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What a launch!

by | Nov 20, 2023 | 0 comments

It has taken significant resources of all kinds to undertake, analysis and launch this national survey of single mothers – the second we have delivered and the largest in Australia. 1168 single mothers invested their time to complete the survey, share their stories and provide policy suggestions. The survey reached so many diverse single mothers across Australia thanks to being shared far and wide by CSMC and our colleagues. Having over a thousand responses created a huge bank of data that was carefully analysed and contrasted to other data sources by generous pro-bono analysts and the 60-page report was painstakingly authored by our own Communication and Policy Coordinator. Preparing to launch the resultant report took significant planning by CSMC staff and board members.

It was with great delight then that on Monday 20 November we brought together a diverse and engaged audience at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre for the launch of our report.

There were representatives from across the sector, donors and funders, government representatives, and single mothers. In this year in which the tireless advocacy of many, including CSMC, has resulted in major changes for single mothers, we are delighted to be able to provide fresh insights and further depths to the existing knowledge bank.

Some people hadn’t met each other in person since the pandemic, others were meeting people they had long wanted to connect with, and along with the joyful, collegiate vibe was excitement to find out what the ‘Navigating Turbulence’ report revealed about the lives of single mothers in post-COVID Australia.

The event was hosted by Jamila Rizvi, Deputy Managing Director of FW (Future Women) who spoke about the challenges of working women and the Australian population of single mother families. CSMC Chair Hannah George spoke about the history of CSMC, the significance of the report and thanked the many incredible women who had come to see it launched, including CSMC founder, Rosemary West, who joined online.

CSMC CEO Jenny Davidson delivered the key findings of the report (you can read them here). The report, she said, smashes some common stereotypes of single mothers, among them, that most single mothers are relying on government payments, and their problems would disappear if they just got a job.

“Single mothers are determined to provide a good future for themselves and their children,” she said. “Seventy-eight are in paid employment; 69 per cent have wages as their main source of income.” Yet despite this, she explained, many single mother families are struggling and most (87%) are concerned about their long-term financial future. There are many structural barriers causing this.

“There’s not enough housing and single mothers are at the bottom of the list.”

Suzanne Baker

The survey revealed, for example, that single mothers in all income brackets are represented across all housing types – this means there are single mothers earning in excess of $100,000 annually who are sleeping in tents in caravan parks, unable to secure a private rental, as well as some with less than $25,000 servicing a mortgage. Most, however, are struggling to compete in the private rental market.

During the panel portion of the event, Emma Dawson, Executive Director at Per Capita, highlighted the need for systemic changes if we are to improve the lives of single mothers and their children. When her husband died, she described being told by her bank that if she wanted to refinance her home loan she would not be able to because her family now had just one income. This was despite the fact that for the last five years, her income alone had paid the mortgage. This reflects other stories of discrimination by banks told by survey respondents.

Juanita McLaren, a highly educated and respected social policy professional, talked about how balancing employment and parenting responsibilities have meant she has had to engage in the gig economy. This has left her with a HECS debt she is unable to repay anytime soon, and an amount of superannuation so paltry, retirement is a pipedream. The emotional toll of this realisation is huge and was deeply felt by participants.

Suzanne Baker, a single mother raising her 17-year old daughter on a Disability Support Pension shared her story, giving the reality of the Navigating Turbulence report a third face of brutal discrimination.

“My daughter and I have lived in private rental housing since she was born, mostly one bedroom apartments, paying 60 plus per cent of our income on rent. We have moved 17 times. It has been a huge challenge to keep my daughter near her school and close to her friends.

“There’s not enough housing and single mothers are at the bottom of the list. We have only ever got properties no one else wanted. It’s a demoralising, stressful, exhausting and all-consuming job.”

Suzanne estimates she has spent more than $15,000 simply moving from one sub-standard rental to another.

“Single mothers are determined to provide a good future for themselves and their children.”

Jenny Davidson

While the facts presented by the Navigating Turbulence report are confronting and serious, the mood at the report’s launch was one of love and positivity, founded on the determination of single mothers to provide a bright future for their children and themselves – which the survey clearly demonstrated. All those in the room and online were united in the one belief, that single mothers and their children are entitled to live safe and secure lives, and united in the one commitment – to continue the fight together.

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