False Allegations of Sexual Abuse
THE extraordinary case of the Federal Court magistrate reduced to writing a letter to two children, explaining why he had cut them off from their father, is part of a painful pendulum shift in Australian family law.
The shared parenting reforms of the Howard era are giving way to a new paradigm in which fathers fear they are being excluded.
Magistrate Tom Altobelli’s letter to the boy, 11, and girl, 6, was nicely written. But it is no substitute for the love of a father whose contact has been reduced to letters, birthday cards and gifts.
The mother had accused the father of sexually abusing their daughter. The court heard her belief was based on the predictions of a clairvoyant.
Magistrate Altobelli, who heard all the evidence, concluded the father had not done it. Yet the father was still punished by losing his children.
“I decided that you had not been hurt by your dad,” Altobelli wrote in the letter, to be opened by the children when they turn 14.
“Even after I told your mum what I decided, I think she still believed in her heart that your dad had hurt you.”
A former US high school football star has said he holds no grudges against the woman who falsely accused him of rape 10 years ago.
Brian Banks spent five years in prison after he was convicted in 2002 for the rape of his Californian high school classmate Wanetta Gibson when he was 15 and she was 16 years old, the US Today Show reports.
Ms Gibson has since stepped forward, first admitting to Mr Banks over Facebook and then to a private investigator that she made up the story of him dragging her into a stairwell and raping her.
Yesterday Mr Banks walked from a Los Angeles courtroom a free man after his conviction was overturned.A registered sex offender still on probation, Mr Banks was still wearing a court-ordered tracking device on his ankle.
Jerusalem — January 20, 2012 …. For many divorced fathers in Israel, the declaration yesterday by Israel Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman that divorced parents must now share custody of children, may have come too late. Neeman has accepted recommendations by the Schnit Committee that joint parental custody be ordered in divorce cases involving young children, which the law defines as those up to age 6. Until now, most divorced fathers became visitors, being limited to seeing their children only a few hours a week.
As the new law comes into affect, thousands of dads in Israel would have lost any opportunity of fatherhood due to the fact that their children have already grown up or that their children suffer from PAS – Parental Alienation Syndrome. With PAS the children become alienated against the father as the mother has pushed him away and brainwashed the children that he is of no worth, or perhaps even bad for whatever reason she creates.
The 2009 Australian project a ‘Time for Action: The National Council’s Plan for Australia to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, 2009-2021′, was approved for implementation by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). The Plan, which is split into several parts, puts forth recommendations for new legislation, changes to judicial processes, requests for funding and ideas for domestic programs targeted at reducing domestic and sexual violence against women. The advisory council has some powers to implement programs through the Office of Women among other agencies, but much of what the government funded program calls for requires approval by Parliament.
The entire premise of the National Plan was underpinned by the belief in this statement:“While a small proportion of men are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, the majority of people who experience this kind of violence are women in a home, at the hands of men they know.”[27-pg1] But a quick examination of the statistics and data shows a much different picture to the rather sweeping indictment of Australian men the National Council paints.
Hmm, a US website that publishes the identities of false accusers, for all to see.
This idea may end up being a great, albeit only deterrent to the epidemic of false allegations in the Family Courts.
Given that the Gillard government will soon be encouraging even more false allegations in the Australian Family Court by removing any penalty for perjury, then maybe using the internet to expose the truth may become the only option available to bring some common sense to this rampant crime against innocent parents and children.
I would go one further and ensure that both male and female false accusers to be published, as long as the weight of evidence concludes that they have knowingly made a false allegation.
I see the publication of these moral criminals and child abusers by any other name, as no different to the publication of deadbeat dads that have proliferated across the web, although one would have to consider the necessary safeguards in order to protect minors when child abuse is alleged. This part would have to be thought out carefully.
In any case, if it is good enough to out one form of abuse, then surely it is good enough to out another form.
Perhaps this is an idea that should be explored further for Australia.
NON-CUSTODIAL PARENTS PARTY (EQUAL PARENTING)
Deputy Registered Officer,
Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting),
28 March 2011.
Senate Legal and Constitutional Committees,
PO Box 6100,
CANBERRA. ACT. 2600.
Re. Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011
We thank the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committees for providing us with the opportunity to make a submission with regard to the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011
Our submission is identical to the combined media release issued by the Family Law Reform Association and other similar organizations such as our political party.
The Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011 was introduced by the Attorney-General Robert McClelland into the House of Representatives on 24 March 2011. If passed by Parliament, the resulting legislation will significantly adversely amend the Family Law Act 1975.
