SNAICC adds weight to ParentsNext controversy with Senate Committee submission

by Freya Lucas

February 08

In a joint statement to the Senate Inquiry into the Federal Government’s ParentsNext program, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and human rights organisations have called for the program to be scrapped, describing the program as “punitive”, and “raising concerns about compliance with Australia’s sex and race discrimination laws”

 

The Sector yesterday reported concerns raised about the ParentsNext program by the Australian Human Rights Commission, with the SNAICC submission focusing on the “intensive” program arm which targets Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents.

 

Since 1 July 2018, SNAICC said, parents have had vital parenting payments suspended over 16,000 times, saying that early data indicates that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents are most at risk.

 

SNAICC cited concerns that the program is “setting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women up to fail” saying that the system will “cause the most pain for mothers escaping family violence, dealing with homelessness and in other distressing circumstances.”

 

Antoinette Braybrook, Convener of the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum, said that “Rather than pointing the finger and punishing our women, the Federal Government should be investing in Aboriginal-led programs that support women to meet their goals.”

 

Expressing their concerns, SNAICC said that international evidence shows that programs, like ParentsNext, that impose financial sanctions on struggling single parents, can do more harm than good. Of particular concern, SNAICC said, is the impact on children.

 

Muriel Bamblett, Chair of SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, said that the early years of life are the most critical for healthy development, saying it was “extraordinary and outrageous that a Government intentionally discriminates against women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents in the administration of this program. It is not only failing our women, families and children, it is actively contributing to the erosion of our rights.”

 

Adrianne Walters, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said “the Federal Government should be thanking women for the endless hours of unpaid and undervalued labour that contributes to our nation’s prosperity – not threatening to leave (women) without money to feed themselves and their babies”

 

The statement may be read in full here.

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