Popular demons? On single motherhood

Words and photos by Natalie Duggan, Single Parents Action Group (link to facebook group).

I am a single mother. I was married and pregnant with our second child when my marriage failed, plunging my two children and I into a nightmare that has endured for years.

Photo by Natalie

Our emotional distress was quickly overshadowed by housing problems. According to Anglicare’s 2012 Rental Affordability Snapshot, of the 10,385 properties available for private rent in Sydney on the snapshot weekend, only three properties were affordable for a single mother with 2 children on Parenting Payment Single (PPS).

Single-parent families (of whom 85% are headed by women) are particularly likely to live in poverty, and my children have joined around 500,000 Australian children living below the poverty line.

You can take action to support single parents tomorrow – see details of the action hosted by SPAG here.

Photo by Natalie Duggan

Previously a skilled paralegal, my job applications are now constantly rejected. There is a special indignity at having my value as an employee written off because I have children. Single parents need jobs which accommodate their parenting responsibilities and those jobs are virtually non-existent.

Single mothers are regularly demonized in the workplace and in society. Historian and social commentator John Hirst recently made the following comments:

“… many single-parent households are not good places for children. The mothers are given to junk food, daytime TV and no-good boyfriends who might develop designs on an adolescent daughter. The worst mothers are addicted to drugs and alcohol and under their influence neglect and abuse their children”.

Mr Hirst paints a stereotypical picture of single mothers. However with the divorce rate at around 42% during the child-bearing years virtually every Australian family will be affected by family breakdown in some way. Single mothers are as diverse as the population itself, but we continue to be the women Australia loves to hate.

These injustices have always existed for single mothers, but this year the Gillard government has dealt a further extraordinary blow with changes forcing single parents with children over eight years old from PPS to Newstart. PPS provided a bare-necessities income for parents who were unemployed and also provided a safety-net for parents who were working by making up the difference between their earning power and what it actually costs to raise children.

However Newstart, at $248 per week, is not enough to live on and provides no safety net beyond earning capacity. This forces single parents into extreme poverty and clearly violates human rights, prompting the Australian Council of Social Service to lodge an urgent appeal to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights. The changes were rushed ahead.

Photo by Natalie

These changes force our most vulnerable women and children into a desperate situation and yet ignore the role of men in family breakdown. They do not strengthen attempts to extract the $1.2 billion outstanding child support debt. Or address the fact that many single mothers are victims of domestic violence which costs our economy around $13 billion per year.

Please help us to reverse the decision to move single parents from PPS to Newstart.

Please sign the petition and attend the simultaneous rallies across the country on 5 February 2013. Details here. Facebook event here.

4 Responses to “Popular demons? On single motherhood”
  1. Ola says:

    Please reverse the decision to move single parents from PPS to Newstart.

  2. Bee Jones says:

    Go single mothers, until you have walked in their shoes do not comment…the amount of single mothers who leave domestic violent situations are never heard, most do not leave a situation where they enjoy financial stability and a great home for no reason….it’s time Australia listened.. Keep trying to make someone listen to reverse the situation or look at each individual case.

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