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MENZ Issues November 1998: Volume 3 Issue 11

Unequal Matrimonial Property Splits to achieve ‘Gender Equity’ for Women Gender Equality fails to recognise that equal treatment will not produce equitable results because men and women have different life experiences.

Young Men at Risk "They are disconnected from their families, from work, from their communities and from their peers. They are isolated, they are young men at risk and their behaviour costs themselves and the community dearly."

New Theory: Violence Results from Evolutionary Pressures among Males Two Canadian scientists have found that societies "bottom-heavy with young, unmarried and violence-prone males" are the ones most likely to trigger wars.

Marginal Men New Australian research reveals a growing underclass of males with little choice but to face life alone. "Working-class men have been hardest hit by the decline in available full-time work. These men lack the economic resources to be attractive to women seeking permanent partnerships so they end up on their own, locked out of family life."

Splitting Families Out of Fashion? Karen Zelas: "the psychological effects of family disruption, removal of a parent, splitting of families through taking sides for and against a complainant, the loss of the abusing but nethertheless loved parent, and placement in foster care, have significant psychological risks also……….In some instances the psychological effects of the above may be greater than the potential psychological effects of suffering the type of abuse alleged."

Men and the Law Workshop – more about ‘Fathers, Family and the Future’ While some Judges attempt to encourage involvement by both parents, a suspicion remains that joint custody orders may not be in the best interests of the children. As it was expressed in one judgement: "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 the child rests with one parent rather than both."

Father-Friendly Workplaces Many people in the workshop questioned whether, for example, a process worker in factory who had similar values would be able to negotiate the same set of father-friendly employee benefits as the examples presented.

Letter to Head of Family Court Feedback from many social agencies, plus the recent Father’s Forums held in Auckland and Christchurch, showed clear evidence that a large number of men have serious grievances relating to the family legal system and the courts. What is going to be done about it?

Project K to start on North Shore A mentoring scheme for youths "clinging to the cliff-top by their fingernails’ which has been running in South Auckland since the beginning of this year is about to expand into our local area.

A Young Woman’s View of Feminism "I also believe there is a serious danger of the entire feminist cause being consumed by the very fire it has so enthusiastically stoked. Too many people already fail to understand what the real aim of the original feminist cause was, because a group of present day contributors’ demands are endangering any credibility women have achieved."

Response Printed in NZ Herald Anyone who looks closely won’t find any Martians here, just hard working men and women who have concerns about justice for all. The fact that we approach social issues from a male perspective makes us different and, in the view of some, unacceptable.

man carrying one third of housetwo men carrying two thirds of house

Unequal Matrimonial Property Splits to achieve ‘Gender Equity’ for Women

In a 25th June 1997 speech written by Minister of Women’s Affairs Hon Christine Fletcher, and delivered by Rev Ann Batten MP, it was stated: "The bill will amend the existing Matrimonial Property Act, addressing the deficiencies identified by the 1988 working party to ensure the equitable operation of the Act."

The previous April, Fletcher had defined the vital difference between equity and equality in a speech titled: ‘Celebrating the Past and Looking Forward.’

"Many of us, you all know well, have pursued the causes of equal opportunity with passion. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs however, sees this search as one for Gender Equity.

The term [gender equality] fails to recognise that equal treatment will not produce equitable results because men and women have different life experiences.

It is the lack of understanding about this important distinction I believe that underlies much of the discontent and misunderstanding in relationships between men and women, certainly at a political level.

Gender Equity is intended to take into consideration the differences in men’s and women’s lives and to recognise that different approaches may be needed to produce outcomes that are equitable – fair – reasonable.

Gender Equity seeks to recognise that different policy approaches are necessary by governments to produce outcomes that are equitable for women. Gender equality, on the other hand, is based on the premise that women and men should be treated in the same way.

This we reject, because it fails to recognise that equal treatment will not produce equitable results."

Info sent by: Bruce Tichbon. FARE (Families Apart Require Equality).

Young Men at Risk

On 1st October 1998 the new Minister of Youth Affairs Tony Ryall, delivered a speech to the Wellington Central National Party titled ‘Young men at risk’.

