This week marks National Families Week around Australia. Australian Catholic University’s (ACU) Institute of Child Protection Studies (ICPS) has long been a voice for families and young people experiencing disadvantage.
Professor Morag McArthur, Director of ICPS said Families Week was a good opportunity to remember and acknowledge families who are most at risk of not fully embracing the opportunities that exist for other Australian families.
ICPS has carried out a number of studies that aim to understand the lives of families experiencing multiple disadvantages. A recent study looked at the concerns many parents had for their children – particularly not having enough money or the ability to ensure children’s basic needs were met.
“Many parents spoke of not always having money to pay for food, bills or for services such as child care,” Professor McArthur said. “Almost a quarter of the parents interviewed identified having a child with a need for special support.”
“For some parents, the ‘normal’ worries about their children are exacerbated by their child’s or children’s disabilities which included: learning disabilities and associated problems at school; physical disabilities such as hearing loss and auditory processing disorders; and major acute and chronic health issues that impact on families.”
Another ICPS study explored the experiences and aspirations of younger mothers and discovered they hold the same kinds of hopes and dreams for the future as other young people, and do so in the face of considerable obstacles.
“Many do not have access to the resources, knowledge and skills they need to make a commitment to higher education and employment,” Professor McArthur said. “This includes stable and affordable housing, flexible child care, access to transport or even the resources needed to learn to drive.”
“They don’t have social support networks to help them look for a job or write an application, or networks through which to make connections. And above all, the need to ensure their children are provided for first.”
Professor McArthur said National Families Week was an important time for all Australians to recognise the challenges faced by those experiencing disadvantage, and the obligation we have to provide these families with the means to overcome such disadvantage.
“This desire to ensure the best for their children under what are often difficult circumstances, is a reminder of the importance of providing families with the support they need to be the best parents they can, and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their children.”