Stats on Single Mums in Australia


I preached a sermon last Sunday on James 1:26-27, where pure and faultless religion consists of ‘looking after orphans and widows in their distress’. In the process of thinking about what were modern-day examples of vulnerable social groups in distress in our society, I came across this study done in 2008 by the Parenting Research Centre on single mothers:

  • 1 in 5 families with children under the age of 15 is headed by a single parent. 87% by single mothers.
  • Single mothers are providing 70% to 100% of their children’s care, with the majority responsible for 66% to 97% of the costs of raising their children.
  • 75% of single parents are raising children on incomes below $20,000.
  • Because of the challenges and isolation, they are twice as likely to experience depression as women who have partners.

Let me quote some more bits from their study:

Research highlights that the initial transition to becoming a single mother can be one of the most challenging periods for single mothers and their parenting. For many women, becoming a single mother is a time of tremendous upheaval and life-changing circumstances.

Most people find it harder to parent when they are feeling stressed and anxious. Day-to-day parenting, like coping with sleeplessness or their children’s behaviour, is the same for single mothers. The difference is that single mothers are on their own and usually can’t rely on the daily support of the other parent in providing time out from parenting, affirmation and support with decisions.

The transition to becoming a single mother can carry considerable personal and parenting stresses, such as moving house, changing jobs, changing work hours, having less money, taking on more domestic and child-care duties or losing neighbourhood or friendship supports. Single mothers also tell us that there are complexities in dealing with the legalities and paperwork required by their new status. And many single mothers whose relationships break down are escaping from violence (25% separating women victims of physical or sexual violence).

Our community (and might I add: our churches!) can sometimes be harsh and unsympathetic towards single mothers in their role as parents and providers, and single mothers tell us that stigma and discrimination are an additional burden for them and their children.

I couldn’t help but think that if Jesus were around in 21st century Australia rather than 1st century Palestine, one of the groups that he would have befriended would have been the single-mothers. Yet it made me sad that whereas single-mums would have been loved by Jesus and loved him in return, by and large they don’t love his church and aren’t ministered to effectively by his people.

What are your thoughts?
How does your church minister to single-parents and especially single-mothers?
What are the joys and successes, challenges and pitfalls? I’d love to hear them.


About Pete

I am a child of God, a husband, a father of four children, a pastor, and a church planter. I live in Sydney Australia and live to see Jesus made famous in this city and be the only God people worship.

Posted on June 17, 2009, in Church, Ministry, Parenting, The city. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Thank you for bringing that topic up. I think the church needs to be in touch with the communities around them, helping people in need.

    Who are we to judge the burdened, lost, weary? We should be be encouraging the people around us to come to church and to walk with Christ, whether it\’s the single mums, gays, atheist, or just anyone that doesn\’t seem to fit in the church \”norm\”. I think when we as a a body of Christ do that, we are in danger of becoming a culture and being judgmental rather than a community of people sharing faith. Jesus would want EVERYONE to sit at His table.

    Thank you for bringing up this issue. As God\’s children, we are not to cave in and sink in within ourselves building doctrine walls for protection, but armed with faith and trust in the Lord, be a light for the broken and burdened world around us.

  2. Julie Hayward

    Hi Pete
    Loved this, and was saddened by this. As a mother of a single mum, my daughter was blessed to be part of a christian fellowship who cared for her and prayed for her and loved her.
    She experienced God’s mercy and love. I wish this could be true of all single mum’s especially because Jesus loves them and their beautiful children.

  3. An experience at work couple of days ago really hit me i was at court the other day and there was this mother who was trying to comfort this screaming child and she jus was almost in tears ‘i got no one to help me take care of me kid i think im gonna have a breakdown theres no one its just me’. every time i walk in their there whatever court im at its a similar picture.

    its my opinion (and im happy to be wrong) is that one of the root causes of the ineffectiveness of the church is the way men’s role in these kinds of ministries (which include secular work) are percieved.

    What i mean that it is women who advocate womens rights, it is women who campaign for change in family law, it is women who are at the head of womens outreach and care ministries, it is women who take up the career choices of making support networks and being in family policy.

    While i do agree that some of this is due to the fact that it is because some of it is naturally womens ‘stuff’ (jus like it is women only who work in a bra shop), i still think that the care and protection of women in society and in familys is men’s calling.

    What i mean is that i feel that there is a fundamental flaw in the way men (from talking to and of course being one) see or grasp being the ‘steward’ or ‘leader’ of women as ordered in Creation.

    Or to put it blunt, its not that we don’t think womens issues are important, it is that we think that its women who should deal with them.

    ill give a concrete example of the consequences of a skewed view of stewardship –

    in your sermon pete you raised the example of the stigma that single mothers recieve. A lot of these mothers are escaping abusive relationships (25 percent in fact by the study).

    I was reading other court stats which say that 1 in 10 Australian women have/are being abused, and this is just the stat for those who report it!

    i feel very hopeless as a guy sometimes, not just because of the terrible things that go on, but because of the ineffectual or ‘stop-gap’ solutions that society provides.
    The support of these abused women are always re-active, put in place to kind of ‘patch up’ the situation, and very little is done to change the attitude of the men who live in these kinds of relationships. As far as i’ve been tought growing up in this country is ‘Australia says no’ (to domestic violence). Thats best about it. Very little has been passed on to me by my family, by elders, or the culture i live in.

