Australia’s families

Families today

  • Australia’s estimated resident population at 31 December 2014 was 23,625,600 people[1].
  • In 2011 there were about 8.18 million households and 5.68 million families (the Australian Bureau of Statistics defined families as: two or more persons, one of whom is at least 15 years of age, who are related by blood, marriage (registered or de facto), adoption, step or fostering; and who are usually resident in the same household. That is, members of families who live in different households are not treated as part of the same family unit[2].
  • Around one-half of the population aged 15 years and older is married. The median age at first marriage is 29.7 years for men and 28 years for women in 2011 (the median age is the age at which half of the first-time grooms (or first time brides) is older and half is younger)[3].
  • Over the last decade, 11-14 couples in every 1000 marriages are granted a divorce each year. Women who become mothers do so typically at age 25 to 34 years. In 2010, the median age of women who gave birth to their first child was 28 years[4].
  • Between 1996 and 2011, the most common living arrangement for people in Australia was in a couple family with children.
    • About half the population were either a partner or a child in this family type.
    • However, the trend over this period reveals a decline in this type of living arrangement. In 1996, 54% of Australians lived in a couple family with children (27% were partners and 27% were children).
    • By 2011, this proportion had decreased to 49% (24% partners and 25% children)[5].
  • Between 1996 and 2011, the proportion of people living as partners in couple families without children increased, from 19% to 21%, due primarily to the ageing of the population and subsequent increases in the number of ’empty nesters’, particularly people aged in their 60s, and to couples deciding to defer having children or not having children at all[6].
  • The growth in one parent families and couple families without children increased between 1996 and 2011, from 11% to 12%, with the proportion of the population who were children in one parent families increasing from 6% to 7%. Female lone-parents increased from 3% to 4%, and male lone-parents remained at 1%[7].
  • The proportion of people living alone remained at 9% from 1996 to 2011[8].

Families in the future

  • The number of families in Australia is expected to rise from 6.1 million in 2011 to between 8.9 and 9.0 million in 2036, that is, a growth of between 46% and 47%[9].
  • The number of couple families without children is projected to increase by between 56% and 64% over 2011-2036, while the number of couple families with children is projected to increase by 21% to 40%. The number of couple families without children is projected to overtake the number of couple families with children and become the most common family type in Australia, in the course of the 2020s[10].
  • The number of one-parent families is expected to rise by 47% to 70%, from 1.0 million to between 1.5 and 1.7 million. In 2011, 83% of one-parent families were headed by a female. This ratio is projected to remain at a similar level between 2011 and 2036 (falling slightly to between 81% and 82%)[11].
  • According to the 2011 Census, around 69% of couple families with children included at least one child aged under 15 years. Among one-parent families, this proportion was lower, at around 52%[12].

Child abuse and neglect

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s latest report, Child protection Australia 2013-14 (2015)[13]:

  • 1 in 37 children received child protection services, with 73% being repeat clients
    • In 2013-14, 143,023 children received child protection services. This is 1 in 37 Australian children aged 0-17 who had an investigation, care and protection order and/or were placed in out-of-home care.
    • This was a 6% rise over the past 12 months, from 135,193 children in 2012-13.
    • Almost 3 in 5 (59%) of these children were the subject of an investigation only (that is, they were not subsequently placed on an order or in out-of-home care), while 8% were involved in all three components of the system.
    • Almost three-quarters (73%) of these children were repeat clients in 2013-14; that is, they had been the subject of an investigation, care and protection order and/or out-of-home care placement in a previous financial year.
  • Substantiation rates were stable despite longer-term increases in numbers
    • Rates of substantiated child abuse and neglect have remained stable since 2012-13 at 7.8 per 1,000 children. This is despite an increase in the number of children who were the subject of substantiations, rising by 31%-from 31,295 in 2009-10 to 40,844 in 2013-14.
    • As in 2012-13, 1 in 5 children were the subjects of multiple substantiations in 2013-14.
  • Rates of children on care and protection orders and in out-of-home care continued to rise
    • From 30 June 2010 to 30 June 2014, the rate of children aged 0-17 on orders rose from 7.5 to 8.7 per 1,000. There were over 55,000 children on a care and protection order at 30 June 2014.
    • Over the same period, the rate of children in out-of-home care increased from 7.1 to 8.1 per 1,000. There were over 51,500 children in out-of-home care at 30 June 2014.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continued to be over-represented
    • In 2013-14, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were 7 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be receiving child protection services (136.6 per 1,000 children compared with 19.0 for non-Indigenous children).
  • Emotional abuse and neglect were the most common types of abuse/neglect
    • Emotional abuse and neglect were the most common primary types of substantiated abuse and neglect. They were also the most likely types of co-occurring abuse or neglect, with an average co-occurrence of 29% and 26% respectively.
  • Large proportions of carer households had multiple children placed
    • During 2013-14, there were 12,860 foster carer households and 15,099 relative/kinship carer households with a placement.
    • Nearly half (49%) of foster carer households and almost two-fifths (39%) of relative- kinship carer households had more than one child placed with them at 30 June 2014.

