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MENZ Issues January – February 2001: Volume 6 Issue 1

The Next Goal: To Make Shared Parenting The Normal Parenting Style In All Families, Both Separated And Intact – Michael Green QC. The debate over the effectiveness of shared parenting was largely over in the US by the early 1990s. A number of surveys showed that compared to those in sole parenting arrangements both children and their parents functioned better in shared parenting homes. This trend has been embraced by a large number of couples in Australia and New Zealand who have themselves instituted shared parenting systems. However, it has experienced slow acceptance in the Family Court and amongst professionals.

Why Family Court Must Change If the Family Court was made more open, there would be a dramatic reduction in malicious proceedings. Our system of justice is based on a number of firm foundations. One of these is the presumption of innocence till guilt is established beyond reasonable doubt. Another is the principle that justice should be seen to be done. Despite such ideals being fundamental to our concept of justice, the fact that they are markedly absent from the operations of the Family Court underpins the long overdue public scrutiny that this Court is now facing.

Family Courts Should Follow Youth Court Example – ACT Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman. Early in the new session of Parliament, my private members bill on the Family Court will be debated. The Family Court (Openness of Proceedings Bill) changes the presumption of the court from closed to open. A system such as that used in the Youth Court, where journalists may report on proceedings without using the names of those involved would help to end the injustices in the Family Court and would produce a greater sense of accountability.

Law Society Running Scared Whilst the Law Society continues to remain in public denial of the daily injustices meted out by the Family Court, it is now trying to bluff the public into believing that relaxation of current secrecy will reveal that all is well. It is clear that all is far from well, and we call the Law Society’s bluff and challenge it to prove otherwise.

New Complaints Procedure A pamphlet issued by the offices of the Attorney-General and Chief Justice has announced a new formal process for complaining about judges. The Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias will appoint a prominent New Zealander as Judicial Complaints Lay Observer.

FatheringNewZealand – Raising our Children’s Potential, Celebrating Dads We at Fathering New Zealand wish to create a better Family Court system. We are expressing our collective opinions so that the wider community can understand the plight of the Separated Father – Fight or Flight. Most choose Flight -experience shows it’s easier. FatheringNewZealand is distributing its message through a campaign that will encompass media, events and merchandise. Bumper stickers and banners are now available for purchase.

Anti-Father Family Court Judges Exposed A list of the six most Anti-Father Family Court judges has been released by men’s and children’s rights groups from around the country and the resignations of those judges appearing on the list are called for.

"The Reporter Made Me Say It" Men who complained to Jim Anderton about Liz Gordon’s comments on 20 Nov received this reply: "I was goaded in to making that comment about appearance."

FatheringNZ Proposed Equal Rights System ‘Equal-shared-custody’ in the event of separation of the parents. Gender equality for Fathers.

Access Denied Today I dropped off my two children at the Henderson Salvation Army Access Centre in View Rd in Henderson. I knew I would be sadder than usual dropping them off this time because I will not now see them again for a long time. They are still not aware of this. It is them who will be hurt most by the decision I make to stand against the bullying behaviour I am being asked to endure. They will miss their wider family, their farm life, their farm friends and most importantly be deprived of me, their father. My decision will hold a lot of other costs as well I am sure. I received a letter from the Access Centre on Saturday, a letter that told me that if I did not pay them for use of the centre then I could no longer use it, a peculiar letter considering I have never wanted to use the centre.

Real Men Don’t Hit The N.Z.Herald, December 28th, on page A8, full-page, sported a further highly emotive propaganda piece, purportedly fighting child abuse, with the stark, full colour pictures of two glum, near-naked children. This advt. is highly provocative, highly unethical, questionable on many counts, perverse, calculated to offend widely, and culturally subversive to boot. Masquerading emotively as concern for child abuse, it is clearly part of the now all-too-common, ideologically-driven, anti-violence propaganda being foisted upon the N.Z. public (and overseas also, of course) as part of UNICEF’s international "peace" and "anti-war" (i.e. pacifism) agenda.

Ellis Inquiry Hires Canadian ‘Expert’ Word is out that the Crown has hired Dr Louise Sas, a child psychologist from Canada, to assist the Ministerial Inquiry into the Peter Ellis case. Terms of Reference for the Inquiry directed that the Inquiry Head, (former Chief Justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum) was to seek the advice of two international experts to assist the inquiry. But the Inquiry quickly rejected the choice of Prof Stephen Ceci made by the Ellis supporters. One would expect that an "international expert" of the high calibre sought by the Justice Minister, would be well-known. My enquiries did not find anyone here who knew of Dr Sas, so I asked questions of my overseas colleagues. What history I could find leads me to wonder how "fairness and balance" (the Minister’s words) in the Inquiry can possibly be achieved.

Positive Contact With Children an Adult Male’s Responsibility Positive contact with children is an adult male’s responsibility and a child’s right. This is what we are trying to achieve through our pressure on courts and legislators to change the laws and practices that deride our contribution to our children. We don’t have to wait for an ad campaign to give us permission to be involved with our children. However, if in addition to loudly claiming our rights as parents to be an integral part of our children’s lives we are able to display our shouldering of responsibilities, perhaps the momentum for change will grow more quickly.

