Chaos At the Crossroads: In the Beginning
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In 2003 the then Prime Minister of Australia John Howard announced an inquiry into family law and joint custody, otherwise known as shared parenting, Family law was the country's single most controversial area of law. It was also the layperson's most common point of interaction with the legal and judicial system. The Family Court had been a source of individual pain and public controversy since its foundation in 1975. The announcement received front page coverage and delighted of father's groups nationwide. The Prime Minister declared that he was drawn to the notion of shared parenting, an issue on which the previously marginalized, disenfranchised and often ridiculed fathers' groups had been campaigning on for years. The reform of family law was a tipping point issue. with an increasingly large body of disgruntled litigants and disenfranchised fathers, Australia's politicians faced a significant degree of discontent, anger and outrage from their constituents. 90 pages 26,000 words.



Publié par
Date de parution 10 avril 2013
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781456615062
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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Chaos at the Crossroads:
In the Beginning
William John Stapleton

Copyright A Sense of Place Publishing 2013.
All rights reserved.
ISBN-13: 978-1-4566-1506-2
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.

This is the second volume in the series Chaos at the Crossroads, on the history of the struggle for family law reform and the introduction of shared parenting in Australia, a microcosm of similar struggles taking place throughout the Western world. Each volume is designed so it can be read independently of the others.
Chaos at the Crossroads:
In the Beginning

