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MENZ Issues October 1997: Volume 2 Issue 2

New Editor Cracks Up Under Strain!

Chairman’s Report to 1997 AGM

Minutes of North Shore Men’s Centre AGM Held 18th Aug 1997.

Men’s Centre News Financial Crisis Looms, Communication Breakdown.

An Increase in Violent Offending by Women Statistics NZ figures from Sociologist Greg Newbold.

New Domestic Violence Act North Shore man jailed, then looses appeal despite girlfriend refusing to give evidence against him.

False Rape Complaint Woman admits making false allegation to ‘get back at’ her partner – receives six months supervision and counselling.

Liable Parents Refusing to Pay Report of article in the Shore News with comment by Stuart Durham, secretary of FARE (Families Apart Require Equality), Auckland.

desk with stacks of papers

New Editor Cracks Up Under Strain!

Well, not quite, but it has been touch and go at times. It is going to be a considerable challenge to keep up the high standard set by Martin given my relative lack of computer skills. He has been a great asset to the Men’s Center over the last two years, and his decision to concentrate his energy on finding employment, whilst understandable, represents a significant loss to our organisation.

The new committee has agreed that while we lack a full-time co-ordinator, the machine that is producing this newsletter and storing the membership records should live at my house in Albany. Members have also been concerned about the security of the office in Northcote, as there have been several break-ins into the outer room of the Centre.

We have organised to have the phone system changed so that it can be answered more, but there have been problems as described later.

The current financial situation of the North Shore Men’s Centre is a major concern to all of us, and it is clear that in the immediate future we are going to be a much leaner, meaner organisation than we have been in the past. We are going to have to rely totally on the volunteer efforts of our members for everything we want to achieve. Nethertheless, we are committed to this publication, and hope to see it continue to increase its circulation. My goal is to produce ten issues over the coming year, and to include items about some of the many other groups that are part of, or allied to, the men’s movement in New Zealand.

Some of our members and supporters are writing excellent papers, letters and articles about gender politics, and the effects that recent changes have had on our society. This is information of great relevance to all New Zealand men and those who care about them, and I hope MENZ Issues can become a vehicle for their wider distribution.

We are keen to increase the readership as much as possible, so that more men become aware of the need to make their voices heard in the corridors of power. If you can think of someone who might benefit from being exposed to men’s points of view on social matters, why not take out a subscription for them? We encourage you to have your say too – especially if you can do it in Word for Windows or similar on disc.

John Potter, October 1997.

Chairman‘s Report to AGM

I would like to start by thanking the committee for all the help given, and enthusiasm shown over the last 12 months, in particular the contributions of Martin Lewis, Peter Manning, Bob Mann and John Potter. This committee managed to meet throughout the period on average every two to three weeks.

Highlights of the year? Obviously the Men’s Health Day in early September would have to be up there. With some assistance from North Health and other funding and sponsorship brought in by Chris Piper, over 70 men attended what we believe to have been New Zealand’s first Men’s Health Day open to the general public. We received good coverage in the media, both papers and on radio, and had excellent support from a range of health agencies that were relevant to men’s health. Topics included heart, prostate, cancer, alcohol, healthy eating, exercise and fitness, mental health and family law. All who attended thought it was a very worthwhile exercise, though all involved in the planning and preparation realised what a huge demand it made on the time of busy people, and a repeat of it would need a much bigger committee, with much more sponsorship.

The current premises continue to provide a good base, adjacent to the Northcote library with the support of North Shore City. Several months ago we successfully negotiated an agreement with the District Nursing Service who now use the main room and one other room for several hours each morning, when our usage of the building then had been relatively slight. It is an amicable and efficient arrangement, and has probably occasioned some surprise in certain sectors.

Earlier this year the committee lined up a series of adult education evening classes with Rangitoto College, six seminars under the general heading Men in Society. We thought we had a superior product but obviously the market didn’t think so, since the classes had to be cancelled because of insufficient support. We will be negotiating to cast our pearls before chauvinist swine next year by going upmarket and offering the same course to the University of Auckland Centre for Continuing Education.