Pointing the Finger at Parents Given that the Family Court is itself responsible for preventing many parents from fulfilling their parenting responsibilities, perhaps those working in that area should think of parenting courses for themselves before pointing the finger at others.

Michael Green QC Australian Lawyer Michael Green QC speaking in support of Muriel Newman’s Shared Parenting Bill.

The Next Goal: To Make Shared Parenting The Normal Parenting Style In All Families, Both Separated And Intact – Michael Green QC

The debate over the effectiveness of shared parenting was largely over in the US by the early 1990s. Despite some earlier negative studies, the preponderance of research clearly indicated that shared parenting provided benefits for children and parents that were not matched in sole custody/contact situations. A number of surveys showed that compared to those in sole parenting arrangements both children and their parents functioned better in shared parenting homes.

This trend has been embraced by a large number of couples in Australia and New Zealand who have themselves instituted shared parenting systems. However, it has experienced slow acceptance in the Family Court and amongst professionals. The common objection is: It’s great but will only work where there’s a high degree of cooperation between the parents.

This belief is flawed. The Americans have shown that it can work in conflictual situations when parents are exposed to post-separation parenting education programmes and where they agree to abide by a set of rules. One Californian study examined shared parenting programmes in cases where at least one parent was initially opposed to the concept. When educated about children’s needs and concerns after divorce, and presented with the range of parenting options open to them, 80% of participants opted for shared parenting arrangements.

A year later, it was shown that shared parenting – as compared with sole custody – had provided parents and children with more stability, more satisfaction, and greater comfort. The children were found to be functioning significantly better in all areas of their lives.

Recent research has indicated that in Australia it is private mediators and counsellors who are more inclined to favour shared parenting arrangements. Family Court counsellors are less disposed to promote them; lawyers and judges, rarely.

It will take more time and effort before common sense prevails. In the meantime, we must talk to one another about the benefits of shared parenting. We must talk and write to our politicians, to journalists and commentators in the media. It must become the focus of all separated parent’s organisations.

One of the problems is that separating couples usually run first to lawyers, who are paid to get the best legal result for their clients rather than the best result for the whole family. It is not in most lawyers’ interests to promote amicable negotiation. In the current family law system this is difficult to overcome.

Separated parents should be encouraged to seek out private mediators who are known to promote practical shared parenting arrangements. They might be persuaded that the best legal solution is not the best for them and for their children.

wpe51.jpg (2466 bytes)

Why Family Court Must Change

Article by Darryl Ward published in The Dominion January 11th, 2001.

If the Family Court was made more open, there would be a dramatic reduction in malicious proceedings.

Our system of justice is based on a number of firm foundations. One of these is the presumption of innocence till guilt is established beyond reasonable doubt. Another is the principle that justice should be seen to be done.

Despite such ideals being fundamental to our concept of justice, the fact that they are markedly absent from the operations of the Family Court underpins the long overdue public scrutiny that this Court is now facing.

Catriona MacLennan has cited a number of suggestions as to why to the Family Court should continue to be shrouded in secrecy, but they are generally based on simplistic and emotive assumptions, not facts.

In particular, the suggestion that the ills of the Family Court can be cured with additional funding overlooks the fact that the delays in case processing are a symptom, not a cause, of the problems. An ambulance at the bottom of a cliff will never really solve anything.

The appointment of a raft of ethnically diverse judges and officials will do nothing in practice except to appease a certain mindset that sees such practices as the cure of all ills.

Nor is the opening up of proceedings the magic pill, but at least it will expose beyond all doubt the true diagnosis of the malady.

An example of how secrecy has beguiled the public is the issue of domestic violence, always one of great emotion, with certain organizations clamoring for increased funding each year as a result.

Such heinous crimes as raising one’s voice, slamming a door or criticising one’s mother-in-law are officially deemed to be domestic violence, and are the bread and butter of domestic violence cases that go before the Family Court.

The public also remains largely unaware that mere accusation of such horrific deeds, even if clearly malicious, is enough to sever all meaningful contact between a parent and his (and occasionally her) children.

Yet the only real child abuse that is taking place is pre-determined parental alienation, using the Court to pervert the very laws that were supposed to protect children from such abuse.

Once the alleged perpetrator is accused of committing such evils, a Domestic Protection Order can be made against him or her without his or her knowledge.

Such an order can only be overturned by the court, which generally takes many months.

The victim of a false or frivolous accusation may be forced to attend a "stopping violence" course, made to accept that they are an "abuser", and subjected to what Ms McLennan calls "counselling", which means being subjected to intensive re-programming with radical ideology.

Failure to attend such brainwashing sessions usually results in a criminal conviction. This would not be an occasional miscarriage of justice, it is daily reality.

If the Family Court was made more open, there would be an instant and dramatic reduction in such malicious proceedings, as those who abuse children and their parents in this manner would no longer be able to hide behind the secrecy of the court.

Despite the scaremongering of lawyers and others, such reform will not expose the most intimate details of children’s lives.

Certain people profit from the suffering caused by the status quo.

Apart from the lawyers representing the warring parties, there are court bureaucrats, counsels for the child, counsellors, social workers, "stopping violence" coordinators and others who live out of each others pockets.

They refer avoidable and tragic cases from one so-called professional to the next.

