family moved around a lot, mainly from country town to country town, but had no difficulty in making friends: 'We always made good friends wherever we went. We still get Christmas cards· from those people even after twenty years and Mum still goes to visit them.'

This happy family was shattered when her father was killed in a road accident in his early thirties:

It was a difficult time for Mum - she had three young children and another one on the way. Dad and Mum hadn't had a chance to save or buy a house or anything like that and she was left with almost nothing. But both her family and Dad's were terrific. We all went to stay with Mum's family in the country for a while, and Dad's family came down from Melbourne and gave lots of help and support to Mum. The relatives did everything they possibly could. They took all the kids for a month while Mum had a rest when the baby was born. But then they started to do too much and take over the family. They wanted to adopt some of the kids but Mum wanted to keep us all together and make a new life of her own. So that was how we came to settle in Geelong. It was half way between Mum's family in the country and Dad's family in Melbourne. We were within easy reach of both families but not too close to either ... For the next four or five years we were again a happy family though, of course, we missed Dad. Mum only had the pension, but the rent was low and she was a good manager. Dad's family continued to give a lot of help ... We always had a lot of help from neighbours and friends too. The men helped Mum by doing jobs round the house and the women helped with meals or shopping or looking after the children if needed. But Mum was the same - she was always looking after other people's kids or just helping out in the house when anyone needed it.

Although Lorraine liked school and had been about average in her grade, she was often absent through illness and so was a year behind the others, but this had not worried her. She was still in Year Eight when she left after a major row with the principal. Although she wanted to stay at school until Year Eleven she could not tolerate the prospect of spending two more years with 'that woman', and left on her fifteenth birthday.

She found a job in a factory without any trouble and stayed there for a year. She was still plagued with chronic illness and had several periods off work. Finally she came back to find her job had been filled. Over the next two years this pattern was repeated - intermittently at work, losing her job and being on the dole. She married when she was eighteen and went with her husband to live in his home town where she soon found a full-time job in the local hotel.

For the next few years she moved about with her husband, whose job required them to move every couple of years, taking whatever work she could find. After five years of marriage she left her husband and returned to her family in Geelong. Since then, she had been unemployed and on the dole for seven years. Although persistent in her efforts to find a permanent, full-time job, she had been able to get only casual work. She even went to New South Wales looking for work but found the situation there no better. She described those years as follows:

My problems really began when I left my husband and moved back to Geelong. There just were no jobs. I went round shops, factories, hotels and hospitals, went through the advertisements in the paper and went to the C.E.S. every week. Being sick most of the time didn't help - earlier it had cost me a lot of jobs and that looked bad when I applied for a new job. Also it didn't help my energy and often I didn't even feel able to work. After my marriage broke up I was sick for a long time. The doctors said it was nerves and tried to give me valium but I didn't want it. I reckoned it would be better to go and have a beer with a few friends.

For a long time being unemployed was a really bad experience for me. I used to get very depressed and miserable. I would go along to the local pub and have a few beers, then go home and have a good cry Cind forget about it ... Of course, living on the dole is very tight, especially when I had my own flat but I've always been able to manage. When I got my cheque, I'd first pay the rent, then buy food, then put half of what was left away for bills like gas and electricity and spend whatever was left on a drink at the pub or putting a dress on the layby. But it's much easier since I came back to live with Mum and my sister. Sharing costs makes it cheaper for all of us.

Health had been an important factor for Lorraine. For years she suffered from chronic illness which had been diagnosed as 'nerves' or stress. Finally she was admitted to hospital:

The doctors found all my insides were in a real mess. Apparently, I was born with them all twisted up the wrong way, so they pulled them all out and put them back the right way. Since then I've been a different person. I've put on weight and I feel real good for the first time I can remember. I think that's why I stopped worrying about getting knocked back for jobs. I feel so good about not feeling sick all the time and I'm better able to cope with other things.

Now I'm learning bar work at the local hotel- I've gone there for years and I know lots of people. One evening the owner said he was going to need more people to work in the bar and I asked him if I could come and work voluntarily to learn the job and he agreed. It's a good way to get experience and I really enjoy it. I can come and practise any time I like and sometimes he asks me to work for an evening and then I get paid. If one of the regular girls leaves, I think I'll get the job.

Lorraine's family had had very strong support networks of extended family and friends and neighbours and she had continued in the same pattern. She had always had a great deal of practical help from her own family and friends. Her work in hotels had widened her informal networks and, through these, she had the prospect of a job.

She had also been involved with community activities. Through the Y.W.c.A. she joined a pottery group and this led to new friendships. She had also volunteered to teach a swimming class for the elderly, and played with a bowling team. When her sister was in hospital having a baby, Lorraine looked after her other children and she helped other friends when they needed children minded or houses looked after.

Lorraine had not found much help from the C.E.S. but was not hostile about this: 'I guess they can't give you jobs they haven't got'. She had been notified about only two job vacancies in seven years. She said: 'The people at the desk are pleasant enough but they don't really help you on an individual level. Also the jobs advertised on the board have often gone weeks ago.'

She had used the Department of Social Security for many years and said that the transfer from sickness to unemployment benefit had always been promptly done and she had had no difficulties. Her complaints were mostly of its overcrowded office and having to stand waiting, sometimes for hours. She had found this particularly trying when she was ill.

She had had a lot of contact with doctors because of her illness. She was critical of their failure to diagnose its cause, but since her operation had had a much more positive attitude. She also said that a doctor had been most helpful and supportive when her mother had a serious accident and at other times of family illness. Recently she had been referred to a psychiatrist because she had been unemployed for so long. She had been dreading the interview, but the psychiatrist had been very nice and after talking to her for half an hour had patted her on the back and said: 'There's absolutely nothing the matter with you - you're fine'.

At the time of her divorce she had been referred to a lawyer and to Legal Aid by some friends and had found both helpful.

Lorraine had had many adverse experiences in her life: the. traumatic incident that ended her schooling; her chronic illness; and her marriage breakdown and divorce which left her depressed and impoverished. Her long period of unemployment might well have destroyed her confidence and initiative. Yet in spite of all these disadvantages, she remained active and hopeful. She had had very good support from her family and from a wide network of friends whom she had also been able to help. She continued to look for work and worked voluntarily when she could not get a paid job. She also continued to be involved in community groups. All these activities kept her active, socially involved, and gave her confidence in herself. Her ability to relate to people enabled her to use services effectively and looked as if it could lead her to a job.

Bill was a single man in his mid-twenties. He lived at home with his parents and younger sister. The family had immigrated from Scotland in the late 1960s and lived in Geelong ever since. They lived in a comfortable, well-kept house which they were still paying off. Bill had been unemployed for nearly two years; his father was also unemployed.

Bill's family had not encountered any major problems settling in Australia and his childhood had been happy. His father had a steady job and his mother worked intermittently, usually in factories. About six months before the interview his father had had to stop work because of increasing disability caused by his working conditions, and had received compensation. Two older brothers were married and lived in Geelong, and Bill's grandmother had also immigrated and lived nearby.

The older children, including Bill, had left school at fifteen and had not sought any further training. Bill had been offered a job while still at school and had accepted it. His parents did not mind him leaving school - they assumed that he would. He stayed in his first job for three and a half years and left because business was slack and he expected to be laid off. Over the next six years he had six jobs, all unskilled. In between jobs he came home to his parents and lived on the dole. He had always been able to get a job but when he 'took a bit of a holiday after the last job' he found he couldn't get back into the workforce. His older brother had had much the same work history - on and off the dole for about six years - but had had a steady job for the two years since he married, and was determined to keep it.

Bill had had several periods of unemployment, usually lasting for three or four months, but this time he had been out of work for nearly two years. He was registered with the C.E.S. but had not had any job interviews through them, although sometimes he looked at the notice board. He did apply for one job but at the interview they told him they wanted someone with some mechanical experience. He said that he had gone round and asked for jobs at all sorts of factories and building sites- but often he did not even get past the front gate. He had also looked in the papers, but with no qualifications he had no chance. His father had not been able to get work either.

This family seemed to have very few outside contacts, and to rely mostly on each other. Bill got on well with his brother and sister-in-law whom he saw often. His only involvement was with the local Darts Club. He said that he enjoyed meeting friends there and it gave him something to do.

Bill came from a working class family and had been in Australia for about twelve years. He had entered the labour market when there were plenty of unskilled jobs and had a casual attitude towards work. Whenever he was bored with a job he left, had a few weeks or months on the dole, then found another job. This lifestyle had left him in his midtwenties with no skills or qualifications and apparently few prospects of employment. However, the family home was pleasant and he seemed to enjoy its comforts without worrying unduly about the future.

Glen was twenty-six years old, lived with his mother in a rented Housing Commission house and had been unemployed for eight months. The house was dingy, poorly furnished and had few comforts. The family had lived there for twenty-five years. An older brother, also single and unemployed, had lived there until recently. Glen said: 'He was always drinking and fighting and Mum kicked him out for disgusting behaviour.' They had not heard from him since.

Glen's family, of eight children, had always been poor and struggling. His father was an unskilled worker who often bashed his mother and the children. Finally he deserted the family, leaving them destitute. His mother could not cope and the Community Services Department took the situation in hand. A social worker got the younger children, including Glen, into a children's home and helped the mother to apply for a pension, a rental rebate and an education grant. After a few weeks the children were brought home again. Glen supposed his mother had had 'a sort of nervous breakdown' and said she could not have managed without the help from the services. He remembered this as a very traumatic time but said they were a lot better off without his father.

Glen hated school and was 'kicked out at fourteen for fighting'. He said: 'The teachers hated me because my brother had punched one of the teachers and was kicked out. So I was always yelling at the teachers and telling them what bastards they were. So I got kicked out too.' All the children had left school at fourteen or fifteen and none had had any further training.

When Glen left school he went straight to the C.E.S. and they found him a job in a factory, where he stayed six months, then took a job as a brickie's labourer. After three months he left and went to work with another builder. After three months he was sacked because, having reached only Year 8 at school, he could not do an apprenticeship. He was unemployed for one year, then got another factory job through the C.E.S. After nine months he left to work in a stables as a horsebreaker. So the story went on. In nine years he had nineteen jobs, with periods of unemployment in between. He had worked at droving, fruit picking, sawmilling; in factories and on building and construction sites; on scallop boats and in stables, and even as a kitchen hand for a pastrycook. Many of the jobs he had picked up at rodeos or horse fairs, some he had got through the C.E.S. He had worked all over the state and interstate, but in periods of unemployment he usually came home and lived with his mother.

At the time of the interview he had been unemployed for eight months but was optimistic about getting a job in stables, breaking horses. This was his only skill and was what he most wanted to do. The other members of the family had similar work histories - all unskilled, employed in casual jobs for a few weeks or months at a time, in between times living on the dole. Glen said it was a family record when one brother stayed in one job for two years.

Glen spent most of his time watching television at home. He said that the worst thing about having no money was that he had no social life. He couldn't afford to take a girl out or even go out drinking with his mates. He had never saved anything when he was working. After a big droving job he had $5000 but he 'blew it' in a few weeks on the Gold Coast. Otherwise, he believed, he would not have got the dole. When very hard up he could usually pick up a few dollars at a rodeo. He said:

I have no get up and go to go out looking for a job. I can't compete with better educated people, and plenty of them can't get jobs. I'll probably pick up a job at a rodeo training horses, or the bloke I did droving for will probably want another mob of sheep moved. But being at home doesn't bother me except for having no money.

Although he had many siblings living around Geelong they did not provide a supportive network. He rarely saw most of his brothers and sisters and did not get on well with them. Almost the only support from the family had been a few days of casual work here and there through one sister and brother-in-law with a small business in another town. But the last time he went there they kicked him out of the house because he 'got drunk and thumped a couple of people'.

He said that his mother hated him being on the dole because he couldn't help pay the bills and was always having to borrow money: 'She doesn't like me laying round the house all day, waiting for the next meal.'

Glen said that he had a lot of mates in the same boat. They sometimes clubbed together for petrol to take a car all over the place, having a break and looking for work. Sometimes he had a few days work through one of his mates with a job. He also knew a lot of people from rodeos and horse fairs, and they told him about jobs. He had got quite a few factory jobs through the C.E.S. when work was plentiful, but now 'they just tell me I'm not qualified for anything and make me feel a real bum. If I do earn a few dollars they take the dole back - so when I have money I blow it.'

The only positive thing Glen had to say about the C.E.S. was their referral to the Educational Program for Unemployed Youth. He said:

The C.E.S. contacted me about E.P.U.Y. and told me where to apply, and I was accepted. I didn't expect much because I don't have much education and I thought it would be too hard for me. But it was real good. It was a twelve-weeks' course at a technical institute and we did maths, English, pottery, panel beating and simple welding. It was really worthwhile, especially the maths and English. The teachers were very helpful and didn't make you feel like a no-hoper. It made you feel you hadn't been forgotten.

It seemed doubtful that Glen would ever have a settled job. He had had many casual jobs (often while on the dole) and this sort of life suited him so long as he could live with his mother when unemployed. He was quite open about not trying to save when he had a job - he preferred a few days drinking with his mates. He was also open about being violent at times, ever since school. He said he had ~thumped' two or three employers and one C.E.S. officer. His only plan for the future was 'to win Tatts and buy a place of my own and train horses'. Nevertheless, it said something for him and for the E.P.U.Y. scheme that he found it interesting and completed the course. Unfortunately it did not lead to a job which might have built on the skills he had begun to acquire.