The Minister began by talking about two young men aged 15 and 17 from Hawera, who were interviewed recently on the Holmes show. He pointed out that both of the young men who appeared are part of the youth crime problem. Neither of them are at school, nor do they have jobs. The girlfriend of one is about to give birth. While the young men were extremely inarticulate, it wasn’t so much what they said, but the picture of their hopelessness and inadequacy that made the impact. The Minister said:

"They are disconnected from their families, from work, from their communities and from their peers. They are isolated, they are young men at risk and their behaviour costs themselves and the community dearly. Every one of us here knows someone who has had their house broken into, their car stolen or stereo taken, a friend or family member assaulted, or worse, killed or seriously injured in a car accident involving young men, alcohol and speed. It’s no surprise that as a community, we can take a very dim view of some young men and the terrible cost their behaviour can cause to themselves, their families and the rest of us."

As an example, he discussed the ACC area, where injuries among young men from motor vehicles and sporting accidents in just one year cost the community $9.1 million dollars in new claims and $48.6 million in ongoing claims. He also informed his audience that in 1996 alone, almost 29,000 men aged 15-24 were convicted of an offence.

Mr Ryall then mentioned the three characteristics of youths at risk that Judge Becroft of Wanganui has identified:

  • they are streetwise with an undeveloped set of moral values,
  • they do not attend school,
  • and the majority have no meaningful contact with their father.

The judge has also said that of the last 41 male youth offenders he had dealt with, 37 claimed to have a minimal relationship with their father. Often, sons didn’t know where their father was or didn’t want anything to do with him.

The Minister pointed out what we all know – that if a young man has no male role model to look to while he’s growing up and going through the rites of passage to adulthood, then there must be a greater risk that he will go off the rails. He then went on to talk about mentoring programmes, which have proved to be a positive way of providing role models for teenagers who are estranged from their parents, or are in single parent families. He described a few of these:

  • Presbyterian Support Services in Dunedin have a mentoring programme which links a mentor to single parent families or to families that are simply unable to meet their parenting responsibilities.
  • New Direction is another mentoring programme from Dunedin. This is a police initiative which involves students from the teachers training college mentoring young people aged 9 to 12 years who have been identified as being at risk.
  • A programme in Opotiki, the Mahi Tahi Group, uses mentoring to provide support networks for young people who have been released from prison and for those on community service.
  • In Wellington, the Tu Tangata mentoring programme is based at Parkway College in Wainuiomata. Tu Tangata brings people from the community into the classroom. Some are paid through Taskforce Green or ACC payments but others give their time and work without payment.

The minister said he has made the issue of young men at risk a priority for the Ministry of Youth Affairs. He intends to start by understanding and appreciating the issues and concerns of young men, and is planning a wide consultation and listening process over the next few months. Soon the government will be announcing the Prime Minister’s Youth Forum, which will give young New Zealanders representation at the highest level. Views put forward will provide important input to Government decisions affecting young people.

We’re glad to hear the Minister of Youth Affairs is concerned about young men at risk. We certainly agree with his final comment that, "there’s a whole lot we need to hear so we can get young men who are at risk back on track, and reduce the terrible cost their behaviour inflicts on themselves and the rest of the community."

But mentoring programmes, while representing a positive step for young men already ‘at risk’, do not even begin to address the real causes of the problem of fatherless young men. Stuart Birks, director of Massey University’s Centre for Public Policy Evaluation has just written to Mr Ryall pointing out that in many cases, the person who would be the most suitable and willing mentor (that is; the young man’s father) is denied the opportunity to play this role because of the actions of the Family Court. While in some instances the court may be justified in shutting out fathers from their children’s lives, the criteria commonly applied are quite inappropriate he told the Minister.

