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Wayne Butler calls for a Department of Men and Families

A Topic to explore the need for and support of, the creation of a small department to specifically formulate and assist in deployment of strategies to help men and families.

Department of Men and Families: (DoMAF)

This issue has also been raised with me by a number of groups over the years in respect to the creation of a small Federal Government department for the management of policies for men, young men, youth and families.

More recently concerns from a group led by Dr Greg Canning, Chairman of Townsville International in Queensland and my colleague Barry Williams who sits on the CSNSEG panel prompt me to raise this with members on the site and gauge public opinion.

My view and that of the Council executive including my colleagues are that a small department under the umbrella of FaHCSIA would do much to benefit men and families. This department, based most likely out of Canberra in a regional area, would have a small secretariat and concern itself with:
  •    Dealing with family violence at a level that is understood by men and families, with particular focus on relationships and education programmes prior to both men and women entering into a partnered relationship.

  •    Improving understanding across other Government departments that are implementing gender driven responses to the National Plan to reduce Violence against Women and their children which is based solely on their sex.

  •    Assist in implementing the United Nations declarations on the Rights of the Child, which from June will be embedded into the Family Law Act.

  •    Education focus arising from the Government NAPLAN results and focussing Government efforts at young school levers and in particular boys, to reverse the downward trend of young men graduating from tertiary courses

  •    Leading a focus on men and boys health and assisting to extend the reach of the mens health policy, created by the Labor government in 2010, but which seems to have stalled.

  •    Represent and focus all mens groups and sheds across Australia as a central departmental body that can receive delegations of men from all walks of life, races and in particular the Aboriginal Community with a  view to providing authorities and information to Whole of Government.

  •    Deal with review of all legislative reforms across Federal Government that are impacting on Men and Families such as Family Law reform, Child Support legislation reform, Courts and Education policy, legislation and guidance.

If there is support for such a plan we will take up the matter more vigorously and involve a number of reform and self harm prevention groups to move this idea into reality.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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Whilst I see the rationale for such a scheme, I'm not completely at ease with the creation of yet another layer of self-interest to confuse the issues around gender and promote yet more competition between the genders for access to resources.

I'd prefer a Commission to enquire into the best ways to resolve gender-based discrepancies in the Law and in access to the benefits of being an Australian citizen. Note, I'm not talking about the Sex Discrimination Commission, but a properly constituted special-purpose Commission to do a "Henry Review" and make recommendations across the board to simplify and clarify the issues and the laws.

A few things I'd like to see are:

  • abolition of the CSA and compulsory CS, tax-based collection of a simple 1% levy to replace all the CS presently transferred, administered by Centrelink/FAO. Possibly some form of incentive to pay more voluntarily, via tax deductions or other means
  • requirements for tertiary institutions, both those offering degrees and those of lesser stature, to ensure that the student population gender ratio is never outside the range of 55/45. How they achieve that would be up to them.
  • efforts made to induce more male teachers and make it attractive for them as a profession so they stay in it, with a view to achieving roughly 50% representation of both genders in the teacing workforce at all levels.
  • abolition of the various Offices for the Status of Women and their equivalents and the defunding of all the genderist organisations (both genders). Those like DIDs and their female equivalents that offer a specific service could continue to do so, but on a gender-inclusive basis and with a prohibition on any gender discrimination.
  • a blanket and strictly-enforced ban on gender-vilification through the media. This would mean that headlines like "$7 a Week:All Some Fathers Are Worth" and the trashy CSA press releases that inspire them would be a thing of the past.
  • proper discrimination laws that prohibit gender-based discrimination for both sexes
The incidence of self-harm would be significantly reduced, especially male suicide, if these things were done, I think. With some luck, the quality of the relationship between the males and females in our society that is presently at an all-time low would be given an opportunity to be renegotiated free of the coercive state intrusions that poison it.
I personally disagree with anything that is discriminatory by gender. I would rather support the Office of Women being disbanded/converted into the "Office of Persons (or People or Humans) (perhaps and Families, although that may discriminate against those who decide to not have a family)" and that it's role be defined to exclude any gender discrimination at all, rather that it promote the well-being and welfare of persons/people/humans and especially acts to remove all discrimination against persons. I guess that could also address the issues both Secrtary_SPCA and Craigo have put forward. However, better what has been previously proposed in this post than the current situation of Governmental gender discrimination under the guise/abuse of anti-discrimination though both the "Office of Women" and the "Australian Human Rights Commission" (e.g. Broderick's non-action regarding the increasing gender disparity of education results).

