The typical Australian family is now almost as likely to have no children living with it as families with children in the home. And for the first time there are more than a million one-parent families across the nation, of which four out of five of the parents are women. The latest census counted more than 5.5 million couple families, of which 53 per cent had children living with them. The proportion of couple families without children living in the household has steadily grown from 41 per cent in 1996 to 47 per cent in 2021. One-parent families were also growing as a proportion of all families, though more slowly, up from 14.5 per cent in 1996 to 15.9 per cent now, the census found. Melbourne single father Steve Whittington knows the challenges of bringing up children on his own, particularly during the Covid-­affected years.

Balancing the home-schooling of Annabel, 8, and Harry, 6, alongside housework and a full-time job was exhausting, he said. “When I didn’t have kids, I could concentrate on work and when I did have them, it was the juggling act,” the 52-year-old said. “On the one hand I was more fortunate than some.  I could focus on work and get stuff done when the kids weren’t home. And then also there is less flexibility when they are home.” Mr Whittington admitted “the ironing basket was full for nine months. I did the dishes after the kids were in bed, and when they had gone back to their mum’s.” Yet he cherished the moments of joy the family found in lockdown. “We led a small life which meant that we played board games. Jigsaws. We set up three small tents in Harry’s room,” he said.

The census found 46.5 per cent of Australians over the age of 15, more than 9.6 million, were in a registered marriage, and there were more than 2.5 million families with children under 15. Following the 2017 marriage equality legislation passing, nearly 25,000 same-sex marriages were counted in the census. More than 1.8 million people are divorced, and more than 670,000 identified as separated. More than one million are widowed, 80 per cent of them female, census data revealed. Australian statistician David Gruen said the census data “provides a fascinating glimpse into the structure and changing profile of Australian families”. It can be used to inform decisions about where to locate services such as healthcare and schools to support families, the Bureau of Statistics said.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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