Australia - Social development

Social Security measures have been in effect since 1908 and cover all residents. Old age pensions are payable to men 65 years of age and over, and to women 61.5 years of age and over, who have lived in Australia continuously for at least 10 years at some stage in their lives. The continuous-residence requirement may be waived for those who have been residents for numerous shorter periods. Disability pensions are payable to persons 16 years of age and older who have lived at least five years in Australia and have become totally incapacitated or permanently blind. The family allowance legislation provides for weekly payments to children under 16 years of age. Widows' pensions are also provided. Employed persons are covered by workers' compensation, and unemployment assistance is provided for those aged 20 to 65. Youths aged between 16 and 20 are eligible for the youth training allowance, administered by the Department of Employment, Education and Training. Work-related sickness and maternity benefits are provided, as well as medical benefits for all residents.

The Sex Discrimination Act of 1984 bars discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status or pregnancy, and in 1992 the Parliament passed amendments that strengthened it significantly. The Office of the Status of Women was created to monitor the position of women in society. Sexual harassment is specifically prohibited by law. Domestic violence remains a problem, particularly in Aboriginal communities. The government has a strong commitment to the welfare of children.

Discrimination on the basis of race, color, descent or national or ethnic origin was prohibited in the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975. Despite these measures, aboriginal Australians have poorer standards of living, are imprisoned more often, and die younger than white Australians.

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