Senate Inquiry told to scrap discriminatory ParentsNext program

Senate Inquiry told to scrap discriminatory ParentsNext program

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and human rights organisations have told a Senate committee inquiring into the Federal Government’s ParentsNext program that it should recommend scrapping the program.

The Government’s punitive ParentsNext program is making life harder for mums with babies as young as six months.

The program forces women with babies and toddlers to complete "activities", many of which are demeaning, stressful and inconvenient, or face having their parenting payment cut. 95 per cent of those captured by the program are women and 81 per cent are single parents. The government admits that the program is likely discriminatory as it targets women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents.

Antoinette Braybrook, Convener of the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum, who appeared at the Inquiry today, said:

"Women who have experiences of family violence need support, not rigid bureaucratic hurdles and punitive approaches. Requiring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander single mothers to do culturally unsafe or unhelpful "activities", and punishing them is setting our women up to fail."

"Instead of imposing mandatory, compliance based programs on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents, the government should work in partnership with us to invest in culturally safe, holistic services that support and don’t punish," said Ms Braybrook

Robust evidence from the United Kingdom shows that programs, like ParentsNext, that impose financial sanctions on struggling single parents, can do more harm than good. Of particular concern is the impact on children.

Muriel Bamblett, Chair of SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, said: 

"It is extraordinary and outrageous that a Government intentionally discriminates against women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents in the administration of this program."

"The impact of ParentsNext will be felt by children in the critical early years of their lives. This is funding that could be better spent elsewhere, like on fixing the mistakes the government has made in the funding of Aboriginal-led early childhood education and care services," said Ms Bamblett.

Adrianne Walters, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, who appeared at the inquiry today, said:

"The ParentsNext program should be scrapped. Between changing nappies, breast feeding and broken sleep, parents have more than enough on their plate. Rather than pointing the finger and punishing parents, the government should be thanking them for the endless hours of unpaid care work they do bringing up the next generation," Ms Walters said.

Read the joint HRLC, SNAICC and NFVPLS Forum submission to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee here. 

Note: SNAICC were unable to appear at the Senate inquiry.

For interviews call:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519