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Single parenting, co-parenting, and post-separation families:

Challenges and opportunities in times of crisis

A one-day Workshop

Friday 23 June 2023, 9am-4.30pm

Registration free.

Register Now!

Lunch, morning and afternoon teas provided

The workshop will feature keynote addresses from Dr Moeata Keil (University of Auckland), Professor Kathryn Edin (Princeton University), and Professor Kay Cook (Swinburne University). In addition, there will be a lived experience panel moderated by Ms Terese Edwards (CEO of Single Mother Families Australia), and a Q&A panel with diverse stakeholders including Professor Maggie Walter (University of Tasmania) and Professorial Fellow Shelley Mallett (Brotherhood of St Laurence), moderated by Professor Janeen Baxter (University of Queensland).

View the Agenda

While the covid pandemic dominated our attention over the past few years, other crises have raged in the background: The climate crisis and associated extreme weather events. The cost-of-living crisis. The housing crisis. The crisis of domestic and family violence.

The impacts of these crises on families are profound. This is especially the case for vulnerable families who do not fit the normative nuclear family model. Today, almost one-in-five Australian children live in a single parent family. These children have a poverty rate of 44%, which is more than three times the poverty rate of children living in couple families (13%). Another 9% of children live in blended or step-families. Yet, as a society, we seem to give little thought to how to support these diverse and often vulnerable families during increasingly precarious times.

The aim of this workshop is to exchange knowledge and build enduring research and translation collaborations on the unique challenges and opportunities facing single-parent and post-separation families in times of crisis.

The workshop will consist of the following activities:
  1. Keynote speeches from academic experts on single-parent and post-separation families
  2. A lived-experience panel, moderated by Australia’s foremost advocate for single parents, Terese Edwards (CEO of Single Mother Families Australia)
  3. A Q&A session with diverse stakeholders, including representatives from government and non-government organisations, and Professor Maggie Walter who will provide a First Nations perspective on the issue
  4. Evidence snapshots presented by Life Course Centre researchers working on this topic
  5. An interactive collaboration workshopping session. Participants will brainstorm the most important research gaps and areas for action, and then break into groups to design collaborations built around identified topics and goals
Topics to be explored include, but are not limited to:
  • Child support payments
  • Co-parenting dynamics
  • Post-separation families and gender (in)equality
  • Domestic and family violence
  • Single parents and the tax and transfer system
  • Housing
  • Poverty and child wellbeing outcomes



Moeata Keil

Moeata Keil is a Research Fellow at the University of Auckland. Her work explores how gender and ethnicity overlap and interact to shape how Pacific mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers and other family members navigate family life following separation. Her research calls attention to the importance of understanding family within broader networks of relationships than the couple and parent-child dyad, and calls for the state, law and policy to better recognise culturally-informed family norms and practices.

Kathryn Edin

Kathryn Edin is one of the leading poverty researchers in the US. A qualitative and mixed-method researcher, she has taken on key mysteries about the urban poor that have not been fully answered by quantitative work: How do single mothers possibly survive on welfare? Why don’t more go to work? Why do they end up as single mothers in the first place? Where are the fathers and why do they disengage from their children’s lives? How have the lives of the single mothers changed as a result of welfare reform? The hallmark of her research is her direct, in-depth observations of the lives of low-income women, men, and children. Kathryn is an author of the 2015 book “It’s Not Like I’m Poor: How Single Mothers Make Ends Meet in a Post-Welfare World”. Kathryn is PI of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a Trustee of the Russell Sage Foundation, was a founding member of the MacArthur Foundation-funded Network on Housing and Families with Young Children.

Kay Cook

Kay Cook is a Professor and Associate Dean Research in the School of Social Sciences, Media, Film and Education at Swinburne University of Technology. Her research centres the experiences of the subjects of social policies, to examine how the gendered and classed status quo is constructed and maintained by research, administrative and policy hierarchies and processes. She works with advocacy organisations to foreground the personal, practical and institutional barriers faced by women as they seek to combine work and care within patriarchal, neoliberal societies that individualise women’s experiences and render their experiences invisible to policymaking processes that foreground quantification and behavioural economic explanations. Professor Cook's work has focused most specifically on the unjust construction and treatment of single mothers in social policy and family law, particularly with respect to child support, welfare, family violence and financial abuse. Professor Cook has previously been Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Family Studies, Co-Director of the International Network of Child Support Scholars and an ARC Future Fellow.