Trevor was an unemployed man of twenty-one. He lived with his parents, two brothers and one sister. He did not wish to take part in the interview, but Cathie, his mother, was willing to do so and Trevor had no objection. The family lived in a very comfortable, well-furnished home which they owned outright. Trevor had been unemployed for almost one year. Cathie emphasised that the family had always been very strong and very united. She said: 'Our family pulls together. We are very close. The children know our rules and are happy to abide by them.'

Trevor, like his older brother, left school at sixteen when he had finished Year Ten. He was good at woodwork and decided to be a cabinet-maker. His father took him around all the local firms until he found an apprenticeship. Cathie said he worked hard for three years, but during the last year he had become increasingly dissatisfied. He felt he was not learning the necessary skills and would not be able to work as a carpenter or joiner. He left without completing the apprenticeship and did not continue with his trade.

When Trevor gave up his apprenticeship he got a job driving a truck for a few months; then with International Harvester for six months; then one or two temporary jobs with short periods of unemployment in between. Everywhere he worked, business was in the doldrums and workers were being laid off. On the 'last on first off principle' he was usually among the first to go. This time he had not been able to get another job. Cathie said that Trevor had tried hard to find work:

He goes to the C.E.S. every week but has not had a single interview through them. He also goes round building sites and factories. He tried to get into the Navy but failed the entrance test because of his spelling. His friends who are employed are looking out for opportunities for him, and his father has used his contacts and knowledge of the area to help him, but so far without success. He only looks for unskilled jobs and refuses to go back to joinery. He says he would like to be a welder but has no training or experience.

Cathie said that Trevor was very active by nature and always had to be doing something. He was 'mad keen' on cars and had just built a beach buggy out of two old cars. He had also rebuilt an old car and a trailer. He made little profit out of these activities but it gave him something useful to do. Cathie was very concerned about Trevor. She said:

The worst thing about unemployment is that it takes away people's whole future. It's not just not having a job now but the fact that there seems no prospect for the future. All the jobs advertised specify that experience is necessary - but how are they to get it? You can't even appreciate leisure - if you have no work, you can't enjoy leisure and not working. And it's not just a problem for the unemployed themselves, but also for their families. They worry about what their children will do with no money and time hanging heavy on their hands. It's no wonder they get into trouble. If you've no future you have nothing to live for.

Cathie said that the family had done all they could to support Trevor and help him to find work. She said: 'At least in our community the dole bludger syndrome has gone for ever. We know it's impossible to find work and nobody gives him a hard time. He proved that he could stick to a job for over three years and never be late or miss a day.' She took only $10 for his board and had handed him part of an office cleaning job she did. Even so, he had barely enough to live on. Cathie said: 'The unemployed need a lot more leisure time activities but how can they with no money?'

Trevor had survived his period of unemployment well, partly because he could live comfortably at home at very little cost and also because he had very good emotional support from his family. Nevertheless, his mother's pessimism about his future - 'His prospects of a job are nil' - may have weakened his confidence and determination to go on looking for work or to acquire some skills to improve his chances.

Barry, aged twenty~four, and his wife Gwen, aged twenty-three, had two young children. They lived in an old house in poor condition rented from the Housing Commission. Barry had a temporary job in Melbourne at the time of the interview, but had had many periods of unemployment.

Barry had seven brothers and sisters and four stepbrothers. His mother had left his father before he was born and had moved in with a de facto husband whom' Barry always thought of as his father. They were itinerant workers, always on the move. By the age of seven he had already been to two schools. Then the family suffered a great trauma when, as Barry described it, the Social Welfare Department forced the parents to split up and:

Eight children were taken away and put in four different Homes. Mum was running all over the place from Melbourne to Colac trying to visit us. Miss X came from the Welfare. She had 'a mean' on us because there were so many kids and Mum and Dad weren't married and we were poor, and she split up the whole family. I'll never forget her. The police were against it and tried to stop it, but she had the power. She had us under her thumb. She took us to Court, then to her office and then she took us away from Mum and drove us to a Home ... We were there for two years. Then Mum and Dad got together again and brought us home.

The family continued to move around and Barry's education was very fragmented. He had six months at a high school and left at the age of thirteen. After leaving school he lived with his parents and did mainly seasonal work on farms and sawmills. The family moved to Mildura and worked as casual labourers, picking fruit or peas or whatever was in season. Barry was now sixteen and found his first 'steady' girlfriend, Gwen. He got a job with a 'blockie' and they lived in a caravan on the block. Gwen worked in a milk bar.

Then Barry's parents decided to move to Geelong, and all the family, including Gwen, went with them. Barry and Gwen lived with his parents until he found a job and a flat. He continued to work for a few months, leave or get sacked, live on the dole for a few weeks or months then get another job.

Most of these changes seem to have been accepted without too much worry - it was all part of the family lifestyle, As time went on, however, it became more difficult to pick up new jobs. He recalled one week when he was retrenched from work, their second baby was born and his brother smashed up their car, which was uninsured. This time they did experience hardship; it was four weeks before their first dole cheque came through. His mother helped them with food and Gwen's mother sent them money. Twice they got food vouchers from the Salvation Army, but this hurt their pride and they preferred to borrow from family members, paying back when their dole cheque came.

In the year before the interview Barry had been unemployed for six months. He had lost his licence for drunken driving and this made it harder for him to find a job. Through the c.E.S. he heard about a job near Melbourne for which he needed a car and a licence. He drove up for the interview in an unregistered car without a licence, and, as he said, told them a lot of lies and got the job. On the way back he was picked up by the police and fined $500. After many efforts he got his licence back and had kept his job for almost a year, but he said it was very insecure because the industry was very depressed.

Barry and Gwen had been together for seven years, and married for two and a half. They appeared to have a stable relationship and to be caring adequately for their children. Barry said that life was terrible on the dole with kids to support - when they paid the rent there wasn't even enough left for food. Usually they relied on help from their families and on odd jobs like lawn-mowing.

Barry's family mostly lived chaotic lives. He had completely lost touch with six older brothers and sisters. His mother had left her long-standing de facto husband and lived in a caravan with his youngest brother, who had been unemployed since he left school. The other three brothers had been unemployed for years, except for casual jobs. One had been in gaol. They also had a history of unstable de facto relationships and children for whom they found it hard to care. Although they might not appear to be a very promising support group, members of the family had stuck together through many vicissitudes. Barry's mother had helped them with food on several occasions and always gave them shelter when they had nowhere to live. Gwen's mother had sent them money regularly and provided all the major items of furniture and equipment in their house. The siblings borrowed money from each other - 'usually someone in the family has a few dollars to spare' - and repaid it out of their next dole cheque. Barry had tried to get jobs for his brothers.

This family had had little contact with services except for emergency relief when they were short of food. They usually relied on their own efforts to find jobs, but in his last period of unemployment, Barry said: 'I went to the c.E.S. every day and kept pestering them until they got sick of me and got me an interview for the job I have now.'

Barry appeared to have survived' the chaotic lifestyle in which he grew up better than the other members of the family. The interviewer concluded:

Barry has done well considering the bad employment record of his family and their poor prospects for the future. But they are insecure - it only needs a downturn in industry or a little crisis like losing his driving licence for him to be unemployed again. They struck me as being a nice young couple and the children seemed happy and affectionate. So, perhaps they will succeed in maintaining their present stability.

Ron and Jenny were a couple in their early thirties living in a rather poor rented house with their four young children. Ron had not had a steady job for almost a year. Jenny was the respondent.

Jenny was one of a family of nine children. Her father had injured his back at an early age and had become an invalid pensioner. Jenny said: 'There was never enough money and we were always having to go without but we got by'. Her mother was chronically ill and often in hospital, so the children grew up having to help in the house. From the age of eight Jenny had had to look after the little ones. Ron also came from a large family. His childhood had not been so dominated by poverty and illness as Jenny's, but when he was in his teens his father left the family and after that his mother became withdrawn. She often left the children on their own so they had to rely a great deal on themselves. Both had left school as soon as they were fifteen. It was taken for granted in their families that they would start earning as soon as they were able. They had no further training.

Jenny had no trouble in finding work immediately as a shop assistant, and over the next ten years she worked in a variety of jobs. There were plenty of jobs going and she had never been out of work for long. She did not work after her first child was born.

When Ron left school he worked with his father, who was a bulldozer operator. He said it was all he ever wanted to do. When his father left the family Ron lost his job but soon found another as a labourer. For the next ten years he had a variety of jobs (he could remember eleven) and had always been able to find work fairly quickly. About a year before the interview he had lost his driving licence for drunken driving and that had lost him his job.

Ron hated being unemployed and did everything possible to find a job. He went several times a week to the C.E.S., walked round construction sites and every day was out job hunting. Jenny said not being able to drive a car was one of the big obstacles and she was confident that once he got his licence back, he would soon find a job. Meanwhile, he kept trying and had had several casual jobs which were within walking distance.

Of life on the dole, Jenny said:

Money is our real problem - just getting by each fortnight until the next cheque comes. We have spent all our savings and we have no money to fall back on. We have to do without things like new clothes and we eat as cheaply as possible. The kids' needs always come first and I don't think they have felt the pinch too much. We don't go looking for help to our families or to welfare organisations. We like to do everything for ourselves. If we have bills we canit pay we borrow from my brother and pay it back when the next cheque comes - but that means we have to tighten our belts even more over the next fortnight. We never use welfare services and wouldn't consider doing so. We want to look after ourselves. I handle all the money and I've had to learn to be a good manager ... One of the biggest items is the rent and I always pay that first. We would like to have got started to buy a place of our own, but we've never been able to save the deposit and our families don't have any money to·spare, so we've always had to live in rented places. Once we went out to live in a country town where we got a Housing Commission house very cheaply and Ron had a steady job, but I was very lonely without all my family and friends and after a few months we moved back to Geelong. We stayed with my family until Ron found a job and we were able to rent a flat.

Both Ron and Jenny had grown up in Geelong and both had a wide network of extended family who helped with child minding, transport and passing on children's clothes. Jenny's family was closely knit and would always give any help needed, but Jenny said they preferred to cope with problems themselves. Nevertheless, the fact that they could borrow from Jenny's brother gave them some security. They seemed to have few friends outside the family and very little involvement with community groups.

Jenny said they could not afford to go to the doctor when Ron was unemployed. For ordinary things she just asked the chemist and for more serious things she went to the Health Centre. She said that fortunately they were a very healthy family. The only statutory service mentioned was the C.E.S. which Ron had used without success.

This young couple were struggling to feed and clothe four children on the dole and to be self-reliant. Jenny seemed to be a good manager and had been accustomed all her life to making do on a small income. They seemed to have a stable marriage and to cope well with problems within the family. They had valuable support from their extended family, especially jenny's. They were also strengthened by the conviction that when Ron regained his licence he would be able to get a steady job of the kind he wanted.

Jack and Loma were a young de facto couple in their twenties. They had a baby of six months and Loma was again pregnant. Jack had been unemployed for one year. He was the respondent but Loma was present and added her comments.

Jack was the eldest of four children. He said that he had always got on well with his family who were comfortably off working class. Loma came from an unhappy and impoverished home background. Her parents separated when she was fourteen and her mother had married again - 'a real piss-pot' according to Loma. The family rarely saw each other.

Both had hated school and had left early. Jack spent most of his one year at high school wagging school. After that year he transferred to a technical school but left after three days. Loma was expelled from high school when she was just fourteen. She said she had always hated the teachers and after a big row with one she was asked to leave. Her brothers and sisters had left school early and none had got beyond Year Eight.

Loma found a job immediately in a factory where her sister worked, but after ten days she was sacked because she was too slow. She then had a job in a milk bar but was sacked after three weeks for eating chocolate. She went to the C.E.S. but found she was too young to get the dole, so she applied to the Department of Social Security and was awarded special benefit until she was eligible for the dole. At this stage she moved in with Jack and they were both on the dole until her sister 'dobbed her in to the C.E.S. as a de facto'.

After school Jack went straight to work with his father who owned his own truck. They drove 'all over the place' and his father taught him how to drive, load and maintain the truck. When he was fourteen his father got him a job with a car firm but business was bad and after six months he was laid off. He went back to work with his father for two years until his father sold his trucks because of illness. His father then used his contacts to get Jack a job as an apprentice mechanic. He kept the job and took classes at a technical college for two years. Then he had a row with his boss and knocked him into a service pit: 'So I just picked up my tools and left, and I'm never going back.' He had been unemployed since.

Loma had not worked since she moved in with Jack. She said:

I tried a bit but couldn't get a job. I had had my arms all tattooed when I was thirteen and when I had the tattoos removed it left terrible scars. The lady at the C.E.S. said I would never get a job with arms like that. Anyway, I don't ever want to work again.

Jack said that for the first four or five years after he left school he had worked with· his father or in jobs his father had got for him. Since, he had tried to get work through the C.E.S., looked in the papers and asked his friends to look out for jobs coming up. He had also gone around car and trucking firms and wreckers looking for mechanical jobs. He had even gone round building sites looking for a labouring job, but had only picked up a few days' work here and there. When he didn't get the last job he'd applied for he 'went back and thumped the bastard who interviewed me when he began to get smart'.

