This week the United Nations heard a scathing statement about a discriminatory Federal Government parenting scheme that targets Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and single mothers.
In a joint statement with the Human Rights Law Centre, Antoinette Braybrook, CEO of Djirra, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that the program, called ‘Parentsnext’, is setting First Nations women up to fail and must be abandoned.
“We have been told of an Aboriginal woman – who took on the care of her sister’s children when her sister was murdered. She now has 8 children in her care. She is doing her best, yet has had income support payments cut-off for prioritising the care of her children over travelling long distances, only to sit for hours waiting for meaningless appointments.”
“Our First Nations people continue to experience extreme levels of poverty and disadvantage resulting from punitive, racist and discriminatory government policies, and this program is just one example. We go between being ignored by governments and then targeted for treatment. Surely it’s not too much to ask the government to respect the incredible work our women do for their families and communities and to partner with us.”
The ParentsNext program forces fulltime parents to deprioritise caring for toddlers so as to complete mandatory tasks, many of which are burdensome or pointless, or risk having their parenting payments cut.
The Morrison Government admits that the program is racially discriminatory – breastfeeding mothers are dragged into an intensive version of the program that targets Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents with babies as young as 6 months.
Edwina MacDonald, Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the program was driving struggling families deeper into poverty.
“It is clear the Australian Government is failing to value women’s caring work and ensure that all women, no matter what work they do, have the means to a decent standard of living. Rather than pointing the finger and threatening single parents, the Government should be thanking them for the endless hours of unpaid care work they do.”
“Australia is a wealthy nation yet successive Governments have chosen to push parents with young children deeper into poverty with woefully low social security payments and harsh conditions. Australia will continue to breach its human rights obligations until it treats people on social security with decency, compassion and respect,” said MacDonald.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty tabled a report with the Human Rights Council on the United Kingdom, which highlights the devastating impact of punitive policies that target single parents with pre-school aged kids. There are salient lessons for the Australian Government in the report. In particular, that it needs to abandon its punitive ParentsNext program before it drives struggling single parent families and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents deeper into poverty.
Michelle Bennett, Communications Director, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519