The proposed amendments to the Family Law Act are a source of deep concern and dismay to our members and to the many thousands who have sought greater equity and justice in parenting orders made by The Family Court.
Since the introduction of the 2006 reforms giving greater emphasis on shared parental responsibility, doctrinaire feminists, academic ideologues and others with entrenched positions associated with the Family Law system, have been working to overturn them. Now, under the guise of dealing with family violence, the current government’s proposed amendments will effectively sabotage the success of shared parenting responsibility under Family Law.
The proposed amendments will make it much easier to postpone, minimise or terminate parental contact by an allegation of some form of “family violence”.
It is worth noting that a major architect of the proposed reforms preferred a legal presumption that family violence existed in all cases before The Court. Whilst this extremist view has rightly been rejected, the combination of proposed provisions outlined below will come close to achieving the same effect.
In essence, the proposed amendments contain the following provisions:-
Schedule 1. Item 9, subsection 12E(3) and item 32 “Before paragraph 69ZQ(1)(a)”.
The Court, in every case before it, will be required to “proactively inquire” i.e. invite the parties to make allegations of family violence against each other. This is additional to similar obligations on the party’s legal representatives .
Schedule 1. Item 3, subsection 4(1)).
The definition of “family violence” will not be restricted to physical or mental abuse but will be completely open ended. It will include any behaviour a party claims makes them feel threatened “irrespective of whether that behaviour causes harm”, or to feel unsafe. Such fears need not be reasonable but instead are to be totally subjective, based only on the complainants claimed state of mind. The normal legal standard of the reasonable person test will not apply. Thus, it will be almost impossible for an accused to refute such claims.
Schedule 1. Item 43, Section 117AB).
The Family Court does not have criminal penalties for perjury despite false testimony having the potential to create enormous wrongs, injustice and damage. Partly because of this, the Family Court is notorious as “The Liar’s Castle”. The Court’s reputation will be further damaged by the proposed provision to dispense with the existing meager sanctions for those knowingly making false allegations or statements in proceedings. This can only give encouragement to make such allegations or statements. When added to the other proposed provisions it creates a toxic legal cocktail.
Schedule 1 Items 18,19 and 20 “Section 60CC” and Items 26 and 27 (Note 1)).
The dangers outlined above are further exacerbated by the removal of the “friendly parent provisions”. This will prohibit the Court from giving consideration to the extent the parents have fulfilled their obligation to encourage a healthy relationship between the children and the other parent. The Court should not be placed in this legislative “straightjacket”. It is vital that The Court is able to examine all the issues central to the welfare of the child rather than having to operate wearing legislative “blinkers”. Given that the parties before The Court are in dispute, standard legal principles require the Court be able to investigate all issues directly relevant to the merit or otherwise of the parties. Any attempt to fetter a Court of Law in its relevant enquiries is generally condemned by the legal fraternity. Again, this provision reveals a diminished view of the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship between both parents and the child and exposes the true intent of the amendments.
Effects of the amendments
Inevitably and predictably, the amendments will encourage a sharp increase in totally false or grossly exaggerated allegations by one parent against the other in cases before The Family Court. Far from diminishing actual family violence, the following likely outcomes will only increase the risk.
• Greatly increase the workload of The Court and other organisations as a plethora of claims are investigated and assessed.
• Greatly increase the time and cost in settling cases creating a lawyers bonanza whilst increasing stress and frustration to the parties.
• Greatly increase the cost to the taxpayer of operating the Family Court and its associated agencies and the cost to the community as a whole of increased friction and more protracted Family Court cases.
• Increase the demand on limited government funded legal aid.
• Greatly increase the demand for supervised contact centres, already overburdened, costly and unavailable to most parents desperately needing such a service.
• Greatly increase the number of children whose relationship and contact with their non resident parent is terminated, postponed, reduced or otherwise curtailed due to false or grossly exaggerated claims of “family violence”.
• Greatly increase the amount of friction between the parties as one or both take advantage of system’s multiple invitations to make allegations of “family violence” against the other.
• Hamper the Courts ability to identify real and acutely dangerous situations as it is diverted with vexatious, false or grossly exaggerated allegations.
• Greatly increase the potential for actual violence between parties where previously there would have been little or none. This will occur as non resident parents find the system has stacked all the cards against them, dramatically affecting their contact and relationship with the children and all the associated consequences.