ZimbaZumba

The Women's Movement has been able to punch their agenda through essentially unopposed. The fact they are so power and there is no credible counter force is not healthy for a Democracy.

The powerful have all they can to stop men from organising, especially in Universities.
Craigo said
Whilst I see the rationale for such a scheme, I'm not completely at ease with the creation of yet another layer of self-interest to confuse the issues around gender and promote yet more competition between the genders for access to resources.
I am not sure there is any other way to get issues to the front line and for these to be dealt with by Government. Working with volunteer staff who are not available most of the time and who lack the "standing" in the legislature and policy groups will not make a difference. I am not suggesting a massive department of a scale similar to that of the Office of Women in FaHCSIA but something that at least has a core researcher and secretarial base on which to publish and develop initiatives that will be implemented in the field.
Craigo said
I'd prefer a Commission to enquire into the best ways to resolve gender-based discrepancies in the Law and in access to the benefits of being an Australian citizen. Note, I'm not talking about the Sex Discrimination Commission, but a properly constituted special-purpose Commission to do a "Henry Review" and make recommendations across the board to simplify and clarify the issues and the laws.
The Henry review seems to have run out of steam. That's the problem with reviews as there is no one to drive them when they get reported. I have seen many reviews, costing millions of dollars, simply sit in CEO draws never to see the light of day and a few years later when there is a change of CEO a same or similar report is commissioned. I propose an agile operating department that is engaged in action and delivery not sitting around waiting for more reports. The Sex Discrimination Commissioner seems to have been wholly and completely ineffectual in dealing with men issues, and I refer to recent correspondence through Commissioner Elizabeth Brodericks office via Dr Greg Canning.
Craigo said
A few things I'd like to see are:

  • abolition of the CSA and compulsory CS, tax-based collection of a simple 1% levy to replace all the CS presently transferred, administered by Centrelink/FAO. Possibly some form of incentive to pay more voluntarily, via tax deductions or other means
  • requirements for tertiary institutions, both those offering degrees and those of lesser stature, to ensure that the student population gender ratio is never outside the range of 55/45. How they achieve that would be up to them.
  • efforts made to induce more male teachers and make it attractive for them as a profession so they stay in it, with a view to achieving roughly 50% representation of both genders in the teacing workforce at all levels.
  • abolition of the various Offices for the Status of Women and their equivalents and the defunding of all the genderist organisations (both genders). Those like DIDs and their female equivalents that offer a specific service could continue to do so, but on a gender-inclusive basis and with a prohibition on any gender discrimination.
  • a blanket and strictly-enforced ban on gender-vilification through the media. This would mean that headlines like "$7 a Week:All Some Fathers Are Worth" and the trashy CSA press releases that inspire them would be a thing of the past.
  • proper discrimination laws that prohibit gender-based discrimination for both sexes
The incidence of self-harm would be significantly reduced, especially male suicide, if these things were done, I think. With some luck, the quality of the relationship between the males and females in our society that is presently at an all-time low would be given an opportunity to be renegotiated free of the coercive state intrusions that poison it.
If you do not have a department (or an office) specifically tasked focussed on looking into these valid ideas and suggestions and report sound fact based findings how do you ever expect to get anything done. I cannot see any way around a department focussed on looking at and exploring all these sorts of ideas and taking them to legislative reform stage or implementation by Ministerial directives. All your ideas and options need proper exploration and discussion. We need a proper forum to get traction on some of the good suggestions that come out of these forums that will make a difference to families.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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I'm strongly of the view that special interest groups should not be a part of Government and that Government decisions should not be informed primarily by squeaky-wheelism. It's that approach that has been at the heart of the decades-long debacle in Family Law among other things.

