Who helps? Support networks and social policy in Australia

Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) Monograph No 12


You are in an archived section of the AIFS website 


Content type
Research report

December 1991

This historical publication is only available as a PDF document and does not meet the latest web accessibility standards.

If you wish to access this publication in another format, please contact us and we will try to procure one for you.


In times of need, who do people turn to among their family, friends and neighbours? What kind of help do they ask for from whom, and is it forthcoming? This book reviews the literature on the role of the state, families and the community as providers of support, and reports on a study which looked at the role of informal support networks in three very different areas of Australia: Geelong, the second largest city in Victoria; Ashfield in inner-city Sydney; Darwin, the largest Northern Territory town, and Jabiru, a small mining town in the Northern Territory. The study explores the experiences of respondents from the three surveys in facing three situations, namely, a serious illness in the household, personal upsets, and unemployment. It is shown that informal networks do indeed play an important role in helping families. But because they are governed by underlying norms of reciprocity, there is a limit to the extent to which they can take the place of state and other social service agencies. Informal networks are, in fact, most effective when complemented by adequate formal assistance.

Includes copy of the questionnaire "Families: social support and networks, Geelong survey 1982."

Australian Institute of Family Studies Monograph No. 12


Australian Institute of Family Studies Monograph No. 12