This paper presents a preliminary analysis of 1996 Census data relating to female Indigenous sole parents. It confirms results from the 1991 Census which show that sole parent families account for a larger share of Indigenous families than sole parents among other Australian families. Indigenous female sole parents tend to be younger, have larger numbers of children, less education and are less likely to be in employment than other Australian sole parents. All these factors have important implications for the economic status of Indigenous sole parent families and for any attempts to reduce welfare dependency and make them more economically self-sufficient. This preliminary analysis of inter-censal trend indicates that increasing numbers of such families are being formed and that they continue to have low income levels. Marginal increases in some areas of their educational qualifications and employment rate between 1991 and 1996, appear to be substantially offset by the greater proportion of female Indigenous sole parents leaving the mainstream labour force and identifying themselves as 'not in the labour force'.
Indigenous sole parent families represent over one-third of Indigenous families with children; a proportion twice as high as for the wider population, and it appears that this proportion is increasing. Their access to education, vocational training and employment skills, and assistance with overcoming transportation and child-care barriers to participation in the workforce are especially critical to creating welfare exit options. The position of children within these families is a matter of concern and requires further community-based research and policy attention.
ISBN: 0 7315 2588 4