I want to see proper evidence-based decision-making, not a detente in which one group is clutching a paper with the results of their carefully-selected "research" based on interviews with 15 people that contradicts the research of another group also based entirely on a tiny group of carefully-selected interviewees and both are trying to get the attention of a Minister more interested in how much she'll get in her super package and what seat she'll sit in after she leaves Parliament.

What is needed is a complete overhaul of gender-based legislation and policies and that would not and could not be achieved by the creation of another special-interest group with as narrow a remit as the Office for Women. We already have a Department of Human Services, why do we need a special "Men's" and "Women's" department as well? We are all humans, are we not?

The current paradigm has been destructive of family relationships, has created adversaries out of two groups that are natural allies with complementary abilities and skills - men and women. It is counter-rational, and counter-productive and it should have no place in a society that aspires to create the conditions for its members to be happy, an aspiration that seems to have had little attention in the mad rush to create a quasi-socialist Feminist state that doesn't recognise complementarity, but promotes discord and strife paid for by the taxpayer. It seems to me that any "Office for Men" is simply extending that paradigm and entrenching the conflict and selfishness more deeply. When I was a boy, I can recall my parents' relationship as one in which each of them was concerned for the happiness of the other. They recognised that "the whole is more than the sum of the parts", which is something that is conspicuously absent in most of the relationships I see today. The public discussion of gender issues is all about "what's in it for me", never about "how does this make life better for us all". An "Office for Men" would simply be more of the same. We already have"Femocrats" making mischief, we don't need "Mascocrats" doing the same.

That is why I suggested a proper high-level review. Yes, it would require a strong commitment from Government to implement the recommendations and a free hand for the Commission doing the review, but that should be an easy thing for a democratic country to achieve. We have seen it for matters of much less importance. Without that high-level commitment, no genuine improvement is possible anyway. Even with it, there is 40 years of entrenched special-interest that will need to be unravelled while the people who benefit from it will be loudly complaining all the way.

I would strongly support any efforts to create a model that promotes complementarity. Apart from anything else, it would be the cheapest solution, since there would be less spent on "special interest" schemes that require lots of taxpayer dollars to prop them up.
Samba said
FFS! Stop deleting my posts, I am not a troll. My view is just as valuable as anyone's….
Have the courtesy to read my posts regarding abbreviations and people that grandstand.
FFS = "For f*** sake" and is the worst sort of slang to use in a public forum.
(srldad101 had a post deleted the other day and his use of the abbreviation was at the end of the post - at least he did not offend readers straight up)

 Senior Site Moderator and Administrator
There were some interesting points that need further exploration
Samba said
Samba said
Here is my considered response that was deleted.

I think there are some very good suggestions in your list, but I would be loathe to endorse the creation of DoMaF which would be a waste of resources when men already have power over the majority of financial resources and overwhelming power in decision making in our society.

I do however support moves to create an independent statutory body for a National Childrens Commissioner, operating within the Human Rights Commission. This would be a solution to oversee most of your points, and would serve the best interests of children.
I think whats required is a major shift in attitude in order to cope with our changing society.  

The new laws regarding family violence, the push towards shared parenting, paid parental leave etc are all really good and progressive signs that our society is beginning to recognise that the rights of the child should be paramount. Clearly there is a shift (and in my opinion, long overdue) in defining relationships between women and children, men and children and women and men. Obviously we have a long way to go, but we have some really good starting points and overall I see things becoming more positive all around especially for children.