Jack set up a small business at home doing repairs and maintenance on cars and trucks. He was doing well, bringing in $300 a week, when someone broke into the garage and stole all his tools and equipment and finished his business. When he stopped working he had several thousand dollars in the bank; at the time of the interview he had nothing. He owed his parents $5000 - mostly for bills he couldn't pay. In the previous year they had moved five or six times because they were behind with the rent or about to have their electricity cut off.

Jack had lost his licence for drunken driving and other serious traffic offences which made it harder for him to find work. He admitted that he had had a drinking problem since he was twelve. 'A while back', he said, 'it got so I was drunk most of the time and sometimes violent, and Loma threatened to leave me. Then I got real sick and the doctor told me that I had an ulcer and if I kept on drinking like that it would kill me.' Loma said he came to his senses and 'put the brakes on a bit'.

Asked how he filled in his day he said:

Bloody hard I can tell you. I can't sleep in - I'm always up at 7.30 no matter what time I go to bed. I watch T. V., clean up the yard and the shed, take the washing machine and fridge motors apart and clean them. It fills in the time. I like to do things, hate to sit still. Since I lost my licence I can't go out for a run and have a few days with the boysthat's what really cuts me about living on the dole. I can't do things ... I just about go batty with nothing to do. I want to own my own truck and drive all over Australia.

Jack and Lorna relied entirely on Jack's family for support. Jack's mother had found their present flat, paid the bond money, cleaned it out and bought the necessary items of furniture. She had often come to their rescue with money for food and clothes and had recently lent them a car for a few months. Jack's father had found him many-jobs and had recently lent him a car and given him $500 to drive to Brisbane for a holiday. He had also bought him an old truck which Jack was fixing so they could take it way for a holiday at Christmas. In almost every way his family had been supportive, even when Jack made a mess of opportunities, often through his own violence and folly. Lorna said that she had no friends of her own and that most of Jack's friends were a bad influence: 'They are worse off than him. Most of them take drugs and drink and are in trouble with the law. It was going about with them that he lost his licence.'

Jack had used the C.E.S. which had referred him to one or two factory jobs, but he couldn't stand working in a factory. The only other service mentioned was the doctor who had warned him of the consequences of his drinking.

Jack seemed to have done well in his own business and was probably capable of running his own truck, but there was little work for transport drivers at the time and his prospects were not good. The interviewer said:

I believe his account of his violence, which doesn't improve his chances of keeping a job even if he does get one - nor do his drinking habits. This family has been largely dependent on Jack's parents and it is hard to imagine how they would have survived without their support.

There are some perplexing aspects about this family. Jack's parents seem to have been well organised: the father had built up a good business, disposed of it profitably when he became ill, and secured a good job when his health improved. They had a comfortable home, were upset about Jack's unemployment and made many efforts to maintain his standard of living. On the other hand, Jack had had many problems from an early age: inability to cope with school, truancy, outbreaks of violence and heavy drinking. Yet, although he said he had always been close to his parents, nothing seemed to have been done about his problems.

Older unemployed

There were three respondents in this group, one in his late thirties, the other two in their fifties. Two were men and one was a woman, and in all cases the respondent was the unemployed subject of the interview.

Frank was fifty-nine and lived with his wife, Grace, in a rented house. He had been unemployed for two years and had had at most a couple of weeks' work during that time. They had one married son living nearby.

Frank grew up in rural poverty during the Depression. The children caught yabbies and rabbits and the family had their own cow, chickens and vegetable garden, so there was always enough to eat. In his childhood their old weatherboard house was completely burnt out and they lost everything except the clothes they were wearing. They moved into a rented house in a small nearby town. He said:

My parents had a lot of family and friends in the area and they all pitched in to help. They provided clothes, furniture, pots and pans and most things we needed to start again. Things were rugged in the Depression, especially after we lost everything in the fire, but we never went hungry or cold. It was a small close-knit community and everybody knew each other and helped out as needed. We never needed any child minding - my mother stayed at home and looked after the children and my parents never went away anywhere. If there was illness the families all helped each other. We were close as a family in those days but now my brothers and sisters are well off and living in different parts of Australia. I haven't had any contact with them for years. They probably don't know if I'm alive or dead and don't want to.

Frank left school at fourteen. He said that he 'wasn't very bright at school so there was no point in going on. My parents did ask me if I wanted to learn a trade, but I just wanted a job near home and to be able to put into the housekeeping.' He had worked part time in a local shop since he was twelve and when he left school he was offered a full-time job there. He worked there for two and a half years, then went to work in a factory in Melbourne. He heard about the job through older friends who were working in Melbourne and were home for the weekend.

He stayed there until he enlisted in the army the day after his eighteenth birthday. He served in various parts of Australia and in New Guinea, before being demobilised in 1947. Rehabilitation courses were offered at the time of discharge and he decided to do bricklaying. After completing the course he got a job with a Master Builder in a large country town near his home and stayed there for more than eight years. When business became slack he moved to Melbourne and,did bricklaying when he could get it, factory work or labouring when he could not.

He moved back to his home town and for the next ten to fifteen years worked as a self-employed bricklayer. Sometimes he was fully employed, one job following another, but at other times he had weeks or even months with no work at all. At one time he could not pay his bills and had to sell their house. Since they had had to live in rented houses.

In the mid-seventies he moved to Geelong where a lot of building was'going on and there was work sub-contracting. After a year or so he took a steady job working for a builder until his boss went broke during another slump two years later. Since then he had been unable to find work, in spite of his many efforts.

Frank described his experience of being unemployed:

I get downhearted sometimes after walking round looking for work - you get that damned despondent. It seems like I am just wasting their time as well as my own just asking if there are any jobs going. I don't really think anybody cares, do you? Today, employers want younger men who will lay more bricks for less money and they can pick and choose. They go for quantity not quality. Honestly, I don't know how some of the work today stands up. You can't lay seven to eight hundred bricks a day and keep in line. I know I am still a good brickie but they all say I'm too old when I go round the sites. I went for a job teaching bricklaying on a T.A.F.E. course but they also said I was too old. Now I seem to have nothing to look forward to but getting a Repat. pension when I'm sixty. Meantime, money is tight, especially in winter because of the heating. Our only luxury is to have a beer before dinner. We don't go without food or essentials, and we still manage to run our old car but there's nothing over for extras like holidays. It's a bit of a struggle.

Frank and Grace had never had a lot of money and had known some very hard times, but they had always been careful and lived within their means. They were poorer now than they had ever been and, had it not been for Grace receiving a pension, they would have found it very hard indeed. Their house was rented, and they were fortunate in that their landlady was sympathetic and had not raised their rent. Nevertheless, as Frank said: 'Rent is a killer. Even our very reasonable rent takes a big proportion of the dole.'

Apart from their married son, their main source of social support had been relatives and friends in their home town, and Frank's contacts and workmates in the building trade. Since moving to Geelong they had largely lost touch with relatives and friends in their home town, and since Frank became unemployed they had lost touch with friends in the building trade. As Frank said: 'I used to know most of the fellows on the sites but now when I go round I hardly know anyone and they don't know me'. Their circle of friends had therefore narrowed and they were rather isolated. Their main source of informal support was their married son and his family with whom they had a close relationship. This family was also suffering from unemployment, in their case of schoolleavers, and there was mutual understanding and support.

The only community group to which Frank belonged was the Returned Services' League. He was closely involved with the RS.L. in his home town, but less so since moving to Geelong. He would have liked to do voluntary work but was afraid of incurring expenses he couldn't afford: 'Your time is not a problem, but we can't afford the costs of doing something voluntary. With most things, if you get involved it costs you money, like running the car, or baking cakes, and we just don't have money to spare.'

Frank said he had been registered with the C.E.S. for two years and had had only two interviews:

It's disappointing but I suppose it's not their fault when there are no jobs around. At least when 1 have my name down, 1 feel they'll get in touch with me if anything turns up. Personally, I've always found the staff very helpful.

He was much more critical of the Department of Social Security:

They are not so efficient.· We're rarely paid the right amount on the dole and Grace's pension. The staff are a bunch of kids who don't know their job properly. My wife was first underpaid, then when that was put right, overpaid. When they found out they sent a bill for hundreds of dollars which we couldn't pay. Then they threatened court action if we didn't pay within seven days, after agreeing to take off a few dollars each fortnight. I'll put it this way, civility costs you nothing. The staff - some of them - are hopeless.

The Repatriation Department had been an important source of support for Frank since he was demobilised. He had learnt his trade through its rehabilitation courses and hoped to draw the Department's pension before long. The Bricklayers' Union he described as 'hopeless': 'They don't help you to get a job or get fair treatment. All they want is your money and they won't refund your fees if you become unemployed. They don't care a damn about the unemployed.' Asked what services had helped them most, he replied: 'None. No one has really helped except our own family.'

Socially, Frank and Grace appeared to be rather isolated, partly because Frank had lost touch with all his siblings; partly because they had moved away from most of their friends and relations in their home town; partly because when Frank stopped working he lost touch with all his building friends, and partly because they were living on a restricted income and felt they could not afford social occasions.

The interviewer commented: 'The home was neat and tidy but sparse and obviously not many luxuries. They make do with old things. A frugal life.'

Jean was fifty years old and lived with her mother and her twenty-six-year-old daughter. She had immigrated to Australia in 1954 with her Australian husband and had lived in Geelong ever since. Her parents had followed later. She was employed at the time of the interview but had experienced acute problems of unemployment when her marriage broke down and she had'had to support her children.

Jean had grown up in England. Her parents owned a shop and the family lived over it. She said:

Dad wasn't a rich man but he wasn't poor either. He always looked after us well and we never went without anything we needed. I had a good childhood in spite of the War. Dad and Mum always got on well together ... I always got on well with my two sisters and we were a very close family.

Jean had left school at fifteen. She said:

I hated school and wasn't very good at lessons. In those days there were plenty of jobs going and you could pick and choose ... I got a good job with a big firm - you had to start at the bottom but there were good chances of promotion and training. After a year there they paid for me to do an advanced secretarial course. I stayed there for seven years - until I married and came to Australia.

Jean had her first child a few months after arriving in Geelong and later had two more children. She stayed at home and looked after them and for twelve years she did not have a job. They were very short of money, living on one wage and building their house. Jean said 'she 'got tired of scrimping and saving and never having any money to go out or do anything', so when she was offered a job in a creche she accepted. It was very convenient because she could take the youngest child with her. Her parents were willing to help with the other children. Her marriage was no longer happy: 'It was the beginning of the end when I took the job.'

Jean stayed at the creche for two years and then got a fulltime job in a centre for handicapped children. She stayed for four and a half years and left, she said, on the advice of her solicitor. Her marriage had ended in divorce and her solicitor had told her that she would not get maintenance unless she gave up her job.

For the next three years she survived on the pension and whatever maintenance she got from her ex-husband. She then married again but this marriage was a disaster and soon she was looking for work to support her children.

The next two years were an increasing struggle. She could get only poorly paid house-cleaning jobs. Working every day, part time, she managed to earn only about $50 a week. Then, through a friend, she got a job as a relief cook in a hospital, and with this slender security left her husband and moved back to her former house. She was afraid she might lose her job because the hospital was threatened with closure. However, she felt that her experience might lead to a similar job and she would not have' minded part-time work as: 'All the kids are grown up now and I have only myself to provide for.'

Of her time spent seeking employment, Jean said:

In my life I have had two reasons for looking for work: when I had a husband I wanted the independence and wider social contacts of work outside the home; when I had no husband I had to work to support my children. It didn't matter so much in the first marriage when the children were young - at least until things started to go wrong; but when the second marriage broke down it became clear that I would have to leave him. That meant I had to find a job to support the children. It was a desperate situation. Looking for work was really desperate. I could have got the pension but I wanted to make it myself ... This desperate situation at home made knockbacks to my approaches to people and applications for jobs even harder to take. For a while I was angry and frustrated. I didn't actually get to the point of not being able to pay bills but I would have done in one more month. I felt depressed and scared. I only kept going because mother and the kids and my friends were so supportive and helpful.

When she first came to Geelong Jean's only contacts were with her husband's family. She missed her family and friends. Then her sister-in-law introduced her to an English girl about her own age and a very close friendship developed. As her children went to kindergarten and school she met other young mothers and her circle widened. When she went to work she increased her range of friends and acquaintances. She had never had much contact with the church or with other community groups and organizations.

Her strongest support had been her own parents, especially her mother. When the children were young, she minded them while Jean was working and helped with household chores. She offered Jean money when she was unemployed and, although she did not accept it, this gave Jean a sense of security. She also gave Jean emotional support during her marital difficulties and when she had problems with the children. Her other main source of support, both emotional and practical, was the English girl she met soon after arrival. She said she had also had support from a wide group of friends and acquaintances, especially when she was looking for work: 'At one time at least twelve friends were looking for work for me and that was how 1 got my present job. 1 talked over problems with them, but 1 would never ask them for financial help.'

Jean had registered with the C.E.S. when she was in her fifties but they told her she was much too old and had 'Buckley's chance' of finding a job. She had no further contact with them. She said: 'I was upset at the time, but 1 couldn't really blame them. They had so many people looking for work and so few jobs. What could they do with an 'oldie' like me?' She had also consulted a Roman Catholic priest who referred her to the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau who were very kind but had so many women looking for work that they could not help.

Jean and her husband had gone to Marriage Guidance . when her first marriage was breaking down but it was a hopeless situation. The police had not been helpful when her first husband was under a restraint order. They 'didn't want to know' about his drinking and violence. She also had trouble enforcing the maintenance payments and found the Clerk of Courts unhelpful. She applied to the Department of Social Security for the supporting parent's benefit after her first marriage broke down. She said:

I was treated all right by the staff but they want to delve into your whole life. For example, they asked me why my marriage broke down, and I don't think that was any of their business. It was too intrusive. But after that first interview they were okay.

