Transcript: Interview with Deane Williams, Summer Breakfast 891 ABC, 3rd January 2012

03 January 2012

Please read or listen to the transcript of my interview about the Teenage Parent program

SUBJECT/S:  Helping Teenage Parents initiative.

Interview with Deane Williams, ABC Adelaide

DEANE WILLIAMS:…Perfect segue to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten. Good morning to you. Are you there, Mr Shorten?

BILL SHORTEN: Yeah, I can hear you.

DEANE WILLIAMS: Okay, good morning.

BILL SHORTEN: Hi, good morning. Happy New Year.

DEANE WILLIAMS: And to you too. So as the mayor of Playford City Council was saying, and obviously there’s a level of enthusiasm for this initiative, particularly in their council area, but logistically though, you know, you’ve got to have childcare places available. You’ve also got to make sure that the parenting role continues. It does throw up some challenges, as well as some opportunities, doesn’t it?

BILL SHORTEN: Yes, that’s right. People are individuals, first and foremost. What the Government’s interested in doing and we’re committed to doing is if you’re a teenage parent and you don’t have year twelve or equivalent education, we think you shouldn’t be forgotten about and I think this is a very sensible step and I listened carefully to what the Mayor was saying and I think his observations were reflecting that this is a good idea. We don’t think being a teenage parent is the end of your story.

DEANE WILLIAMS: Well, I don’t think any parent, regardless of your age – I mean, it’s the start of a new phase in your life. Our lines are open. 1300 222 891. Is it a good idea to get young mums and dads to finish school, or should their priority not be finishing year 12, but learning to be good parents and staying at home?

What do you think? SMS. Best thing to tackle intergenerational unemployment is education, but are schools equipped with onsite childcare facilities? That’s not a bad question. Minister, is that an option? Where there would be, perhaps, child care facilities, at least close enough to school to make it convenient?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, there’s no doubt that you're going to have to have child care in order for the parents to be able to do their training or their education and their skills. The precise venue of what works, we’re open for that debate. What we will do is help underwrite the child care costs nearly 100 per cent. So I don’t know.

There’s been 10 areas selected around Australia based on need. I can’t tell you what the child care arrangements will finally be in each of those venues, but I do know that the Government is going to support the cost of child care.

DEANE WILLIAMS: So will these students, who have to be parents as well, be integrated into a normal year 12 environment or whatever year level they’re at or will there be specific classes for these parents? How will it work?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, it depends on where the teenage parents are at. I’ve seen success stories where the teenage parent – it’s quite remarkable really – they’ve had the baby and then they go back to school, they get support. [Inaudible] provide support with the childcare. Again, it will depend on the individual’s circumstances, but there’s no reason why they can’t be integrated into the mainstream classroom, I would have thought.

DEANE WILLIAMS: Yeah. Look, this is an interesting text that came through. This said: 95 per cent of teenage parents leave school because of discrimination.


DEANE WILLIAMS: Look, schools can be a fairly cruel place.

BILL SHORTEN: Yes, they can.

DEANE WILLIAMS: So I guess that, sort of, adds weight to the possibility of having specific classrooms for teenage parents.

BILL SHORTEN: Yeah.  Again, I don’t want to get ahead of myself here and the people best placed to work this out are the school community, parents, DHS, people in the local community. I wouldn’t want to necessarily – I wouldn’t want to – I agree with the observation that teenage parents can be the source of bullying perhaps, I mean being bullied, but I’m not sure I’d want to totally separate them from other students and put them in their own, sort of, aquarium.

DEANE WILLIAMS: Is it a voluntary commitment from teenage parents or will there be some obligation to go ahead and do some further education?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, the obligation will be that the parent will have two interviews per year, every six months. We want to make sure that the parents do turn up. I think that once the parent turns up, is treated as an individual and not a number, working with Centrelink and the various support services, then I think that – well, I believe that most parents will grab this opportunity, because the big challenge when you’ve got a baby is just getting the support services around you.