It is very unfortunate that some people appear to be having trouble adapting to the notion that ….. (Removed as feminism was not related to the post topic)

It is disappointing that the responses in this thread and even the points posed, are framed in such a way that lacks understanding about womens inequality in society and appear to promote the divisive notion that any progressive moves towards equality is to be feared and scorned. I do not think that it is useful to think in these terms and it certainly doesnt appear to put childrens safety and well being at the forefront of your thinking.
Secretay SPCA said
I can say categorically, that the Council and I, as well as my colleagues in LFAA, support the fundamental notion and priority that children safety is at the forefront of any policy and legislative reforms. To say otherwise clearly shows me that you have not read any of the material I have published, that you have not read the countless submissions to Government I have crafted with the Council endorsement and inputs nor have you been at court with me when I have advocated for children and parent matters. You certainly have not seen the many letters and cards I have received over the years from parents who are now enjoying a healthy and balanced relationship with their children
Samba said
Violence ….
(This is not a discussion about violence)….
Samba said
Efforts to shift blame, manipulate ….
(This is not a discussion about denigrating women) (Texts removed as Femanazi is not a word that is in common use within posts).
Samba said
As you quite rightly point out two main areas of particular concern (aside from the alarming statistics in family violence…) are mens (and boys) health and education. I believe that there has again been quite a bit of blame shifting happening with these issues. I am particularly concerned with the misinformation campaign that mens suicide rates and poor health are due to the family court or pressure from the child support agency. This is obviously untrue
Secretary SPCA said
Well if it is obviously untrue what figures do you use to support that statement? Or are you, just the same as the others that you criticise for having the opposite view…Where is the supporting material with researched and qualified data that supports your hypothesis


Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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So I gather that this suggestion of forming a Department for Men and their families is your response and will be the main thrust of your submission to the Inquiry into the Australian Human Rights Commission Amendment (National Children's Commissioner) Bill 2012?
Samba said
So I gather that this suggestion of forming a Department for Men and their families is your response
I am not sure I understand your statement. I have never said that there should be a department of men and THEIR families. I have suggested that there should be a small department or office for men and families. I know you will say its systematics but in fact the possessive relationship you refer to is not in my vocabulary.

I again summarise my views for some clarity on the subject and to avoid what clearly seems to have been hysteria from some quarters that the sky would fall in should such an entity form.

A small department under the umbrella of FaHCSIA would do much to benefit men and families. This department, based most likely out of Canberra, in a regional area, would have a small secretariat and concern itself with:
  •       Dealing with family violence at a level that is understood by men and families, with particular focus on relationships and education programmes prior to both men and women entering into a partnered relationship.
  •       Improving understanding across other Government departments that are implementing gender driven responses to the National Plan to reduce Violence against Women and their children which is based solely on their sex.
  •       Assist in implementing the United Nations declarations on the Rights of the Child, which from June will be embedded into the Family Law Act.
  •       Education focus arising from the Government NAPLAN results and focussing Government efforts at young school levers and in particular boys, to reverse the downward trend of young men graduating from tertiary courses
  •       Leading a focus on men and boys health and assisting to extend the reach of the mens health policy, created by the Labor government in 2010, but which seems to have stalled.
  •       Represent and focus all mens groups and sheds across Australia as a central departmental body that can receive delegations of men from all walks of life, races and in particular the Aboriginal Community with a  view to providing authorities and information to Whole of Government.
  •       Deal with review of all legislative reforms across Federal Government that are impacting on Men and Families such as Family Law reform, Child Support legislation reform, Courts and Education policy, legislation and guidance.
  •       Manage and produce appropriate media material for a focus on the key issues, resolutions and action above and to disseminate media material and guidance to other government agencies.
I have also reconsidered the 12 point plan that was published in the National Fathering Forum some years ago. That plan was formulated to strengthen and support father-hood (not anti women, not discrimination against women nor reduction of their already equal place in the workforce) and turn the tide of fatherlessness in Australia. It is now a few years old but I was pleasantly surprised to see how timeless in fact the content is. It is a good foundation stone to build on and I list it off the document for your interest. These ideas build on what I have suggested above.

I. Government
That all levels of government:
1. Acknowledge the importance of fatherhood by establishing an official body to support and strengthen Australian fathers, such as an Office of the Status of Fatherhood or a Ministry of Fatherhood.

2. Increase funding for father-based family initiatives. The focus of government funding needs to be on prevention rather than on cure in order to achieve long-term cost effective benefits.

