A welfare program used by more than 750 parents living in the Northern Territory has been slammed following reports an Indigenous woman looking after eight children had her funding cut.
Antoinette Braybrook, the chief of the Victorian support service Djirra, told the United Nations last week, the program called ParentsNext is setting Indigenous women up to fail, and needed to be scrapped.
"We have been told of an Aboriginal woman - who took on the care of her sister's children when her sister was murdered," Ms Braybrook said.
"She now has 8 children in her care."
The UN was told the mother, despite "doing her best", had income support payments cut off because she was unable to travel long distances for appointments.
Ms Braybrook said the program forces full time parents to complete mandatory tasks or risk having their payments cut.
She said the impacts were particularly felt by Indigenous women.
"Our First Nations people continue to experience extreme levels of poverty and disadvantage resulting from punitive, racist and discriminatory government policies, and this program is just one example," she said.
"We go between being ignored by governments and then targeted for treatment.
"Surely it's not too much to ask the government to respect the incredible work our women do for their families and communities and to partner with us."
ParentsNext is a national pre-employment program that provides support to assist parents preparing to get back into the workforce once their children reach school age.
Today at #HRC41 calling for the #parentsnext program to be abolished by our government. It targets women and single mothers especially those who are escaping #FV. It’s driving our women deeper and deeper into #poverty Poverty is NOT a choice @DjirraVIC@NATSILS_@NITV@MerikiKOpic.twitter.com/cw3AIWdaN0— Antoinette Braybrook (@BraybrookA) July 1, 2019
A spokesman for the Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education, Michaelia Cash, said ParentsNext is reducing "intergenerational welfare dependency and helping to Close the Gap in Indigenous employment."
"The Australian Government remains unequivocally committed to a program that is increasing women's workforce participation," he said.
"The Morrison Government strongly believes that the best form of welfare is a job.
"Where parents can, they should be given the support, expertise and means to find a job so they can provide for their family.
"Australia has one of the most generous welfare systems in the world, but that is underpinned by hardworking Australians paying taxes and working in the community."
He said there were a wide range of activities parents in the program could participate to improve their work-readiness, and the government ensured the activities were compatible with family circumstances.
Edwina MacDonald, the legal director at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the program was driving struggling families deeper into poverty.
"It is clear the Australian Government is failing to value women's caring work and ensure that all women, no matter what work they do, have the means to a decent standard of living.
"Rather than pointing the finger and threatening single parents, the Government should be thanking them for the endless hours of unpaid care work they do."
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