Editor’s note:  The Australian Prayer Network office is closed to allow staff to undertake major prayer assignments in restricted nations.  This abridged newsletter was prepared prior to their departure for overseas and may therefore not contain up to date information.  Full newsletter service will resume from 24 September.



For better or worse, Families Minister Kevin Andrews has urged de facto couples to get married if they want to boost their chances of a long-term relationships and protect their children. With the number of couples living together before marriage leaping from one in five couples in 1979 to almost four in five in 2012, Mr Andrews said the simple fact was that de facto couples are more likely to separate. And those who suffered most from relationship breakdowns were children. Figures show that the effects are not only emotional, with the cost of long-term marriage and relationship breakdowns costing individuals $60,000 on average.

Mr Andrews said women, who were more likely to commit earlier than men, were often left at the mercy of an “emotional wallop’’ by male partners who walked out after never truly committing to the relationship. The cost of long-term marriage and relationship breakdowns costs individuals $60,000 on average. But he warned many Australian blokes are sleepwalking to oblivion by “sliding rather than deciding’’ to commit to their female partners. “The data shows there is a higher incidence of de facto relationships breaking up,’’ he said. “What a lot of people do is drift into a relationship. They get together. They like each other. They move in together. And then they try and drift along without making a decision. 

One might think, “this is a pathway to getting married.’’. The other might thinK, “I am happy where things are.’’ Mr Andrews has championed the roll out of $200 relationship counselling vouchers for married and de facto couples. New figures reveal 2,982 couples have registered for the trial including several couples over the age of 70. The largest age group to enrol were aged 25-34. Mr Andrews said it was clear that divorce was a “real poverty trap’’ for older women without adequate superannuation. But he insisted he was not suggesting that de facto couples could not involve long term commitment. “No, I am not. I just want them to be stable,’’ he said.

Asked if he believed de facto couples were more likely to be unstable he said the statistics suggested this was the case. “Well, it’s not that I think that. That’s what the research shows to date. The consequences for government is we end up paying for programs. Why not invest a bit upfront? ’ Mr Andrews said while relationships were a matter of personal choice the impact of family breakdown was a huge cost to government. “Look, people can enter into whatever relationship they want. That’s a matter for them, ’he said. “But … it becomes a question for the government and the community when relationships break up.”

Mr Andrews stressed the decision to marry or enter into a de facto relationship remained a personal choice for individuals. “I am not worried about people entering into de facto relationships. One thing about a marriage is that it publicly denotes commitment on the part of both parties. “Whereas in an informal relationship one party may be committed and one may not be.” The number of Australians living in de facto relationships rose by 25 per cent between 2001 and 2006 alone to 1.1 million Australians. Between 1996 and 2001 the number of de facto couples had increased by 28 per cent. Traditionally, marriage rates in Australia since 1901 have fallen in times of depressions and recession and peaked after the two world wars. 

A majority of couples in Australia are no longer married according to government statistics. Only 49 per cent of Australians are now living in a registered marriage, a figure not seen since 1901. The proportion of Australians who are separated or divorced has remained largely stable at around 11 per cent. The number of de factos in Australia peaks in the 25-29 age bracket where one in five are living that way. While there was a large increase in the divorce rate after the introduction of no fault divorce rates in 1975, the divorce rate has now stabilised at an annual rate of around 2 per cent per 1,000 population.

Marriages are also lasting longer on average. In 2009, the average length of marriages was 12.3 years to divorce. A majority of divorces — 59 per cent — are among couples married for more than 10 years. Around 17 per cent of divorces have been married more than 25 years and 24 per cent were married between five and nine years. 


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