3. Address the gross inequity in funding for mens issues compared to that currently available for womens issues.

4. Recommend that a national campaign be initiated to promote fathers and fathering, that is to be run annually.

5. Reduce inequality for low socio-economic fathers by increasing their employment opportunities.

6. Acknowledge that after divorce or parental separation, every child has a fundamental right to equal contact with both the mother and the father, unless there are proven mitigating circumstances.

7. Examine all current and future legislation both federal and state in terms of how it impacts on fathers, marriages, families and children and make adjustments accordingly. This includes such things as the Family Law Act, Tax reform for families, Child Support legislation and much more.

8. Include the word father in government department language along with the word mother  bringing a resultant positive change of attitude within governmental bureaucracy towards fathers 8. When the word parenting is being defined, it should be emphasised that the word means both mothers and fathers.

II. Education & Training

9. Education of Boys and Male Adults
The National Fathering Forum affirmed the view of a recent report to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training that:

 While at school, more attention must be paid to the differing needs of boys and girls and their tendency to favour different learning styles. One should not be pursued at the expense of the other.
 From primary school through to tertiary education, the nature and importance of fathering should be recognised (and if needed, introduced) within the relevant curriculum standards framework.
 Boys need male role models and mentors who may be both (a) teachers/lecturers, and (b) peers. To facilitate this, there is a need to increase the participation rates of males as educators.

10. Education of Fathers.
Fathers, at various stages, need to be equipped and empowered through education programmes that will enable them to acquire the relevant knowledge and skills that they need to be effective parents.
The National Fathering Forum believes that:

 Just as boys benefit by men positively modelling appropriate behaviour and respectful relationships with other men and women, fathers also benefit from the support they can receive from mentors in their communities.10
 There is a need for education programmes that focus on strengthening the father/mother relationship due to the effects of marital quality on fathering and child adjustment.

III. Fathers Health and Well-Being
11. Being male is associated with a number of health disadvantages
For males, this results in higher rates of:
 Hospital admissions for most injuries and illnesses
 Death by unnatural causes such as suicides and accidents
 Undiagnosed mental illnesses
 Higher rates of suicide
 Alcohol and drug abuse
 Addictive anti-social behaviours
 Addictive gambling problems

12. The National Fathering Forum emphasised that a large number of deaths, injuries and illnesses that men experience are preventable. In addition, the health and well-being of men and fathers is closely associated with social and economic disadvantage such as unemployment.

The National Fathering Forum sought at that time to promote fathers health and well-being and to reduce the health disadvantage of being male. This needs the assistance of the Government through increased government-funded initiatives and coordination of the many different groups that are endeavouring to "make a difference".

One of the issues currently is that small volunteer groups are expected to make significant submissions that in the course of events will alter Government policy and direction. These groups are also expected to deal with and fix up many of the items in the list above. It is simply not possible. It is vital that submissions are correctly formed based on proper evidence, foundation and are afforded proper attention and discussion after submission. I endorse the view of CRAIGO in relation to small ad hoc small sampling reports from one lobby group or another. The list of items above was not about delivering one sided policy from small ad-hoc lobbyists. The entity I propose, could well assist in ensuring that submissions might be able to leverage available secretarial and research facilities or could provide assistance by way of preliminary proofing and comment before the submissions are finalised. Take for example what is a critical piece of legislation and that is the issues around abducted children. These sorts of submissions take an extraordinary amount of time, effort and research to properly prepare. There seems nothing wrong to me in having a  service that might lift the bar on some of the key submissions and facilitate these submissions leveraging the vast resources at the AIFS who have done some very large scale longitudinal studies.
Samba said
…and will be the main thrust of your submission to the Inquiry into the Australian Human Rights Commission Amendment (National Children's Commissioner) Bill 2012?
No


Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
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Unfortunately, you're probably right that the only way to get heard in government is to create another squeaky wheel and encourage men to whine like a certain type of woman in order to increase the volume of the squeak. However, getting heard in government is not necessarily a good thing for the average person. Some Aboriginal people have done exceptionally well out of the "Aboriginal industry", for example, but I'd bet London to a brick that the average Aboriginal person is no better off than s/he was 20 years ago - possibly worse in some ways. Ditto for women: they have traded the loving support of a husband and family for the uncertain and cold hand of Government, some of them doing very nicely out of the arrangement, but the vast majority reduced to little more than beggars and shills demanding handouts.

