This new inquiry is not just cynical horse-trading. It is, I believe, a deliberate move by the government to bury the findings of the two inquiries it commissioned.
Both inquiries recommended sweeping changes that would put children’s safety – instead of parents’ rights – back at the centre of our family law system.
One reform, recommended by both inquiries, is so incendiary it’s provoked warnings of reigniting “the gender wars”. It is that the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility – and the mandate for judges to consider the option of shared care – should be abolished, because the evidence shows it is putting children at risk.
Shared parenting is the jewel in the fathers’ rights movement’s crown. After decades of aggressive lobbying on it, they got much of what they wanted from the Howard government in 2006.
The Shared Parental Responsibility Act introduced changes designed to make it easier for fathers to be granted access to or custody of their children. These included the new “friendly parent” provision, which required parents to support their child’s relationship with the other parent. “Unfriendly” parents – especially victims of domestic abuse – were routinely warned by their lawyers that presenting allegations of abuse would damage their case or risk them losing access to their children altogether.
This emphasis on pro-contact became, according to Rhoades, “the new orthodoxy” in family law. Culturally, across the family law system, father absence was being constructed “as a greater social problem than domestic violence”. Statistics bear this out: despite allegations of family violence featuring in more than half of cases, only 3% of fathers are denied access to their children. Three per cent.
As soon as a mother (or child) alleged abuse, they could counter-allege “parental alienation syndrome”, a now discredited term that denotes children’s abuse allegations and fears are commonly coached into them by vexatious or delusional mothers. The cure, according to the child psychiatrist who invented the concept, was to switch custody to the father, and suspend contact entirely with the mother for a period of weeks or months.
The domestic violence charity’s demise comes after a turbulent period.
The extent of the charity’s financial woes were revealed in February by The Daily Telegraph, which reported it had slipped into the red by more than $840,000 according to its financial reports.
The charity’s demise comes after a turbulent time at the helm, which included Ms McLeod Howe’s exit in November amid a backlash over her decision to withdraw White Ribbon’s statement of support for women’s reproductive choice.
Former NSW director of public prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery resigned as chair in October 2018 after criticism over comments he made in an ABC documentary on convicted baby killer Keli Lane.
In 2017, White Ribbon agreed to accept $50,000 in donations from the Fairfield Hotel after writing a letter of support for pub’s bid to increase its number of poker machines. After it was revealed by The Sydney Morning Herald, the charity reversed its decision and declined to accept the donation.
An Aboriginal woman – left with a broken rib sustained in a violent robbery over the weekend – feared she would die in custody when WA police jailed her for unpaid fines. Keennan Courtney Dickey, 34, was only released from jail through the #FreethePeople crowdfunding campaign run by Sisters Inside’s Debbie Kilroy, who were able to pay her fines. Her treatment has led to further pressure for the WA government to change the laws that disproportionately target Aboriginal women.
A post in an online group of fathers has urged more than 19,000 members to abduct their children in a coordinated strike that would reduce the ability of law enforcement to respond.
The group, Domestic Violence Against Men, posted the call to action asking Australian fathers to ”grab their kids” on December 1 and take them interstate.
The following day an administrator posted that the mass abduction would attract media coverage.
“We are going to make headlines no matter what it takes, no one gives a shite about how we are affected or why we #suicide,” he said.
At least 20 women have been killed in domestic violence incidents since the Australian Law Reform Commission made 60 recommendations to the Government in March on ways to combat the issue within the family law court system.“The greatest impediment to women leaving domestic violence in this country is the family law system,” explained Ms Lynch of why this particular approach is so pressing.But in the six months since the report was handed to the government they are yet to respond to any of the recommendations. In fact, the government has chosen to instead respond by calling another inquiry.
If you happen to be a woman living in Australia, now is the time to get angry. Not just alert or alarmed, but truly angry. You need to be furious because If you happen to be a woman living in Australia, now is the time to get angry. Not just alert or alarmed, but truly angry as abortion rights and the family court come under threat
You’ll have to forgive women and children’s safety advocates for their suspicion when we’ve just had a Parliamentary Inquiry into the family law system in 2017 followed by a comprehensive review of the family law system undertaken by the Australian Law Reform Commission in 2018 and the government goes off and announces another “wide-ranging inquiry into the family law system” headed up by Liberal MP Kevin Andrews and One Nation’s Pauline Hanson.
In truth, we don’t need another inquiry, we need action.
New research focusing on women in NSW and the NT uncovers scary stories of women forced to remain in abusive relationships due to a lack of housing, with women losing their children to care because they could not provide a safe environment.
- A lack of housing is sending children of women in abusive relationships into care because they have nowhere safe to take them
- Indigenous women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised for domestic violence than their non-Indigenous counterparts
- One survivor wants authorities to have more power to make perpetrators leave the family home, rather than mothers with children
The women are known in these parts as the “Green Gang”.
They’ve made it their collective mission to stamp out domestic violence, alcoholism and gambling, problems they say were endangering their lives.
The Green Gang’s approach is unorthodox.
Together they march through the village confronting men who are troubling their wives or gambling and drinking away their income.
They’ve been known to raid gambling dens, smashing up vessels of bootleg liquor with large sticks.
“We used to talk like this,” she says, draping the head-covering from her sari down over her eyes and mouth.
She whips it off again and grins.
“Now we are 25 women all together. We are united. Our unity makes us strong. This is the reason men now respect us,” Ms Devi said.