Thus it comes as no surprise that lawyers are among the most vociferous opponents of opening up such a lucrative money-spinner as the Family Court to public scrutiny.

The public is right to be wary of those who profit from the suffering of children.

What is the solution to these problems?

The closest we have come is Dr Muriel Newman’s Shared Parenting Bill, debated in Parliament last year. This did not create an automatic 50/50 custody split rather, it recognised that children should retain their right to love and care from both parents.

Few fathers dare to initiate proceedings in the Family Court, either because they are too devastated by the loss of their children to cope with such proceedings, or because they are acutely aware that the system is biased against them.

The Government’s review of guardianship laws will almost certainly achieve nothing of value.

Like previous reviews of family law, it is merely a window dressing exercise that will not tackle the real issues.

As long as the Government lacks the courage to face up to reality, New Zealand children will continue to suffer at the hands of the very institution that is supposed to make their welfare paramount.

The so-called protections that have been lauded in the past by Ms MacLennan simply do not work.

It is time to put the interests of children ahead of the interests of those who profit from their suffering.

***********

Darryl Ward has been a campaigner for family law reform for 12 years, and an executive member and occasional spokesperson for Families Apart Require Equality.

Family Courts Should Follow Youth Court Example

Media Release — Social Welfare

ACT Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman said the openness and desire for public scrutiny demonstrated by the Chief Youth Court Judge served as a good example for how the Family Court could operate.

"Judge David Carruthers has stated that it is very important that the public see what goes on in the Youth Court. That would allow people to understand what the problems are, what is being done about them and whether it is all working well in the interests of New Zealand. Judge Carruthers wants to see the court receive greater media coverage.

Contrast this with the approach of the Family Court, which operates like a secret society. It is a closed court, where people who consider themselves to be victims of the system are denied all rights to appeal to the public, either directly or through the media. Many New Zealanders have suffered huge injustices through our family law system – and yet there is no public accountability.

wpe52.jpg (4463 bytes) Muriel Newman listening to Michael Green talking in Auckland.

Early in the new session of Parliament, my private members bill on the Family Court will be debated. The Family Court (Openness of Proceedings Bill) changes the presumption of the court from closed to open.

A system such as that used in the Youth Court, where journalists may report on proceedings without using the names of those involved would help to end the injustices in the Family Court and would produce a greater sense of accountability.

I look forward to receiving cross-party support for my bill. But in the meantime I urge those involved with the Family Court to consider the comments made by Judge Carruthers and to look at how the running of their court could benefit from openness and scrutiny," Dr Newman said.

Law Society Running Scared

Media Release 25th Jan

"The Law Society is running scared, as is clearly evident by its inconsistency on the subject of opening the Family Court to public scrutiny" Darryl Ward, spokesperson for Families Apart Require Equality, said today.

Whilst the Law Society continues to remain in public denial of the daily injustices meted out by the Family Court, it is now trying to bluff the public into believing that relaxation of current secrecy will reveal that all is well. It is clear that all is far from well, and we call the Law Society’s bluff and challenge it to prove otherwise.

The Law Society is also scaremongering by making all sorts of intemperate claims that peoples’ privacy will be put on public show. The reality is that there would be a variety of mechanisms available, such as name suppression, which will protect privacy where appropriate.

It is obvious that the Law Society is mainly interested in the huge profits that its members and so-called professionals within the highly lucrative Family Court system make from the suffering of children and families.

Opening up the Court to public scrutiny will reveal once and for all how New Zealand’s family law system is amongst the worst in the world, and will greatly swell the public’s demands for a better system. A better system, such as was promoted by Dr Muriel Newman’s Shared Parenting Bill, will be better for children, better for families, and indeed better for everyone except lawyers and others who profit from the adversarial nature of the current regime.

The Family Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society claims that it is unable to respond to criticism of the Family Court because of secrecy requirements. There are numerous areas in which it could respond, were it to choose to do so.

The Court has been accused of, over many years, preventing caring, responsible fathers from continuing in an effective parenting role with their children. The Family Court’s preference for sole custody is on public record, as shown by the following two quotes from the New Zealand Family Law Reports:

"any arrangement by which a child spends substantial time with each parent has the potential for harm to the child arising from inconsistent activities, influences and living patterns…I think that the difficulties are likely to be less when primary responsibility for a child rests with one parent rather than both." B v VE [NZFLR, 1988, pp.65-74], p.70′.

"the reality is that [G] has the appellant as a father who is very much part of his life. It is only in the day-to-day choices and events of living that – as with every separated parent – one parent alone is of necessity involved." Haslett v Thorndon [NZFLR, 2000, 200], p.207".

How does the Law Society reconcile these with the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, which states that "States Parties shall use their best efforts to ensure recognition of the principle that both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child"?

How does it reconcile these with Article 16(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides that men and women of full age have the right to marry and found a family and are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution; or Article 16(3), which provides that the family is the natural and fundamental unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state?