Jean had had many problems resulting from the breakdown of her two marriages and being left to provide for her three children. In a very unpromising situation she found work through her own determination and persistence, through her friends, and through her willingness to take any job. She had received little support from formal services but had been able to draw support from her parents, a few close friends and from her own children as they grew up.

Robert and his wife, Carolyn, were in their late thirties. They lived with their two children in a pleasant and comfortable home which they were paying off. Robert had been unemployed for several months, but had found a job shortly before the interview.

Both partners had lived all their lives in Geelong. Carolyn said:

My childhood was really good. We didn't do all that much as a family, but we were always happy to amuse ourselves and we had plenty of friends nearby. The neighbours were all very friendly and you could always call in and feel welcome, though we didn't live in each other's pockets. Every Saturday we visited with friends and on Sunday we all went to Grandma's for tea and she would visit us during the week. Occasionally, as a treat, we went to the drive-in. Then in the summer we all went to the beach and camped for the whole six weeks of the holidays, and when Dad had to go back to work he travelled up and down. We went to the same site for twelve years and camped with the same families, mostly Dad's workmates. They are still close friends.

Robert's childhood was not so happy. His parents divorced when he was seven and his father married again. He said that he got on well with his stepmother and also with his own parents but had little contact now - about once a month he visited his mother.

Both had quite enjoyed high school, but did not want to stay on after Year Eleven. Carolyn left when she was offered a clerical job, which she gave up when their first child was born, and Robert left when he was offered an apprenticeship. He completed it successfully and then worked as a tradesman with several firms, always moving to a better job. He then applied for a job as an assistant manager and, somewhat to his surprise, was appointed. However, he found there was much more pressure and responsibility in this job and tensions arose between him and his boss and he said that it was almost a relief when he was asked to resign.

Robert and Carolyn were not too worried when Robert lost his job. In addition to having had managerial experience, he was a skilled workman with a good employment record. His first attempts at applying for positions comparable to the one he had lost were not successful. Carolyn also tried to find work without success. Eventually Robert applied for a much less prestigious job and got it. The pay was much less and he had to work night shift; he felt·he had gone backwards.

The experience of unemployment was not at first financially devastating. Robert had his severance pay, they had savings to fall back on, and he was able to pick up some part-time work. But as the weeks went on they began to find their savings disappearing. Housing repayments were a big drain on their depleted income. They had always organised their finances carefully and paid all their bills promptly, and unemployment made them feel insecure. Carolyn said:

It was hard when Robert was unemployed. We didn't know what was going to happen or how long it would last. We were afraid to buy things which we would have taken for granted before because we didn't know whether we'd have enough for food and essential things next week.

Both Robert and Carolyn had a wide extended family to call upon when help was needed. There was general pooling of family experience as well as physical labour. Robert said: 'You can always borrow a cement mixer or a saw, and if you need someone to hang on to the end of a plank there's always somebody available.' There was also interchange of baby-sitting and children's clothes. Carolyn said:

We both have lots of relatives in this area - it's like our own little Italy. Help is only a phone call away and we never need to go past the family . . . In our families it's very much a matter of being there. We don't by any means live in each other's pockets but we depend on each other when help is needed. We think communication is very important in the family, so when we are together we don't just sit around watching T.V., we talk to each other and air our views and sometimes have big arguments.

Carolyn said that they were also on very friendly terms with their neighbours which she regarded as being one of the advantages of living in their small community. They went shopping together, minded each other's children and shared driving children to various activities. She was also involved with the school. She did voluntary work there regularly and had become friendly with the teachers and with other parents.

Robert was an active member of a group of people who had come together to establish a sporting club, putting in both money and voluntary labour. He said:

Sport is very important to me and I enjoy it. It also provides companionship for us and for our children. We have many social activities connected with the club which are very inexpensive, for example, barbecues at the weekend when all the kids can join in.

Robert did not use the C.E.S. when he was looking for a job, partly because he felt that his job level was too high, partly because he could usually pick up enough part-time work to disqualify him for unemployment benefits. He would have been unwilling to apply for the dole unless their financial situation had become acute. He did use an employment consultancy firm, but without success.

Robert's experience of the C.E.S. had been as an employer when he was an assistant manager. He felt that the C.E.S. should be doing more for school leavers by offering them community work and the chance to 'learn something constructive for a few hours each day' so they wouldn't feel alienated from society.

Robert and Carolyn were an intelligent and hard-working young couple. Their ambition to succeed received a setback when Robert was not successful in his job as assistant manager, and when he was unemployed for four months. Socially they were well integrated into the community through their involvement with groups like the school and the sporting club. They also had a strong support network of extended family on whom they could rely for help when they needed it.

Common to these three groups among the unemployed was the importance of supportive families and social networks in both obtaining employment and in maintaining their morale and motivation when they were unemployed.

The six young people from very different backgrounds had two things in common: they had all experienced long periods of unemployment after leaving school, and they all lived at home with their parents.

Three had done reasonably well at school and had started to look for work with the expectation that they would find it and, even after many disappointments, they retained enough self-confidence to keep trying until they eventually succeeded. The other three had left school so early that this had virtually precluded employment, apprenticeship or further training. Two of them had hardly bothered to look for work and maintained only the contact with the C.E.S. needed for them to receive the dole.

The capacity to remain socially involved was of vital importance in the way these young people coped with unemployment. The persistent search for work was part of it, but they needed positive social involvement to balance the demoralising effect of being constantly knocked back. Margaret took short courses at the university, learned to drive the car and took part in social activities with her friends.

Anna was deeply involved in the social activities of her ethnic community and in helping out in her father's business. Con was also very involved in his ethnic community, church youth club and with a soccer club. Neill's case was somewhat different. He had been expelled from school without completing Year Ten and lacked confidence in his ability. Nevertheless, he had continued to look for work, had worked voluntarily for several months, completed a Transition Building Industries Construction Course for unemployed people, and attended a C.Y.S.S. centre regularly.

The other two boys, Wayne and Geoff, both came from families that were socially isolated. Their only friends were other unemployed teenagers, mostly other school dropouts. They spent most of their time watching television and going to the pub with friends when they could afford to do so.

The support of family and friends was a vital element in these young people's lives. The immediate family was the chief source of practical and emotional help in the search for work. Friends were also important in providing information about jobs becoming available and other support. Anna and Con were examples of the value of support given by their ethnic community. Neill's family had a different type of network based on their involvement with a sect-type church.

The importance of the practical, social and emotional help provided by family and friends was further emphasised in those cases were it did not exist. Geoff's family was isolated and had virtually no support networks of family and friends. Relationships inside the family were not supportive either. Similarly, Wayne's family had few supports, either through extended family or friends. Both had been brought up in families deprived of warm and supportive relationships both inside and outside the family. This, presumably, was a cause of their own social alienation.

In the group aged twenty to around thirty, all the respondents were unskilled workers and in most cases this had been the family pattern. All but one had left school between the ages of thirteen and fifteen. When they left school unskilled jobs had been plentiful and all had gone straight to work. One of the most striking characteristics of this group was the frequency with which they changed jobs. Sometimes they changed because they were laid off, sometimes because of illness, sometimes because they had a fight, sometimes because they were bored, and sometimes because seasonal work was finished.

Most seemed to accept this unsettled way of life, working for some months then living on the dole or moving to the country or interstate hoping to pick up work there. Their lifestyle of casual employment was based partly on personal preference and partly on their lack of capacity to hold down a steady job, but also on the nature of the jobs open to them. Seasonal jobs, such as fruit picking, shearing, sawmilling and droving are essentially short term, as are many jobs on building and construction sites. Also, in a time of recession when workers are being laid off on the 'last on first off' principle, the casual workers are the first to go. Another factor must be mentioned: many of these workers were filling the dirty and exhausting jobs, so it is not entirely surprising that after a few months they were fed up and wanted a change.

In this insecure lifestyle, family support was most important. Those who were not married relied to a large extent on being able to live in the family home when they were on the dole. Those who were married and had families to support were in the most precarious position. Either they had to live very frugally or depend to a very large extent on family support. It was hard to see how some families could have survived without the financial and practical support of their extended families.

The experiences of the older respondents speak clearly of the problems of older people trying to get back into the workforce. Frank's employment history illustrates the insecurity of the self-employed, especially in the building industry. Demoralised by unemployment he continued his search for work in a half-hearted and pessimistic way. Jean exemplified the desperate situation of women having to find work to support their children after marriage breakdown. Robert's is the position of those forced to take a lower status job in order to get back into the workforce.

Once again, their stories demonstrated the importance of the informal support of family and friends. It was through her wide circle of friends that Jean finally found work. It was the extended family that supported Robert and Carolyn. Frank and his wife had been isolated by circumstances. Their only support was their married son and his family who had unemployment problems of their own. Frank's situation underlined the importance of work and the workplace as a source of friendships and support. During two years of unemployment he had lost touch with workmates and the people he had known in the building trade and so had much less possibility of finding another job. As most of his friends had been found through work he now had a very limited social circle.

Generally, these unemployed people relied much more on informal networks than on formal services. This group of families had made very little use of formal services. Most saw them mainly as a way of getting the dole, but had few expectations of finding a job or any other support through them. Families continued to provide a home for young school leavers, with minimal or no board payments, and a home to return to during periods of unemployment for older respondents. They also provided financial help, ranging from the few dollars mothers sometimes gave their children to the massive support given to maintain families like Jack and Loma's. This material help cushioned the worst effects of poverty for those on the dole, and, though they all complained about lack of money, they would have been much worse off without the help of their families. The poverty of families like Ron and Jenny's, caring for four children with no income but the dole, was far more crippling, but even they could borrow money from Jenny's brother in an emergency.

Families also provided practical help in looking for work, but perhaps the most important help was what many respondents called 'moral' support, which encouraged them to keep trying and helped them not to lose hope and confidence in themselves. The value of these kinds of support is as obvious in the cases of Margaret and Neill who had it, as in the cases of Barry and Glen who did not.

Relatives and friends who were in the workforce were by far the most important sources of information about job vacancies, and so those with wider contacts like Margaret, Lorraine and Jean were more likely to find jobs than those who had very few friends, and these mostly also unemployed, such as Geoff and Wayne.

Of all the groups of families in this study, the unemployed seem to present the most intractable problems. First and foremost is the lack of jobs. In general, it would be hard to envisage the social changes which would have to take place to achieve anything like full employment: in particular, it would be hard to envisage some of our respondents as capable of finding or keeping a job.

5. Better-off families

5. Better-off families

Introducing the Families

The assessment of families as 'better off' was based on the level of earnings of the respondent and partner, and any additional income they had from other sources. Combined with other information about occupation and housing, this gave a reasonably reliable picture of families with sufficient income to provide a generally accepted high standard of living, free from anxiety about bills and unexpected expenses.

Only one of the respondents in the ten families had been born and brought up in Geelong, and she had at one stage been away for niDe years during which she had married and lived overseas. When she and her husband came back to Australia, it was to Geelong and her extended family that she wanted to return.

The other respondents had moved to Geelong for a variety of reasons: some for education and/or professional training, some to take up appointments, some because they wanted to live in a town they saw as having the advantages of both town and country. Whatever their reason for coming, all said they liked living in Geelong and would be happy to stay. All but two families had lived in Geelong for more than ten years. In eight cases the mother was the respondent and in two, the father.

Background to the Families

Half the respondents came from professional and half from working-class backgrounds. Of the latter, all had been more or less impoverished, especially those from large families, but they said they had not felt deprived because those around them were in the same boat.

Tom, a typical respondent from a country town, said that he recognised now that his family was poor, though there was always enough food and warm clothing and he had never felt he was missing out. His family of eleven had lived in a modest weatherboard house which they bought by denying themselves 'social outings, beer at the pub and holidays'. Sheila, who grew up in an inner suburb of Melbourne, recalled her childhood as very happy though she said 'life was fairly skimpy. There were few social outings; no holidays and more filling foods, like bread and potatoes, than meat and vegetables and fruit.'

Most respondents said that they had been lucky to get one new toy at Christmas, and pocket money was almost unknown, though there was usually a penny for lollies when asked for. However, all remembered their childhoods as happy and secure and those from small country towns painted a somewhat idyllic picture of country childhood, with plenty of children to play with and freedom to roam the town and beyond.

The respondents from middle-class backgrounds had been surrounded by more material comforts. They also remembered their childhoods as happy. Their early lives tended to be home centred and their choice of playmates and activities was more selective and circumscribed than that of the poorer country families.

Philip, who came from a well-off professional family, described his background as 'a typical country town where life was slow, unworried and easy going and everybody mixed at barbecues and picnics'. When his parents moved to the city he was sent to boarding school where he was lonely and unhappy. Marjorie, from a similar professional back- ground in the city, summed up her childhood: 'I remember being very comfortable. There was just my sister and myself. We were blessed as we were always lovingly cared for. 1 can only remember not getting fad things - we had everything else we wanted.'

Social position, however, could have its limitations. Patricia, an only child in a professional family in a small country town, remembered her childhood as happy and secure, but also as solitary and sometimes lonely. Her parents sent her to a small private school and she did not, therefore, mix freely with other children in the neighbourhood. She recalled lots of visits with cousins but it was a very sheltered life and, as she grew up, she lacked social confidence.