  • There is an overriding belief that children need one home base. This results in the favouring of custodial mothers to the point where there is an almost total failure to enforce any access orders or to support an effective parenting role for the non-custodial father.
  • The Child Support Act does not consider the non-custodial parent to be playing a parenting role, time spent with the children being commonly referred to as "enjoyment of access". In fact the non-custodial parent is considered to the "absent parent", even though there could be contact of up to "40% of the nights" (without any reduction in child support liability).
  • The powers of the Domestic Violence Act are being used on the unsupported claims of mothers. There are no disincentives or penalties for making frivolous claims and such claims are commonly effective. In some instances they are simply a means of strengthening a bargaining position in a custody or matrimonial property dispute."

Here at the Men’s Centre North Shore, we think the government would be better advised to focus its attention on the reasons why there are so many fatherless young men in the first place, instead of just trying to "get them back on track" after they’ve run off the rails.

Just last week, we received a letter from Owen Jennings MP, who said he is impressed with the stance taken by our organisation regarding support for the responsibilities of fathers and two parent families. He agreed that we are right to claim that the breakdown of traditional marriage makes a significant contribution to social decay.

We think that policymakers need to pay far more regard to the forces that encourage the breakdown of traditional marriage and family structure. In 1997, United States researchers Kuhn and Guidubaldi found that "States with high levels of joint physical custody awards (over 30%) in 1989 and 1990 have shown significantly greater declines in divorce rates in following years through 1995, compared with other states……..These findings indicate that public policies promoting sole custody may be contributing to the high divorce rate."

We need to address the problems fathers face in the Family Court as detailed above by Stuart Birks, and we need to reform the benefit system to remove the current financial incentives for couples to avoid marriage or to split up the minute things get a bit difficult. Because the Domestic Purposes Benefit is now the best career option around for many young women, a whole group of young men without the resources to compete with the State as a provider have been effectively made redundant. A 1994 Listener article asked the question: "Do children need a mum and a dad?"

Gabrielle Maxwell, until recently employed by the Office of the Commissioner for Children, answered:

"Many more women are solo parents now than in 1985, and they know the reality that they can provide for their children without a man".

John Potter.

New Theory: Violence Results from Evolutionary Pressures among Males

A recent article in the Boston Globe by Richard Saltus discusses the work of Christian Mesquida, a graduate student, and Neil Wiener, a professor in the psychology department at York University in Toronto. The two Canadian scientists have found that societies "bottom-heavy with young, unmarried and violence-prone males" are the ones most likely to trigger wars. They have been studying the biological roots of war, and claim their analysis of population patterns shows that this evolutionary perspective explains conflicts from ancient times to today’s hot spots. Based on evolutionary biology, the new theory predicts that when the number of single young men becomes too great, they form "coalitions" bent on seizing territory, goods or other resources they need to marry and have offspring.

"We believe that rapid population growth shifts demographics so that the proportion of young males (aged15-29) rises in comparison with older males,” Wiener said. "When these young males become a large proportion of the population, violence is frequent and severe." In the past, societies have tried to defuse the danger by creating backbreaking tasks for young men or sending them off far away on crusades or raids. Given that terrorising the neighbours is no longer an acceptable option, it seems sensible to ensure our social policies encourage and support young men to get both jobs and wives.

J.P.

Marginal Men

The Oct 10th Sydney Morning Herald featured an article by Bettina Arndt examining new research that reveals a growing underclass of males with little choice but to face life alone. Quoting from the research she writes: "Working-class men have been hardest hit by the decline in available full-time work. These men lack the economic resources to be attractive to women seeking permanent partnerships so they end up on their own, locked out of family life."

Mark Peel, a Monash University historian found housing estates where adult male unemployment hits 30, 50 or even 60 per cent. Robbed of their role as providers, the married men in these communities struggle to maintain their place in their families. But there was another group of men Peel came across – men on the fringe. "There was the story about the 32-year-old still living with his mum. No money, no job, nowhere to go. Stories about young single men on their own who end up committing suicide because there’s no future. And, most of all, young men blocked from becoming real men, family men, because they can’t get work. Many of these young men are ending up on their own. They have no path, no way in."

