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Caroline Overington

Feb 042010

HIS greatest fear was that his estranged wife would take his children from their home in a tiny, snowy town in Canada, and run away to Australia.

So scared was he of losing them, he’d taken their passports and hidden them away.

The effort was in vain: Curtis McConnell, 31, of Millet, near Edmonton in Alberta, on Tuesday entered the house he once shared with his infant children to find something so much worse.

According to local reports, his wife, Allyson Louise McConnell, formerly of Gosford on the NSW central coast, had not taken the children.

She had allegedly drowned them in the bathtub and left their bodies in the water, for him to find.

Mr McConnell pulled the children – Connor, 2, and Jayden, 10 months – from the tub.

He rushed blindly to a neighbour’s house, but she could see that it was just too late.

Mrs McConnell, maiden name Meager, wasn’t at the scene.

According to reports, she had driven to a local Toys R Us, abandoned her husband’s Chrysler sedan in the car park, and then thrown herself from an icy bridge on to a busy freeway. She survived and is being treated in hospital.

The couple had been involved in a bitter custody battle over the boys. Court documents revealed Mrs McConnell wanted to bring them to Australia to live with her mother, Helen, in Gosford.

Mr McConnell wanted them to stay in Millet, population 2100, which is about 50km from Edmonton, where his family has lived for generations, and where the children were born.

In December, a judge had banned Mrs McConnell from leaving the country, and ruled that the children should stay in Canada on an interim basis, while the matter was being sorted out.

Canada has a shared parenting law similar to Australia’s, although the role played by parents before separation carries greater weight.

An affidavit lodged with the Court of Queens Bench, Alberta, dated December 10 last year, says the couple met in Canada in November 2005, when Allyson was in Canada on a work visa. They married in NSW on Australia Day, 2007.

Allyson got Canadian residency in April 2007 and the couple moved to a house on 52nd Street in Millet about a year ago.

According to the affidavit, Mr McConnell “noticed our relationship began deteriorating in approximately September 2009 when the respondent told me that she was not happy. We attempted marriage counselling, but that was not successful.

“Notwithstanding, we have been parenting our children equally in the same household.”

Until last month Mr McConnell was sleeping in the basement. He was paying $657 in monthly child support and, according to Curtis, he was as much responsible for caring for the children as his wife, waking them each morning and getting them ready for the day before he worked an afternoon shift at a hardware store.

“She has been threatening me that she wants to move back to Australia with our children,” Mr McConnell said in his affidavit.

“I am completely opposed to this and I am fearful that she will attempt to do this without my consent or knowledge.”

Nov 172009

Most people on the street would be quite familiar by now with an avalanche of newspaper articles over the past year condemning Australia’s shared care laws and suggesting that they put Australia’s children at risk of abuse.

These articles have been so effective that most people actually believe that the current research supports this suggestion.

Articles such as ” Courts continue to grant access to violent parents “, ” Shared-parenting is ‘gobbledegook’ “, “‘Flaws’ in John Howard’s parenting law”  & ” Replace shared care with Canada model ” have been so one-sided and misleading in their depiction of these laws, that there is a clear expectation in the community that the 2006 shared parental responsibility laws will as a matter of certainty be repealed by the Rudd government.

This avalanche of articles were primarily the work of two journalists, Caroline Overington  from the Australian and Adele Horin  from Fairfax, who seem to have closely aligned their message with that of Barbara Biggs, a toxic extremist who promotes the idea that men on the whole are sexual predators and inherently violent, and cannot be trusted in the care of their children.

In response to these articles, I have often been asked by members of Fathers4Equality why I have not made important research available to the likes of Caroline and Adele, in order for them to provide more balanced and informative reporting on this very important issue.

And there is an overwhelming amount of credible research to debunk these stereotypes of men and shared parenting promoted by those who have questionable motives in replacing Australia’s shared care laws.

For example, recent research from the WA Department of Child Protection  (amongst others) has shown that up to 80% of all child abuse occurs in single mother households, research from the Australian Institute of Criminology  (amongst others) has shown that family violence is instigated equally by both men and women, a report from Childline in the UK  has reported the skyrocketing of allegations by children against women for sexual abuse, and an article in the Wall Street Journal has reported on a German study  highlighting the neurological damage caused to children who are raised without the ongoing presence of a father.

Further articles have highlighted the recent national poll in Canada showing 80% support  for the replacement of their sole-custody family law model with shared care family laws, or the unprecedented outburst by UK Lord Justice Ward  who spoke out against the sole-custody UK family laws by saying that the courts were powerless to help decent fathers to see their children if vengeful mothers stood in the way.