• Greatly increase the level of suicide and deterioration of mental health for non resident parents (typically the male). Respected studies have shown that separated males are six (6) times more likely to suicide than attached males. Further, this rate was even higher amongst younger males (thus more likely to have younger children ). Moreover, the highest rates occurred during the divorce phase.
• Without the normal legal protections, the chances of success for the vexatious, manipulative, inflexible, vindictive, dishonest, or mentally unbalanced parent will be greatly increased. Parents with these and similar attributes will readily take advantage of the “free kick” being offered by the proposed amendments. This parent will then become the primary or sole parental role model for the children.
• Faced with the prohibitive cost of pursuing a right of contact, and the associated psychological stress, many non resident parents will simply withdraw, leading to a great increase in the numbers of the
“family law stolen generation” children wrongfully alienated from a non resident parent (typically the father). This will amplify the well documented higher rates of negative outcomes for children brought up in fatherless environments
Impact on legal principles
The proposed amendments have provisions which are unmatched in any other area of law. We believe they offend several basic legal principles:
a) The ambiguity and lack of certainty in the new, unlimited and subjective definition of “family violence”.
b) The presumption of guilt unless an allegation of “family violence” can be disproved which will be frustrated by the subjective test for “family violence”.
c) The proposed amendments will force the judge to ignore the standard legal test of the reasonable person.
d) The restrictions on the court’s ability to investigate the merit of the parties.
e) The lack of any real sanction from knowingly making false allegations and statements in the proceedings.
f) The court making “proactive inquiry” into the single issue of “family violence” tantamount to inviting the parties to make an allegation and additional to similar obligations on the parties legal representatives.
Lack of objective research
Although the amendments are claimed to be supported and underpinned by various academic studies etc, such studies are only valid if they are objectively conducted with an open mind and from a non ideological platform. We have seen no reliable statistics or studies which show:
a) Any significant upsurge in actual family violence, supported by police and medical records since the introduction of the 2006 Family Law reforms and which can be reasonably attributed to the 2006 reforms.
b) Any explanation of how an inevitable increase in tensions, legal costs, case time and demands on limited resources will reduce family violence.
c) Any explanation of how an inevitable increase in the number of cases where parent – child contact is unjustly affected, will reduce family violence.
d) Any studies on the affect on children of curtailing contact with a parent who has had a caring, loving relationship with the child but has been subjected to allegations by the other parent.
e) Any studies on the impact on suicide rates and other mental issues in non contact parents, unjustly denied contact with their children.
Based on our research and experience, we maintain that the 2006 reforms have worked well and sensibly in encouraging shared parental responsibility while at the same time providing appropriate protective measures for adults and children against family violence. The evil in the amendments is to encourage a presumption that family violence and abuse of children customarily exist in contested matters before the Court.
We also believe the amendments are an underhand means of sabotaging the 2006 reforms under the guise of preventing family violence. We vigorously oppose the amendments.
Deputy Registered Officer,
Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting),
– A better solution
Family Law Amendment (Joint Residency) Bill 2002.
(This Bill was proposed by the then Senator Len Harris in 2002, but not adopted)
There is now a very widespread view in the community that some family violence orders are sought for tactical or collateral reasons to do with family law disputes. People have bcome very cynical about them. A national survey conducted in 2009, with over 12,500 respondents, found that 49% of respondents agreed with the proposition that ‘women going through custody battles often make up or exaggerate claims of domestic violence in order to improve their case’, and only 28% disagreed. While it might be expected that men would be inclined to believe this, 42% of women did so as well.
The view that some family violence order applications are unjustified appears to be shared by state magistrates in New South Wales and Queensland. Hickey and Cumines in a survey of 68 NSW magistrates concerning apprehended violence orders (AVOs) found that 90% agreed that some AVOs were sought as a tactic to aid their case in order to deprive a former partner of contact with the children. About a third of those who thought AVOs were used tactically indicated that it did not occur ‘often’, but one in six believed it occurred ‘all the time’. A similar survey of 38 Queensland magistrates found that 74% agreed with the proposition that protection orders are used in Family Court proceedings as a tactic to aid a parent’s case and to deprive their partner of contact with their children.
90% of surveyed NSW Magistrates agreed that AVOs were sometimes or often sought as a tactic in order to deprive a former partner of contact with the children.
