On International Women’s Day the UN will hear that the Australian Government is penalising single mothers with babies as young as six months through a punitive program that is making life harder for parents.
The ParentsNext program forces parents with children aged 6 months to five years to complete tasks, many of which are pointless or demeaning, or face having parenting payments cut. 95 per cent of those captured by the program are women, most of whom are single mothers. Over 20 per cent had their payments suspended between July and December 2018.
Adrianne Walters, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre said that the Australian Government should be valuing the enormous amount of unpaid work undertaken by women.
"On International Women’s Day our Government should be thanking women for the endless hours of breastfeeding and nappy-changing – the unpaid and undervalued labour that is indispensable to our nation’s prosperity. Not threatening to leave them without money for food for them and their children,” said Walters.
An intensive stream of the program targets Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents in designated regions, like Mildura.
Teena*, a community representative from Mildura, said that the program is unfair and depriving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women of choice and control over their lives.
“This program targets Aboriginal women in communities like Mildura. It is pressuring them and causing stress. The government should be respecting the right of our women to choose what is right for their families, whether that’s staying at home to care for their babies or getting into work,” said Teena.
“This comes down to respecting women’s autonomy, whether as parents or workers. We should equally value and support those who are in a position to get back to work and those who want to stay at home and care for their children,” Walters added.
Edwina MacDonald, Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, who will address the UN Human Rights Council today in Geneva, said “It is clear the Australian Government is failing to meet its obligations on the right to social security. UN experts and committees have expressed concerns about Australia’s punitive and stigmatising treatment of people receiving income support.
“Australia is a wealthy nation yet successive Governments have chosen to push people deeper into poverty with woefully low payments. It targets sole parents, mostly women, with harsh measures, and uses social security as a tool for social control and punishment, disproportionately impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
“Australia will continue to breach its human rights obligations until it treats people on social security with decency, compassion and respect,” said MacDonald.
Read the joint HRLC, SNAICC and NFVPLS Forum submission about the ParentsNext program to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee here.
For interviews call:
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519