Dr Bob Birrell and Virginia Rapson, from Monash University’s Centre for Population and Urban Research, have analysed census data and shown dramatic shifts occurring in partnering patterns in Australia. From 1986 to 1996 there has been a substantial increase in the number of unattached males. For men aged 30 to 34 the percentage unpartnered increased from 29 to 37, while the increase for 35- to 39-year-olds was from 21 to 29%.

In Australia, 30% of men in their 30s are not in full-time employment. Men in full-time work were far more likely to be partnered than those in casual or part-time employment. Arndt says that there is now clear evidence that the recent dramatic drop in men’s capacity to act as breadwinners means many are unable to maintain stable relationships.

John Embling, founder of Melbourne’s Families in Distress Foundation says "Since the ’80s I’ve started seeing more and more of these blokes. It’s become a real phenomenon. These itinerant men float around, sometimes trying to find an old girlfriend in the hope she’ll put them up for a few nights, or going back to Mum, if she’ll have them. They come and go from pretty second-rate rental situations, caravan parks, boarding houses. Many of them end up as pretty pathetic characters, broken down and sometimes into pretty serious addictions. No-one wants them, no-one knows what to do with them."

Bob Birrell’s explanation of the plight of these men lies in what is called "resource" theory, the notion that low-income males fail to achieve lasting relationships because they haven’t the goods to attract and support women. There is now substantial literature on black men in the United States who have become increasingly detached from family life – most black children are being brought up by sole mothers. Many American commentators believe an important factor contributing to this trend is the low economic resources of the black man, which reduce the economic gains for women from marriage and increase the likelihood that sole mothers remain unattached.

The fact that a similar pattern is emerging in this part of the world has big cost implications. The deteriorating mental and physical health of this male population is well documented. More importantly, the sheer impossibility of extracting child support payments from impoverished fathers means that the rapidly growing number of single mothers will continue to increase the welfare bill.

Paul Whyte is a Sydney counsellor who has often worked with unemployed, low-income males. He is well aware of their social isolation, and says: "These men often have a sense of complete hopelessness and worthlessness."

Males in working-class suburbs are usually the most traditional of men, whose sense of masculinity is bound up in their role as providers. "That’s what it meant to be a man in the working class," Mark Peel said. "Men earned a wage and brought it home. Work provided the momentum of their lives." The psychological consequences of unemployment for these men are all too apparent, ranging from anger and depression through to substance abuse and even suicide.

Andrew Humphreys is a social worker in the Dandenong area of Melbourne who has done research work on male suicide. Most of the men Humphreys comes across are pretty unemployable. "In this group you’ll find a huge over-representation of men who can’t read or write" – a result that Humphreys attributes squarely to the failure of the education system to tackle critical issues affecting boys’ education.

A strong theme that emerges from conversations with welfare workers is that they have a clear sense that the women in their communities are coming out on top. Humphreys points out: "This is the first generation of young women who’ll be largely picking their husbands from men who earn less than they do, men who are less educated, less employable and often coping less well than they are."

Women on lone parents’ pensions perceive real financial penalties in taking on a low-income male. A substantial proportion of unattached low-income males, particularly in the older age groups, have already been married and are still burdened by the financial consequences of divorce, including debt and child support. A study being conducted at the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University shows that many of these low-income divorced men can barely afford to support themselves, let alone pay child support.

Susan Foster, 36, a single mother with four children has a boyfriend, but says: "There’s just no way you can move in with your partner if he’s on a low wage or on the dole. It just puts so much stress on the relationship to have that financial crisis where he’s supporting another family and you’re losing some of your pension because he’s also expected to support you."

Arndt concludes: "The message to government and society is clear – we simply cannot afford to ignore the drastic need for more targeted education and training for these large numbers of working-class boys and young men. We cannot leave them with no hope of a decent job. By depriving them of these fundamentals, we sentence them to a fringe existence, excluded from the comforts of family and community – a tragedy in a society that prides itself on giving everyone a fair go."

J.P.

Splitting Families Out of Fashion?