All the respondents from middle-class families had completed twelve years of schooling and had proceeded to professional training and occupations. Only one from a working-class background had done so and then under considerable difficulties. The others had been happy to leave school at fifteen and go to work. The exception was Sheila who wanted to train as a nurse, but the family was poor and her parents thought it more important that her brother should be educated, so she left school at thirteen and took a job.

The respondents from poorer backgrounds illustrate a pattern of employment experience widely found in the general survey. Now in their mid-thirties to mid-forties, they had had no trouble finding jobs when they left school. As one said: 'I just went up to the woollen mill where my sister worked and they said you can start tomorrow'. Even if it was not much of a job to begin with, they often learned a skill and were promoted, or they left to take a better job elsewhere. By the time they were in their twenties they were earning good money with a seemingly secure future. For example, Jillleft school at fourteen and worked in a shop for a time then sat an entrance examination for bank staff and was successful. At twenty she married a man with a similar employment background and in eighteen months they had saved enough for the deposit on a house.

Those who wanted to enter a profession had few difficulties. Provided they had the necessary qualifications, they were accepted for training with the certainty of a job - indeed a choice of jobs - at the other end. The experiences of their children who had attempted to enter the current workforce had been very different.

Regardless of their social status, all the respondents remembered their childhoods as happy, and their families as closely knit. The country families in particular remembered doing things together, the better off going for drives and having meals out, the less well off for walks and picnics. Most of the country families were also integrated into an extended family which in turn was integrated into the local community.

The differences in their childhoods were reflected in the kinjs of social support they remembered their families giving and receiving. The poorer country families had belonged to closely knit communities. Respondents remembered large families of cousins with whom they played during the weekend, and many social activities within the local community. There was also a great deal of mutual help. For example, Tom said: 'The extended family always pitched in to help with painting and repairs on the house. There was also much handing on of children's clothing, and plenty of reciprocal child minding.'

Doreen, from a similar background, said that although they were poor: 'the family was respected as hard-working and people often dropped in at weekends - there would often be eighteen or twenty at Sunday tea. It was a lot of fun socially - there were dances and football and a film every few weeks.' She remembered farmers bringing milk and eggs and her father doing small jobs for them in return. Everybody popped in with wine at Christmas. Babysitting was shared among the families. When there were too many children to be driven to school in family cars her father acquired a second-hand bus and the families took turns to drive it to school each day.

Such recollections, tinged with nostalgia, may have idealised country life and, although respondents looked back on their childhoods with much pleasure, they also said that as they grew up they realised its limitations. Those who went to bigger centres for education, training or employment did not wish to return to such a narrow environment. But neither did they want to live in a big city like Melbourne. Many found Geelong an ideal compromise.

The experience of poorer families who had moved away from their extended family networks was not so happy. Jill, who had grown up in a new suburb on the outskirts of Melbourne, remembered her family life quite differently. There were no relatives living nearby and, as they did not. own a car, visits were infrequent. There was little support from neighbours. She remembered the area as being poor and consisting of young families, struggling like her own. Although the children played together freely there was little social exchange between the adults and she remembered her family as having been quite isolated.

The experiences of the professional families had been somewhat different. Professional appointments had taken them away from their home bases, many to country towns. But even in the country there was less general coming and going with neighbours; friendships were more selective and tended to be based on community organisations and professional associations. Philip recalled that his mother had been involved in many community activities and, as a result, there were always lots of visitors and guests. Marjorie said: 'Mother belonged to lots of clubs and societies ... and these were an emotional support for her.' She also said: 'Mum and Dad didn't mix socially with the neighbours, but rather with their professional friends in the evenings. My parents formed a very tight family - they didn't rely on external help. They never really needed to - they were a very selfreliant pair.'

This could have been said by many of the respondents from better-off families. Th~y had money to pay for any services they needed, and, if they had no extended family nearby, they had plenty of friends through their contacts in the community to provide the social support needed. It is possible that they missed out on the warm communal relationships of the less affluent families in small country towns where sharing was a way of life and where children grew up with a sense of freedom and belonging.

The experience of two respondents may help to illustrate the influence of family background in shaping their subsequent lives.

Tom, one of a family of nine children, remembered a poor but happy childhood. He was a clever boy and, at some sacrifice to the family, he stayed at school to complete H.S.C. A month later his girlfriend found she was pregnant, so at eighteen he was married with a wife and child to support. Both families knew each other well and combined to help the young couple through their immediate difficulties. Tom's father found them a cheap house to rent and his father-in-law found him a temporary job. As Tom said:

We were a bit young to get married, but we took it in our stride. There was lots of love and help from both families and no blame. The families were very close friends and we never had to ask for help. They didn't interfere, either. Our parents had encountered a bit of interference early in their lives and didn't make the same mistake with us.

Nevertheless, the next year was difficult. Tom was able to get only casual jobs and was sometimes unemployed for periods of up to two months. Their prospects did not seem bright. Then, through a casual encounter with a former teacher at a football match, he discovered. that he could still go to university and claim a living allowance. He was encouraged to do so by the teacher and by both families. The living allowance was barely enough to live on in the city, but Tom found casual jobs and both families gave practical and, when necessary, financial support through his four years at university.

At the time of the interview, Tom was well established in his profession. Thus, for this young couple, early marriage and parenthood, which might have been a disaster, proved successful, largely because of the support they received from their families.

Jill's family was not well off and she remembered the area as being poor. However, her early childhood was happy and carefree with lots of playmates until her mother became seriously ill. 'By the age of nine,' she said, 'I was doing the cooking, cleaning the house, making the beds and minding the younger children.' There were no relatives nearby and she did not remember the family receiving help from neighbours or friends. When she married at twenty she experienced a great feeling of relief from family responsibility. She said: 'It was a dramatic change. We had lots of free time and we were only answerable to each other. We went away a lot at weekends and made spur-of-the-moment decisions to go to the pictures, dances and so on.' It is perhaps not surprising that fifteen years later Jill confessed that she was relieved that both her parents and parents-in-law had retired interstate - she had had enough of extended family responsibility.

The Families

Like their families of origin, the respondents' families, with one exception, could be described as happy and were based on stable marriages. The exception was Patricia's family, in which the father's unhappy relationship with his wife and children had had a destructive effect on the whole family, an effect mostly hidden behind a comfortable, middle-class exterior.

All the respondents were able to provide a secure home and good education for their children and, if the children did not have the carefree, communal childhoods some parents remembered, neither did they suffer the limitations poverty imposes. Most families had had their problems, some grievous ones like the death of a child, unemployment of children and severe depression, but, with the exception already mentioned, they had been able to cope with them.

The fathers of the ten families were engaged in a range of occupations - professional, business and skilled trades. Their annual incomes ranged from $18000 per annum to over $50000. In six families the mothers also worked, two full time and four part time. Sometimes the level of income was attained by working long hours and one partner (usually the wife) working at weekends. This cut down on social life and sometimes strained family relationships. Phyllis, who looked after her teenage family and worked part time, said: 'I suffer mainly from tension and overwork. I don't get any help from the family - I feel taken for granted a lot. I know I should stop doing so much or I may end up in a mental hospital.' The father of a family of young children said: 'My wife and I don't see enough of each other. She works every evening and some weekends.' The women in unskilled jobs said they worked because they needed the extra money, but those in professional jobs were committed to their professions and worked from choice rather than necessity.

The respondents covered a wide age range and consequently represented different stages in the family life cycle. Half were in their thirties or early forties with mostly school aged children; two were in their twenties with very young children; and three were in their early fifties with adolescent and adult children. All had two or three children except for the two older respondents who each had four children. All owned or were buying their own homes, which were adequate in size, comfortably furnished and in chosen locations.

Informal Support

Only three respondents had close relatives in Geelong. Help was given to and received from them, though in one upwardly mobile family there was some conflict in values between the respondent's family and her parents. Many respondents were close to their extended families and, although they did not live near enough to give everyday help, they had received a great deal of support and assis- tance over the years. A typical comment was: 'Our families were 180 miles away but they still gave us lots of emotional support'. Two respondents had found their parents a great help in periods of severe depression. Tom said that the emotional support given by his wife and parents had enabled him to 'battle through', otherwise he would have given up his teaching job. Parents also stood by in crises. When Philip's baby died his parents came immediately to give comfort and support. Also, they unobtrusively paid the funeral expenses.

Practical help given by the extended family took many forms. In many cases the mother or mother-in-law came to look after the household when the mother was ill or in hospital having a baby. Sheila said her mother -also came in busy holiday times to look after the children and this left her free to work in the practice. Others said their parents sometimes had their grandchildren to stay in the holidays, giving them a much-needed break. Phyllis had an uncle who was a builder and he had renovated their home while having a holiday himself. Families at the older end of the life-cycle were repeating patterns of support experienced when they were younger. For example, Sheila, whose mother had often come to help them out at an earlier stage, filled the same role for her children and grandchildren. They had reciprocated by giving her a great deal of help during a recent illness.

There were many other ways in which family help was given and received, but one underlying theme recurred: respondents felt that their parents were always there and that they could ask for help if the need arose. Tom summed this up as: 'We've always been able to rely on our families and it would be a reflex action to turn to them'.

In the one isolated and unhappy family in this group, the wife, Patricia, who badly needed someone to confide in, was unable to tell her parents about her problems, even when she returned to stay in her secure and happy childhood home. She said that her parents had never liked her husband and had opposed the marriage. In going ahead with the marriage against their advice she felt she had turned her back on the lifestyle and values in which she had been brought up (the word she used was 'betrayed') and by this choice she had cut herself off. She said:

It was like two different worlds: The loving atmosphere in which I was brought up with a happy, easy social life with friends and relatives, and the world of meanness about money, male domination and suspicion of other people. I had to live in the world I had chosen in my marriage.

Another important aspect of family help was when setting up home. Four respondents had received substantial gifts or loans towards the deposits on their first houses. These were mostly young professional people, commencing careers, who otherwise would have had to save for several years before purchasing a home. Those who had started work at fifteen had acquired savings towards deposits by the time they married.

Only two families had adult children who had left home. Sheila, and her husband had given both their married children interest-free loans for their first home; Mary and her husband had completely supported two sons while they were at university in another state.

Nine of the families had moved to Geelong and six of them knew no one when they had arrived. All but one had established strong social networks. For many, their first contacts had been with colleagues and workmates, all of whom had been friendly and helpful in the settling-in process. When Philip took up his first teaching job he received a lot of support from colleagues, particularly when renovating the old house he had bought.

Families with young children often found their early social contacts through kindergarten and school. Mary knew no one when she arrived in Geelong with her husband and two young children. Her first contacts were with parents of children at kindergarten and school. Once settled, she was bored so she rang the principal of the school to ask if there was anything she could do. Soon afterwards she was asked to be secretary of the parents' association which, she said, helped greatly to develop arid cement social contacts. Philip, whose early friends had been work-related, said that their social contacts had widened when their children started school. Friendships, especially for his wife, had developed through sharing transport and attending the parents' association meetings and social functions.

Play groups and baby sitting clubs were also useful meeting places. Marjorie, who helped to set up a baby-sitting cooperative soon after her arrival in Geelong, said: 'It was fabulous. There were fifteen of us in the club, all from this area. We got to know each other really well and backed each other up in all sorts of ways.'

Cathie, who had returned to Geelong after being away for nine years, came back to the same house in which she had grown up. It says something about the stability of Geelong as a community that she was able to move back into the group of family, friends and neighbours she had known all her life.

Jill and her husband had had a spastic baby before moving to Geelong. They decided to put him on the DomanDelacato program of intense exercises and stimulation which requires many people to carry it through. They had no friends in Geelong so the respondent wrote to local churches, sporting clubs, youth organisations and school groups asking for volunteers. She received ninety offers of help and said: 'The volunteers were terrific. They were reliable, enthusiastic and offered a shoulder to cry on.' They had been a great source of strength when the child died, and many had remained close friends.

Respondents were somewhat ambivalent in their attitudes to neighbours. Most were on good terms but contact tended to be limited to chats over the garden fence, lending an axe or watching over each other's houses at holiday times. There were comments such as: 'They don't share our interests; We don't have much to do with our neighbourswe prefer to keep to ourselves; I don't believe in living in the neighbours' pockets.' Nevertheless, several said they could always rely on help in a crisis. Some gave help with heavy tasks to older neighbours, and there was some sharing of transport. Sheila said that the neighbours had been very friendly when they first arrived and, together with the local church group, had helped them to settle in quickly and feel at home. For the most part, attitudes reflected to a greater or lesser degree the value placed on privacy and self-reliance.

In addition to their early contacts, which provided the families with a firm foothold in their new community, other affiliations and connections led to a widening circle of friendships and mutual help. Respondents and their families belonged to a wide variety of community and sports organisations. The one exception was Patricia's family who were by far the most isolated, mainly because of the nature of their unhappiness.

Most had no extended family network in Geelong and so depended largely on friends for everyday support. They gave each other many kinds of practical help on a reciprocal basis. One of the commonest was various forms of child care. Philip, whose first child was born soon after they arrived in Geelong, said that his colleagues and their wives had passed on bassinettes, prams and baby clothes, and had given his wife confidence. Several families helped each other with child minding on a regular basis, others had friends on whom they could call when they wanted to go out. These mothers did not have to care for young children all day every day. If they did so, they did it from choice.

