4918.0 - Family and Community Connections, May 2009  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 08/05/2009   
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National Volunteer Week is 11-17 May 2009.

The theme of National Volunteer Week for 2009 is Volunteers: Everyday people, extraordinary contribution.

Australian Social Trends, 2008 (cat. no. 4102.0) contains an article which examines some characteristics of "regular volunteers" - that is people aged 18 and over in the Australian population who volunteered at least once a fortnight, for one or more organisations.

The proportion of the population who volunteered at least once in a 12 month period increased from 24% in 1995 to 32% in 2000 and 35% in 2006. This increase occurred for both men and women across most age groups. While the total annual hours contributed by volunteers increased between 1995 and 2006, the amount of time each volunteer gave decreased. The median annual hours contributed by volunteers fell from 74 hours per person in 1995 to 56 hours per person in 2006.

In 2006, 5.2 million people aged 18 years and over participated in voluntary work at least once in the previous 12 months. Of these, 3.1 million (21% of the population aged 18 years and over) were volunteers who worked at least once per fortnight for one or more organisations.

In 2006, 22% of women were regular volunteers compared with 19% of men. Rates of regular volunteering were highest among people aged 35-44 years and 45-54 years. Women aged 35-44 years were the group most likely to be regular volunteers (32%) followed by men and women aged 45-54 years (24% each).


Line graph: Percentage of males and females volunteering regularly by age group
Source: ABS 2006 Voluntary Work Survey

Voluntary Work, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 4441.0) contains information about participation in unpaid voluntary work through an organisation or group. This publication includes data about the types of organisation with which the voluntary work is associated, the types of activities carried out, time spent volunteering, the characteristics of the volunteer, and the reason for volunteering. Also includes information about givers of monetary donations to organisations.


National Families Week 2009 is 10-16 May 2009.

Caring across the life cycle

A Picture of the Nation:The Statistician's report on the 2006 Census (cat. no. 2070.0) contains an article that examines caring across the life cycle.

Across Australian society, people provide unpaid care to others. Many people raise children and support them during their early years of life, and some continue to support children into young adulthood and beyond. At some stage in their life, many people provide care for children, partners, family members or friends who have a disability, long term illness or problems related to old age. Some people provide care for more than one person at the same time in their life, and some provide care for many years. The 2006 Census showed that over 5 million adults (31% of men and 41% of women) provided care to their own child, another child, or a person with a disability.


(a) Groups in this graph are not mutually exclusive. Therefore proportions do not sum to 100%.
(b) Includes people who provided unpaid care to a person because of a disability, long term illness, or problems related to old age.
Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing
According to the 2006 Census, 5% of young people aged 15–24 (119,400 young people) provided unpaid care to a person with a disability. One-quarter of these young carers lived with a person, commonly a parent, who needed assistance with core activities because of a disability, health condition lasting 6 months or more, or old age.

Parents with the dual responsibilities of raising children and caring for another person, often an elderly parent, are sometimes called the 'sandwich generation'. Of all parents living in a family with children under 15, around 447,500 (13%) had also provided unpaid care to a person because of a disability, long term illness or problems related to old age. Two thirds of these parents were women.

Looking after children who were not their own was most common for people aged in their fifties, sixties and seventies. This is the stage of life when many people become grandparents, and have the opportunity to look after their grandchildren. Around 23% of women and 12% of men aged 60–69, the peak group, had looked after a child who was not their own.

Of people who provided unpaid care, people 65 years and over were more likely than younger people to live with a person who needed assistance because of a disability, long term health condition or problems related to old age (37% compared with 24%). Most of this group of 90,600 co-resident carers lived with a partner who needed assistance (71,100). In 35,500 couple families both partners had a need for assistance. Two thirds of these partners were 65 years and over (66%), and a high proportion had provided
unpaid care (43% of women and 35% of men).

For more details of ABS information related to carers, see also A Profile Of Carers In Australia (cat. no. 4448.0)

Balancing work and caring responsibilities

Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, Australia, Apr-Jul 2007 (cat. no. 6361.0) presents new statistics, compiled from the 2007 Survey of Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, about the diversity of employment arrangements in Australia; people's use of working arrangements to balance work and caring responsibilities; retirement plans and expectations; selected characteristics of retired people; and the superannuation coverage of individuals including superannuation contributions and account balances.

6.3 million carers, or 38% of people aged 15 years and over, provided care to another adult or a child aged under 15 years (including care provided to their own children) in the week prior to the survey interview.

Graph: S6: All persons who provided care, by age and sex

Of the 3.2 million employees who provided care to someone in a given week, 15% used working arrangements to facilitate that care provision. The most common working arrangement used to care for someone was flexible working hours.

Diverse family types in Australia

Family Characteristics and Transitions, Australia, 2006-07 (cat. no. 4442.0) presents results from the 2006-07 Family Characteristics and Transitions Survey (FCTS) and compares them to results from the 2003 and 1997 Family Characteristics Surveys (FCS), providing information about changing patterns of family and household composition in contemporary Australia. Information on family transitions such as relationship history, relationship expectations, children born, fertility expectations and experience of parental divorce or separation before the age of 18 is also presented in this publication.

The majority of all couple and one parent families in 2006-07 with co-resident children aged 0 to 17 years were intact couple families (1.9 million or 73% of all families with children aged 0 to 17 years). These are families in which the children are the natural or adopted children of both parents and there are no step children. The remaining couple families with children aged 0 to 17 years were step or blended families.

FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN AGED 0-17 YEARS, Family structure by age of youngest child
Graph: 3 Families with children aged 0-17 years, Family structure by age of youngest child

In 2006-07 there were
  • 14,000 grandparent families in which the grandparents were guardians or main carers of co-resident children aged 0 to 17 years.
  • 7,000 foster families in which there was one or more co-resident foster child; and
  • 27,000 same-sex couple families. The majority of these couples had no children.

    Of the 4.8 million children aged 0 to 17 years in 2006-07, just over 1 million (22%) had a natural parent living elsewhere, compared to 21% in 1997 and 23% in 2003.

    In 2006–07, there were 470,000 non-resident parents. Most of these were fathers (82%). Almost half (49%) of the non-resident fathers were members of a couple family, while 36% of them lived alone.