DEANE WILLIAMS: Yeah. I think that’s the case. As we said to Mayor Docherty, I mean, when you become a parent, your priorities changed immediately, regardless of what age you are. A couple of tweets on this one, too, Minister. Sharon says, “Parents should stay at school, absolutely. Education is important. Often gets sidelined when baby’s arrived” and Matt says, “Pregnancy should not be a reason to leave school”.  So there seems to be a level of support for the initiative, but as I said, you know, logistically, whoever goes – whoever is attending school is going to be – is going to want the comfort of knowing that their child is being well looked after and is in a convenient place, where they can get access to them quickly.

BILL SHORTEN: Well, what we’ll do is, the teenage parents, when the child reaches six months, we’ll develop a participation plan with Centrelink. There’ll be agreed activities, such as working towards year 12 or an equivalent. There’ll be the support for the early development activities for the child by playgroup.

Once the plan’s negotiated and agreed, the teenage parent will have to keep to the activities detailed in their plan. If they change their mind or wish to do other activities, then they’re going to have to renegotiate the plan with Centrelink, including at points between their six monthly review. But again, education, we just – because someone is lucky enough to have a child, which is a massive commitment and responsibility, we should be smart enough to ensure that the parents are still able to get that year 12 or equivalent.

DEANE WILLIAMS: Will there be any sort of performance criteria? In other words, will they have to reach some sort of standard within their studies?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, we’d want them to complete their year 12 or equivalent, but again, the thing is to treat – if you’ve got an individual who’s under a great deal of pressure, the challenge will be to treat them as a person, not a number, and just give them the support, so they don’t fall through the net and they pass what they've got to do.

DEANE WILLIAMS: As the Minister, how do you go about monitoring the success or otherwise of initiatives like this?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, Centrelink will no doubt give reports. We’ve picked 10 selected local Government areas. We hope that there’ll be about four thousand teen parents assisted over the four years of the program. I believe it’ll be successful, because I think that young people, if given the motivation to – and support to study, the added responsibility of the child also, I think, like it or not, makes you grow up a bit quicker, so I think that it is – that the theory will work.

DEANE WILLIAMS: Here’s a good question. Make school a welcoming place. What about breastfeeding? One of the major arguments for paid parental leave is the health benefits of breast-feeding. Make school a place where babies can be and be cared for, as well. So that’s an interesting point of view and also, an SMS here from Judy at Kangarilla says, “The high school in Canada my daughter went to had onsite child care and the option of staying after school to do homework with teacher assistance for everyone, not just for parents”. So that’s another aspect, isn’t it, because homework is going to be a difficult thing to commit to when you are the parent of a young child, isn’t it?

BILL SHORTEN: It is. I’ve just – because [inaudible] my two year old has just come in, so I hope she’s not making too much noise in the background here.


BILL SHORTEN: I do get that child care is – it’s a fundamental feature of some of our [inaudible] concentrate on the study and know their child is secure and safe.

DEANE WILLIAMS: Would there be any modified curriculum, as well? Like, so could there be an aspect of the curriculum, which is about being a positive parent?

BILL SHORTEN: Well, I think what we’ll find is that there will be support for the parent, as the parent, as well as the teenager as a school student. Part of working out a plan will be to make sure that the child is getting support for early development. There’s so much to learn when you become a parent that people do need support from their maternal and child health nurses, through their local GP. The school’s another opportunity, but I don’t want to necessarily overload the school with raising the whole family.

DEANE WILLIAMS: No. Look, I think everyone agrees, it’s a parental responsibility to raise your own children and as you say, for every parent, it’s a learning experience. I’m sure you’re experiencing that, as well.


DEANE WILLIAMS: Yeah. Bill Shorten, thank you.

BILL SHORTEN: Thank you very much.

DEANE WILLIAMS: Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten and before that, the mayor of the Playford City Council in Glenn Docherty and I guess, if you want any further details, that would be your first port of call. Just contact the Playford City Council and they will point you in the most appropriate direction.


















Mr Shorten’s Media Contacts: Adele Holman 0421 589 012


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