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Parental leave policy needs refresh: ANU

Researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) have said Australia needs to create a “more gender-equitable and flexible” paid parental leave policy to encourage more fathers to take it up.

“The scheme is not flexible enough for mothers and fathers. The 18 weeks’ minimum pay can be transferred to fathers, but this is rarely done because it is received by the primary carer,” said Senior Research Fellow at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Liana Leach.

“As the policy stands, parents need to make a decision about who the primary carer is in the family, and thus the leave is only transferred to fathers in about 2% of cases.”

Dr Leach says there is still a stigma surrounding fathers taking parental leave, with dads worried about taking time off and not advancing their careers.

“A male-breadwinner culture remains in Australia – dads go to work.”

Lead author of the ANU’s report, Belinda Townsend, says the Australian Government’s current paid parental leave scheme was intended as a “minimum model that would be built upon over time”.

“This was a landmark social policy in Australia that has led to improvements for health. However, inequities in access remain,” Dr Townsend says.

The current scheme provides eligible primary carers up to 18 weeks’ paid parental leave at the national minimum wage, plus partners up to two weeks’ leave. Employers can make a voluntary top up, and new parents can take up to 52 two weeks protected leave, unpaid.

                Dr Leach says further research is needed to find out why, when fathers are offered dedicated leave by their employers, it is still not being taken up.

                “Some businesses offer secondary carer’s leave and that kind of offering entitles parents to leave when you are not the primary carer,” said Dr Leach.

“But the problem is that when organisations offer this type of leave for fathers, a lot of dads still don’t take it.”

Recognising stroke signs

Australians are being encouraged to learn the most common signs of stroke, F.A.S.T, as part of National Stroke Week, 2-8 September.

According to the Stroke Foundation, there is one stroke every nine minutes in Australia and more than 475,000 Australians are living with the impact of stroke.

Using the F.A.S.T test involves asking these simple questions:

Face: Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?

Arms: Can they lift both arms?

Speech: Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?

Time: Is critical. If you see any of these signs, call triple zero (000) straight away.

Adopt-a-Park program

Local residents and volunteer groups are being encouraged by the ACT Government to adopt a local park to help care for urban spaces.

Minister for City Services Chris Steel said the Adopt-a-Park program is “designed to encourage more Canberrans to get involved with their community by maintaining local parks, with grants to help local groups care for open spaces in their area”.

There are two categories of grants: one for community events and another for community based activities. Members of the community can apply for up to $20,000 to help support stewardship and neighbourhood activities relating to urban assets over the following year.

Community information sessions will be at Gungahlin Library on Wednesday 4 September 5.45-6.45pm and at Tuggeranong Library on Tuesday 17 September 5.45-6.45pm. RSVP to [email protected] if you would like to attend either event.

For more information or to apply for an Adopt-A-Park grant, visit www.tccs.act.gov.au

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