The prominent campaigner is teaming up with women’s legal services across Australia to launch a new five-step plan .
Excellent speech by Janet.
The system needs to be overhauled – but not by Pauline Hanson who seems to be driven by vengeance on behalf of her son.
I’ve lost count of the number of victimised parents, usually mothers, who’ve told me they are terrified to leave their violent relationships because they know that if they get drawn into the family law system, they cannot guarantee their children’s safety. They’re afraid their children will be at greater risk if they leave than if they stay.
When I first started hearing these stories I didn’t believe they were part of a pattern. Everyone knows someone who’s had a shitty time in the family law system. Besides, I knew that this system was actually biased against fathers, not mothers. I believed then, like 43% of Australians, that vindictive mothers routinely lobbed abuse allegations at their ex-husbands to stop them seeing their children.
But then I started reading their court documents and the research.
In 2001, a joint study by the family court and the University of Sydney found that the family law system had “tilted more and more against women, either by accident or design”. Even where serious violence had been proven, it found, supervised contact with abusive fathers was becoming much more common.
In 2006, despite this noted tilt against women, and after three years of what then-legal associate Waleed Aly described as “an incessant and often intimidatory campaign by father’s rights groups”, the Howard government introduced new reforms to the Family Law Act. They were, on the face of it, reasonable – judges should apply a presumption of shared parental responsibility unless violence or abuse was an issue. But there was a catch: if a parent alleged abuse, they could be labelled a “hostile parent”, unwilling to support shared parenting.
The punishment for hostile parents could be extreme: they not only ran the risk of losing custody of their children, they could be blocked from seeing or even speaking to them for months.
In 2007, Rae Kaspiew (now at the Australian Institute of Family Studies) found there were very limited circumstances in which a mother could challenge ongoing paternal involvement, “except in cases where the evidence of severe violence was clear-cut”. In his report, former family court judge Richard Chisholm called this trap “the victim’s dilemma”, a position later articulated by former attorney general Robert McLelland: “Do I report family violence to the court and risk losing my children, or should I stay silent?”
In 2012, after three research studies found that victims of abuse were not being protected in the family law system, then-attorney general Nicola Roxon announced another set of reforms to the Family Law Act – essentially, attempting to undo the harm done by the Howard reforms.
Magdalen Berns’ impact in raising awareness of lesbian women’s needs and interests cannot be overstated. A YouTube sensation, she has hugely influenced public conversations around sex, gender, and sexuality.
Update: Magdalen died this morning. We are told she died peacefully in her sleep, surrounded by family.
Magdalen Berns is a lesbian feminist warrior. A YouTube sensation, her videos have been accessed by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Magdalen’s powerful reminder that “there’s no such thing as a lesbian with a penis” cut through the layers of pseudo-scientific mysticism that declare gender as a fixed, innate quality. With a clear and precise logic, she picked apart the argument that biological sex is mutable.
The 11-14 July Security Council visiting mission to Colombia co-led by the United Kingdom and Peru. (Photo: United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia @MisionONUCol)
On Friday 19 July 2019, the United Nations Security Council held sessions and closed consultations to report back from the 11-14 July visiting mission to Colombia co-led by Peru and the United Kingdom.
Building on recommendations from meetings in Colombia with women-led civil society, government authorities, and community leaders, the discussion highlighted the importance of holistic and accelerated implementation of the peace agreement and action to address rising violence against human rights defenders and peacebuilders.
With 14 of the 15 Council representatives on the mission being men, if Council Members are to be taken seriously on gender equality, they must also strengthen women’s leadership within their own missions.
If what it takes to create are long stretches of time alone, that’s something women have never had the luxury to expect.
A few months ago, as I struggled to carve out time in my crowded days for writing, a colleague suggested I read a book about the daily rituals of great artists. But instead of offering me the inspiration I’d hoped for, what struck me most about these creative geniuses – mostly men – was not their schedules and daily routines, but those of the women in their lives.
Their wives protected them from interruptions; their housekeepers and maids brought them breakfast and coffee at odd hours; their nannies kept their children out of their hair. Martha Freud not only laid out Sigmund’s clothes every morning, she even put the toothpaste on his toothbrush. Marcel Proust’s housekeeper, Celeste, not only brought him his daily coffee, croissants, newspapers and mail on a silver tray, but was always on hand whenever he wanted to chat, sometimes for hours. Some women are mentioned only for what they put up with, like Karl Marx’s wife – unnamed in the book – who lived in squalor with the surviving three of their six children while he spent his days writing at the British Museum.
Women’s time has been interrupted and fragmented throughout history, the rhythms of their days circumscribed by the sisyphean tasks of housework, childcare and kin work – keeping family and community ties strong. If what it takes to create are long stretches of uninterrupted, concentrated time, time you can choose to do with as you will, time that you can control, that’s something women have never had the luxury to expect, at least not without getting slammed for unseemly selfishness.
The question for Victorians – and indeed for all Australians, given that half of our states have now introduced this legislation – is what we want the law to protect when it comes to sex.
Despite the fact that this bill changes what it means to be a person of a particular sex in law, and despite the fact that sex is a protected attribute in both the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act and the Australian Sex Discrimination Act, the group that faces the most sex discrimination – namely female people – have not been consulted about the bill, and the implications of the bill on their legal protections, if any, have not been adequately acknowledged or explored.