An exciting innovation this year has been the creation of the Men’s Hour, with the kind assistance and support of John Jones-Parry, and Community Access Radio, 810AM. Broadcast on the second Monday of every month from 6 to 7pm, we have now had two sessions on a wide range of topics of relevance to men and the gender debate. Four live interviews with guest speakers, a book review, topical comment such as on the gender implications of superannuation and commentary on the legal system, news, TV and the print media have so far featured. We hope soon to put the text of these programmes up on the Men’s Centre web page, along with Real Audio files where appropriate. Great things are planned for the Men’s Hour and our heartfelt thanks are extended to John Jones-Parry for his assistance in getting this underway.

Our funding ran out towards the end of last year, and with it the full-time services of Martin Lewis as co-ordinator. However, Martin has continued to put in a considerable amount of his time and expertise, albeit unpaid, and has kept the Men’s Centre on the map with invaluable liaison work with the Council and other community groups. Calls from men in distress and crisis continue to come in for counselling, information and referral, and are dealt with by Martin and me. The CAB’s seem to be making good use of us in this regard, and the various community directories also feature us, accounting for some of these referrals.

There is a huge amount of work to be done out there, we are only scratching the surface. But within our limited resources we are definitely meeting a need and making a difference, out of all proportion to our numbers.

Mark Rowley Chairman 18 August 1997

Minutes of North Shore Men’s Centre A.G.M.

held 18th Aug 1997.

Owing to the last minute discovery that the Northcote War Memorial Hall was double-booked, the venue was shifted to the Men’s Centre. 21 members attended on what was a cold winter’s night; and the room was packed Meeting commenced 7.50PM. Mark Rowley chairman Martin Lewis: secretary.

Mark opened the meeting and welcomed those present. Apologies were received from David Steele. Mark thanked the committee for their attendance at meetings over the last year, and made particular mention of David’s contribution which was despite a heavy workload. He also thanked Peter Manning and others who in the last year have had 5 – 6 letters printed in Wellington newspapers, besides those that have appeared in the Listener and the New Zealand Herald. He then presented the Chairman’s Report (previous page).

Treasurer Peter Manning then made a Financial Report. In past years Peter has been the Auditor, however he explained that it is no longer appropriate for him to do this now that he is treasurer. A new Auditor is yet to be appointed.

Election of officers;

Chairman – Mark Rowley (P. Manning / R. Mann.) Re-elected unopposed. Treasurer – Peter Manning (E. Morgan / K. Bevin.) Re-elected unopposed. Secretary – Martin informed the meeting that he is no longer available to fulfil this role as he needs to concentrate on finding suitable employment. He then nominated John Potter – ( sec. M. Rowley.) Elected unopposed. Nominations for Committee – Barry Mclean, Robert Mann, Kerry Bevin, Paul Stuart. There being no further nominations or objections all four were declared elected. Mark pointed out that under our constitution the committee can co-opt new members at any time. We are always keen to have new energy so if anyone feels they have missed out they should get in touch.

Subscriptions.

The consensus was that $10 is unnecessarily low, and does not recover the cost of newsletters and other communications. As it may be some time before we receive further funding it is necessary that we rely on members to provide operating funds. Mark proposed that the subscription for 1997/98 be set at $30. This was seconded by Kerry B and passed unanimously.

Business Plan for 1997/98.

The main focus of the committee at present is on "spreading the word". In addition to MENZ Issues; our radio show "The Men’s Hour" on Access Radio is the main vehicle for this, and we hope to extend this project by placing Real Audio and text files on our Website. We are looking forward to the assistance of our new committee member Paul Stuart with developing our small foothold on the Internet. We are hoping to re-offer our "Men in Society" course. We will continue to write letters and articles for various print media where misinformation needs to be corrected, and will promote our monthly public meetings at the centre.

Future Directions

There has been some criticism that the Centre seems to have moved away from its original objectives of offering support and other direct services to men. This has not been a deliberate policy of the previous committee, but rather a reflection of the limited resources at our disposal. Since the loss of Martin as a paid co-ordinator it has been impossible even to man the phone as much as would be desirable, although both Martin and Mark have generously given many hours clearing the answerphone and counselling callers. If any of our members have the time and energy to initiate voluntary projects come and discuss your ideas with the committee.