In research that our research team recently published on the views of 40 family lawyers in NSW, almost all solicitors thought that tactical applications for AVOs occurred, with the majority considering it happened often. In another study based upon interviews with 181 parents who have been involved in family law disputes, we found a strong perception from respondents to family violence orders (both women and men) that their former partners sought a family violence order in order to help win their family law case. This is a quote from one of the women in our study. Her former husband, who we also interviewed, sought an apprehended violence order (AVO) to keep her away from the house after she had left it.
A survey of 38 Queensland magistrates found that 74% agreed with the proposition that protection orders are used in Family Court proceedings as a tactic to aid a parent’s case and to deprive their partner of contact with their children.
She said this:
“I thought this is ridiculous. What’s he giving me an AVO for? I haven’t done anything to him. I haven’t hit him, kicked him. We never had any violence in our marriage. Why have I got an AVO? … you can put an AVO on someone and say that they’re violent, and the only way you can get a child off their mother is because they’re violent. And that’s why I think he gave me the AVO.”
The belief that family violence orders are a weapon in the war between parents is fuelled by the fact that judges are required under the Family Law Act to consider such family violence orders in determining the best interests of the child. The proposed clause in this Bill takes the law back to what it was before 2006, without any explanation for why Parliament should reverse its previous decision at least to limit the provision. It really doesn’t matter whether this belief that family violence orders are used tactically is true or not. The fact is that the perception is out there and it is held by state magistrates and family lawyers, as well as the wider community.
The retention of this provision in the Family Law Act simply fuels the suspicion that family violence orders are being misused.
This is damaging to the credibility of the family violence order system and the courts.The second reason why the requirement to consider family violence orders ought to be removed is that this serves absolutely no purpose. Yes, the court needs to know about the existence of a current family violence order in order to consider how to frame its own orders (s.60CG), but that is dealt with by requiring people to inform the court of such orders (s.60CF). Why consider them again in deciding what is in the best interests of a child (s.60CC(3))? The court is already required to consider the history of violence. What does it add to require the court also to consider a family violence order? The impression given by the legislation is that these orders are somehow evidence that there has been violence. However, that is a misunderstanding.
In research that our research team recently published on the views of 40 family lawyers in NSW, almost all solicitors thought that tactical applications for AVOs occurred, with the majority considering it happened often.
Family violence orders have absolutely no evidential value in the vast majority of cases. This is because, in the vast majority of cases, they are consented to without admissions. The hearings in these uncontested cases are very brief indeed. Prof. Rosemary Hunter, in observations in Victoria in 1996–97, found that the median hearing time for each application was only about three minutes. Applications were typically dealt with in a bureaucratic manner, with magistrates being distant and emotionally disengaged. To the extent that applicants were asked to give oral evidence, they were typically asked to confirm the content of their written application, and very little exploration of the grounds for the application took place.
Dr Jane Wangmann, in a recent analysis of court files in NSW, reached finding very similar to Hunter’s. In her observations of AVO matters in 2006–7, she found, like Hunter, that cases were dealt with in three minutes or less. She also noted that the information provided in written complaints was brief and sometimes vague. It is hardly surprising, then, that judges in family law cases draw no inferences from the mere existence of a family violence order. This has been the clear view of family lawyers for the last 15 years.
Indeed, in the research we recently published on the views of 40 family lawyers in NSW, none of the lawyers who responded to the question believed that judicial officers gave AVOs much consideration in determining parenting disputes. Judges, they indicate, want to evaluate the evidence of violence itself, not the fact that another court has made an order about it by consent and without admissions.
Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence) Bill 2011
Submission to Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs
by Prof. Patrick Parkinson, University of Sydney
A national survey of 10,000 Americans reveals 11% report they have been falsely accused of abuse. The first-ever survey of its type probed persons’ first-hand experiences with false allegations of child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual abuse. The study was commissioned by Stop Abusive and Violent Environments, a victim advocacy organization.
The survey results headlined a False Allegations Summit, which was held today at the Fairfax Hotel in Washington, DC.
In 81% of the cases the falsely accused person was a male, and in 70% of cases the false alleger was a female.
Conducted May 2-4, 2011, the survey also found 15% of respondents personally knew someone who has been falsely accused of abuse. In 81% of the cases the falsely accused person was a male, and in 70% of cases the false alleger was a female. Twenty-six percent of the wrongful accusations were made in the context of a child custody dispute.
“This survey shows tens of millions of Americans have been falsely accused of abuse,” explains SAVE spokesperson Natasha Spivack. “These persons were stamped with the scarlet Abuser label, leaving them to wonder whatever happened to the notion of ‘innocent until proven guilty.’”
