Our story

The facts

Single mother families positively contribute to the diversity of our society. Single mothers demonstrate every day the capacity to head a household, support a family (often on insufficient funds), and lovingly and proudly raise children who in turn contribute to society.

We reject the constant negative portrayals of single mothers and we seek equality with other families.

We are 15% or nearly one in seven of all Australian families.

CSMC achieves change by championing the voices and needs of single mother families and by providing specialist services that support women parenting alone.

Our role

Council of Single Mothers and their Children (CSMC) is a membership-based community organisation run by and for single mothers. Based in Victoria, we have members around the country and have been supporting and empowering single mothers and fighting for changes to systems, services and community attitudes since 1969.

Founded on a self-help model, CSMC’s work is informed by interacting with our members, Support Line callers and other contacts. The perseverance and hope of single mothers as they face the joys and challenges of parenting alone inspires and shapes our representation and advocacy for single mother families.

CSMC’s priorities reflect the diversity of our members and include: affordable housing, income security, family law, child support, family violence, parenting support, flexible employment and study, and social connections. We provide information and referrals via our telephone Support Line and emails, distribute emergency relief and collaborate with other organisations and our members in advocating for change.

Call our support line on 03 9654 0622
1300 552 511 if you are outside Melbourne
Monday to Friday 9.30am – 3.00pm
or email csmc@csmc.org.au

CSMC receives funding from the Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET) to provide telephone support, information and referrals to single mothers and their children throughout Victoria.

CSMC also receives funds from the RE Ross Trust which allows us to provide emergency relief Support Line

CSMC promotes positive social change through lobbying government and work with media and by challenging the myths and stereotypes that marginalise single mothers and their children.

We work with organisations such as the Victorian Council of Social Services, contributing expert advice on issues relevant to single mothers and their families. CSMC’s expertise arise from the lived experiences of our service users, members, staff and Board; is enhanced with academic research; and informed by issues single mothers raise when they engage with us through our telephone Support Line and email.

Wherever possible CSMC encourages and supports members to tell their stories. CSMC collaborates with other groups of single mothers such as the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children (NCSMC) and online groups such as United Sole Parents to amplify the voices of single mother families. Single Mother stories.

Our people

The Board and staff of CSMC all are, or have been, single mothers.

Jess van Dyk – Chair
Deirdre Bignell – Vice Chair
Lisa Assender – Treasurer
Ordinary Board Members are
⦁ Fiona Sunderland
⦁ Alex Girle
⦁ Louise Smith
⦁ Kylie Ball
⦁ Barbara Schade
⦁ Robyn Curnow
⦁ Kylie Porter

Jenny Davidson – Chief Executive Officer
Fiona Combe – Contact Worker
Jacqui Ng – Contact Worker
Andi Sebastian – Communication & Policy Worker
Annette Antolino – Finance Worker

CSMC has an active group of volunteers whose work varies according to their interest and availability.

Some are regularly in the office involved in policy, administration and membership work while others put their hands up for short term projects such as newsletter mailouts, special events or campaigning on a particular issue.

To get involved, find out more here.

Our strategy

The 2017-2020 Strategic Plan defines six priority of most concern to single mothers in Victoria that will best assistant them to overcome the barriers they face. These will inform our for our advocacy and programs over the next three years.

Key priorities for single mother families:
⦁ Secure income
⦁ Diverse employment & education opportunities that accommodate family responsibilities
⦁ Safe, affordable and appropriate housing
⦁ Legal protection in family law matters
⦁ Well-being of single mothers
⦁ Children’s well-being

Our history

The history of CSMC is vibrant, with some significant triumphs and plenty of challenges (just like single motherhood!). You can read more of our fascinating story in our book Single but not alone, but here are our highlights:

1969 Having a child outside marriage carried a huge stigma that forced many women to relinquish their child to adoption. A group of women met and formed the ‘Single Mothers Branch of Parents without Partners’.
1970 The Council of the Single Mother and Her Child formed as a legally constituted self-help organisation.
1973 CSMC’s 3-year campaign for the Federal government to take over the welfare payments to single mothers on an equal basis with civilian widows was successful and the Supporting Mothers’ Benefit was finally available to single mothers. Number of children put up for adoption dropped dramatically.
For the first time CSMC had funding and was able to employ staff.
1975 CSMC took action to abolish the illegitimate status of children born out of wedlock and to have any disputes involving ex-nuptial children moved to the Family Court, which resulted in legislative change in 1988.
1976 First national adoption conference held with most state governments responding positively to the resolutions arising from the conference.
1981 The Scarlet Letter was established as a broadsheet newsletter tackling a range of topics.
1982 Australian Relinquishing Mothers Society ARMS was formed.
1988 After a 14-year campaign by CSMC and NCSMC, Victoria, NSW, Tasmania and SA passed a bill that ensured illegitimate children had equal legal rights to legitimate children under the Commonwealth Family Law Act and Family Court. Queensland followed suit in 1990.
1989 The amalgamation of the Supporting Parents’ Benefit and the Widows’ Pension created the non-discriminatory Sole Parents Pension.
1992 CSMC constitution was changed to enable widowed, divorced or separated women parenting alone to become ordinary members.
1992 CSMC ran a phone-in for single mothers to tell their experiences of renting accommodation and as a result, developed the Tenancy Advocacy Kit.
1993 CSMC launched the ‘Home Alone’ campaign to challenge government expectations they would work and leave their children to do so.
1995 CSMC’s photographic exhibition Soaring Solo launched in Victoria and toured Australia.
1998 After years of fighting against cuts to income security, CSMC had most of its own funding cut and survived with the efforts of one part-time staff member and the Management Collective Chairperson. Together they secure new funding.
2001 The inaugural ‘Bread and Roses’ event celebrating single motherhood was held and continued until 2008.
2002 CSMC secured annual funding from the RE Ross Trust enabling the provision of emergency funds to single mother families, which continues today.
2004 CSMC supported single mothers who were targeted by the ‘Blackshirts’, a hate group that harassed women who left marriage. Their leader was found guilty of stalking but this period began a move toward emphasising ‘Christian family values’ and attacking single mother headed households.
Let’s Do Lunch groups began in local areas to bring single mothers together.
2005 CSMC held rural retreats and Mother’s Day camps annually for three years.
2006 CSMC Action group formed to respond to a raft of changes to child support, family law and income support arrangements. These changes made single mother families poorer, more vulnerable to abuse and violence, and required to engage in work and childcare arrangements that were often not in their best interests.
2008 The Protest Picnic demonstrated against poverty and the erosion of women and children’s rights.
CSMC Executive Officer attended a seminar in South Korea to help promote the cause of single mothers there.
2009 CSMC celebrated 40 years of fighting for single mother families.
2010-2017 CSMC continues to celebrate and support single mother families and address structural inequities face by single mothers and their children.

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