3AW DRIVE with Tom Elliott – 4 November, 2014

TOM ELLIOTT: Earlier on in the program I mentioned the day that my daughter came home, almost five years ago from the hospital after being born and it was quite terrifying. I had one lesson on changing a nappy; one lesson on how to give such a tiny baby a bath and that was it. We were left to our own devices. It would never happen these days. Kevin Andrews, Social Services Minister, good afternoon.

MINISTER ANDREWS: Good afternoon Tom.

TOM ELLIOTT: Now would you, in my situation were I to go through it again, which I don’t think I will, would you come round and give me some lessons in nappy changing, cleaning up after a bad one, that sort of thing?

MINISTER ANDREWS: Well we’ve had five children Tom, so I suppose I’ve got a little bit of experience.

TOM ELLIOTT: Yes you do.

MINISTER ANDREWS: There are people more expert at doing it than me.

TOM ELLIOTT: So what exactly is this plan to get people child ready, work ready, ageing ready, relationship ready, I mean will you come round and tell people who to, I don’t know, how to improve their sex life or something?

MINISTER ANDREWS: No look, there’s a series of events that are sort of transition points in life – getting married is one of them I suppose, having a child is another one, being ready to go to work for school, things like that and what we’re looking at is, well we offer a whole range of services but can we embed into them a sense of how do you help people before problems come along rather than just trying to deal with problems after they’ve arrived.

TOM ELLIOTT: Well you’ve already had this policy this year of giving out $200 vouchers for couples to seek relationship counselling. Now I understand that roughly 5000 people have signed up for them. Would you regard that policy as a success?

MINISTER ANDREWS: Well I’ve just been – I’m actually at a conference with various family and relationship educators in Adelaide today and they are all saying that this is a great policy. It’s attracting more people to come along. It’s early days yet and a lot of people don’t know about it yet so we were looking at ways in which we can actually make it more available to people so they can be aware of what’s available for them so that they can participate in these sorts of programs, whether it’s counselling or marriage education or parenting programs like you started talking about at the outset.

TOM ELLIOTT: If you go back to parenting now, I mean I did go to a few classes that dealt both with the birth itself and the immediate aftermath and you know, we sort of handed around plastic babies, that sort of thing. I mean, can you teach this sort of stuff ahead of it actually happening?

MINISTER ANDREWS: Well what you say has become fairly common, most parents these days through the hospital at which they will have the child actually do some parenting – well not parenting programs, antenatal programs I think they’re called – where they learn about you know, the birth process and that sort of thing. But what’s also being offered but less well known is programs around well what’s happening in the relationship, you know, when you bring the baby home it’s not just how do you change the nappy and those sorts of things. There’s also tension in terms of relationships and that can cause problems. So if people are aware of these and have a few skills that they may not have otherwise had, then that can only be a good thing.

TOM ELLIOTT: Now the newspaper of this ageing ready is another area you’re looking to – my observation is that people do anything and everything they can to avoid getting older these days. Should they maybe learn to accept it a bit better?

MINISTER ANDREWS: Well I think that’s one part of it, but I suppose we’re also contrasting that people think about for example, their retirement and you know, often a decade or more ahead, they’re planning for their retirement, they’re putting away the funds that they think they will need, but often the people in older age especially may need to have aged care services, may need to go into residential aged care home and we want to encourage people not just to think about retirement, but think about those services they might need as well.

TOM ELLIOTT: Just finally, so what we’re talking about here, I mean would the Federal Government be providing this sort of this education, this sort of information or would it be outsourcing it to relationship counsellors, to midwifes, to people who already do this sort of thing?

MINISTER ANDREWS: Yes and we fund some of those programs now so it’s not the Federal Government doing it, it’s about services in the community, how can we make them more available and people more aware of things that which can actually help them at different stages of their life.

TOM ELLIOTT: Kevin Andrews, father of five and Social Services Minister. Thank you for your time.

MINISTER ANDREWS: Thanks Tom.

TOM ELLIOTT: Got to say wouldn’t have minded someone coming around and doing the nappies especially the number twos, I remember the only advice I got from my own father was don’t do it, just wait for a woman to turn up. He was a man of a different age.