A few families had a different attitude to this give and take of help. Although they had friends and neighbours whom they could ask to mind the children, they did so only in an emergency or on a special occasion. Cathie, who placed great value on independence, had a sister and lifelong friends nearby, but only asked once or twice a year 'for weddings and funerals': She preferred to manage herself. Doreen often looked after other people's children but had never asked them to look after hers: 'I wouldn't feel comfortable asking them or having them look after my children.'

Many other kinds of practical help were given. Phyllis was baking and cooking for a friend who had broken her leg. Sheila said that during a recent illness 'people had been· terrific'. Family, friends and neighbours had given emotional support and help with shopping, cooking and ironing. Tom had been out of action when they moved into their first home. Six of his football team mates 'turned up with utes and did the whole job'.

Families who belonged to local churches had found them good places to meet people and to make friends. Perhaps the most all-embracing mutual support was experienced by Marjorie's family who joined a Pentecostal Church. They found in it not only a source of spiritual and emotional strength but also a closely knit group of very supportive friends. Marjorie said:

Help is always available whether for child minding, advice on family problems or putting a window in the family room. There is a lot of social interaction with barbecues, twenty-first birthday parties, etc. The children are catered for and there is a strong feeling of involvement for us all. Now we are faced with the possibility of my husband losing his job at top level management. It has affected the family very much emotionally. It is very trying -like being in limbo land. A pressure on the family. We are closely involved with the church and our main strength is there and in prayer.

It is clear that practical help was often combined with personal and what respondents often called moral support. This was true in cases of illness and especially for the two families who had experienced the death of a child. Both had relied heavily on their friends. Mary said she offered 'personal and emotional support, sometimes continuously for a year, to friends who have separated' but realised that this had often fallen short of what was needed. She had also worked locally as an honorary probation officer and with other community groups. She said such work sometimes led to strong social support systems to which she contributed and from which she benefited.

It was significant that many of these families, in addition to their close friends, had a wide range of acquaintances through their sporting, social and community activities. Consequently, when they had a problem there was usually someone who was knowledgeable they could ask for advice. Tom was given valuable help in buying his first home by a real estate agent he knew through a sports club. Phyllis, whose adolescent daughter was going through behavioural problems, had a friend in Lifeline who could advise them what to do and refer them to a counsellor. Jill had a friend in a finance company who gave useful advice about buying a business.

Another area in which community contacts were important was employment. When Tom started his course on a T.E.A.S. allowance, they had only $6 a week after paying rent. Through a college friend he got a place on a local football team for which he was paid $40 a week. Then a supporter of the team offered him a casual job. Later another student friend found him a permanent part-time job. These jobs, all obtained through his friendship network, together with some financial help from parents and parentsin- law, . enabled him to complete his four-year course. He said that he now used his wide community contacts to try to get jobs for his students.

The families with adult children also used community contacts to help them to find jobs. In one family a son had gone straight into a business through a contact of his father at the Lions Club. A mother said she had 'pulled strings' to get her son an apprenticeship. Some respondents also said that belonging to service clubs had helped them to get established in their business or profession.

Formal support

One interviewer concluded the transcript of an interview with:

This is a very secure family. They are comfortably off, completely own their own very comfortable home, enjoy excellent health, have no financial, marital or other problems. They have only used services when they had to, for example, doctors and hospitals when their three children were born. They have extended family and lifelong friends living close by. The respondent said at the end of the interview 'I like to keep to myself within the family'.

Although this family was an extreme example of selfreliance, most families in this group wanted to meet their needs within their own circle of family and friends. Nevertheless, when they felt that services would be useful, they had no hesitation about using them, and through their contacts they knew where to go.

All families had used health services when their children were born, and all had been satisfied with the care they had received from doctors and hospitals. Jill was particularly impressed by the trouble the doctors had taken to reassure them that the child born after their spastic baby was normal and healthy.

All had also used their local Infant Welfare Centre as a matter of routine and had found it excellent. As well as monitoring the health of their babies, the sister was a valuable contact with whom the mother could raise any problems and who could, if necessary, act as a referral point to other services. Philip and his wife: had been profoundly shocked by their baby's sudden death. The sister was a strong support, and she also realised that the mother needed more than sympathy. She and the general practitioner arranged for her to be admitted to a clinic for two weeks where she could rest and receive treatment. She also arranged for the older child to be looked after in a day creche, and for the Home Help Service to help with housekeeping.

Other families with special needs did not view health services in such a favourable light. Jill had taken the initiative to put her spastic child on the Doman-Delacato program. She contrasted the positive support given by the program and the volunteers with the 'remote and clinical attitude of the doctors and nurses who had no emotional involvement with the treatment'. The doctor did, however, refer her to the Home Help Service and to a special centre for spastic children. She also received the handicapped children's allowance which' helped meet the cost of the program. She was visited regularly by social workers which 'didn't help much except that I could blow off steam'.

Jill said she had needed a service that could have looked after the child for the occasional weekend while she had a rest. She said that she could have had him admitted to hospital any time, but felt that this would have been too clinical. The volunteers would have been willing to look after him, but she felt this would have been imposing on them. Through one of the volunteers she heard of Mercy Family Care and they arranged to have the child cared ·for in a home environment while the family had a much-needed holiday. Although Jill had received considerable help from health services, she also needed the personal support of volunteers and Mercy Care to supplement the assistance provided by formal services.

Mary was very critical of geriatric services in Geelong. She was working full time, looking after her family including her eighty-five-year-old mother, with very little help from what she described as a hotch-potch of services. She said: 'There is a lot of talk about helping elderly people to stay at home but there is no visiting team of doctors and nurses and other services. Even Meals on Wheels is hard to get if we have to be away for a few days.'

Only one family had had serious psychiatric problems, but several had had minor episodes for which medical help had been sought. Although the Dax House psychiatric clinic had helped Philip's wife after her baby had died suddenly, and Jill had been visited by social workers, respondents with non-medical problems had not fared so well. Phyllis consulted her doctor about a behavioural problem of one of her children but he appeared uninterested so she sought help elsewhere. Later she felt overworked and imposed upon by her family. She felt she was on the edge of a nervous breakdown and went to her doctor who merely prescribed tablets which had her 'living in another world'. Phyllis said that she found more help talking to her mother and to other friends who had suffered from depression. She decided to throwaway the tablets and 'worked through it myself'. The family with acute psychiatric problems did not get near a psychiatric service until irreparable damage had been done. The father would not acknowledge that any problem existed and the mother was unable to assert herself.

Only Marjorie had used full-time child care, at a time when she had only one child and was working full time. She said it was an excellent child care centre, otherwise she would not have gone back to work. Since the arrival of two more children, she had employed someone to care for them at home. This solution had also been adopted by two other women who had continued to work professionally when their children were young.

The use of child-care services was closely tied up with attitudes to mothers working. Three different attitudes were found in this group. One was that mothers with young children should stay at home. Phyllis said: 'It never entered my head to work. 1 thought 1 should be around when the children were young.' Cathie believed strongly that children should be cared for in their own families and she would not consider handing them over to 'strangers'. Another attitude recognised that mothers might need to work to augment the family income, but thought this should be part time, in the evenings or at weekends, when their children could be minded by the father. Yet another recognised that women might want to work for their own personal fulfilment and might be as committed to their professions as their husbands. This attitude was found only in professional families. Marjorie summed it up: 'I am aware of suppressing my personal needs until the children are older. 1 would like to take more responsibility, to do more study and have more mental stimulation. However, my family commitment is too important, especially with the children still being young.' Mary believed that having a responsible job made her a more interesting person. Her husband always encouraged her to work and her children also took an interest in her job.

It seems likely that readily available child care services would have given more of these women the option of working either full or part time without imposing on friends or relatives.

These families, with one exception, were efficient at coping with their problems. They sought solutions actively and used a range of services. For example, a family whose child was in trouble at school consulted their friend in Lifeline and were put in touch with an appropriate counsellor. He discussed the problem with them and suggested some books which they found helpful. They also went to see the principal and, after discussion, agreed that the child should be referred to the Psychology. and Guidance Branch of the Education Department. Thus, in a situation which could have led to confrontation between the school, the parents and the child, there was a cooperative attempt to understand the problem and deal positively with it.

Jill had to devote so much time to her spastic child that she was worried that their older child might feel neglected during the school holidays. She enquired at the school about holiday programs and enrolled the child at the Y.W.C.A. This worked out well for both mother and daughter. Sheila, who had an epileptic child, spent some time 'educating the teacher' about how to treat his disability. As a result, he did well at primary school. When he went to high school she could not get the same level of cooperation and it was 'hopeless for him'. The parents then consulted a friend who knew a lot about schools in Geelong and he suggested a church school where classes were smaller and there was more individual attention. This worked out well and the boy was able to complete his H.S.C.

In Mary's family the youngest son wanted to leave school at sixteen to get a job. The parents wanted him to complete H.S.C but felt that it would be better for him to make the decision himself. They encouraged him to go to the C.E.S. to explore the job market and assess his chances without H.S.C He returned to school. In the August holidays they encouraged him to visit his brothers who were interstate at university. This gave him an incentive to continue to study. While there he got his driving licence and when he returned was allowed to borrow the car. This increased his sense of independence, and he appeared sufficiently motivated to complete H.S.C This example shows not so much use of services as the ability of these families to resolve problems before they became too difficult. It also shows the options open to families with sufficient money.

These families had not had much contact with welfare services but several had used the C.E.S. Phiiip said he had registered with the C.E.S. between jobs but had always found another job through friends or by applying himself. The older families had all experienced the anxiety of having children unemployed after they left school. Phyllis's son had been unemployed for six months. She said he had applied for innumerable jobs and went to the C.E.S. every other day. She had spent many days driving him to the C.E.S., to shops, factories and timber yards looking for work. Finally he got a job through the C.E.S. The families were able to provide considerable support for their unemployed children. They had the capacity to seek a solution to a problem and the resources to carry it through.

Patricia's unhappy family was the exception to the rule. As already noted, this family not only had the most needs but also the least lik~lihood of receiving help from informal networks or formal services. This was because of the nature of the problem and the insidious way in which it had developed.

The root of their trouble was the relationship of the father with his wife and children. The relationship between husband and wife began with an overbearing man married to a dependent woman, many years his junior, and it continued through his systematic undermining of her scanty selfconfidence, resulting after some years in his complete personal and economic domination of her. His relationship with his children began tolerably when they were entirely dependent, but continued uneasily through their early schooling with growing repressiveness, meanness and denigration of their efforts. He cut off the children's contact with others by refusing to allow them to play with neighbours' children, going so far as to padlock their gate to keep other children out. Not surprisingly, crises in the relationship flared when the children reached adolescence with scenes of overt hatred and physical violence. This pattern was repeated as each child came to adolescence and adulthood.

One direct effect was the rapid deterioration at about Year Eleven of what had originally been promising school careers, resulting in failures or bare passes at H.S.C. for the older children who did not get a place at a Melbourne university, their only chance of escaping from home. Both older boys dropped out of the tertiary courses they did undertake. One had been unemployed for more than two years and had largely cut himself off from his family by spending most of the day in bed. The other had a part-time job.

The first contact with services, apart from an unsuccessful attempt by the mother to communicate to her eldest son's teachers that his poor academic performance was due to the traumas at home, came through one of the many episodes of the father's bizarre behaviour. He had a row with his youngest son, aged fifteen, which ended in a fight during which the father tripped and fell heavily. He telephoned the police and charged his son with assault. The sergeant who answered the call talked to both father and son very sensibly and kindly but, of course, that didn't change anything. Some months later there was another episode with the police, this time with the Criminal Investigation Department. The father had a well-equipped garage which he refused to allow the boys to use. In his absence, the younger boy, who loved working on old cars, picked the lock and used some of the tools. The father charged him with breaking and entering, saying 'I'll put you in gaol this time'. The C.I.D. officers took the matter seriously and referred both father and son to the social work department of the Community Welfare Service. The social worker called the parents and the boy to a meeting, and at last some of the problems were brought to light. The social worker seems to have done a good job. He told the father he should recognise that the boy was growing up, allow him access to the workshop and give him regular pocket money. He also referred them to a family counselling service for family therapy. The two who appeared to need counselling most, the father and eldest son, refused to go, but the mother and the other children had found it very helpful in understanding what was going on in their family, and in giving them techniques for coping and for living their own lives. Patricia said it had made her feel a person again and had helped her to begin to build up her self-confidence and make a new life for herself. She now attended a group for self-development and self-assertion.

One of the troubling things about the story of this family was that the destructive process of mental cruelty and physical violence went on for so long before anything was done about it. As the children grew up it was impossible to conceal the situation completely - it was known to, for example, the staff at the schools, their doctor, their solicitor, and the minister and leaders in their church. Yet nothing was done. Help was offered-at times for specific things: the church group offered to pay for one of the children, who was being victimised, to board at school; the doctor suggested psychiatric help; but these came to nothing. The family's experience highlights the problem of violence in the home, and it is not easy to see how services might have come to the rescue earlier. Perhaps if there had been a recognised centre in the community with responsibility for investigating violence in the home, those who knew about the family's troubles would have had somewhere to refer them, or it might have been approached by a family member.

