Fairness and Equity for Families
In 1877, when Berry Street was formed, poverty, unemployment, violence, substance abuse and homelessness were the prevailing threats to children’s wellbeing. Whilst today the broad picture for Victoria’s children is vastly improved, these same issues threaten the wellbeing of many children. Fairness and equity for families is about breaking this cycle.
Family poverty, unemployment and homelessness have been with us for a long time. By 1877, just 26 years after the colony of Victoria was formed, poverty, disease and homelessness had taken hold in a young colony. Women and children were particularly vulnerable. Concerned about the high rates of child mortality, the plight of unwanted babies and unsupported mothers a group of women formed Berry Street as an Infant Asylum and Babies' Home. Babies and mothers were given shelter and support. From the outset Berry Street chose not to judge these women but to stand up for them, for their children and for families - to make Victoria a better place for women, children and families. Berry Street took a stand against the tide of growing inequality and the prevailing ethos of treating single mothers with scorn and children as people without rights.
Our work over many generations tells us that where there are children in poverty there are families in poverty and that where there are families in poverty there are impoverished communities. Communities that lack the resources to provide children and young people with opportunities to develop and thrive experience higher levels of child abuse, child neglect and family violence.
Every Victorian family needs access to education and health services, a living income and safe and secure housing in order to raise their children well. We know that children who are born to vulnerable young mothers, who grow up with violence, whose parents are poorly educated, unemployed, homeless or have a mental illness or substance addiction, are at much higher risk of living in these circumstances as adults and evidence-based interventions are needed in breaking this cycle. We know that these issues wear away not just at the fabric of families but at community cohesion creating entrenched intergenerational pockets of disadvantage. This is why Berry Street pursues fairness and equity for families and communities.
Key Areas of Advocacy and Action
- Timely access to universal family support and parenting assistance for vulnerable families throughout Victoria
- Enhanced levels of support for families, children and young people in economically depressed urban, regional and rural areas to the essential services that underpin child development and family wellbeing.
- Priority access to housing assistance and mental health services for vulnerable families with children including families at risk of child protection intervention
- Evidence informed welfare reforms that improve financial support to families and the financial management capacity of families without compulsory income management