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Oct 192009
 

THE Rudd government plans to roll back the Howard government’s controversial shared parenting law, enraging men’s groups.

Caroline Overington

October 19, 2009

The groups say the law, passed in the final term of the Howard government, have finally given them access to their children after separation, The Australian reports.

Six inquiries into the shared parenting laws are now under way, which men’s groups have interpreted as a sure sign that change is under way, too.

In a message to supporters, Sue Price of the Men’s Rights Agency, has described the planned rollback as the “most sustained and concerted attack” on shared parenting that she has seen in 15 years.

Ms Price said the laws did no more than encourage “reasonable contact between perfectly good fathers and their children” and she is urging supporters to “convince the Rudd government that there are a million votes at stake” if they roll back the shared parenting changes.

“War has been declared and now is the time to protest the changes,” Ms Price said, adding that planned changes were an attempt to “deny children shared parenting” and “an attack on a child’s right to be loved and cared for by a dad on a shared-care, equal basis”.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland, in concert with the Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek, flagged a change to the law after a small child, Darcey Freeman, died after allegedly being thrown from the Westgate Bridge in Melbourne earlier this year.

Her father, Arthur Freeman, has been charged with murder. In a committal hearing, the court heard that the mother had been terrified of her former partner, and told neighbours and others that he was certain to kill one of her children.

Of the six inquiries into the law under way, the Family Court Violence Review, also known as the Chisholm report, for its chairman, former Family Court judge Professor Richard Chisholm, is likely to report to Mr McClelland first.

Submissions to the Chisholm inquiry closed on Friday. In one submission, the National Council for Children Post-Separation, which largely represents the interests of separated mothers, has examples of women forced into contact with violent partners, after those partners won the right to see their children in the Family Court.

The council says some men are approaching the court, asking for years-old parenting agreements to be modified so they can pay less child support. Under the Howard government reforms, men can pay less, in exchange for seeing their children more.

The submission says: “Parents are saying they don’t want money. They would be happy to forgo maintenance payments if it saves their child from having to spend half the week with a parent who does not really want to parent them, but whose main objective is to avoid child support.”

The submission also calls on the Family Court to consider the parenting roles played by each parent before separation, before deciding on shared or equal care after separation.

“Some parents abandon their spouse while pregnant and years later seek shared care when the child does not even know the parent,” the submission says.

“One nine-year-old boy who considered he already had a father, since his mother married his stepfather when he was a baby, was told he had to spend every second weekend with his biological father.

“If there is no existing emotional bond between a child and a parent, why should the court force one on a child who may have an emotional bond with a step-parent?”

More than 3500 parents have signed a petition calling for the changes to the shared parenting law.
A submission from men’s groups was not immediately available yesterday. The Shared Parenting Council says the six reviews of the law were placing “significant pressure” on the groups, which are “holding the line against a dismantling of the 2006 Family Law changes”.

Besides the Chisholm review, the Attorney-General has commissioned the University of South Australia, James Cook University and Monash University to investigate the impact of family violence during and after parental relationship breakdown. This review will be overseen by professor Thea Brown.

The Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW is also conducting a review, as are the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the University of Sydney.

Caroline Overington

http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,,26228703-5008620,00.html

Sep 132009
 

Child abuse is rising dramatically in Australia, according to the first in-depth study to be released on the issue in a decade.

Data shows cases of abuse against children rose more than 50 per cent between 2006 and 2008.

In the 37 per cent of cases in which a parent was the perpetrator, mothers were responsible for 73 per cent of abuse cases while fathers were the cause of 27 per cent.

The data, the first of its kind to emerge since 1996 and obtained under Freedom of Information (FoI) laws, was compiled by the Western Australia Department of Child Protection.

The figures present a disturbing snapshot of soaring child abuse and its perpetrators. Experts say the data can accurately be applied across Australia.

Applications under FoI for similar data from all other states were refused.

The statistics come as the Federal Government has signalled it may roll back the “shared parenting” amendments to the Family Law Act, brought in under the Howard government to give fathers greater access to their children in custody battles.

The data shows fathers are most responsible for sex abuse against children – accounting for more than 85 per cent of cases.

But mothers carry out more than 65 per cent of cases of emotional and psychological abuse and about 53 per cent of physical abuse. They are also responsible for about 93 per cent of cases of neglect.

There were 1,505 cases of abuse of children in WA in 2007-08 – 427 of them were carried out by mothers and 155 by fathers.

In other cases in which the gender of the perpetrator was determined, 463 cases were carried out by women and 353 by men.

A comparison with 2005-06 data shows the number of total cases of abuse had risen more than 50 per cent from 960. In 2005-06, mothers carried out 312 acts of abuse and fathers 165.

University of Western Sydney lecturer Micheal Woods said the findings “undermined the myth that fathers were the major risk factor for their children’s wellbeing”.

“While there are some abusive fathers, there are in fact a larger proportion of violent and abusive mothers,” Mr Woods said.

Sunday Herald Sun (Melbourne)
13 September 2009, Page 35

By Laurie Nowell