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SPCA Media Release: Sydney Morning Herald - Violence Reporting Claims Flawed

01 December 2008

MEDIA RELEASE

SHARED PARENTING COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA

SMH violence reporting claims flawed


The Shared Parenting Council of Australia strongly supports all reasonable initiatives designed to protect women and children from violence.

At the same time the Council points out that the recent "exposure" of this subject in the SMH seriously understates the full extent of the problem of family violence. The Sydney Morning Herald articles in question limited the discussion to battering of wives by husbands this type of violence is indeed a serious matter, deserves condemnation and merits protective programs.

However, family violence is a more complex issue and includes also serious instances of female violence towards men, women and children. The incidence of maternal violence to children, both physical and emotional, is especially worrying yet attracts no media attention. The media have a duty of care to report accurately and the public have a right to know who are the real perpetrators and the real victims. The narrow focus of the SMH in reporting only mens violence against women ensures that the other groups affected by violence remain hidden from public view and leaves the vast majority of victims of violence without a voice and a campaign that speaks for them.

The claims by SMH journalist Ruth Pollard (Courts put kids at risk, 25/11/08), that changes to the Family Law Act are compelling courts to hand children over to violent fathers are false and scurrilous. These claims are an insult to judges and magistrates who apply the law and deal daily with serious relationship issues.

There are precise safeguards in the Act to exclude shared parenting and joint parental responsibility in cases where there are real issues of violence, conflict or abuse. The allegation that women are being "forced" into mediation with violent ex-partners is particularly mischievous. The Act does nothing of the kind, and mediators and community agencies have screening strategies to identify cases in which mediation is inappropriate.

We welcome the Federal Attorney General's statement that he is consulting with all stakeholders in examining the real effect of the shared parenting legislation. We urge him to reject the arguments of biased advocates, more concerned with advancing their own agendas than with the real interests of children and women. Reducing mothers to victim" status is a favoured strategy of radical feminists opposed to men and does nothing for the protection and welfare of women and children.

The Executive Secretary of the SPCA, Wayne Butler said, Recent judgements show clearly that it is a complete nonsense to suggest that the Family Law Act has in any way softened the approach of the judicial officers to cases of family violence and alleged violence. In particular I refer to Miller & Brass [2008] FamCA 944 (30 September 2008) and Short & Trevilian (No. 2) [2008] FamCA 215 (25 March 2008).

In both judgements, reference is made to the new Act, particularly with regard to the impacts of s60cc in these cases. The court acted to prevent exposure of the children to potential violence even though it was considered improbable that any violence would occur. The judgements in those cases make it crystal clear that safety and the interests of the child continue to be paramount.

The SPCA will suggest to the Attorney General that he consults widely with the judges, magistrates, lawyers, mediators and counsellors who deal regularly with separated families in and outside the courts. Reports that have come to our attention speak favourably of the application of the shared parenting legislation and the new collaborative approach to sound parenting post divorce.

We strongly suggest that nothing less than five years would provide adequate time, experience and material for a full and careful review of the effects of the reformed Family Law legislation.

We trust that the Attorney General will not be persuaded by anything less.


Ends


Contact: Edward Dabrowski, Federal Director, Tel. 0409 917 345


 email: director@spca.org.au

Additional important stats ABS 2006

Men
One in 10 (10.8%), or 809,000 men, were the victims of violence according to the 2006 ABS survey. 10.4% (780,000 men) experienced physical violence (including physical assault, attempted assault, or the threat of assault).

0.6% (42,000 men) experienced sexual violence (including sexual assault, attempted assault, or the threat of assault).  In homes where domestic violence occurs, children are also at high risk of suffering physical and emotional abuse.

Women
One in 20 (5.8%), or over 440,000 women, were the victims of violence according to the 2006 ABS survey. 4.7% (363,000 women) experienced physical violence (including physical assault, attempted assault, or the threat of assault).

1.6% (126,100 women) experienced sexual violence (including sexual assault, attempted assault, or the threat of assault).  In homes where domestic violence occurs, children are also at high risk of suffering physical and emotional abuse.
Edited

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