With one exception, this group of families had sufficient personal, social and financial resources to meet their needs. All had come from secure family backgrounds and remembered their childhoods as happy, even though some families had been poor. It was interesting to see how family patterns repeated themselves in the next generation. For example, those who had received a lot of help from their parents and relatives were ready to pass on the same sort of support to their children; those whose parents had put great emphasis on independence were likely to say: 'I like to keep to myself within the family'; those who had grown up in the easy, communal relationship of a small country town seemed to make friends with ease wherever they went.

These families were good at dealing with their problems. They had the ability to tackle them promptly, and their contacts in the community and their financial resources often enabled them to find acceptable solutions. They had strong networks of family and friends to give them support and they preferred to rely on these rather than on outside help. (The positive value of such a network was underlined by the experiences of the one family that did not have one.) Nevertheless, they were prepared to use services when they thought they were needed, and were usually successful in obtaining good service.

In general, attitudes were well summed up in the words of one respondent: 'Help from family and friends is best, but on some occasions professional help is also needed.'

6. Summing up

6. Summing up

These case studies of sixty-four families provide abundant evidence of the significant extent to which the extended family, often reinforced by friends and neighbours, continues to give practical, emotional and financial help to its members. Although most respondents said that they would turn first to family and friends, most admitted that there were times when outside help was also required.

The study also showed the importance of family support services to supplement, or substitute for, the resources of the extended family. There was also evidence that many families had a strong desire to be independent and were reluctant to use services except in emergencies. They tended to regard services not as potential partners with the family but as alternatives to family care.

The case studies provided a wealth of information about the ways in which diverse groups of families meet their everyday needs and cope with crises. They showed great variation in the families' capacity to create and maintain informal networks. The underlying reasons for this were many and complex, but some tentative conclusions may be drawn. The following factors emerged as significant.

Respondents who had grown up in warm, closely knit families were likely to continue these good relationships into adt,dt life and thereby have strong networks of parents and siblings which were especially effective for those with family nearby. There were many examples of help with such basic needs as setting up house, finding jobs, caring for children and coping with family problems. Even when too far away to give everyday assistance the extended family helped on particular occasions such as illness or the birth of a baby. Many respondents said that knowing such help was available and could be relied upon gave them a sense of security.

There were two groups of families without such support: immigrants whose relatives were overseas, and families in which parents had grown up in unhappy homes and did not get on well with parents or siblings. The latter tended to lead to similarly poor relationships when the children of such families had families of their own.

The nature of the families' problems was also important. Those whose needs were predictable and commonly experienced, and did not involve too much revelation of personal problems, were usually able to meet them within their own networks. But other needs were 'unpredictable, not socially acceptable and, in many cases, likely to be long term, such as alcoholism, domestic yiolence, psychiatric problems and poverty. In these situations sometimes even the extended family backed away and friends were wary of becoming involved.

Although most informal help is not calculated on a barter basis, those families who could reciprocate were more likely to have supportive networks. Many respondents made friendly contacts through kindergarten and school mothers' clubs where useful give and take of help could be arranged at very little cost to giver and receiver. Immigrant families who had saved to buy land and build their own houses were in a strong position to offer advice to other immigrants about loans, permits and how and where to buy building materials.

On the other hand, poverty made it difficult for some families to develop such networks, partly because they had few material resources to offer, partly because, in a consumer oriented society, they felt ill at ease with their more affluent neighbours and with groups such as school moth- ers' clubs. Respondents from poor families, especially single mothers, found such groups 'stuck up' and unwelcoming, and after a first visit often did not return. In this consumer society many poor families felt alienated by poverty which prevented them from gaining access to the normal social supports enjoyed by others. Interestingly, respondents who had been the children of poor families during the Depression said that it had not mattered then because all around them were poor as well.

For all families, the workplace was a very important focus for social contacts. Families who had moved to Geelong to take up professional or business appointments usually made their first social links through colleagues. The immigrant families often made their Australian contacts at work and through them found out about services and acquired information about life in Geelong. The importance of the workplace was perhaps most clearly demonstrated in the lives of the unemployed whose social networks tended to be limited. Unemployed school le avers were denied the opportunity to find workmates. and in some cases their only social contacts were their family and other unemployed young people. Older men and women found that their social life more or less collapsed when they lost their jobs.

The barrier of language tended to limit the friendships of immigrants to others who spoke their own languages. Ethnic associations and clubs were very important meeting places where they made friends, enjoyed social activities and gained information about jobs, housing and other important services.

Many of the families interviewed belonged to community groups and organisations such as service clubs, youth clubs, local churches, sports clubs and drama groups. Families who belonged to a local church often found there warm and supportive friendships. This was especially true of the secttype churches which provided exclusive and closely knit fellowship. Some families who were isolated and beset by crushing problems found in this fellowship complete acceptance and all the support they needed.

All these groups and associations gave people the opportunity to widen their circle of friends, thereby enriching the social life of the family and providing opportunities to give and receive help.

In addition to these factors, the case studies also show that indefinable qualities of personality and capacity for friendship were sometimes the over-riding factors. Some respondents created strong networks in the most unpromising circumstances. Those who were active participators in the community, whether through sport, schools, church groups, cultural activities or the workplace, were most likely to have a wide circle of acquaintances from which usually emerged a smaller group of close friends.

The ability to develop a socially active lifestyle was strongly influenced by family background and upbringing. Those respondents who had grown up in families with strong social links and much giving and receiving of help from friends and neighbours were likely to reproduce the same patterns; those from families with few links outside the home were likely to remain isolated when they had homes of their own. An exception was the immigrant families, many of whom found it difficult to build support networks among Australians but tended to find them within their own ethnic or language groups.

In summary, the case studies suggest that if family support is viewed as being a continuum, at one end are those families who maintain good relationships inside and outside the home, and who have relatives and friends with whom they exchange help and share social activities. Such families are well provided with informal support. At the other end are the families who have few relatives or friends, little or no informal support and who are isolated from the community. It often seemed that the families whose needs were greatest received the least help, and the very problems which created the need, such as alcoholism and domestic violence, were among the chief causes of their isolation.

The case studies also show that poverty was a major factor underlying the isolation of many families, and limiting their ability to offer help, thus making it more difficult for them to ask for or accept it. Poverty also limited some families' opportunities to participate in social and sporting activities. In this respect, the poor immigrant families were better off than their Australian counterparts as their ethnic clubs provided social activities at low cost and were congenial meeting places for families.

It was not unusual for an interviewer to say of a poor Australian family: 'No member of this family belongs to any club or organisation.' Such restrictions of social activities narrowed the circle of friends and contacts and threw the family back on its own resources. The comfortably off families presented a different picture. In many cases both parents and children were involved in sporting and social activities which widened their contacts and gave them access to useful information.

It would be misleading to say that participation in social activities was limited to middle-class families. Many workingclass families took an active part in sporting activities, school parents' clubs, voluntary organisations and church groups. However, it appeared that better-off families were more likely to be involved in clubs and organisations than poorer families. The latter were often unsure (perhaps even touchy) as to whether they would be welcome among the more affluent and, in any case, they had no money to spare.

Another isolating effect of poverty was the low selfesteem it imposed on families, which all too often was handed down from parents to children. Parents brought up in socially deprived families tended to reproduce the same pattern. Women whose early life had been made miserable by drunken and violent fathers still married drunken and violent husbands.

As with most generalisations, there were exceptions. Some poor families \\"ho had few contacts outside the home found all the support they needed within the family. The struggle to survive drew the family close together and so enabled them to cope with their problems and maintain their self-respect.

However, most families thrown back entirely on their own resources found their problems more than they could manage and often gave up the struggle to seek solutions. The more fortunate found their way to one of the services; the less fortunate might have said, in the words of one: 'There is no one who can help ... No one.'

When looking at the support given by services it must be borne in mind that the information given was subjective, and that many of the situations described had taken place much earlier, so memory may have been selective. However, although we have only one side of the story, it is an extremely important side.

There was a marked difference between attitudes to health and welfare services. Most families had used health services without hesitation and most were satisfied with them, even when the service offered seemed limited. Some who had long periods of illness found the costs, including drugs, a burden. Immigrant families also had language problems and often felt they did not understand the system. The situation was transformed for those who found a doctor who spoke their language.

The general practitioner was the most important element in the health care system for most families. Respondents often referred to him or her as 'our family doctor' to whom they turned for help and advice on many, including nonmedical, problems. They usually found a sympathetic ear but not always the best referrals. Patients whose problems were largely social, requiring social support, were often either offered drugs such as valium or referred to psychiatrists.

Usually, hospitals provided little beyond adequate medical care. Most patients were satisfied with the treatment received, although there were the usual complaints about being kept waiting, the impersonal attitude of medical staff and the lack of information on prognosis and treatment. In marked contrast, all who had been involved with the Dax House psychiatric centre spoke very highly of the care that patients had received and the support given to the family.

Those who had used Community Health Centres for primary health care found that a wider range of services was available to them than to those who had used only general practitioners or hospitals. The Centres also offered more in the way of broader support for patients and families, including financial, marriage and personal counselling.

The better-off families made use of other professional services when the need arose. They negotiated housing loans with banks and building societies, used solicitors when they purchased property and for such matters as divorce and compensation claims. Poorer families used legal services only when they had to, and most had been able to get legal aid to enable them to do so. Most families were reluctant to use welfare services other than those concerned with pensions and benefits.

Almost all those who were unemployed registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service. Those who had a reasonable level of education or some skill to offer were usually referred for job interviews; those who had no skills often did not get that far. Most respondents acknowledged that the C.E.S. could not find jobs when none were available, but generally the service was felt to be unhelpful. Parents criticised it for not doing more in the way of providing job training, meetings for unemployed young people and opportunities for them to do community work.

Most respondents eligible for pensions and benefits had used the Department of Social Security. The exceptions were three women who had left their husbands and wanted to prove they could manage on their own. The chief complaint about the Department was of mistakes made in its cheques and the difficulty of having them corrected. This applied particularly to those who declared casual jobs and then found it difficult to get the benefit resumed. Some poor families who had been overpaid by the Department suffered hardship when ordered to repay large sums.

Overall, neither the C.E.S. nor the Department of Social Security was regarded by respondents as a place they would seek help. Rather, they were seen as uncaring bureaucracies with the power to cut off or reduce the payments on which people depended, and as indifferent to their needs.

The Community Welfare Services' Department had been used by several families and, it was felt, had usually provided a good service. Some families with long-standing needs had their problems resolved only when they were referred to this Department. Others with intractable problems, such as juvenile delinquency, were critical of the· delays and lack of support. Many who needed the Department's help had never been in contact with it.

Several poor families had used voluntary agencies for emergency aid when they had no money for food or rent. They also found them a useful source of cheap furniture and clothes. All said that the services had been helpful and as little humiliating as possible. These agencies also provided valuable family support services such as child care, family. counselling and therapy, and family aides. In many cases, the agencies had not only helped families through crises but had also provided on-going support to enable them to get on their feet again. Voluntary agencies were providing imaginative and innovative services for families, helping people to bu'ild up their self-esteem and establish their own support networks. Regrettably, many families who needed this support did not find it, or did so only when a crisis occurred.

Most families had made little use of formal child care services. This was partly because most mothers gave up paid work during their first pregnancy and did not return to it - if at all- until the youngest child went to school. They regarded running the home and bringing up their children as their job, and even those who went back to paid work felt that they should be home when their children returned from school. Mothers found kindergartens a useful support, not only by taking the children off their hands for some hours each day, but also as centres where they could get advice about problems and where they made friends among other mothers. At their best, the kindergartens provided a partnership between family and service which supplemented the family's resources for caring for their children. Unfortunately, the poorer families, especially the single parent ones, tended not to use kindergartens, either because they could not afford them or because they lacked the initiative to seek them out.

Most of the single parents had decided to live on the supporting paren~'s benefit which, though inadequate, could be relied upon and carried valuable fringe benefits. Often they had no option because of the lack of jobs, especially for the unskilled. If they took part-time jobs they risked losing part or all of their benefits. Also, the lack of child-care services inhibited them from seeking employP1ent. So they were locked into a life of poverty and sole responsibility for caring for their children.

Those mothers who had had professional training were more likely to continue with their careers and to use childcare services, although some with more than one pre-school child preferred to employ a woman to care for them at home. Only a few of the mothers who worked from necessity used child-care centres. Most preferred to leave children with a relative (usually a mother or sister), or work shifts in the evenings or weekends when the father could look after the children. This practice, which put great strain on families, was followed by many immigrant families where two wages were needed to secure the family home.

The case studies indicated that many of the families who had not used child care would have benefited froin it. Life would have been easier for some of the hard-pressed working mothers if there had been a child-care centre close by where they could have left their children at a cost they could afford. Such a service might have made it possible to avoid evening and weekend work.

The non-working mothers also would have benefited from easily available child-care centres where they could have left their children for a few hours ~hen they needed a respite and the freedom to pursue some activity outside the home. The families who were not coping well, especially those where all the care devolved upon one parent, would have benefited greatly from child care. Locally based centres could perform the same parent support service as the kindergartens, but for younger children whose care often creates more stress on parents.

Most families found out about services by word of mouth, usually through a friend or relative. Perhaps such referrals were more acceptable and more likely to be followed than more impersonal ones. This underlines the importance of publicising services widely throughout the community. The workplace also played an important part in directing people to services. Sometimes the information came through workmates, sometimes through an industrial chaplain or nurse. The workplace was especially important for immigrants, who often had few other sources of information and were more likely to accept suggestions from workmates than from professionals. Ethnic associations and shops also served the same purpose. Sometimes respondents were referred by other agencies, statutory and voluntary, and the close cooperation among services in Geelong facilitated their finding the most appropriate service once an initial contact had been made. Several had used services after learning of them through media community announcements and advertisements.