“This survey shows tens of millions of Americans have been falsely accused of abuse”.
The Summit featured statements by leading stakeholder organizations, including the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Home School Legal Defense Association, American Coalition for Fathers and Children, National Coalition for Men, and Encounters International.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers statement spotlighted the “immense, often irreparable harm caused to our clients by false allegations, not only to reputation and personal relationships, but often to the accused individual’s livelihood and even heath.”
The Summit also included the emotion-wrought testimonies by four victims of false allegations of abuse.
The False Allegations Summit is being held in the wake of a recent Washington Post front-page article about Sean Lanigan, a local school teacher who was falsely accused of sexual molestation by a 12-year-old student. The article triggered editorial commentaries and citizens’ expressions of disbelief and outrage.
The survey spotlighted the “immense, often irreparable harm caused to our clients by false allegations, not only to reputation and personal relationships, but often to the accused individual’s livelihood and even heath.”
The full survey results can be viewed here: http://www.saveservices.org/false-allegations-awareness-month/survey-results/. The False Allegations Summit is the kick-off to False Allegations Awareness Month in June. More information on the observance can be found here: http://www.saveservices.org/false-allegations-awareness-month/.
Stop Abusive and Violent Environments is a victim advocacy organization working for evidence-based solutions to partner abuse: www.saveservices.org.
CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (George Christensen speaks in federal Parliament against this malicious piece of legislation): In addressing the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011, I have come to understand how the citizens of Troy must have felt when they were greeted with the gift of a giant wooden horse, because this bill is not what it appears. It is a Trojan horse. Just like the giant wooden horse, full of Greek warriors, in Greek legend and like an insidious computer virus, full of malicious code, this Trojan bill is loaded with consequences that will undermine some of the most basic human rights for both parents and children, and particularly fathers.
Family law is a very difficult area to legislate. There is no escaping the fact that every family is different. To create legislation that caters to all circumstances is an unlikely quest. In most circumstances, there are no winners in family law. Family breakdowns are messy. They are hurtful. They are spiteful. They are emotional, irrational and painful. The holy grail of relationship breakdowns, the amicable divorce, is rarer than a kept Labor promise.
It is in this emotionally charged atmosphere that mothers and fathers interact and children are bystanders, often witnessing behaviour by their parents at their very worst. Make no mistake: I do not object to the face-value intentions of some of the amendments in this bill. We cannot question the need to hold a child’s safety in the highest regard when it comes to custody arrangements. But we can question why these amendments are being made.
The current act, introduced by the Howard government in 2006, created the ‘twin pillars’ of parenting provisions. These measures recognised two primary considerations for determining the best interests of the child. The twin pillars were: (a) the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of his or her parents and (b) the need to protect the child from harm or from being exposed to abuse, neglect and/or violence—I repeat: the need to protect the child from harm.
Safety concerns for the child are already in the existing legislation. It is one of two primary considerations—considerations that, yes, are given equal weight. But, in addition, the current act specifically states in section 60CG that a court must ensure that a parenting order:
(a) Is consistent with any family violence order; and
(b) Does not expose a person to an unacceptable risk of family violence.
Protection is already provided for in the act.
What this amendment proposes to do is to take a George Orwell approach to ranking considerations. When Orwell’s animals in his classic novel Animal Farm draft their legislation on the barn wall, they affirm that ‘All animals are equal’. The pigs then make an amendment: ‘But some animals are more equal than others’. The pigs, of course, had an ulterior motive and I fear that there is one at play here as well. What these amendments are saying is, ‘Yes, the two considerations are primary, but one is more primary than the other.’ What the bill does in reality is to retain child safety as a primary concern while relegating the child’s parental relationships to a minor concern. It sounds innocent enough, I suppose, but the Trojan horse here is a facade of enhancing child safety. The bill is dressed up as an attempt to protect children, which is a pointless exercise, because child safety is fully ensured in the current act.
..but the Trojan horse here is a facade of enhancing child safety. The bill is dressed up as an attempt to protect children, which is a pointless exercise, because child safety is fully ensured in the current act.
What is inside this Trojan horse, the malicious code that will infect society, is an attempt to undermine equal access for both parents. This change would invite the court to ignore the requirement to consider the second pillar—the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both parents.