There are a few glimmers of hope that the times, they are a’changing. The September 98 Butterworths Family Law Journal editorial is written by Dr Karen Zelas, the Consultant Psychiatrist infamous for her central role in the frame-up of Peter Ellis at the Christchurch creche. Now however, she expresses "a word of caution to those who are concerned about protecting children from the psychological effects of exposure to child abuse, particularly child sexual abuse." She warns that "the psychological effects of family disruption, removal of a parent, splitting of families through taking sides for and against a complainant, the loss of the abusing but nethertheless loved parent, and placement in foster care, have significant psychological risks also……….In some instances the psychological effects of the above may be greater than the potential psychological effects of suffering the type of abuse alleged." Coming from one of New Zealand’s most prominent ‘child savers’, it is good news indeed to read that "Fashions come and go in relation to State intervention in families", and that even she has realised the current ‘fashionable’ practice of removing fathers from the scene needs to change.

J.P.

Men and the Law Workshop – more about ‘Fathers, Family and the Future’

Waipuna Lodge, Sept 26th.

Mark Henaghan, associate Professor of Law at Otago University, began the afternoon by presenting a paper titled "Fatherhood and Family Law".

He quoted Article 18(1) of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which New Zealand ratified in 1993 which obliges State Parties to:

"use their best efforts to ensure recognition of the principal that both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child."

Henaghan’s paper shows that in current New Zealand Family Law, the principle of common responsibilities as between mother and father is not universal. Specific statutes in the Guardianship Act and the Adoption Act give fathers less responsibility than mothers where the fathers are not married to the mother and not living with her. He also pointed out that our legislation talks in terms of ‘rights’ instead of ‘responsibilities’, and that the language should be changed to incorporate both.

Discussing the rights and responsibilities of fathers according to current case law, Henaghan makes the point that "The emergence of new birth technologies has raised new issues about how potential fathers become fathers, about social fathers taking on the legal responsibilities of fatherhood, and about children never knowing their genetic father."

  • In an English case, a women has been able to take sperm removed from her dead husband without his consent and use it for artificial conception.
  • In New Zealand, the law presumes that the married or de facto partner of a woman who undergoes a new birth technology has consented. This means that until he can prove otherwise, a man living with a woman who chooses to be artificially inseminated by the sperm of another man will be considered the legal father.
  • Where artificial conception methods are used by a single parent, or by a same sex couple there is a legal bar to establishing legal fatherhood of the sperm donor. The argument for allowing single parents or same-sex couples to use this procedure on the grounds that it would be discriminatory if the service was not provided for them overlooks article 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – the right to have contact with both parents, and article 8 which is the right of the child to preserve his or her identity.
  • Where an embryo is formed outside of the prospective mother, the courts have ruled that it can not be implanted without the father’s consent, unless there was no other way for the woman to have a child.
  • Once the embryo is inside the mother the father has very limited rights. A father’s consent is not required if the mother desires an abortion, and legal challenges by fathers have not been successful.
  • A foetus prior to birth has recognised legal rights – a restraining order has been granted against a father to protect the unborn child where there was evidence of violence towards the mother.
  • Historically, up until the 1968 Guardianship Act, in theory guardianship was invested solely in the married father.
  • Currently, married couple have equal rights to guardianship.
  • There are also equal rights when a couple is living together at the time of the birth.
  • However, if a father is not married to or cohabiting with the mother at the time of birth he has no automatic rights, and must apply to the court to become a guardian. This is unlikely if the mother objects.
  • The Child Support Act places a financial obligation on fathers whether they are the guardians or not and whether they see the child or not.

Henaghan went on to discuss the legal debates about the status of fathers that have taken place in England, Scotland and Australia, and summarised the arguments for and against equal rights for fathers. He pointed out that in contrast to many states in the USA, and in the UK, in New Zealand there is no legal presumption of joint parenthood. While some Judges attempt to encourage involvement by both parents, a suspicion remains that joint custody orders may not be in the best interests of the children. As it was expressed in one judgement: "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 the child rests with one parent rather than both."

In conclusion, Henaghan says: "Fathers have to take responsibility for their behaviour, and realise that if they do not make efforts to change their children suffer most. The law cannot create good fathers, men must by their actions and involvement become good fathers, then the law will support them in that role."