Lived Experience Panel

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Terese Edwards (Chair)

Terese Edwards has been CEO of Single Mother Families Australia (SMFA; formerly the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children) for the past 13 years. She is one of Australia’s most vocal advocates for single parents, and winner of the 2019 Unsung Hero Award at the HESTA Community Sector Awards. SMFA gives primacy to mothers living in hardship and provides information and support to single parents in the areas of financial hardship, child support and domestic violence. Terese is a member of the Government`s newly established Women`s Economic Equality Taskforce.

Vesna Romic (Panellist)


Vesna Romic is currently studying for a double degree, Bachelor of Arts-Criminology and Bachelor of Health Sciences – Public Health Promotion at Deakin University. Her background is in Accounting and has interests in Herbal Medicine and international travel. She has self-represented in the Family Law Court and has advocated for her children for the past 14 years to the NDIS, Centrelink and Child Support. She prepared a submission of Foreign Accent Syndrome as a symptom of Autism Spectrum Disorder to the NDIS, which was accepted into their schedule of support in 2022. She currently cares for a child diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder in June 2022, (and ADHD, ASD and General Anxiety Disorder) and his twin with Congenital Chronic Kidney Disease. (and ADHD, Depression), and the eldest with PTSD and ADHD.

Angela Finch (Panellist)

Angela Finch has found her advocacy voice in recent years. A proud solo mum to three daughters. Angela joined the board of Single Mother Families Australia in 2022. She also is a member of the Poverty and Inequality Partnership. 


Renee Rainbow (Panellist)


Renee is a solo Mum of 3 living in Gippsland, Victoria. She is a qualified Counsellor and works as a Counsellor, Senior Support Worker, and in the Family Violence/Sexual Assault After Hours Crisis Care space, utilising her lived experience with family violence to support and advocate for women and children. Renee also advocates for neurodivergent children and young people, with her young son being diagnosed as Autistic and with ADHD. She is currently home-schooling him due to the inadequacy of the education system. She is a passionate and proud supporter and advocate for women and children in Gippsland.


Stakeholder Panel


Janeen Baxter (Chair)


Janeen Baxter is Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course in the Institute for Social Science Research at The University of Queensland. Janeen is a sociologist with research interests and expertise in gender inequality, family dynamics, life course and longitudinal studies and has published widely in these areas.  Janeen is a member of the Council for the Committee for Economic Development in Australia (CEDA), Section Editor for Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, and a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia.

Maggie Walter (Panellist)


Maggie Walter (PhD; FASSA) is Palawa, a member of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Briggs family. She holds the position of Distinguished Professor of Sociology (Emerita) at the University of Tasmania. Professor Walter’s research centres on challenging, empirically and theoretically, standard explanations for Indigenous inequality including how Indigenous data are understood and utilised. She is a founding member of the Australian Indigenous Data Sovereignty Collective (Maiam nayri Wingara) and an executive member of the Global Indigenous Data Alliance (GIDA). In May 2021, Professor Walter was appointed as a Commissioner with the Victorian Yoo-rrook Justice Commission, Australia’s first truth-telling Commission inquiring into the systemic injustices experienced by First Peoples from colonisation in 1788 to the present.

Shelley Mallett (Panellist)


Shelley Mallett is the Professorial Fellow in Social Policy in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne and Director, Social Policy and Research Centre, at BSL. Shelley’s career has been diverse, spanning service delivery, service development and training, as well as academic research and teaching. Shelley gained her PhD from La Trobe University after completing earlier degrees in Arts and speech pathology.

While her research interests are broad, she has particular expertise in homelessness and housing research, especially youth homelessness. Shelley is the author of two books, including Moving out and moving on: young people’s pathways in and through homelessness, and the recipient of several research awards, including the DM Myers award, and the VicHealth Public Health Research award.

Register Now!

If you have any questions about this event, please contact organisers
Alice Campbell (
and Dorinda 't Hart (

This event is being proudly sponsored by: 


XX ISA World Congress of Sociology

Melbourne, Australia | June 25 - July 1, 2023