According to the 2011 Census, Australia has more than 5.5 million families. More than 2.6 million of these are families with children under the age of 18. Most of these families are intact (72 per cent), with step and blended families accounting for less than 8 per cent. Single parent families make up almost 20 per cent with single mothers accounting for 16.6 per cent of this figure (Family Facts and Figures, Australian Government’s Australian Institute of Family Studies).
A study on the opinions of parents on the acquisition of parenting and relationship skills gives some insight into how complex and challenging the task of raising a family can be. The study found that the majority of parents did not agree with either of the following statements: “The skills needed to maintain a good relationship with their partner come naturally to most people” and “The skills needed to be a good parent come naturally to most people”. (‘Opinions of parents on the acquisition of parenting and relationship skills’, Family Relationships Quarterly, Newsletter no.10, 2008, Australian Government’s Australian Institute of Family Studies)
These opinions highlight the fact that many families face challenges and issues that require them to reach out beyond themselves to develop the skills, patience and energy needed to grow a healthy, robust family.
To assist parents in the task of raising a family the government and a range of community organisations provide services that aim to nurture and strengthen Australian families, particularly vulnerable or disadvantaged families. These services include prevention and early intervention services, relationship services, specialist services (such as counselling) and community services (such as playgroups).