Stuart Cummings, a family court lawyer, presented what was called a ‘response’. He told us that there has recently been a 55% increase of Domestic Violence orders in Auckland, the Liable Parent Contribution legislation is very blunt and favours self-employed who can minimise income, but fundamentally he thinks the family court is working well.

After a few questions. Owen Pershouse presented what was really a sales pitch for his MENDS programme for separated men, which is about to start here in Auckland. Seems like good stuff, but at over $500 it is not going to attract many of the men that I talk to. (Although they do have a scholarship fund).

Judge Bouchier made the ‘response’, said his primary goal is to ensure that "all children should be free of abuse by their fathers."

Again this was followed by a few questions. Warren Heap raised the point that the penalties for false allegations are almost non-existent, and Judge Bouchier replied by saying how difficult it is to find evidence of intent to perjure.

J.P.

Father-Friendly Workplaces

This workshop was led by Trudie McNaughton, Director of the EEO Trust. Trudie provided a useful summary of the work the EEO Trust carried out, and the resources available to fathers.

This includes a WEB site: www.eeotrust.org.nz

Case studies were then presented by Mike O’Neil, a recruitment consultant with Wheeler Campbell Consulting and Brent Paterson of Fletcher Homes. Mike showed how his organisation was father-friendly through having flexible work arrangements, including the potential to work at home. Mike suggested that working on commission gave people the flexibility to set their own targets and own hours. He also suggested that the "values" that employees held were important. However, many people in the workshop questioned whether, for example, a process worker in factory who had similar values would be able to negotiate the same set of father-friendly employee benefits.

Brent outlined the many benefits available to Fletcher employees. This included an on-site (at the corporate office) childcare centre (hours 7.30 am to 6.30 pm with the potential for extended hours and overnight facilities available), flexible working hours, a corporate gym, and a health program. These benefits were theoretically available to all employees, but the location of the creche and gym would have ruled out use by many employees.

There was discussion about whether some benefits are family friendly or employer friendly through encouraging parents to work long hours. There was also some further discussion as to whether the models presented were only applicable to a small group of professionals with strong negotiating positions in the workplace. However, overall, the models still represented some shift in traditional employer attitudes.

Paul Callister

A conference will be run in Wellington on 21st – 22nd February 1999. [it was actually held on 17th – 19th April]

The title will be: "Fathers and Children, Challenge and Change".

Letter to Head of Family Court

At the Auckland Fathers’ Forum, chairman of the Separated Fathers Trust Warren Heap spoke to the Principal Family Court Judge Patrick Mahony, who invited him to write expressing some of the concerns separated fathers have relating to the Family Courts and Laws. Warren’s letter is reprinted next. Judge Mahony has replied, saying that he has sent a copy of the letter to the Ministry of Justice, and will discuss the contents with the other Judges.

He also wrote: "Please be assured that we do everything in our power to give priority to domestic violence cases where a defence has been filed so we give a hearing at the earliest possible opportunity. The Judges are conscious of the impact of delay on those who have orders made against them before they have the opportunity to be heard."

J.P.

Dear Judge Mahony,

In Auckland at least, often men experience a waiting time of six to twelve weeks before a hearing is granted in the Family Court. Given that many fathers are denied access to their children and homes during this time, we feel this is unacceptable.

The present Domestic Violence Act 1995 fails to define precisely what constitutes psychological abuse. Apart from a few general examples, printed in the related Dept. for Courts brochure, that could be recognised as psychological abuse, it leaves a wide interpretation for some unscrupulous applicants to abuse. Indeed the complete Act allows to a degree, a manipulation of facts, and no substantiating evidence required to obtain a protection order. Notwithstanding, this Act should be made easy to use for genuine, honest people who require such orders. Respondents (usually men) find it incredible that clever liars need never fear prosecution. At present, the onus lies with the respondent, often with no prior warning, in a very unfair position and at great expense, to discredit any wild unfounded allegations. Considering the devastating consequences, stress, and emotional hurt that respondents and their children endure, as a result of most court orders, we ask for a backstop/safety valve clause to be added to this Act and other related family law. There are a number of criminal laws relating to ‘perjury’ and ‘conspiring to defeat the course of justice’ etc. Let’s use them if required, to make applicants accountable.