As a man I find that very disturbing and more than a little sad. I don't want it to happen to men.
Craigo said
Ditto for women: they have traded the loving support of a husband and family for the uncertain and cold hand of Government

I would dare say there is not one woman who has chosen to separate from a loving and supportive husband to rely on handouts from the government.  You are not even a woman so what right do you have to suggest a woman's motives for leaving a marriage?  What a load of offensive codswallop.  Your comments about indigenous people are equally off the mark.  And irrelavant to the topic.
April said
Craigo said
Ditto for women: they have traded the loving support of a husband and family for the uncertain and cold hand of Government
I would dare say there is not one woman who has chosen to separate from a loving and supportive husband to rely on handouts from the government.  You are not even a woman so what right do you have to suggest a woman's motives for leaving a marriage?  What a load of offensive codswallop.  Your comments about indigenous people are equally off the mark.  And irrelavant to the topic.
 
So there we have it: women are at liberty to discuss the failings of men ad nauseum, attacking us as "violent", "deadbeat", "insensitive" and an extensive and growing list of pejoratives, but I'm not a woman, so I can't comment on the relationships between men and women…

As it happens, I know several people whose relationship has ended with a whimper, not a bang and one of the main factors in ending it, rather than persevering, was that the female partner "didn't need him", at least according to her. Funnily enough though, she still needed someone if she wasn't going to work full-time, so the government picked up the tab, just a it does for so many women who don't want to take responsibility for their role in a relationship and who know that they'll be no worse off if they ditch the other half.

Now you might think that's a great result, but I reckon it's weak and somewhat despicable, as well as destructive of the happiness of the children involved and damaging to their well-being. Never mind, I'm just a man, what would I know, eh?

Around 80% of divorces are initiated by women and women consume about that portion of Government spending on individuals…

hi

My version is where the national childrens commssioner cares for all children, and their fathers and their mothers and the men and women of the community and the men and women of the States and Territories and of those again of the nation, etcc. Caring for the health, wealth, wellbeing etc of parents is a positive effect upon the children. Applying the same to all contributes to a positive effect upon the fabric of society, in which children live. All citizens should have the individual right to communicate with the national childrens commissioner, and the commissioner should have the right to help all citizens if he/she chooses to do so.

Of course, not much good to any of us if it turns into another puppet come parrot dept.

These days, we are looking at types of negative effects on children in a manner more refined than the past. Many aussie kids are suffering from some level of maldevelopment. This is a negative effect upon the natural childhood growth of the body and the brain. In the past year I have formed an opinion that the childrens courts are not pulling their weight. Legal costs and related costs cause a lack of equality sometimes when govt depts are involved and even something as small as a mistake on a govt dept document could take tens of thousands of dollars to manage. ( note I did not use the word repair, merely manage.)



Some people get a bit worked up at seperation but are great parents usually,and some persons are just criminals or nutters who couldn't care less if they injured their own family. Those latter types are getting craftier, and so the Court I interpret as offering to extend the depth of their viewing of cases in order to try to spot or prevent injuries of mind body and soul.
Oh yeah, that's just what we need: a national busybody…

Someone on another forum suggested that we need to "lower the stakes" for separating parents, in place of the current winner-takes-all model which encourages antagonism and reduces cooperative behaviours. I have to agree.

Part of that is reducing the notion in some heads that letting Dad share the care will lead to dire outcomes for the kids. Another part is as Guest suggests - reducing the cost of legal proceedings so that the family assets are not all consumed in a fit of pique at the time of separation or soon after. Still a third part is the removal of the incentives enjoyed by the "lives-with" parent that make it attractive to go it alone instead of as part of a couple.