Early in the millennium Australia was presented with an historic opportunity to address once and for all the public disquiet over issues concerning child welfare, custody and support payments. The routine stripping of children, income and assets from their fathers under the prevailing divorce regime arose from what had once seemed progressive policy decisions made in the 1970s.
Australia adopted with alacrity the same style of Marxist feminist Family Courts that had sprung up across the western world during the seventies, that decade of social ferment and change.
Fancying itself amongst the avant-garde on social justice issues, Australia embraced the Court's philosophy of protection and advancement of women.
But with the detangling of the horrific court battles and personal enmities created by fault based divorce, unfortunately, came an armada of ideologues, “researchers” and academic sympathisers. In the fevered anti-male atmosphere invading the West’s university corridors at the time, the denigration of fathers as dangerous and unnecessary historical relics became routine.
The playing out of these policies in the modern era and the dysfunction of the institutions which have administered Australia’s family law system since the mid-1970s and its child support policies since the late 1980s were ripe for change when the socially conservative pro-family Prime Minister John Howard powered into office in 1996.
Family law reform was an issue whose time had come. In a rare confluence of opinion, the public, the media and numerous politicians all supported change.
Howard, always one to sniff the political wind, knew that a large number of voters were looking to him to fix the lunacy of Australia's Family Court and its evil twin the Child Support Agency, both creations of the country's Labor Party during its many years in power through the 1970s and 1980s.
Many constituents found it hard to believe that a “conservative” pro-family figure like Howard could possibly condone some of the goings on in these institutions and must desire, like they did, to reform them. As a suburban solicitor promoting traditional family values, many assumed that the Prime Minister could not have personally condoned their extreme anti-father bias, their arbitrary decision making processes, or indeed what many saw as blatant corruption in the rigging of evidence and procedures to advantage the mother at the cost of truth.
Family law reform was an issue whose time had come. In a rare confluence of opinion, the public, the media and numerous politicians all supported change.
But politics is a juggling act of competing concerns; and for a while there was no better juggler in Australian political life than Howard. Juggling does not equal reform.
Established in 1975, in its early days the Family Court of Australia was widely perceived as a forward-looking, ground breaking institution.
But within a decade the Court was making headlines for all the wrong reasons, the focus of contention being its treatment of fathers.
The community radio program Dads On The Air, which played such an integral role in the fight for family law reform in Australia and became known internationally for the wide variety of academics, authors and lobbyists it interviewed, first began broadcasting in August, 2000. The timing coincided with a dramatic increase in the media and government’s focus on family law.
By then the Family Court and the associated industries and protective bureaucracies surrounding it, including the family law units of Legal Aid and the multi-million dollar family report writing business, were all attracting public disquiet.
Hampered by the secrecy provisions in family law, which have worked effectively to keep the general public ignorant of the worst excesses of the Family Court of Australia, its most farcical judgments and its repeated failure to take child protection issues seriously, Dads On The Air nonetheless did its best to expose the Court’s practices and its many dirty little secrets.
“Malfeasance”, described by Dictionary Online as “the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law; wrongdoing – used especially of an act in violation of a public trust or by the Oxford Dictionary as simply “wrongdoing, especially by a public official”, was a word which entered the vocabulary of the volunteers on Dads On The Air.
The word became the simplest, most short hand way to describe the operation of both The Family Court of Australia and The Child Support Agency. It was first used on radio by then head of Dads Australia Rod Hardwick.
The rest of the volunteers for the community radio program soon followed suit. When involved with Dads On The Air he worked as a fireman after retiring from the police force.
The issues so lightly glossed over in much of the public and media debate represented a deep personal hurt that was disfiguring the country.
MPs across the country were being besieged with complaints about family law and child support; hour upon hour of their time eaten up by distressed parents whose disputes were exacerbated or made intractable by their interaction with government agencies.
Modern fathers had embraced with gusto the increased involvement and hands-on parenting of their children sparked by a feminist push to remake the family, remodel women's roles and share work burdens on the domestic front.
At the beginning of the millennium Australia’s shopping malls were full of kids crawling all over their fathers, holding hands, dribbling and drooling. The cheerfully harassed dads struggled to do the shopping while keeping their offspring in check. It was a very different scene to the traditional over-tired, over-stressed mother standing at checkout queues trying to pull their bored children into line.
Not to be at your child's birth was now the exception rather than the rule. The days of fathers opening up cigars and slugging down whisky with their mates while their wives bellowed their way through childbirth were largely a memory.
In the contemporary urban environment in which most Australians lived, with both parents working to pay large mortgages, shared parenting, although not labeled as such, was already the norm in many intact families.
Time and study motions showed that while both parents tended to maintain their traditional roles and divisions of labor, both mothers and fathers contributed approximately equal time to the functioning of the household – despite all the studies showing men were shirking their share of the dishes. Instead they were mowing the lawns, taking out the garbage, fixing fences and all the household activities the suburban male had long adopted as their domain.
But however devoted a father might be and however modern his approach, if his wife decided she wanted to divorce, those same fathers laughing in the sun with their children were rapidly transformed into the familiar sight of the lonely, sad and suicide prone separated dad. Most of those once happy fathers never thought such a fate could possibly await them. Such destinies were for losers who had done the wrong thing by their wives or children. There was little solidarity between men in intact families and separated men; or with gay men for that matter.
The social reality and the public discourse had long ago parted ways.
For most of the Family Court's 30-plus-year history separated fathers, disenchanted with their court cases and almost invariably playing a diminished role in their children’s day to day lives, had been invisible in the public debate.
The argument over Australia’s family law and child protection policies was a tipping point one. The mistreatment of fathers and their children by state institutions had, in terms of public anger, reached boiling point by the end of the twentieth century. The issue spilt over into public debate, was generating new lobby groups and began emerging from the shadows of midnight to dawn talkback radio into the mainstream media.
The policies, partly historic accident, were being fostered and maintained by the rigid gender politics of those in the highest reaches of the country's bureaucracy and judiciary.
The antecedents of contemporary family law policies can be traced back to the Bolsheviks war on the nuclear family as the last bastion against socialism, to the radical socialism of the Frankfurt School and to a number of other left wing movements.
Many of the bureaucrats and senior judicial figures in positions of power at the turn of the millennium acquired their ideas and views of the world in the universities of the 1970s.
Few of these now middle aged individuals had altered their views since their days sitting in rapt attention at a tutor’s feet.

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