Perhaps the most notable gap in the referral cover was between health and support services, except in the ·case of Community Health Centres. Doctors, working within the medical model, usually referred patients under stress to medical specialists, rather than to family support services. Hospitals seemed to take little responsibility for the circumstances of their patients at discharge or for their family'S capacity to care for them. Respondents who had used Community Health Centres for primary health care had a much wider range of welfare as well as health services available to them.

Police appeared to have played an ambivalent role in relation to support services. In the case of one middle-class family they had initiated a process that led to problems being taken in hand by welfare services. However, most of their contacts had been with poorer families where they appeared to have acted mainly as law enforcers with little concern for family problems that lay behind the law breaking. This was particularly true for those young unemployed caught up in petty crime. For many of these families the police were the only pathway by which help might have reached them, but the relationships were hostile, with police generally regarded as enemies.

Far too often help from support services became available only when a crisis occurred and the family was at breaking point. Had their problems received attention earlier they might have been more easily resolved and much needless suffering prevented.

Planners and providers of support services would agree that prevention is better than cure. Further, that if prevention of crisis is not possible, cure may be long, costly and even impossible. So, why were family support services so much crisis oriented? The case studies indicate that the answer lies in two areas; the attitudes of families towards seeking help, and the services themselves.

One of the strongly recurring themes was the value placed on independence and self-reliance. There were many cases where help was needed but was not sought or was even refused when offered. Such needs included simple practical help, such as home help when a mother was sick, as well as more complex needs, such as counselling when relationships between husband and wife or parents and child were causing conflict. For many, seeking help from services was seen as an admission of failure, an inability to live up to accepted standards. Another inhibiting factor for some was the fear of losing their autonomy - of the services taking over and allowing them little or no say in the outcome: 'It's safer to keep things to yourself.'

Some families whose problems overwhelmed their resources took refuge in apathy and passivity. Often they had little awareness of the services available or ability to find out about them. It is significant that the better-off families were more prepared to use services. They were confident that they could ask for help or advice without compromising their independence or their right to make their own decisions. When a problem arose they usually tried to resolve it promptly and, if outside help was needed, they had useful contacts through their informal networks.

Of the family support services themselves, most were so fully extended providing crisis and emergency care that they did not have the resources to undertake the outreach necessary for preventive care. As already indicated, the case studies provided many examples of families who survived crises and resolved their problems through the support of family services. It seemed to be assumed that it was up to the family to find the service.

When families needing help were in contact with statutory services the services appeared more concerned with carrying out their statutory function of income support, testing eligibility and enforcing regulations, than with meeting the needs of families or referring them to other agencies. They were not, therefore, places where families said they would turn for help. This is well illustrated in the case studies of the young unemployed. Those who had access to career and employment counselling services at university or technical institutes received a valuable service which enabled them to understand the. options open to them, whereas those who tried to get advice from the c.E.S. said they were either put off or given some pamphlets to read.

In general, the experiences of these families in their contacts with bureaucracy was similar to that described by Jean Martin:

'The material gives the unequivocal impression of the apartness of families and bureaucracies... Bureaucracies have a life of their own. They exist to maintain this life as much as to serve, and to the extent that they serve they take account only of the relevant segment of the ' individual's experiences, not the individual as a whole, nor the individual as a family member.'*
'Martin, J. L, 'Family and Bureaucracy' in Price, C. A. (ed.), Greeks in Australia, A.N.U.P., Canberra, 1975, pp. 234-40.

Perhaps it was their failure to be concerned with the needs of the family, beyond satisfying the letter of their statutory commitment, that resulted in families not being referred to other support agencies by the statutory services.

The relationship between informal and formal support is the crux of this study. Both are needed for the well-being of the family: informal support was the preferred source of help for most needs, and formal services to supplement it and to provide options in particular circumstances.

The case studies gave evidence of the importance of providing options. Even in the closely knit families there were occasions when outside help was preferable and more effective, and the possibility of taking advantage of it gave the family a sense of security. The give and take of informal support worked best when people were not solely dependent on it but could choose the kind of help they wanted to give or receive. In some cases respondents with longstanding needs felt bitter when the extended family could no longer maintain the high level of practical and emotional support needed. It is likely that if part of the burden had been taken by services, such as child care, the informal networks would have continued in their caring role, thus avoiding a break in family relationships. Unfortunately, in many cases, formal support was not seen as an option until informal support had been withdrawn.

Family support services also had an important role to play in helping those families that found it difficult to build their own informal networks. Community-based services which straddle both formal and informal networks were especially well placed to break down the isolation of such families. In Victoria over the past. decade community-based services such as child-care cooperatives, neighbourhood houses and financial counselling, have demonstrated their potential for promoting individual identity and participation in the community. The case studies provided ample evidence of the dangers of isolation and alienation and the need to provide opportunities for people to meet and work together at the local level, to increase their self-confidence and capacity to build support networks. In practice, some input from services appeared necessary in low-income areas to initiate and support networks which the better-off families were generally able to generate for themselves. In one respondent's words:

I believe that the best way to give and receive support is through community-based groups, for example, through schools, ethnic organisations etc. where people are involved on both a personal friendship and community level. In such organisations a wide range of expertise is potentially available for people to use and share in trying to overcome both individual and community problems. Such community developments should be subsidised by government funds.

Making community services available does not mean that all isolated and friendless families will find or use them. Some agencies working with socially deprived families direct their efforts towards providing them with a volunteer family in the same neighbourhood to befriend them, draw them into community activities and link them with appropriate facilities and services. Social intervention has its perils as well as its positive potentials and needs much skilled professional support, but it may be the most effective way of overcoming isolation and reaching out to families who have no relatives or friends to help them. Such services reinforce the emphasis now being placed on the value of informal support and the role which formal services can play in helping families to build it.

Another type of service is needed by those families with long-standing and intractable problems such as alcoholism, domestic violence or psychiatric illness. Such problems lay a heavy burden on the family and are often too demanding and difficult for informal support. Their needs are best met by associations and groups of people experiencing the same problems, such as AI-Anon. Such groups not only bring friendship and mutual support, but also enable families to realise that other people have the same problems and that they can learn much from each other and create a special kind of informal support network.

All these require a partnership between formal and informal support networks, each accepting the value of the other. The effectivene,ss of this partnership depends to a large extent on adequate and reliable funding for support services, which are still the Cinderellas of both state and federal governments and can be cut by arbitrary decisions, as happened in Victoria in 1984 when funds to subsidise kindergartens for children under four were cut, depriving families of a valuable service. Community services are particularly vulnerable to such decisions and families who have worked together to set up services to meet local needs can find themselves literally, as well as metaphorically, left holding the baby.

Clearer pathways are needed to link families with services, so that families can find help with problems before they become crises and services can reach out to vulnerable families. Even the isolated families had contacts with welfare services such as the Department of Social Security and the Commonwealth Employment Service, and with nonwelfare staff such as infant welfare sisters, child care workers, teachers and general practitioners. The staff of such services, 'caretakers' they are sometimes called, often know when families are under stress but do not know how or where to refer them and are reluctant to become involved in case they cannot cope with the demands. If family support services were readily available, such 'caretakers' could become effective links with families, who would at least, know where help was available.

The directors of two family support services in Geelong said their resources were already strained to breaking point and they dared not publicise the services more widely because they could not cope with an influx of families. It would be futile to create more effective links between families and services unless the latter had adequate resources to meet the needs.

Child care is one of the most essential family support services and is a good model for partnership between formal and informal networks. It can supplement a family's resources for the demanding task of caring for pre-school children; it can reach out to isolated families and bring them into a group at the same stage of the life-cycle and so be a focus for creating informal networks; it can provide a link with other services; it can give families a choice of the kind of help they want with child minding, and it can give women a real option of going out to work or staying at home with their children. Yet this vital support service exists only patchily. There seems good grounds for argument that it should be on a geographical grid like infant welfare centres or state schools, which are within reach of all families.

Family support services are more needed than ever as more and more families fall into poverty in our affluent society. National income survey data (1981-2) show that in Australia 381900 families containing 751800 children had incomes below the poverty line - an increase in three years of 54.4 per cent in two-parent families and of 38.6 per cent in one-parent families. Two important ·factors in this are increasing unemployment and marriage breakdowns, forcing more and more families to live on benefits well under the poverty line. These families are in a double bind: they have to live on grossly inadequate incomes with few basic services such as housing and child care, and they live in a society which pre-supposes family independence. In effect, we say to such families 'you must be self-reliant' and deny them the income to make this possible. More and more families are forced to seek emergency aid for food vouchers to feed their children - a last resort for many. The case studies provide abundant evidence of the destructive effects of poverty not only on the material well-being of families, but also on their self-esteem, relationships, social activities and ability to nurture their children. In some cases it appeared that three generations of the one family were locked into poverty traps.

It was, indeed, disquieting to find from the case studies how far our practice in relation to family support falls behind our stated beliefs about the central importance of the family and the well-being of the nation's children. In spite of such statements we tolerate a high and rising level of poverty among families with children. We are prepared to provide economic support when a family breaks down, but not the support services which might have prevented the breakdown. We expect the family to take the lion's share of caring for its dependent members without providing the support necessary for it to do so. On the positive side, it was reassuring to find that so much help, often costly help, was given and received informally, through networks of family, friends, neighbours and community groups. There are some hopeful signs for the future, not least the growing recognition that services and families need to work together in partnership, each recognising the value of the other. It is hoped that these case studies will make some contribution to the understanding and promotion of such a partnership.

Appendix: General survey and Case studies

Appendix: General survey and Case studies

Geelong was chosen for the initial survey for several reasons: it is large enough (population 140000) and far enough from Melbourne (80 kms) to be a city in its own right with its own sense of identity; it has a port and has a broad manufacturing base in light and heavy industry; it is an educational centre with several colleges, a large technical institute and a university; its population includes many immigrant groups and has a wide socio-economic range.

Geelong is also a very stable community. Many families have lived there for several generations, and most find it a good place to live and have no desire to move elsewhere. In consequence, many families have a wide circle of extended family, relatives and friends - a significant factor in the availability of family support.

The Geelong survey was planned in two stages: a random sample general survey of the total population between the ages of eighteen and sixty, and case studies of selected families based on in-depth interviews. Interviewing for the general survey was carried out in April and May 1982 and the case studies in November and December 1982.

In the general survey one adult person in each household was interviewed. The selection depended on the availability of the respondents and the need to obtain a rough balance between men and women. A response rate of over eighty per cent yielded 416 completed interviews. Of the respond- ents, forty-four per cent were male, fifty-six per cent female. A preliminary report for respondents and the people of Geelong giving an outline of the main findings was published in 1983 as Social Support in an Australian Community.

For the case studies families were selected on three criteria: those who had expressed interest in participating in future discussions; those who were articulate and had proved themselves able and willing to tell their stories, and those who would provide a wide range of experience. Of the sixty-seven families selected, two had left the district and only one refused to be interviewed. Respondents were paid $25 each, to encourage them to give the time necessary for a long interview and as a mark (however inadequate) of the value we placed on the information they had to give.

The interviewers were mostly chosen from those who had worked on the general survey and had shown themselves skilled at asking open-ended questions and recording the responses. Among them were interviewers who spoke Italian, Serbo-Croatian and German and this was very important in the interviews with immigrant families.

The interviews were planned to cover the experiences and events likely to have been important in the lives of the families, but within a loose structure which gave the interviewer latitude in deciding how each interview should flow. Generally the interview included the following events: childhood and family of origin; education and training; leaving school and getting a first job; marriage and setting up the first home; coping with periods of illness or with serious family problems; use of services and the pathways which led to them. In all these events special emphasis was laid on the support the families had received from informal networks and from formal services.

The interviews varied considerably in length depending on the respondent and the interviewer. They averaged about three hours but some respondents had said all they wanted to say in two hours, while others needed a second interview to cover all the events.

In effect, the respondents were asked not only about their present situation but also to look back on their past lives from their present vantage point and to reflect on those experiences which seemed significant to them in their lives and in the lives of their families. Their accounts were, of course, subjective, based on the respondents' perceptions of events and relationships.

The work of analysing and writing up the interviews was long and slow but always of absorbing interest.


About the author

Jean McCaughey was born in Ireland and came to Australia in 1953 when her husband took up an appointment at Ormond College in Melbourne. As well as bringing up five children she worked for ten years as a Research Fellow at the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research in the University of Melbourne, where she was part of a team researching and writing on people living in poverty. She was coauthor of the book Who Cares? Family Problems, Community Links and Helping Services, hailed as a major contribution to social research on its publication in 1977. In 1981 she joined the Australian Institute of Family Studies to work on the survey of which this book is one outcome.


Research projects of this kind always involve the work of many people.

Members of the Family Support Networks Project Geelong· Survey Team were: Don Edgar (Director, Australian Institute of Family Studies); Arthur Faulkner, Jean McCaughey, and Des Storer.

The assistance of staff members of various support services in Geelong in the planning stages of the survey was much appreciated. We thank also the interviewers, whose skill in recording the complexities of the families' stories was vital to the success of this survey.

Most importantly, we thank the families who agreed to take part in this research and whose experiences throw light on the coping strategies used by families in Australia.

Thanks are due to Michael Dugan whose careful editing refined and clarified the final text.