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Childfree/Childless Singles in Australia (Donna Ward Interview, Part 2) June 16, 2021

Posted by Onely in book review, Reviews.
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Welcome to the latest installment in our series, Onelers Of The World. This is the second part of my interview with Australian author Donna Ward, who elaborates on aspects of her beautiful memoir She I Dare Not Name: A spinster’s meditations on life. The first part of the interview was about the differences between how singleness is viewed in Australia vs. in the US. Here in Part 2, we examine Donna’s experience of being childless in Australia. The bolded texts were bolded by me, because I had the same compulsion to highlight Donna’s interview insights that I had when I was reading She I Dare Not Name. . . 

 

Christina to Donna: “But, do not be foxed!” you say, after having told us how Australians aren’t as marriage-happy as Americans. Because Australia nonetheless has plenty laws favoring people with families. You say, “As long as he or she has children, an Australian is a legitimate member of society.” Can you give an example(s) of specific instances where you would have had different privileges if you had had children? 

Donna: Can I say, straight up, our laws are not as punitive or as stringent against childless singles as I hear they are in America.

Christina: You most certainly can! 

Donna: We have never had a bachelor tax, for example, which was popular in Europe, the UK, and America from the eighteenth century, to encourage men to marry. Nevertheless, Australian economic and social policy is built on the assumption of the dual income family with children. So the cost of living—house prices, rent, utilities, food, holidays—is priced accordingly. Tax breaks exist for those with children on the assumption that there are no barriers to those living without the cost of children.

Our social welfare system and health insurance system, are based on the individual. This was a revolution that occurred during our progressive governments of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. During those decades, even though our Taxation Law assumes everyone will partner and parent, our social welfare system was designed around individual rights. This doesn’t mean they adequately support individuals, but it does mean it is an individual’s right to claim unemployment, supporting parent, and disability benefits, and the aged pension regardless of their marital status.

However, disability, health, and age care services are designed on the assumption that everyone has a family member, especially an adult child, who will steer them through the digital rabbit hole into these services, and safeguard them once they arrive.

Christina: In my state in the U.S. they elected not to expand Medicaid, which meant that low-income people without children were ineligible for this low-cost healthcare option. Now I finally understand our famously wierd state slogan, “Virginia Is For Lovers.” Ok, vent over, back to Donna. . . 

Donna: In the workplace the childless single is confronted with stigma, and exclusion.
The childless man can unwittingly be excluded from social events because most social events are family events. In Australia, single childless people are not included in family events. Of course they’re invited to formal work events, and always encouraged to bring a plus one. We have not moved to the stage of a single person simply attending in their own right.

In the workplace the single childless woman can be dismissed, regarded as frigid, or psychologically unstable. She can be sexually harassed and assaulted, and certainly overlooked for promotion because she does not have a family. Single childless men are also overlooked for promotion at work.

There are any number of social occasions, family gatherings, from which I’ve been at best forgotten, at worst deliberately excluded because I don’t have children. When I question it, my friends, in good faith, tell me they didn’t think I wanted to be burdened by the noise and distraction of children.

Christina: As a childfree woman, I’ve had people express surprise when I say a child is cute or I otherwise express a positive emotion about a child/children. They seem surprised that I don’t find children unconditionally smelly and irritating. Most of these comments are well-meant, but when a person lives with decades of microaggressions/microinvalidations, a person gets tired of saying “but they’re well-meaning.” 

Donna: Although never stated, I have been overlooked for promotion and definitely retrenched because I am without children. It was assumed I would find another job with ease, and believed that those with children need the job more. Of course, retrenchment decisions are always hard to make, and in the end someone has to lose their job, but it was within the reasoning that lay the unexamined prejudice. Why, on earth, would it be easier for a single woman, than a family man, to find another job, when she is regularly overlooked for promotion because of her childless state and her marital status?

Christina: In your book, you struggle to convince the local police and the city council that your neighbors are running a serious drug den. Although you eventually succeed in getting the authorities to raid the house, the process wasn’t easy and in the end you needed to move for your own safety anyway. How do you think the events might have played out differently if you’d been married? Or even living with a roommate? If you’d been a single mother with a child, might the police have taken you more seriously?

Donna: I can assure you, even if I was one of two parents with children, the police would have been on top of that drug den in a nano-second, because children were involved. The only other households affected by this den of iniquity were the tenants of a student house, and an elderly couple. I knew I could only draw the attention of the police and the local council to the problem because I was able to talk about the impact of the behavior of these nefarious souls on the children walking home after school. Once those children took another way home, the police relaxed their pressure. The council, as I write about, were excellent, but in the end they were unable to resolve the problem for me, and I had to move out.  

However, there is breaking news. After almost fifteen years, the house concerned was sold and I believe there is now a set of three townhouses on that block of land. Once we’ve conquered the travel restrictions presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ll be on a plane to take a photograph to prove my small impact in the world. Sometimes change is slow. A spinster must stay strong.

Photo credit: Manda Ford

Comments»

1. Me - June 16, 2021

Some are more equal than others, especially children.

2. Mixed Fruit, or the Unmarried Conglomerate (Donna Ward Interview, Part 3) | Onely.Org - June 22, 2021

[…] beautiful memoir She I Dare Not Name: A spinster’s meditations on life. Here are the first and second parts of the interview. The third part, below, talks about the Unmarried Conglomerate, the term […]


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