When one was to view all the research in this area on the whole, the conclusion is unmistakable. That there is a foundation of research and broad recognition within the community that sole custody laws are bad for children, and that shared care on the whole is in the best interests of children. In fact, the natural transparency afforded by shared care provides the best safeguards against the risk of child abuse or neglect.

Now, truth be told, I have corresponded with the likes of Caroline and Adele quite extensively in this past year.

So one would assume that given our history, that both Caroline and Adele would be open to reading and/or reporting on vital information on Child abuse and Shared parenting passed on to them by Fathers4Equality.

Given that Caroline and Adele have devoted significant time and effort in writing article after article suggesting that children’s welfare is at stake if they have shared care arrangements with their fathers, then as any credible investigative journalist would do, they would cross-reference their conclusions with the latest research and information on these claims.


Well, No, not so.

Fathers4Equality have gone out of our way to inform both Caroline and Adele on very important research that critically undermines the premise that shared care is bad for children. At the very least it provides a strong counter-argument to the repeated mantra from these two.

So have they reported on it?

Well, based on the below return receipts from emails sent to both Caroline and Adele on this very important research, not only haven’t they reported on it, but they have also refused to even read it. They simply deleted it from their inbox without reading it.

Let me repeat that. They have DELETED, without reading,  emails purporting to contain key information on the very topics they have devoted so much time on. And then they proceeded to write further articles on this topic, and done so in selective ignorance of the facts.

Investigative journalism? I think not! Not convinced? Just look at the emails below and ask yourself why they were deleted without being read.

Image:Investigative journalist or lobbyist? The shared care debate in Australia

Image:Investigative journalist or lobbyist? The shared care debate in Australia

Image:Investigative journalist or lobbyist? The shared care debate in Australia

Image:Investigative journalist or lobbyist? The shared care debate in Australia

Image:Investigative journalist or lobbyist? The shared care debate in Australia

Image:Investigative journalist or lobbyist? The shared care debate in Australia

Image:Investigative journalist or lobbyist? The shared care debate in Australia

Image:Investigative journalist or lobbyist? The shared care debate in Australia

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Sep 212009

THE Family Court has warned separated parents that they are required to hand over children for access visits, whether the children want to go or not.

While parents don’t have to “physically drag” the children to the other parent, they do have to “positively encourage” them to go, and punish those who refuse.

The vexed issue of how far a parent must go to ensure that children see the other parent came before the court in Akersley and Rialto (2009), a case in which a father implored the court to “do something” to ensure his children turned up for access visits.

He had been turning up at the children’s school this year, only to find they had either run away or gone home to their mother.

The mother told the court that she could not “physically force” the boys, aged 11 and 12, to see their father.

But judge Paul Cronin criticised her for not doing more to ensure they did want to see their father. He ordered the mother to deliver the children to their father if they turned up at her house when they were supposed to be with their father.

Separated parents have long been required by law to abide by Family Court orders, but men’s groups have complained that the orders are not enforceable, and the children do not show up for visits.

“We call it the closed-arm doctrine,” said Geoffrey Greene, of the Shared Parenting Council.

“The parent stands there with their arms crossed, saying, ‘Well, I can’t make the children go, if they don’t want to go’.”

Under changes to the Family Law Act introduced by the Howard government, the courts are trying to ensure that children have a relationship with both their parents.

“There are obligations on parents, regardless of the wishes of children,” Justice Cronin said.

He noted that parents “must not only ensure that the children are available, but must also positively encourage them to go”.

The mother had a responsibility to “discipline the children in the same way as any other parent would discipline a child by removing privileges if the child was defiant” and refused to go.

The father, 42, and the mother, 43, separated last December. The children live with their mother and see their father on alternate weekends, and Tuesday after school.

In July, the father went to the children’s school and waited in the normal spot but they were not there. Their mobile telephones were switched off. At 5.30pm, his former wife called to say the children were with her, and “did not wish to go with him”.

The husband’s solution was “that she should tell the children forcibly, verbally and assertively that it was her expectation clearly for them to go.

“I do not advocate that the wife should have physically dragged either or both the children outside of the house and locked them on the porch with their father,” Justice Cronin said.

“There is a step well before that, in which the children should have been told they were going with their father, rather than it was simply expected of them.”

He said the former wife had a responsibility to ensure the children carried out the orders of the court.

“The wife must adopt a disciplinary approach by making clear that privileges in her household will be denied until the children comply with the orders of the court,” he said.

But Charles Pragnell of the National Council for Children Post-Separation disagreed. “We come at this from the children’s point of view,” he said. “How can it be in their best interests to force them into a relationship? At 10 or 11, a child can decide for themselves, but it’s one of the idiosyncrasies of the Family Court at the moment, that it takes a firm line on this.”,,26101728-17044,00.html