Hearing from many separated fathers and from my own experience, men are often faced with breaches or blocking of access conditions and orders, when picking up or contacting their children. Almost inevitably, to have this addressed you have to engage a lawyer or return to court. I have approached the police on this matter, and not once have I had their assistance in enforcing the access order. Typical excuses offered by the police have been:

  • "We have limited resources."
  • "We are too busy."
  • "This does not constitute a serious enough reason to intervene."
  • "This is out of our jurisdiction."

What then is the value of access orders, when they can be readily broken, and are not enforced? It is common knowledge that if a person breaches a protection order the police intervene very quickly! Another disturbing aspect is that some court appointed psychologists and children’s’ counsel have very formed opinions, and even make statements about which parent is the more suitable custodian.

As I mentioned to you personally, [the named counsel for Warren’s children] – from the legal firm Brookfields in my case was guilty of this, and also only saw my children in the presence of their mother, and never interviewed me. Subsequently I brought this to the judge’s (Sylvia Cartwright) attention, who directed Mr B. to see me. This resulted in a brief meeting at his office (having been kept waiting 40 minutes) which was merely an act of going through the motions. One has to seriously question a counsel’s motive, objectiveness, and authority to be allowed to do this.

It has been the considered opinion of many that the Family Court from a starting point should assume that each parent have equal and joint custody unless it can be proved that one parent was extremely unsuited, or they did not want that responsibility, then on that basis the court could make rulings. This would immediately eliminate a lot of very unfair, prejudiced court orders, and benefit the children immeasurably.

Feedback from many social agencies, plus the recent Father’s Forums held in Auckland and Christchurch, showed clear evidence that a large number of men have serious grievances relating to the family legal system and the courts. What is going to be done about it?

Warren Heap

Project K to start on North Shore

A mentoring scheme for youths "clinging to the cliff-top by their fingernails’ which has been running in South Auckland since the beginning of this year is about to expand into our local area. Project K aims to be New Zealand’s national youth development programme. Developed by mountaineer Graeme Dingle (patron of Men’s Centre North Shore Inc), the project takes vulnerable teenagers selected and referred by their schools, and puts them through a 3 week wilderness course, then 3 weeks in the community, followed by 12 months of mentoring before they graduate. Graeme says:

"The kids we work with aren’t bad. The idea is to try and limit the risk of negative influences taking over their lives. We are aiming at kids who are not only likely to benefit, but intervention could stop them going down the same track." The participants are expected to learn coping skills for handling adversity, the ability to set goals, team work, how to seek assistance if needed and how to be strong, courageous and stand alone if things get tough.

Since the project began in Manukau, about 85 teenagers have begun the course. Ultimately they plan to put hundreds of adolescents through the course each year. They intend to expand by up to three communities a year benefiting some 1,000 young people in 10 different areas by 2002. Every step of the course is documented so that standards are maintained, and Graeme is currently training local communities to run it. Eventually the role of Project K will be as moderators to give back-up support, mentoring and help with fundraising.

About 80 mentors have already been trained at the Project K UNITEC mentoring course, the first tertiary based mentor training in Australasia. For information on future courses phone UNITEC on: (09) 815-4321 ext 8620.

You can find out more about Project K by ringing them on (09) 379-2778.

J.P.

A Young Woman’s View of Feminism

Issues of gender and women’s rights have been at the forefront of social and political debate in the past few decades. For a young woman reaching maturity amidst all this it is often difficult to decide upon an opinion. When the majority of ‘noise’ made regarding the subject is made by very loud minorities which claim to be representative of groups much larger than they are in actuality, issues become exaggerated and claims misleading.

No one of my generation can justifiably condone past attitudes towards women which stereotyped, belittled and patronised not only the intellect and capabilities of woman but also their very worth – and I believe few would try. But while ‘equal opportunity’, ‘equal rights’ , ‘women can do anything’, and ‘women need men like fish need bicycles’ banners continue to flap around in the wind, I also believe there is a serious danger of the entire feminist cause being consumed by the very fire it has so enthusiastically stoked.