Some people make bad marriages, no doubt, but it seems to me that encouraging women to end marriages for no good reason other than some vague dissatisfaction is leading to far worse outcomes than "hanging on in quiet desperation" could ever do. If people genuinely care about the raising of their children, why do they selfishly place their own wants and petty resentments above the children's best interests? There is no evidence anywhere to my knowledge that supports the notion that raising children in a single-parent family is the best way to do it.
Craigo said
 Still a third part is the removal of the incentives enjoyed by the "lives-with" parent that make it attractive to go it alone instead of as part of a couple.

 There is no evidence anywhere to my knowledge that supports the notion that raising children in a single-parent family is the best way to do it.
 

Firstly, there actually is evidence to suggest that children fair better in a warm and stable single parent household when compared to an intact marriage riddled with conflict.  It can be quite a relief for a child to be free of a situation where violence and fighting is a common occurence between his/her parents.

Secondly, why do you think the "lives with" parent's life is so attractive?  No matter how someone gets into that situation, by choice or circumstance, it is not a walk in the park.  There are many of us in the "lives with" situation because our ex partners don't want to share the care of the kids.
April said
Firstly, there actually is evidence to suggest that children fair better in a warm and stable single parent household when compared to an intact marriage riddled with conflict.  It can be quite a relief for a child to be free of a situation where violence and fighting is a common occurence between his/her parents.
I agree. Are you suggesting that this is the case for the majority of children in families that separate? If so, I'd suggest to you that you're off your rocker.

April said
Secondly, why do you think the "lives with" parent's life is so attractive?  No matter how someone gets into that situation, by choice or circumstance, it is not a walk in the park.  There are many of us in the "lives with" situation because our ex partners don't want to share the care of the kids.
 
I'll give you the story of a very good couple of friends who separated recently. She works for a Government Department,he works for an iconic food manufacturer. Both are in middle management, earning around $70kPA. They have 3 kids, ranging in age from 7 to 18. All are in school. They have been married for nearly 20 years and have been though some good times and bad and have weathered them all, so I was very surprised when they suddenly split up.

About 18 months ago they decided to upgrade the family home, from a townhouse to a detached house. The townhouse needed work as they had let it run down in the expectation of moving and they had spent all the money they had saved to finance the new home, so they took out a bridging loan for 6 months to do the work. They then spent all their meager spare money and a lot of their time beautifying the new place instead of working on the old one, as people do, then when the bridging loan ran out they were left to pay two mortgages, which they have been doing for the past 12 months, leaving them with little spare cash. They have not been able to rent the townhouse because the work that needs (kitchen needs replacing due to water damage to bench tops and cupboards, hot water system has been removed but they ran out of money to replace it with a new one, carpets need cleaning and in a couple of areas need replacing, that sort of thing - around $10-15k) doing makes it difficult to attract tenants and they have become somewhat depressed over the fall in house prices over the intervening period. She was also determined to sell rather than rent,despite good advice to do otherwise.

She decided about 3 months ago that she was sick of living from hand to mouth and asked him to leave. He is now renting a room from me and has recently received his CSA assessment, which was actually a relief since it was less than he was paying voluntarily. She has commenced proceedings for a property settlement, seeking to retain the house for herself and sell the townhouse, with him to pay the mortgage on the townhouse until sold and the proceeds of the sale to be used to pay off the mortgage on the house.

She is now entitled to a substantially increased payment of FTB part A, she is also now entitled to FTB part B, giving her several thousand additional dollars each year. Her reasons for splitting were entirely financial, as she readily admits, although since they separated she claims she was "unhappy for years" as he does also. It may even be true, but I've known them for a long time and neither I nor any of their other friends saw any such thing. He did tell me that they haven't shared a bedroom for some time since she decided she didn't like his snoring.

She's now saying she'd "love to go back to uni"and is talking about working only part-time, using the excuse that "I need to be there for the kids", which hasn't been an issue for her for the past 18 years. IF she does do that she'll be eligible for at least some Parenting Payment, as well as Education Supplement, the full whack of FTB A and a health care card. There is no requirement for her to justify the decision to leave to anyone at all, while if he decided to do the same the CSA would likely decide he was not exercising his "capacity to pay" and hit him with a punitive and unaffordable assessment based on his current income.

