The Family Policy Debate:

Where Are We Now? We can all agree that the traditional family model is under threat and that this unfortunate development will have profound consequences for our society, economy, and quality of life in the future. The “uncomfortable truth” which underpins the discussions that we will have over the course of this conference is that the traditional family unit is in decline. The numbers tell their own sorry tale. The rate of marriages has halved in the last 50 years, and nearly 30% of Australians now never marry; divorce rates have more than doubled with 50% of marriages now ending in divorce; 35% of children are now born outside marriage, and 25% grow up in a house without a father. You have a powerful team of experts and commentators at this conference who will unpack the consequences of that breakdown as the conference goes on. I feel sure that we will be left in little doubt that family breakdown increases risks of educational failure, financial stress and indebtedness, mental health disorders, addiction to drugs and alcohol, criminal activity, and welfare dependency. All these things are cause for real and deep concern, and of course have huge economic implications. As I reflect on how best to serve you all today, as something of a veteran of politics and public office, it is perhaps by turning to the difficult issue of consequence: If the research is correct, why is it not gaining more traction, and what can we do to make a difference—each one of us, that is, as we leave this venue today? To progress this issue we need to look at the source code which generates the problem in the first place and the way in which this impacts debate and makes it so difficult to effect change. Family breakdown is actually symptomatic of a much wider problem. One fundamental aspect of that problem is the breakdown of truth and absolutes in our society. We have come to place so much emphasis on our own selfish freedoms that we no longer accept the con
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