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Same-sex couple families
The legal status of same-sex partnership has undergone changes in recent years. Currently, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory legally recognise same-sex couples in matters of superannuation, hospital and coronial rights, property settlement, taxation, compensation payments and wills and estates. While South Australia and the Northern Territory do not currently have partnership laws for same-sex couples, legislation is being considered by parliament in both jurisdictions (Greig 2003).
The 2001 census identified 11,000 male same-sex couples and 9,000 female same-sex couples in Australia. Nationally, same-sex couple families represented 0.1% of couples with children and 1% of couples without children, or 0.5% of all couple families (table 5.63). The proportion of same-sex couples within the states and territories closely reflected the national distribution, with the exceptions of Queensland and Tasmania (both 0.3% of all couple families) and the Australian Capital Territory (1% of all couple families).
Nationally, same-sex couple families tended to be smaller than opposite-sex couple families, with an average number of residents of 2.1 for female same-sex couples, 2.3 for male same-sex couples and 3.2 for opposite-sex couples in 2001. The proportion of families without children was also higher for same-sex couples, at 95% of male same-sex couples and 81% of female same-sex couples, compared with 43% for opposite-sex couples (graph 5.64). Of the couples with children, a higher proportion of same-sex couples had only one child (49% of male same-sex couples and 54% female same-sex couples compared with 34% of opposite-sex couples).
In 2001 children in female same-sex couple families were of similar ages to those in opposite-sex couple families, both with a median age of 11 years. There was a higher proportion of children aged 10-14 years (27% compared with 22% for opposite-sex couples), and a lower proportion of children aged 15 years and over (29% compared with 33% for opposite-sex couples). Children in male same-sex couple families had a median age of 13 years, and fewer children aged 0-4 years were present (17% compared with 22% for opposite-sex couples). A higher proportion of adult children aged 15 years and over were present in male same-sex couple families (38%).
Partners in same-sex couples had a younger age distribution than partners in opposite-sex couples (graph 5.65), with 20% of male and 22% of female partners in same-sex marriages aged under 30 years, compared with 11% of partners in opposite-sex couples. Persons aged 65 years and over comprised 3% of male same-sex partners and 1% of female same-sex partners, compared with 15% of opposite-sex partners.
Few same-sex couple families lived in multiple family households in 2001, at 0.7% of male and 0.5% of female same-sex couples. Comparatively, 2.5% of opposite-sex couples lived in multiple family households. Same-sex families were more mobile in the five years prior to the 2001 census, with 31% of male and 27% of female same-sex partners stating they had not moved within the previous five years, compared with 57% of opposite-sex partners.
The proportion of families with children with a child absent on census night in 2001 was 9% for same-sex couple families compared with 5% for opposite-sex couple families. This was influenced by the registered marital status of partners in same-sex couples. A third (33%) of same-sex partners in families with children were separated or divorced, compared with 3% of partners in opposite-sex couples with children. A further 18% of same-sex partners with children reported they were registered as married. It is probable children in these families had a greater likelihood of visiting a parent on census night than children in opposite-sex couple families. Overall, the majority of same-sex partners reported they had never been married (82% of male and 74% of female same-sex partners) (graph 5.66).
For same-sex couples, 92% of families had at least one partner employed in 2001. In comparison, 75% of opposite-sex couples had at least one partner employed. The level of employment among same-sex couples is in part due to the age distribution of the partners in these relationships, with considerably fewer people of retirement age. The level of employment within same-sex couples is also reflected in the median weekly family income for families with positive stated income, at $1,588 for male same-sex couples and $1,422 for female same-sex couples compared with $1,046 for opposite-sex couples.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics)
Greig 2003, Senator Brian Greig, 2003, Australian Democrats, media release 03/630, 29 August 2003
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