For her, separation has been roses, while for him, it's been a nightmare. He's renting a room in someone else's house instead of living in one of his own, spending every cent on either CS or paying the mortgage(s), rarely seeing the kids since he has no vehicle (she kept the family car) and she doesn't want to transport them for him, using the excuse that "it's too expensive". He is becoming severely depressed and I'm concerned about his ability to hold onto his quite demanding job. He had no interest in separating and is finding it very hard to come to terms with it.

As I said, attractive for some.

My own ex was in a relationship with a bloke for 2 years a couple of years ago and broke up with him because the Housing Commission was asking questions about her living arrangements and his income put her way over the $85000 limit for housing commission entitlement. She initially made him rent a place elsewhere and then kicked him out altogether. She earns just under the threshold herself and carefully manages her income to remain under it. She says "I couldn't afford private rent"…

For women in lower socio-economic strata the attraction is still more obvious. Living as a single parent gives lots of funding and ssistance and an automatic claim to "victim" status that simply can't be matched by living with a low-income partner.
April said
Secondly, why do you think the "lives with" parent's life is so attractive?  No matter how someone gets into that situation, by choice or circumstance, it is not a walk in the park.  There are many of us in the "lives with" situation because our ex partners don't want to share the care of the kids.

No being a single "lives with parent" isn't a walk in the park, I've been there. However, for many who are the non lives with parent it is not a walk in the park either. I got alot of support leaving a violent relationship from various government agencies, free legal aid ect ect. The courts decided it was not in my daughters best interest to have her father in her life ever, after he stabbed me & terriosed us for years.  At the end of the day, I got to enjoy every single day with my daughter, I got to watch her grow up, I got the hold her when she cried, I got to laugh with her when she was happy. That to me that was my reward which made it all worth while.

Now I am living with a man who has 3 kids and he is the "non lives with parent". He was a good father, no violence & was very close to his kids prior to separation. I've witnessed the hurt & sadness that he goes through now not having his children around & not being able to be there for them because his ex uses the kids as a weapon to hurt him & extort money. It's sole destroying & it's easy to see how this types of situations can lead to suicide. I think in many ways, what i've been through pales in comparison. The majority of fathers are non violent, do pay CS & do care about their kids - I think it's about time the government does put some type of effort into making adequate services available to address the needs of this particular group.
I think Frenzy's two stories say it all.

We need to close down all of the gender-specific departments and offices, including the ones that helped her, then open a new, inclusive department or office that sees things clearly from all sides.

That way, people like frenzy get helped in a way that protects them and their children, and people like her new partner also get helped.

Frenzy gets helped by people who also understand her husband's pain and make every effort not to inflict that on another parent; her partner gets hepled by people who know Frenzy's pain and do not take unnecessary risks but do not go into over-kill on protection either.

Wins all round in an all inclusive, non-gendered department.
As a single father who brought up my own daughter from age 8 yo myself. I must agree with some of what April has said. My daughter was certainly better off with me than in the 5 years i and her mother lived together, and certainly better off than the 3 years she spent alone with her mother. When i finally gained residence my daughter was in a parlous state after 3 years alone with her mother. Underweight and in poor health. Unable to do even basic tasks like shower herself or wash her hair. Half feral with a foul mouth. Unable to read or write even basic words. Unable to do even basic maths not even her times tables. She did the year 3 basic skills test, finished pretty much bottom in the school and was placed in a special class for SLOW children This was the broken child i was given courtesy of her mother and our so called family law system. I was to spend the next 10 years repairing the damage done after only 3 years alone with her mother. Went to her uni graduation a few weeks ago. She completed a 4 year psychology degree with 1st class honours, won the university medal for high academic achievement and is now several months into her PHD. This is what a decent father can do for his child. Sadly very few fathers get that chance. Yes April, it was certainly a relief for my daughter to be free of her abusive mother, and she has thrived since but why is it always assumed by the FC that the child is better off with the mother when in so many cases they are better off with the father. Took 3 years of fighting for me and 3 years of abuse and neglect for my child before they finally got their act together, and even then only after my brave little daughter voted with her feet late one cold rainy night and ultimately SHAMED the court into doing something.
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