By JENNY MACKLIN
More than 30 years ago, when I had my first son, his father took a year off work to care for him.
It was extremely unusual back then for a dad to take some time off to look after a newborn while his mother went back to work. My partner Ross has some pretty funny stories to tell about the reaction he’d get when he was out and about with our son, particularly the stares when he took our son for his regular maternal and child health checks and was the only man in the waiting room.
All these years later, I’m not so sure whether people’s reactions today to a dad staying home would be all that different.
It’s still not something you see every day. It’s still difficult for families to balance work with caring for their newborn.
And there are good reasons why it’s often mothers who take some time off work to look after their newborn baby, for example to establish breastfeeding routines.
Because we understood how important that time with your newborn is, two years ago our Government introduced Australia’s first national paid parental leave scheme.
Since then, more than 200,000 families, many of them people who never before got any paid leave after they had a baby, have received government-funded leave.
I’m proud that we’ve been able to make it easier for these families to take time off to spend with their babies.
But we know we can do more.
And we know dads want to do more. While it’s still uncommon for dads to take a year out from work to look after the baby, today’s dads are generally more involved around the home.
However, they’re often doing this on top of their work commitments, and if they want to take any time off after their baby is born it usually involves taking unpaid leave.
That’s why today I’m releasing details of how from January 1 next year, dads and partners will also be able to access government-funded leave.
We’ll be providing two weeks of dad and partner pay at the national minimum wage, so dads and other partners, such as same-sex couples, can take some time off when their new baby is born.
Applications for dad and partner pay open today. If you are expecting a baby in the new year, I encourage you to visit this website or call 13 61 50 and find out more about the new scheme.
Today, my partner likes to tell me that it was his care in the early stages of our son’s life that led to him being the talented person he is today.
While I’m not prepared to give away all the credit for that, I do hope the work this government has been doing means that in 30 years’ time, many more parents will be having the same discussion.
Jenny Macklin is the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, and Minister for Disability Reform. Away from politics, Jenny enjoys spending time with her family, bush walking and reading Australian literature. She is also an avid supporter of the Geelong Football Club.
Would you or did you take time off to stay home when your kids were born? Did your partner share the child caring role? Do you think this new Government initiative will encourage more men to stay at home?