IncomePension reform—the government significantly improved the pension system through secure and sustainable pension reforms. Since the reforms began in September 2009 the maximum age pension rate has increased by around $100 a fortnight for singles and around $76 for couples combined. The improvements focused on the adequacy, sustainability and flexibility of the pension system. For the 71.8 per cent of single age pensioners who are women, this is a major reform.
Paid workPaid Parental Leave scheme—the government-funded scheme will provide eligible working parents with up to 18 weeks of payments at the National Minimum Wage. This scheme will help parents spend time with newborns, improving outcomes for parents and their child. It will also promote continued participation and contact with the workforce.
The Family-centred Employment Project will commence in 2010. It is designed to assist jobless families to move into education and employment. The demonstration project will be implemented in three specific sites - Broadmeadows (Vic), Goodna (Qld) and Mansfield Park (SA). The objective of the project is to test integrated family-centred service delivery models for participating families.
Review into the effectiveness of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 and Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency—the purpose of the review is to examine the effectiveness and efficiency of the EOWW Act, and to consider practical ways to improve the equal opportunity framework to deliver better outcomes for Australian women.
The Fair Work Act 2009—the Act provides a framework to support women’s workforce participation, improve economic outcomes for women and parents and promote equity in the workplace. The Act enables equity to be advanced through:
- A strengthened safety net of legislated National Employment Standards (NES) and modern awards, including:
- the right for eligible employees with responsibility for the care of a child under school age or a disabled child under the age of 18 to request flexible working arrangements;
- unpaid parental leave giving eligible employees the right to separate periods of up to 12 months of unpaid leave associated with the birth or adoption of a child. One parent can also request an additional 12 months’ unpaid parental leave.
- Extending equal remuneration provisions to include the right to equal pay for work of equal or comparable value;
- The inclusion of individual flexibility clauses in all modern awards and agreements, enabling employers and employees to negotiate individual working arrangements;
- Allowing variation of modern awards for work value reasons;
- Access to multi-employer bargaining for the low-paid; and
- Enhanced protections from workplace discrimination.
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New strategies for people with disabilities and carers are being introduced that will support women carers and women with disability as both potential employees and as recipients of payments and users of services. These strategies include the National Disability Strategy and the National Carer Strategy. The draft National Disability Strategy covers six broad policy areas including learning and skills and economic security. The learning and skills outcome area states an intention to increase access for people with disability to inclusive high quality education that is responsive to their needs. The Strategy also recognises that employment opportunities for people with disability as a key to
improving economic security and personal wellbeing.
Unpaid workRecognition Framework. The Carer Recognition Bill 2010 will recognise in law the role and contribution of Australia’s carers. The National Carer Strategy will shape the agenda for reform and guide policy development and delivery of services.
EducationBoosting the quality of child care and early childhood education—the Australian Government is investing more than $17.1 billion over the next four years in early childhood education and child care. This includes $14.4 billion to assist around 800,000 Australian families each year with the cost of child care, through Child Care Benefit and the Child Care Rebate. High quality, affordable child care is critical to enabling parents with primary care of children to participate in paid work.
Safety and securityThe National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Their Children will be a 12 year, joint plan of action for the Australian, state and territory governments to coordinate effort to achieve significant and sustained reduction in violence against women, and will be finalised this year.
Domestic Violence Workplace Rights and Entitlement Project—the government has provided funding of $440,000 (including GST) over 18 months to the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse to carry out a project on domestic violence and workplace rights and entitlements. The principle aim of the project is to improve the knowledge and capacity of unions and employer organisation to support employees experiencing domestic violence.
The Respectful Relationships Program is testing and evaluating a range of respectful relationships programs, which teach young men and young women the skills to develop respectful relationships—with intimate partners, friends and family members.
The Line primary prevention social marketing campaign, targeting young people, provides opportunities for young people to think about and discuss respectful relationship behaviours drawing on their own experiences.
The New National Partnership Agreement for Legal Assistance improves access to legal services for vulnerable and disadvantaged Australians experiencing legal problems. The Australian Government is providing an additional $154 million over four years to enhance access to justice through increased funding for legal aid commissions, community legal centres and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services. A key priority of the agreement is assisting women and children at risk of violence and abuse by providing family law services.
The government also funds targeted services for women through community legal centres, and culturally appropriate legal assistance services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women, youth and children through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and Family Violence Prevention Legal Services.
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The Family Support Program funds a range of services to help maintain and strengthen family relationships, and to minimise the effects of irreparable relationship breakdowns—particularly in relation to children. These services include:
- family relationship advice line;
- family relationships online;
- family relationship centres.
- family dispute resolution;
- family counselling;
- children’s contact services;
- parenting orders program;
- post-separation cooperative parenting services;
- supporting children after separation program.
The Domestic Violence Referral Points Project provides:
- training for practice nurses and Aboriginal health workers in Practice Incentives Program (PIP) eligible practices in rural and remote areas to act as points of referral to domestic violence support services for women experiencing domestic violence. Once a practice nurse or Aboriginal health worker has obtained competency through attending the training, their employing general practice is able to claim a payment through the PIP.
- payments through the PIP Domestic Violence Incentive to encourage PIP eligible general practices in rural and remote areas to act as a referral point to domestic violence support services for women experiencing domestic violence.