The Family Law Practitioners Association of Queensland is concerned about giving greater weight to the second of the primary considerations. In their submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, they said: ‘Such a provision removes the court’s licence to assess in each individual case the degree of risk, its probability or, in the case of family violence, its context in terms of frequency, intensity and recency in the determination of the weight to be given to such risk or harm.’ This bill would mean that any inference of violence, proven or unproven, would have to be taken into consideration, however vexatious the claims may be. The potential danger of this change is apparent when viewed in conjunction with other changes proposed in this bill.
This bill would mean that any inference of violence, proven or unproven, would have to be taken into consideration, however vexatious the claims may be.
The broadened definition of ‘family violence’ would mean that a wide range of everyday activities could potentially be construed as violence. The broader definition includes as violence such things as repeated derogatory taunts. Under the proposed definition, much of what happens right here in the parliament would be construed as violence. Also included as violence is this little nugget: ‘preventing the family member from making or keeping connections with his or her family, friends, or culture.’ Under this broad definition, a parent could not prevent a young teenager from spending 20 hours a day talking to friends on Facebook, for fear of being accused of family violence.
“I suspect that there is a strong feminist ideology driving these amendments. It is feminist ideology that has created this malicious code to rob men of their rights to be fathers. It is feminist ideology that has dressed up this malicious code to rob children of their right to have a father in their lives. It is feminist ideology that has dressed up this malicious code to create the illusion of acting to stop family violence.”
What happens when a parent acts in a way that a reasonable person would describe as good parenting? What happens when a father says to his 13-year-old daughter, ‘No, you can’t go to Julia’s party because there will be alcohol and no adult supervision’? I will tell you what happens. An upset teenage daughter talks to a vindictive mother, who then claims the daughter is a victim of family violence—and it is their right under this definition. Another child loses the right to have a meaningful relationship with her parent. Under this definition, a parent would be too scared to ground a child as punishment for bad behaviour, for fear of ‘depriving a family member of his or her liberty.’
The sheer magnitude of this definition presents two problems. The most immediate problem is that living an ordinary life can too easily be construed as family violence. Adding fuel to the fire will be the actions of hurt, emotional, and spiteful former partners in stretching the truth. Tripping over the family dog will suddenly become ‘intentionally injuring an animal’. Using a few poorly-chosen words a few times in an argument—which most families have experienced—will constitute family violence as ‘repeated derogatory taunts’. This definition would allow everyday actions to be seized, twisted, exaggerated and used as family violence weapons in the court. What this change does is broaden the definition of family violence so much that the word ‘violence’ loses all real meaning. That would be a tragedy, because it would also water down the perception of family violence.
I believe that violence is violence. Violence is cruel and harmful. It is a serious problem in some families and a serious problem in the wider society. But violence is not ‘grounding’ a child. It is not protecting your child. Being a good parent is not being a violent parent. There is a simple solution to stop such things being interpreted as family violence. That is the ‘reasonable person’ test. Such a test demands that for an action to be deemed as violence it must be an action that requires a person ‘reasonably to fear’ for their personal safety and wellbeing. This is precisely the meaning and interpretation that this legislation strips out of the act.
Is this bill more than it appears at face value? Is it another Trojan horse? I say it is most certainly a Trojan horse.
On face value, the broadened definition of ‘family violence’ creates the illusion of providing greater protection against family violence. Yes, that is a lovely wooden horse but let’s take a look inside. Maybe not, because inside this Trojan is malicious code that gives one parent an arsenal of weapons to be misused in court to deprive the other parent of their right to be a parent.
Earlier in this debate we heard the Minister for the Status of Women tell this parliament that no-one uses claims of family violence in such a way. I have some very bad news for the minister: it actually does happen. It happens every day; and if she is not aware of it happening then she is gravely out of touch with reality. If the minister does not have any contact with her own constituents, perhaps she could spend a few minutes at her laptop doing some research.
Here is the sort of thing that you can find in two minutes: the newspaper headline ‘Ugly feud fought on Facebook’. The article tells about a Family Court hearing late last year. At the end it says:
She had already strung the case out by falsely claiming her ex-husband had been sexually assaulting their children after one judgment went against her. Then she falsely claimed the father’s new wife had been assaulting them. ‘The mother has over the years attempted to manipulate the court system,’ Justice Barry said.
That is just one case that can be found with two minutes of Google research, and yet the minister came into this House and said that making false allegations of family violence and using family violence as a weapon in the courts is a myth. Do some homework, Minister.
The fact that this minister has told a lie to this parliament—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke): The member will withdraw.