The Law Society claims that Family Court professionals work within a statutory framework. The Society itself commissioned the report by Cotter and Roper, ‘Report on a project on education and training in legal ethics and professional responsibility for the Council of Legal Education and the New Zealand Law Society’. That report found that, of the rules of conduct, there was "a conscious risk-taking to get around them … and lack of rigour in enforcing them". The report stated that, with many lawyers seeing law more as a business than a profession, "far too often there is an attitude that you get away with as much as you can". The report is now about five years old, yet nothing has been visibly done to make the Law Society’s complaints procedure effective.

Perhaps it is time that lawyers were subject to the same scrutiny recently observed of health professionals. Can the Law Society explain what specific training is given to lawyers in the Family Court to enable them to understand issues such as child development, stages of parenting, family structures, parental alienation? On the latter point, published papers by psychologists describe the harm that can be done by professionals reinforcing the alienation perpetrated by a parent. What training do lawyers have to ensure that they do not cause such harm? The Family Law Section of the Law Society does not have to breach any confidentiality to respond to these points. We await its response with interest.

Public confidence in the Family Court and the practitioners of family law is at an all time low. It is time for the Law Society to put the interests of children and families ahead of the ill-gotten gains of its members.

Darryl Ward

New Complaints Procedure

A pamphlet issued by the offices of the Attorney-General and Chief Justice has announced a new formal process for complaining about judges. The Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias will appoint a prominent New Zealander as Judicial Complaints Lay Observer.

The observer will review complaints about judges, and the way they have been handled by the head of the particular court sector in which the judge works.

This process will not be public. The pamphlet says. "Complaints must be about a judge’s language or behaviour; you cannot use this process to complain about a decision a judge has made."

FatheringNewZealand – Raising our Children’s Potential, Celebrating Dads

bumper stickers FatheringNZ members display their bumper stickers

To all involved with Fathering, de-Fathering and the Family Court.

We at Fathering New Zealand wish to create a better Family Court system. We are expressing our collective opinions so that the wider community can understand the plight of the Separated Father – Fight or Flight. Most choose Flight -experience shows it’s easier.

FatheringNewZealand is distributing its message through a campaign that will encompass media, events and merchandise.

Bumper stickers and banners are now available for purchase. Banner and bumper sticker messages include:

  • FatheringNewZealand
  • Year of our Father – Millenium of the Dad
  • Celebrating Dads
  • Remember your Dad
  • Dads Reduce Crime – Let Kids see their Dads
  • Keep the State out of parenting – Let Dad be their child’s guide
  • FatheringNewZealand – Raising our children’s potential through equal shared parenting
  • Mothers abuse the legal system – Kids don’t see their Dads
  • A Father & Child are parted every 45 minutes (NZ)
  • Mothers revert to family patterning – Predict your Divorce
  • Custody: Prepare to be stoned by the Women’s Movement
  • Mother’s de-Fathering is intergenerational – Let Dads see their Kids
  • Custody is everything – Access orders are powerless
  • Dads go to Jail applying for Custody – No Father is safe from the Family Court
  • de-Fathering is the apartheid of the millennium
  • de-Fathering is a world-wide epidemic
  • Family Court Deprives Children of their Dads – This is abuse!
  • Family Court promotes de-Fathering – Xmas is Bad for Dads
  • Family Court treats Fathers like criminals
  • Family Court bankrupts Dads
  • Family Court prefers nutty mother custody to Sane Father Access
  • N.Z. Family Court – de-Fathering
  • N.Z. Family Court – Let the Children Speak
  • N.Z. Family Court – intergenerational de-Fathering
  • N.Z. Family Court – Fathers have No Rights
  • N.Z. Family Court – The Father Parting Industry
  • N.Z. Family Court – Absolute Secrecy Corrupts Absolutely
  • N.Z. Family Court – Centre for de-Fathering a Nation
  • N.Z. Family Court – Centre of the women’s movement
  • N.Z. Family Court – Power thru ignorance, disruption & abuse
  • N.Z. Family Court – Apartheid b/w Dads & Kids
  • N.Z. Family Court – Power thru Ignorance
  • N.Z. Family Court – 300 Kids & Dads separated weekly
  • N.Z. Family Court de-Fathers 8 Kids/hr

Note: Each has the FatheringNewZealand logo and 0508 FatherNZ contact number.

The Bumper Stickers [290x 60mm] cost $5 incl gst ea, + $2 P+P. They are white lettering on a black background. Perfect for official cars. A set of 8 bumper stickers is available at the 25% reduced price of $30 incl gst + $2 P+P.

The Banners are in 3m x 0.5m and cost $300 incl gst & P+P. The top line and phone details are generally white, the second line is orange, and the background is a reflex blue, much the same colour as our Government uses. They have side sleeves to take broom handles and 4 eyelets top and bottom to hang them from your newly rented house.

Send all cheques and written orders to FatheringNewZealand, and we will get your bumper stickers and banners to you ASAP.

Greg Hallett, P.O. Box 109 624, Newmarket, Auckland

Anti– Father Family Court Judges Exposed

A list of the six most Anti-Father Family Court judges has been released by men’s and children’s rights groups from around the country and the resignations of those judges appearing on the list are called for.

The six judges have been nominated and voted on over several months with those that appear being the six who most consistently display anti-father attitudes in their courtrooms.

[MENZ Issues has decided not to publish the list. It would be misleading to suggest that other judges are much likely to be better, and furthermore could contribute to an increased threat to the named judges’ personal safety.]