Some issues facing Australia’s families and children

While most Australian families and children are doing well on a range of wellbeing indicators such as health and relationships, many families and individuals face significant challenges. For example:

  • Children with parents on long-term income support are more likely, by age 18, to have left school early, have poorer health and be obese, engage in risky behaviour including smoking and drug use, have more contact with the criminal justice system, and have had a child or children[14].
  • People who, at the age of 14, were living in jobless families were almost twice as likely to be out of work as adults compared to those who had a working parent[15].
  • Young parents are more likely to not have a Year 12 qualification, be unemployed and receive welfare payments (for example, 90% of young parents on Parenting Payment do not have a Year 12 qualification)[16].
  • Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over are less likely to be employed compared to non-Indigenous Australians (54% compared to 73%)[17], and Indigenous children are three times as likely as other children to live in jobless families[18].
  • The gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is estimated to be 9.7 years for women and 11.5 years for men[19].
  • People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds with limited proficiency in English are less likely than those highly proficient in English to be working full time (27% compared with 57% of 25-64 year olds),[20] and are much more likely to have poorer health outcomes[21].
  • Compared to children with Australian-born English-speaking mothers, children with an overseas-born mother with poor English proficiency were significantly more likely to have low parental income and more likely to have a mother with incomplete secondary education[22].
  • Sole parents are much more likely than partnered parents to leave school before Year 12 and have no non-school qualifications (39% compared to 24%) and are more likely to be jobless (67% of all jobless families with children under 15 years were sole parent families)[23].
  • Sole mothers are more likely to experience moderate to severe mental disability than partnered mothers (29% compared to 16%) and are more likely to have an alcohol or other substance-use disorder[24].
  • Parents of children with disability experience a self-reported decline in their physical, emotional or mental wellbeing, feelings of overload and poorer life satisfaction, and a negative effect on their personal relationships[25].
  • Rough sleepers and people who are chronically homeless are more likely to have complex needs such as mental health issues[26] (approximately one‑third of homeless people in inner city areas have severe mental illness) and a mortality rate 3-4 times higher than the general population[27].
  • 60% of women who had experienced partner violence since the age of 15 years reported that it had been witnessed by children, which can result in emotional and psychological trauma and behavioural difficulties for children, including depression and increased levels of anxiety[28].
  • Of parents with children in out-of-home care, 43% report substance abuse and 37% report alcohol abuse[29].
  • People with a disabling mental illness are less likely to participate in the workforce than the general population (51% compared to 82%) and significantly more work part time (49% compared to 28%)[30].
  • Experiences of child abuse and neglect often lead to poor wellbeing in adulthood including mental health issues, drug and alcohol problems, and greater risk of violence and criminal behaviour[31].

Fact sheets about families from the Australian Institute of Family Studies

Australian families

Marriage

Cohabitation

Divorce

Births

Glossary of terms

Life satisfaction across life course transitions

Child care and early childhood education in Australia

Demographics of living alone

Australian households and families

Australian families with children and adolescents

Families working together. Getting the balance right

Working out relationships

Parents working out work

Past and present adoptions in Australia

Families in regional, rural and remote Australia

For further information about Australia’s families see:

Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘Household and family projections’

Australian Institute of Family Studies, ‘Family facts and figures’

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, ‘Child protection’

Child Family Community Australia

Family Action Centre, University of Newcastle

 

 

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015, Australian demographic statistics, viewed 21 September 2015, <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3101.0>.

[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012). The 2011 Census Place of Enumeration Profile (Catalogue no. 2004.0). Canberra: ABS.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015, Household and Family Projections, Australia, 2011 to 2036. Past trends, viewed 21 September 2015,

<http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/3236.0Main%20Features32011%20to%202036?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=3236.0&issue=2011%20to%202036&num=&view=>.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015, Family projections, viewed 21 September 2015,

<http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/3236.0Main%20Features52011%20to%202036?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=3236.0&issue=2011%20to%202036&num=&view=>.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2015, Child protection Australia 2013-14, viewed 21 September 2015, < http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=60129550762&tab=2>.

[14] Social Inclusion Unit (2009) A stronger, fairer Australia – National Statement on Social Inclusion. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Canberra.

[15] Ibid.

[16] DEEWR (2011) Helping Young Parents measure. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations,  viewed 29 Oct 2012: http://www.deewr.gov.au/Youth/YouthAttainmentandTransitions/Pages/HelpingYoungParentsmeasure.aspx

[17] ABS (2010) The health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Cat. no. 4704.0. ABS, Canberra. http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/lookup/4704.0Chapter218Oct+2010

[18] Social Inclusion Unit (2009) A stronger, fairer Australia – National Statement on Social Inclusion. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Canberra.

[19] ABS (2010) The health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Cat. no. 4704.0. ABS, Canberra.

[20] ABS (2009) Perspectives on Education and Training: Social Inclusion. Cat. no. 4250.0.55.001. ABS, Canberra. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4250.0.55.001Main+Features62009

[21] Social Inclusion Unit (2009) A stronger, fairer Australia [National Statement on Social Inclusion]. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Canberra.

[22] Priest, N, Baxter, JA, & Hayes, L (2012). Social and emotional outcomes of young Australian children from Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Australian New Zealand Journal of Public Health, vol 26(2), pp. 183-190. http://aifs.govspace.gov.au/2012/07/18/social-and-emotional-outcomes-of-young-australian-children-from-indigenous-and-culturally-and-linguistically-diverse-backgrounds/

[23] Social Inclusion Unit (2009) A stronger, fairer Australia – National Statement on Social Inclusion. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Canberra.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Teesson M, Hodder T, Buhrich N (2004) Psychiatric disorders in homeless men and women in inner Sydney. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, vol.  38, pp. 162–168.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Lamont, A (2010) Effects of child abuse and neglect for adult survivors. National Child Protection Clearinghouse Resource Sheet April 2010, Australian Institute of Family Studies.