    Now im not blaming anyone however, i think that we need to see a generation of men who see the care and protection of women in society not just as important but as their job, indeed VOCATION (calling!). Not just as a kind of ‘as long as u dont hit ur wife ur ok’. But as something more that that! because as one guy sometimes i just dont know where to start, beyond the immediate relationships i have (and i kno that i’ve got alot to do there believe me)

    Because when men desert their Kingdom stewardship of women, both in personal relationships and in society, then i think there will be no great change that our church can effect.

    we would have failed to our James 1 26-27 mandate, and indeed are guilty of not loving those Jesus does.

    what u guys think? u think im way off track on this one or overemphasizing the importance or misunderstanding the issue?

    • pastorpeterko

      Hey Dan, great post. I think you might be on to something here. It’s my firm belief that the strength of homes, churches and by extension, societies, depends a lot on the godly and sacrificial leadership of good men. I think we men have been pushing away our responsibility since our great ancestor Adam and it’s clearly no good for women or for the world.

  4. I totally agree with you about Jesus’ concern for single mums. And that churches often don’t care for them well.

  5. Dear Dan

    Read your post. I totally agree. I remember reading the sad case, indeed many cases of a mother arrested either for neglect of their child, in some cases abuse, and still in other cases murder. In these cases the history of psychological disorder and abuse is brought and eventually the mother is found guilty and sentenced. Yet as watched and listened to report, one question kept screaming out from me “Where was the husband? What help and support did he provide for his wife? Alternative what did he do to bring her to such a state of despair? Obviously each one of us must bear responsibility for our own actions, yet it saddens me that often the women are left to bear the brunt of caring for the family. And when things go wrong, the blame usually falls on the woman and not the man – who is the head of the household. I guess this is why I’m passionate about men’s ministry. We have to reach the men in order to save the women and the kids, both for today and for the future.

  6. Hello everyone, I am a single mother of 5 wonderful boys aged between 5 and 14.

    Last night i cried myself to sleep at the feeling of not being able to cope. I’m so overwhelmed and exhausted. Looking after my boys and studying part time I’m so stretched beyond my limit that its affecting me physically and emotionally.

    I left my husband a year and a half ago after he had become alcoholic and increasingly abusive to me and in the end tried to kill me. My four youngest boys still spend some time with their father as it was decided that my ex husband had a temporary psychotic break which he supposedly recovered from and he was also made to attend alcohol counseling. However, he is still dominating, manipulative and over controlling. My oldest son is full time with me and not wanting to see his father after suffering depression and post traumatic shock syndrome after he had to literally save my life on that day that his father tried to kill me. He was only 12 and a half years old at the time. A week ago his father told me that he plans to find a way that my son is legally forced to see him.

    i also suffer from anxiety disorder and low confidence and although i am slowly getting stronger, i still have trouble standing up to my ex.

    Since i left my husband i have been attending church every week which has given some good adult male role models for the boys through life groups, Friday night fellowships and friends Ive made. I also have found male friends from church are kind enough to come over and help with things like mowing lawn (and also teaching my kids how to mow), fixing the car, leaky taps and other things like that, that i find myself a little lost with. And they will also sometimes kick the footy around with my kids and things like that.

    This kind of thing is exactly what you seem to be talking about and its so uplifting to see people out there like that. They are truly amazing and i don’t know how id manage without their help.

    The problem is, my ex is still trying to control things. He doesn’t like me taking the boys to church and talks bad about it to them, and whenever i have other men involved in their life he threatens that he will publicly humiliate them or accuse them of being a pedophile to try and scare them away. My parents live 8 hours drive from me and i have no other close friends or family that i can turn to for help so these people are all i have. and now that help is being threatened. Will my ex manage to scare them off? He hasn’t so far. They were hurt by the accusations but too strong to be manipulated. But how far will he go to control my life and make me and my children suffer?

    it isn’t fair. is there no answer?

    • I reccomend a fab book The power of a praying parent by stormie omartian. It gives you the authority through jesus to break of spiritual negativity from your husband. i live in scotland but im sure you could get hold of it via internet. Keep holding on to strong positive role models for you and your children and grow close to jesus in any way you can. Find a prayer partner and ask people to pray for you and your chldren. Remember God sees and he understands all you are going through he will build you up . “I know the plans i have for you plans for good and not for evil”.

  7. Dear Jodie

    My heart goes out to you and your children. All I can do is to plea to God that he will intervene in a very special and miraculous way to care for you and your family and protect you from your husband.

  8. Siobhan Gallagher

    Hi Jody,

    I’m a single mum myself. It really isn’t fair. However I’d like to say that you’re probably doing a fantastic job and that you’re stronger than you think, it won’t always be like this, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.

    When you have children you start to realise the importance of extended and chosen family. It was Plato’s philosophising that started off the modern schooling system. We forget that children are a social thing, that it is rare that any parents bring up their children alone and that a good support network is essential. It sounds like the church congregation is supporting you and being there for you.

    I don’t know much about Australian law but this seems like a case where you should be able to seek legal advice and protection. I know having a helpline to call anytime day or night gave me someone to speak to about what was going on and really helped me through the worst of the break up with my daughters dad. You sound like a survivor – to even speak out like this online is an act of a strong woman who has it in her to get through this, and to be the best mum you can be.

    I don’t know if this might help, or what area of Australia you are in, there is likely to be similar helplines that can help offer you emotional support and possibly free legal advice.X

  9. Siobhan Gallagher

    I don’t know if this will help Jody, but its a website I found whilst looking for good stats on single mums. Aside from living longer on average than our married counterparts its generally not positive, no matter what nationality you are. X

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