Spokesperson Darrell Carlin says men’s and children’s rights groups want an independent investigation into the attitudes and behaviour of these six judges that includes an examination of transcripts of court proceedings.

"We know that if a man walks into any of these judges’ courts he will not receive a fair hearing so we would expect increasingly to see fathers boycott those courts in protest," he says.

Carlin says the fact the court is closed means the judges can get away with major transgressions of the law without New Zealanders being able to know it is going on. Fathers are severely disadvantaged in the Family Court as the pervading attitude is biased toward mothers and against fathers, he says. In some cases there are extreme feminist attitudes coming through, in other cases it is due to old-fashioned ideas.

"Men are saying they’ve had enough and want action to open the courts to scrutiny and an investigation that would lead to resignations."

Men’s rights campaigner Bruce Cheriton says there are regularly questionable decisions made in the Family Court, especially where the Domestic Violence Act meets the Family Court Proceedings Act, the CYPPS Act, or the Guardianship Act. All of this depends on the leaning of solicitors, counsel for the child, psychologists and social workers – each with particular agendas involving maintaining their income levels, advancing the cause of their sexual orientation, and their gender political outlook.

"No wonder fathers are getting screwed."

Cheriton says the solution for judges has been simply to rule in favour of the female partner which falls in line with the police policy of arresting the male no matter what the situation and it also suits a heavily anti-male Family Court bureaucracy. But now fathers have had enough.

"We say to all Family Court judges: Smarten up your act, we’re watching everything you do and fathers are talking to each other right around the country. Your reign of terror is coming to an end; you will no longer silence fathers with the fear of having their children taken away as you have in the past."

For more information contact:

Darrell Carlin

Tel: 07 574 7411 or 021 709 907

Bruce Cheriton

Tel: 04 23 23 775

"The Reporter Made Me Say It"

wpe54.jpg (7099 bytes) The Sweater Brigade. At great personal cost on a hot summer’s day, members of FatheringNZ pose in sweaters especially for Alliance MP Liz Gordon.

Men who complained to Jim Anderton about Liz Gordon’s comments on 20 Nov, [‘Ad Hominum‘ Page 1 Nov-Dec 2000 MENZ Issues] received this reply:

"Thank you for your letter regarding the comments made by Dr. Liz Gordon on Assignment’s program on child custody.

I assure you that Dr. Gordon’s comments were out of context.

Please find enclosed her comments on this for your information."

Liz Gordon’s comments:

I was goaded in to making that comment about appearance. It is not my normal way of talking about people, but the reporter kept saying to me "don’t you think they look a bit odd" etc.. The first few times that she asked, I replied ‘I don’t judge people by their appearances’ (which is true). The bit that was shown on TV was the final time she asked, and my response essentially said that yes, they didn’t dress as the most successful people, but perhaps that is because of their experiences of bitter marriage breakups. I know it sounded bad, and of course I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do.
As a result of that comment I have been asked if I have had bad experiences with men. No, I haven’t. I’m very happily married to a great guy.

FatheringNZ Proposed Equal Rights System

  1. ‘Equal-shared-custody’ in the event of separation of the parents.
  2. Gender equality for Fathers. This includes a gender-neutral Family Court acknowledging that father-child bonding is equivalent to mother-child bonding.
  3. Maintenance payments to be linked to ‘ease of access’.
  4. Justice at equal speed and cost for both parents.
  5. Family Court to be open in every way except for identification of the individual. Cases made available with names changed to role. ie. Father, mother, girl child, boy child.
  6. Family Court shall list methods of obstruction of access and acknowledge these as a crime. Separating the Father from the child is abuse of the Father and the voiceless child.
  7. Equal reason for protection orders for men and women.
  8. No protection orders without the Father being heard first. ie. due process of law.
  9. Evidence to be tested with gender equality in the Family Court.
  10. A Family Court Ombudsman shall monitor the proceedings and statistical outcomes, eliminating gender bias.
  11. Upon separation there shall be ‘parent equality education’. The non-custodial parent is to be the recipient of a new start program, including tax incentives, govt. grants and guaranteed home loans.
  12. There shall be a Ministry of Men’s Affairs created.

Access Denied

You have been included in this list [of political leaders, CEOs and men’s groups] because it describes a situation in which you have experience and influence. My situation and sentiment is common to many people.

Today I dropped off my two children at the Henderson Salvation Army Access Centre in View Rd in Henderson. I have had a lovely 24h hours with my children, my daughter asked me to sleep on the floor of their room, the floor was hard. I knew I would be sadder than usual dropping them off this time because I will not now see them again for a long time. They are still not aware of this.

My daughter’s birthday is in a couple of weeks. She will be turning 5 and going to school. She can sometimes count to 20, write her name, draws awesome pictures and out-thinks the dog. I am going to miss her. I am going to miss my boy, he canes me on Playstation and enjoys his wrestles. I am going to miss the laughter of the weekend. It is them however who will be hurt most by the decision I make to stand against the bullying behaviour I am being asked to endure. They will miss their wider family, their farm life, their farm friends and most importantly be deprived of me, their father. My decision will hold a lot of other costs as well I am sure.

