125th anniversary of Suffrage in New Zealand

DPB legislation enacted

14 November 1973

Women demonstrate outside a Social Welfare office, 1977
Women demonstrate outside a Social Welfare office, 1977 (Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/4-028276-F)

The passage of the Social Security Amendment Act introduced the Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB) to New Zealand’s social welfare system.

The DPB was intended to help women with a dependent child or children who had lost the support of a husband, or were inadequately supported by him. It was also available to unmarried mothers and their children, and to women who were living alone and caring for incapacitated relatives.

While men could also claim the DPB, the vast majority of beneficiaries were women. A new and sometimes maligned category of New Zealander was created: the ‘solo mum’. Controversy about the DPB intensified in 1976 when Minister of Social Welfare Bert Walker claimed that some solo mothers were ‘ripping off the system’.

Others argued that the DPB was an important right for women. It gave them and their children some protection from the potentially harmful consequences of a failed relationship. Advocates also argued that as the amount paid barely covered basic necessities, the existence of the DPB was hardly an incentive to give up paid work.