Too many people already fail to understand what the real aim of the original feminist cause was, because a group of present day contributors’ demands are endangering any credibility women have achieved.

Yes, women do have a right to equality with the men who until recently have collectively maintained power by restraining their female counterparts and underestimating their intelligence and capabilities. However, seeking to avenge a long sojourn of injustice by merely aiming to exchange roles will, in the long run achieve nothing.

We need not to smooth out the differences between the sexes and create a kind of homogeneous, androgynous gender, but should cultivate and utilise the strengths and the powers of both sexes to balance out each others weaknesses, for weaknesses there are.

Women cannot do everything, without the help of regular testosterone shots that is, just as men cannot. Personal power comes from recognising our strengths (as a women these are my sensitivity, gentleness and ability to rationalise and compromise), developing them, and forming a partnership with someone who has different abilities and strengths from our own.

As a woman I don’t need to become a man, or manlike, to achieve. I need to build on my own strengths and build healthy relationships with those able to balance my weaknesses. I also need to appreciate the differences while realising that under a greater consideration, both male and female are part of a duality that once combined becomes a whole.

Perhaps the late Joseph Campbell said it best when relating the belief of various mystery religions that:

"An individual goes through a series of initiations opening himself into a deeper and deeper depth of himself, and there comes a moment when he realises that he is both mortal and immortal, both male and female."

Sharon Connell. (18-yr-old college student).

Response Printed in NZ Herald

An article by Nick Smith, Herald September 24, gave a totally misleading impression of Men’s Centre North Shore, which is a broad based movement supported by a wide range of institutions and many men and women throughout New Zealand. Men’s Centre is a registered charitable society which works in conjunction with organisations such as Mensline, Shore Fathers and Men in Change, and receives referrals from many sources. It is active in supporting men in crisis at time of family breakdown, and promoting men’s health issues.

Anyone who looks closely won’t find any Martians here, just hard working men and women who have concerns about justice for all. The fact that we approach social issues from a male perspective makes us different and, in the view of some, unacceptable. It is ironic that an organisation for the welfare of men should find its most strident critics are men and its most ardent supporters are women . The most common response from women is "It’s about time you men spoke up for yourselves". Unfortunately many men have a furtive look around before they say anything . This paranoia is well developed in NZ , and can result in a lack of balance in dealing with social issues.

Smith objects to one line in an extensive submission to the Select Committee on the De- facto Property Bill. Among other things this bill proposes that once a couple have lived together for three years some individual property becomes jointly owned. We believe this to be an absurd proposition and deserving of an absurd analogy. The prostitute analogy is an absurdity designed to make the reader think. The adverse impact will affect women as well as men.

Five years ago Men’s Centre was raising concerns on men’s health and the problems boys faced in schools. The concept that males could have been disadvantaged in our society was revolutionary and met with disbelief and derision in many circles. In 1994 Men’s Centre compiled a thoroughly researched press release outlining widespread underperformance of boys in NZ schools. This was mailed to fourteen media outlets. Not one word was printed. That these facts are now accepted and some remedial action is being considered is due partly to repetition of the facts, sometimes in contentious ways. The one line prostitute analogy has been reported at least twice in the Herald, the other pages of carefully worded argument have been ignored. Such is the nature of NZ media.

The article also finds offence in the use of the term feminazi by a contributor to MENZ newsletter. The newsletter is a vehicle for members to express their feeling and concerns. Members don’t have to pass a test of political correctness and we welcome (and get) a wide range of opinion. The opinions expressed in the newsletter are not necessarily those of the Men’s Centre as is clearly stated.

Personally, when I read items like the following from a government funded women’s organisation: "In fact women have very little need for men at all. None at all in the personal sense, and for biological survival only a very few men are necessary." – I can almost smell the gas chamber.

Men’s Centre never sets out to offend but neither does it check it’s position for political safety. People tend to find offence where they seek it.

Peter Manning

More comment on Herald article here.

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