I received a letter from the Access Centre on Saturday, a letter that told me that if I did not pay them for use of the centre then I could no longer use it, a peculiar letter considering I have never wanted to use the centre. It is made worse as I am still waiting for negotiation on suggested alternatives. Use of the Access Centre has been pushed on me under the threat of a Domestic Protection Order. There is little point in me including in this letter argument to suggest this situation is unwarranted. The fact is that it is.

It was before Dr Muriel Newman’s initiative promoting Shared Parenting for New Zealand that I was asking for a Shared Parenting arrangement with my then separated wife. The basis of all my argument surrounds this request. There are no reasons to stop this. I have not smacked nor abused my children, we are awesome mates, I do everything I can for them. No-one will tell you that I am a bad father, if they did it would be a lie.

If I want to see my children I have to use the Access Centre, it makes no difference that I do not agree with the use of the centre, nor does it make any difference that I have suggested alternatives. I am being told what to do, it makes no difference to the system whether or not I have committed that which I am charged of. If I do not agree then I will not be able to see my children and this is suported by the law. My children are being dangled in front of me like carrots. I do not want my children to be abused in this fashion, so I will take the action I believe that is required to make it stop.

Children need to be parented by both parents. This needs to happen to stop parents fighting over them. I have stopped fighting conventionally now, it is so obvious that there is no point. I will attend mediation in the hope that Shared Parenting will prevail but I doubt it.

I would like to see the Access Centre gain the funds it requires to protect those families that genuinely need the facility but can not support its use when it is not required. I think it is time for the court, the politicians, the custodial parents and the support systems to understand that it is the system that is the principal abuser of the children. My children for certain are suffering from this. I have told my children that no matter what I will always love them, at least I know they know this is true.

Please alter your system.

Name Withheld

Real Men Don’t Hit

The N.Z.Herald, December 28th, on page A8, full-page, sported a further highly emotive propaganda piece, purportedly fighting child abuse, with the stark, full colour pictures of two glum, near-naked children.

wpe55.jpg (5883 bytes) Full page advertisement for ‘Children First’ – NZ Herald, December 28th 2000

On their tosos, as if stamped on by a giant stamp, and inside a black square, are the words "HANDLE WITH CARE", and with the punchline underneath in a page-wide black band : "REAL MEN DON’T HIT KIDS".

In smaller print : "….they don’t hit anyone….they’re stronger than that….they walk away…..it’s time to stop hurting our kids."

Sponsor of this deceitful propaganda piece is the Children First Foundation, and with the space donated by the N.Z.Herald, which proudly explains such generosity by the words : "Helping make a difference".

My criticisms of the advertisement:

1. That latter point alone begs a number of questions, such as : What difference? From what? To what? Perhaps from responsible and loving parents having the right to administer reasonable physical discipline if and when they see fit, based upon Biblical beliefs, to them being charged with "child assault" for such acts?

2. This advt. is highly provocative, highly unethical, questionable on many counts, perverse, calculated to offend widely, and culturally subversive to boot. Masquerading emotively as concern for child abuse, it is clearly part of the now all-too-common, ideologically-driven, anti-violence propaganda being foisted upon the N.Z. public (and overseas also, of course) as part of UNICEF’s international "peace" and "anti-war" (i.e. pacifism) agenda. This was actually spelt out in a major feature in the N.Z.Herald dated March 13th 1996 : "Education for Peace" on page 5, Section 3. It is therefore one more exercise in Big Brother dictating what is best for us, but cleverly disguised as concern for the children. After all, who could possibly object to that!!!

3. The advertisement deliberately perpetuates the insidiously false notion that even the mildest of smacking equates with child abuse. It does not, and Section 59 of the Crimes Act is testament to that, allowing for a parent to administer corporal punishment providing that the force is "reasonable" etc. This campaign is, of course, aiming towards abolishing that parental right, yet not by democratic means, with open and informed public debate, but by devious means such as with this advertisement.

4. The advertisement is discriminatory in that it deliberately singles out men as child abusers and ONLY men. More, it insidiously implies that any man who does smack a child is not a "real" man, i.e. is not "manly"!!!

5. The advertisement attacks a parent’s right to so discipline his/her child, thus turning the act of RESPONSIBLE parenting into an IRREsponsible and even socially reprehensible act.

Although it should go without saying, I must emphasise that true child abuse is absolutely anathema to me, and I could never condone it, nor would I ever do so.

The problem with such activism as this is that the very term "abuse" has been abused and confused, for political expediency, It has been turned into a convenient political code word, seemingly to mean anything one wishes it to mean, and then to be used to beat those who do not conform to politically correct expectations. I suggest that it is time this deceitful process was challenged and exposed for the devilish chicanery it is.

Should any of you feel inclined to lodge a complaint about this advertisement with the N.Z. Herald and the Advertising Standards Authority their addresses are:-

N.Z.Herald, P.O.Box 32, Auckland. e-mail : letters@herald.co.nz

Advertising Standards Authority, P.O.Box 10675, Wellington.

Barbara Faithfull,

CREDO, PO Box 105105 Auck.

Ellis Inquiry Hires Canadian ‘Expert’

For prizes in a Sweepstake on the probable outcome of the Ministerial Inquiry into the Peter Ellis case, I have donated a box of Chocolate Fish. Any takers?