Mr CHRISTENSEN: I will withdraw, but I will say that the minister has told an untruth to this parliament. It is clearly not true to say that it is a myth. It is clearly not true to say—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member will return to the bill before him.
Mr CHRISTENSEN: I am, because the minister has told this House that it is a myth that family violence is misused by people in the Family Court. The fact is that it is not a myth and you can see that from a bit of research. Abuse of the system is why we have organisations like Lone Fathers , Dads on the Air , Fathers Online, Fathers 4 Equality, Men’s Rights and so on.
If we look closely at these groups, there is a common theme. It is a theme that helps explain why this malicious code is being pushed into the act. These are groups set up by fathers. We can talk all we want about custodial parents and non-custodial parents, but
the truth is that most custodial parents are mothers and most non-custodial parents are fathers.
Abuse of the system is why we have organisations like Lone Fathers , Dads on the Air , Fathers Online, Fathers 4 Equality, Men’s Rights and so on.
There are no winners in family law. All parents in family law become losers one way or the other, but some who are bigger losers than others. The current act helped to bring some equality to family law. It created the two pillars, one of which recognised the benefits to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both parents. These amendments are a backward step. They will strip fathers of their right to be fathers. These amendments will allow abuse of the system that will create another generation of stolen children.
I do not know where the government obtains feedback on the practicalities of family law and family law disputes, but I get my feedback from constituents. I talk to real people who are affected by real situations. I have conversations with fathers who are getting the roughest end of the pineapple. They are grieving fathers who have lost children through the courts. They are devastated and frustrated. They are good men who love their children and want to maintain a relationship with their own flesh and blood—something that should be a basic right.
Some of these men are on the edge. They are driven insane by the lack of justice in the system. They are left in the wilderness, robbed of basic rights and family and, with no support from our legal system, these fathers are driven to despair, driven to the brink of insanity. And if the minister wants to continue her research, she might discover what happens when fathers are placed in a hopeless situation where justice is lost through abuse of the system—which she claims is a myth.
When fathers are driven to insanity, they do insane things. I can, in no way, condone the actions of men who, in the face of losing everything, choose to take everything. They do take their own lives and, very sadly, sometimes in the insanity that they are engulfed in, they take the lives of their children. I note that this is not purely a male response, given that there are numerous examples, including some recent cases, of non-custodial mothers doing the same thing.
Some of these men are on the edge. They are driven insane by the lack of justice in the system. They are left in the wilderness, robbed of basic rights and family…
Family violence is a terrible thing, but so are the actions of fathers driven to the brink. These amendments will do nothing to stop family violence—we already have good measures in place—but they will drive more fathers to the brink. If these amendments drive fathers to the brink, we should be asking who is at the wheel. Is the Minister for the Status of Women at the wheel? Is the Labor-Greens government at the wheel?
I suspect that there is a strong feminist ideology driving these amendments. It is feminist ideology that has created this malicious code to rob men of their rights to be fathers. It is feminist ideology that has dressed up this malicious code to rob children of their right to have a father in their lives. It is feminist ideology that has dressed up this malicious code to create the illusion of acting to stop family violence.
I note that included with these changes is one that repeals the ‘friendly parent’ provisions from the additional considerations for determining a parenting order. The friendly parent provision encourages amicable behaviour among parents. It fosters friendly relationships with all parties. Most importantly, the friendly parent provision assists a court to meet the first pillar of parenting provisions—the benefit to the child of having a meaningful relationship with both of its parents. This provision has helped more fathers maintain meaningful relationships with their children and, at the same time, it has discouraged parents from abusing the system.
But justice and maintenance of rights for fathers is an affront to this feminist ideology from this government. What a clever way to rob men and rob fathers of their rights! Surely no-one would vote against amendments aimed at protecting children and preventing family violence. But that is not what these amendments are really about. There is already protection in the current act. The fact is that these amendments actually trivialise what is a very serious matter—that being family violence. The broadened definition of ‘family violence’ waters down the meaning of violence and will, in effect, make family violence more acceptable—precisely the opposite of the purported aim of these amendments.
These amendments should be seen for what they are. They are a Trojan horse, full of malicious code designed to deprive fathers of their rights. The best thing we can do to protect the safety of children and to prevent family violence is to leave this act as it is. (Time expired)
Please show your support to the Nationals MP for Dawson, Mr George Christensen for his brave comments in Parliament against this malicious and hateful piece of legislation that has NOTHING to do with protecting children, and everything to do with gender ideologies.