Word is out that the Crown has hired Dr Louise Sas, a child psychologist from Canada, to assist the Ministerial Inquiry into the Peter Ellis case. Terms of Reference for the Inquiry directed that the Inquiry Head, (former Chief Justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum) was to seek the advice of two international experts to assist the inquiry. But the Inquiry quickly rejected the choice of Prof Stephen Ceci made by the Ellis supporters.

One would expect that an "international expert" of the high calibre sought by the Justice Minister, would be well-known. My enquiries did not find anyone here who knew of Dr Sas, so I asked questions of my overseas colleagues. Only one knew of her, after he had done some digging around. What history I could find leads me to wonder how "fairness and balance" (the Minister’s words) in the Inquiry can possibly be achieved.

Sas is in private practice but also works for the Family Court Clinic of London, Ontario, a private clinic. She has apparently given "expert" testimony as a prosecution witness in a number of child abuse trials. Her publications include :

Louise Sas et al, Tipping the Balance to Tell the Secret: Public Discovery of Child Sexual Abuse; Primary and Secondary Prevention Strategies for Child Sexual Abuse: Developing a Prediction Model Based on the Facilitators and Inhibitors of Child Disclosures (London Family Court Clinic, 1995).

Here are some indications of her abilities and opinions:

While all skeptics of techniques used in the past agree that the use of "anotomically correct" dolls to interview small children suspected of having been sexually abused has led to wrongful convictions, because the interviewers’ often suggestive use of the dolls and the interviewers’ subjective interpretations of the children’s manipulation of the dolls are very unreliable guides as to whether abuse took place, Dr Sas seems enthusiastic about a new development: the use of robots. Sas states:

"These animatronic characters are a breakthrough in reaching young children who, because of their age and stage of development, cannot adequately communicate their needs, fears and problems. This new technology will help us develop more effective strategies to engage vulnerable children and help us serve their needs in even the most difficult situations."

In July 1995, an Ontario jury found an accused father not guilty of any of the counts of sexual abuse against him. The only independent evidence to support the complainant’s memory was provided by Louise Sas, who testified that child sexual abuse gives rise to the kind of anxiety attacks, flashbacks and other symptoms complainant displayed. Sas also testified that client records had been destroyed for space reasons.

A very recent article in a Canadian newspaper commenting on a case of false allegations made by young children, (known as the Climaco case) said:

"There were no witnesses, and the kids’ tapes were shaky. But there was an expert — Dr. Louise Sas, a child psychologist who has testified for the prosecution in numerous abuse cases. Dr. Sas found the evidence against Ms. Climaco quite damning."

Ms. Climaco’s first trial began in September, but it didn’t last long. In the middle, the Crown decided to put a new witness on the stand. Ms. Climaco’s lawyer asked for a mistrial because of the surprise witness. The judge agreed, and a new trial was scheduled to start all over again in January. Meantime, the new witness was interviewed three times on videotape. His stories were contradictory, and in the third interview he declared that he had been lying all along.

Once again, the Crown called on Dr. Sas to give her expert opinion of the tapes. Her verdict? All the testimony again pointed to Ms. Climaco’s guilt.

"There are strong indices of reliability in his allegations about sexual victimization," she wrote. "His retractions and then reaffirmation of the veracity of the information he was providing was a clear example of his difficulty sharing the information." In other words, all the boy’s contradictions, as well as his assertion that he had been lying, were really signs that he had been telling the truth.

If Dr Louise Sas is representative of the quality of the so-called "international experts" advising the Inquiry, the Inquiry is a waste of taxpayer funds and a sham.

Do you want to win a chocolate fish?

Gordon Waugh

Positive Contact With Children an Adult Male’s Responsibility

"To be, or not to be, that is the question, whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them…".

Agonising over what to do in response to injustice is as real and as painful today for many fathers as it was for Shakespeare’s most tortured hero, Hamlet the Prince of Denmark. While harmony was eventually restored to the Kingdom there is no consolation in the fact that he died as a result of his efforts to put the world to right. The same agonising dilemmas that confront an individual can also affect a group’s consciousness. How should we approach the injustices that we perceive in our Family Court system?

Some time ago I had the opportunity to participate in a one-day community-building day run for Men’s Centre North Shore by Rex McCann. The Family Court system was inevitably discussed. It seemed that men were roughly divided into two camps; those anxious to put their energies into protest action and confrontation with the Family Court and those who had tired of conflict at a political level and who wanted to reframe their lives without involvement in protracted and potentially futile struggles. The men in one camp appeared to consider those in the other with a degree of suspicion, as if they didn’t understand how things really were.

On reflection, I believe it is possible to continue to strive for both political and personal change without suffering the inevitable burnout associated with intense, emotionally charged, conflict. As chairman of Men’s Centre North Shore I intend to do what I can to confront the injustices of the New Zealand Family Court system but not loose sight of my nurturing role as a parent. I will work for change but I won’t attempt to force it. My position does not imply a judgement on men who consider more strident measures are necessary to effect change. I believe that our organisation can accommodate in its membership a wide range of men with differing degrees of political or personal motivation in relation to men’s issues.