Editor Comment: I’d like to commend Warwick Marsh for finally getting another perspective on these proposed family law changes out via the media, as per the below article.
It is a hard to get any media outlet to publish anything these days that is not consistent with the feminist mandated view that separated men are all violent, women are all pre-disposed victims, and children should ‘naturally’ reside with their mothers after separation.
These are of course out-dated concepts that have no place in a progressive society, but are notions that are ironically championed by modern feminist groups, who have apparently concluded that equality may not be such a good idea after all.
With regard to these changes and contrary to what this article seems to suggest, the government’s own review of this legislation (the AIFS review), which interviewed over 27,000 parents, found NO need for any legislative change, and more importantly NO risk of abuse or violence to women or children as a result of the 2006 amendments. This fact seems to be conveniently ignored the Attorney General Robert McLelland, which may explain why he asked Richard Chishom, the ex Juge and ex Family law lawyer who became aÂ millionaireÂ on the back Â of divorced parents, to write a new report.
The Attorney-General was well aware that Chisholm had previously gone on the record and co-authored opinions against the concept of shared parenting. Â Obviously the Attorney General was unhappy with the conclusions of the independent review, and wanted a sure thing this time.
As certain as day follows night, this report was expected to condemn shared parenting, showing Attorney-General Robert McLelland at his unethical best.
All in all, one needs to remember what these family law changes really mean in basic terms. By looking at the 4 pillars of the new family law changes, one is immediately drawn by the obvious question “who are these changes really attempting to serve?”.
…showing Attorney-General Robert McLelland at his unethical best.
I do not think the answer is “children”.
The proposed major changes to the Family Law act
(1) False allegations of Child Abuse: False allegations of abuse, specifically domestic violence and child abuse, are to have no legal repercussions. Lying in Court, even if it results in disastrous emotional turmoil for the child or the other parent, and even if it resulted in hundreds of hours of wasted investigation by child protection officers, will not be punishable, not even incurring a bill for wasted use of services, and not even a small symbolic fine. Given human nature as it is, if it is not punishable, then more parents will LIE in Court.
(2) Even a Sneeze can be considered Domestic Violence: The definition of Domestic Violence is to be radically watered down, where almost any conceivable behaviour, even a sneeze, could be considered domestic violence.
(3) Parental Alienation is to be legalised and rewarded: The friendly parent provision to be removed, effectively endorsing and rewarding parents who brain-wash their children into hating the other parent.
(4) Presumption of Guilt against Fathers: The lowering of the standard of proof, effectivey embedding a presumption of guilt against most fathers, a presumption that would often be impossible to disprove categorically given the nature and time constraints of most of these cases.
CHANGES to the Family Law Act will lead to a rise in the number of children at risk of being killed or injured by their parents, fathers groups claimed yesterday.
Opponents of the proposed amendments argue that, since legislation promoting shared parenting was introduced in 2006, the rate of child homicides by parents in NSW has more than halved.
NSW Child Death Team annual reports show that, in 2005, 10 children were killed by parents or carers and that by 2009 that figure had dropped to four.
While the amendment, currently before a Senate inquiry, retains the emphasis on shared parenting from 2006, it removes the ability of courts to penalise parents for making claims of domestic violence against their ex-partner which later prove to be false.
Warwick Marsh, from the Fatherhood Foundation, fears that the changes will undermine the relationship between separated fathers and their children and risk reversing this downward trend.
“The reality is this amendment is a winding back of the shared parenting legislation under the guise of protecting children from violence when the child homicide figures actually show that the reverse is true,” Mr Marsh said.
NSW Child Death Team annual reports show that, in 2005, 10 children were killed by parents or carers and that by 2009 that figure had dropped to four.
“Since the shared parenting changes in 2006 children have been at less risk of violence than ever before.”
The Federal Government introduced the 2011 amendments after three inquiries found the Act did not provide enough protection to victims of domestic violence.
The amendments were also in response to concerns raised by women’s groups, academics, the Family Law Council and the Australian Institute of Family Studies.
Mr Marsh claims the changes would lead to vexatious claims being made against innocent fathers by bitter ex-partners trying to sabotage their relationship with their children, despite the court’s emphasis on shared parenting.
This point of view is supported by several fathers groups who have made submissions.
Domestic violence support groups back the changes, saying women and children who escape abusive households need to be able to speak about domestic violence without fear of punishment.
Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the Bill had the support of the wider community, with the majority of submissions lodged supporting the changes.