The US black civil rights movement of the 1960’s is an example of a political struggle that was conducted through diverse pacifist and activist strategies. Men’s Centre North Shore must, in my opinion, work within the law, engage in dialogue with those in positions of authority and look to raise the consciousness of the wider community to "men’s issues."

If this seems too cautious an approach to an urgent problem, consider the recent attempt by the celebrity union of Liz Gunn, Lucy Lawless and Michael Jones to end child abuse. Their efforts provoked a sustained media backlash aimed at the personalities involved, leaving the issue of child abuse where it has always been: in the too hard basket.

The motivations of Liz Gunn warrant closer inspection. She was quoted as saying she had sacrificed her own children to end the abuse of others. It seemed a little ironical to me that she would "abuse", through neglect, her own children to save others suffering a worse fate. Perhaps under the intense media spotlight her comments were a little ill considered. A cynic might see her statements as a calculated PR response, to elicit public sympathy in the face of overwhelming criticism of her actions. Her claims of "media abuse", personal sacrifice and the very public shedding of tears resulted in a substantial reduction in media attention directed at her. She too was a victim relieved of any responsibility for the position she found herself in. I’m prepared to believe that her efforts to put a stop child abuse were genuine and not a calculated publicity stunt to raise her profile with the New Zealand public to increase her marketability to TVNZ executives.

Perhaps, in future, she will take a leaf out of Judy Bailey’s book. This media Madonna has had the good sense to work to end the suffering of children overseas whose perilous and pathetic plight does not engender such a violent emotional reaction in middle New Zealand.

Conspicuous by his absence from the celebrity line up of ‘Children First’ campaign was a white male father figure. This is really no surprise. "He" has been demonised for so long as the principal perpetrator of abuse that to include him as part of the solution to the problem, would be a public relations nightmare and fund raising suicide.

Working to stop child abuse is a busy industry with fierce competition among helping agencies consuming substantial private and public funding. In addition to the celebrity led ‘Children First’ campaign, Presbyterian Support Services (PSS) are also fund-raising to end child abuse. Billboards, promoting the ‘James Family’ programme for abused and disadvantaged children, are all over town. They are covered in the slogan "Believe in the Family" and feature the emotive image of a benign mother and her child. The father of this billboard family has been rendered invisible or obsolete.

wpe51.jpg (6627 bytes) Billboard promoting ‘The James Family’ campaign. Whatever happened to Mr James?

I rang PSS and asked for an explanation and was told that it just happened to be an image without any particular significance taken from their television campaign. This seemed unlikely. In my experience public relations people sweat blood over the image used in a publicity campaign. I was sent some promotional material on the fatherless ‘James Family’ which according to Megan Richards of PSS, is a child focused multi-disciplined approach family support programme.

‘The James family’ services are available to any family in need and Megan told me they are increasingly accessed by separated fathers. Prominent among these services is anger management for men. Women by contrast can access a ‘Women against violence’ programme designed to teach women how to confront "abuse".

‘The James Family’ publicity material perpetuates the myth that violence and abuse are male specific problems. Female violence and abuse are an aberration. PSS does excellent charitable work but I suspect a bias against men exists within their organisation.

I don’t have the resources of PSS or the public profile of Liz Gunn to ameliorate the problem of child abuse in New Zealand society but along with other men, I believe I can make a difference by being positively and actively involved in my/our children’s world.

At the end of last year I made myself available to be parent help at my children’s school. I assisted on a class trip, aided children with reading difficulties, taught rudimentary French conversation to seven year olds and helped in the construction of the set for the end of year drama production.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, which reinforced my belief that positive male involvement with children is important for their development and as a consequence will likely result in a reduction of child abuse in our society. By participating at school I went up in the estimation of my children, their friends and teachers. I helped build the bonds of "community" that these well-meaning and well-funded support agencies talk so much about.

Positive contact with children is an adult male’s responsibility and a child’s right. This is what we are trying to achieve through our pressure on courts and legislators to change the laws and practices that deride our contribution to our children. We don’t have to wait for an ad campaign to give us permission to be involved with our children. However, if in addition to loudly claiming our rights as parents to be an integral part of our children’s lives we are able to display our shouldering of responsibilities, perhaps the momentum for change will grow more quickly.

If you want a break from revolutionising the Family Court system and want to help reduce child abuse in New Zealand, increase your engagement with your children and the community to which we all belong.

Try a little finger painting at the crèche or take a day off work to help at your child’s school.

Arohanui.

Mark Walsh, Chairman

Men’s Centre North Shore

Pointing the Finger at Parents

Letter published in The Manawatu Evening Standard, 6 Feb. 2001 p.4

In your editorial you support Judge Carruthers’ suggestion of parenting courses for the parents of young criminals (January 18).

The Family Court intervenes between parents and their children with little or no accountability or supervision. The Guardianship Act gives the Court the power to set aside normal rules of evidence and to impose whatever restrictions it sees fit on custody and access.

Lawyers and judges frequently claim that the Family Court has special expertise in these matters. However this is not evident in published statements by the Family Law Section of the Law Society, the Principal Family Court Judge and others.

Given that the Family Court is itself responsible for preventing many parents from fulfilling their parenting responsibilities, perhaps those working in that area should think of parenting courses for themselves before pointing the finger at others.

Stuart Birks

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