It is true to say however, that most of the committee do consider that a certain amount of activism and public education is vital at this stage of the Men’s Movement, and that this is a legitimate activity for this organisation. We are aware that by speaking out when we see men being treated unfairly we may transgress the boundaries of political correctness and alienate some people. Some groups may see us as unwelcome competitors in an environment where funding is scarce. While we would like to eventually provide more practical support and assistance to men in need, we have concluded that our most urgent task for the immediate future is raising the public awareness of men’s issues as being something worthwhile of attention and support. Most New Zealanders are culturally conditioned to support women and children, whereas men are generally expected to look out for themselves. At the Men’s Centre North Shore we believe that resources should be available equally to anyone in need of help, regardless of their gender, race or sexual orientation. Where laws and official procedure discriminate against men things need to be changed. No amount of counselling is going to fix a guy who is getting maltreated by the system. Eric Morgan commented on the futility of "sitting at the bottom of the cliff sticking on band-aids."

There was some concern expressed that an activist stance may prejudice we might be better first to gain a track record of community assistance to give us the public credibility necessary to be politically effective. Craig Davis of Shore Fathers pointed out the importance of developing a close working relationship with the funding providers by attending regular meetings, which unfortunately are usually scheduled during working hours when few men are available. He also talked about the enormous amount of time taken to prepare applications which all have different formats, and the low success rate ( 3 out of 70). Many small community organisations have a paid person spending as much as 20 hours a week fulfilling this function, which is not an option for us at present. If anyone reading this has any ability to attract funding of any sort their assistance would naturally be welcomed.

Membership

We discussed ways to increase the membership, and how our public image could compromise our appeal. The Men’s Centre needs to avoid being labelled as "anti feminist" by concentrating on being pro-male and avoiding inflammatory language. Chuck Bird (Spokesman for Auck. FARE: Families Apart Require Equality) said that he personally felt it was time for some inflammatory language and he would be using it whenever he got the chance. We reaffirmed our commitment to promoting the monthly membership meetings, and other activities that our members can participate in.

Meeting declared closed at 9.00 PM – J.P.

Men’s Centre News

Financial Crisis Looms

We now have less than $1,000 in the bank, which will be needed to pay the phone bill, maintain the photocopier and the computer, and perhaps buy a few stamps if we’re lucky. The AGM decided to increase the sub to $30, but this is intended to cover the on-going cost of this newsletter, and any excess will be used to send free copies to local polititions, sympathetic media and potential new members.

Currently there is no-one on the committee with the considerable amount of time needed to apply for further funding, so if anyone reading this gets some kind of warped gratification from filling out forms they are welcome to have the job.

In the immediate future however, any other projects will have to be financed from donations, sponsorship or successful commercial enterprises. If you want to support our organisation but don’t have the time to come to meetings please just send us lots of money. We also use heaps of paper both A3 and A4 if you have any lying around.

The main activity that needs funding urgently is The Men’s Hour on Access Radio. Now that the team is starting to get the hang of things we are planning to increase our promotion and build our audience. When finances permit, we would like to re-broadcast each show at another time, however right now we need to find around $100 a month to cover broadcast fees, audio tapes, promotion and other expenses. If any of you want to promote services, or advertise businesses, or sponsor a particular topic, ring me on 415-4066 ; we’re ready to do deals!

J.P.

Communication Breakdown

wpe26.jpg (12797 bytes)

In the first few days of learning to drive the computer I seem to have disabled the communication software so calls may be diverted to my work (House Tuners Ltd) voice mailbox temporarily. Faxes sent to xxx-xxxx will reach me, but we currently cannot receive faxes that come in on xxx-xxxx.

Mark spent most of one Saturday trying to improve matters but without any success. Any computer experts among our members could make a great contribution to the cause if they get us up and running again.

The advertised Men’s Centre number xxx-xxxx [415 0049] has been diverted to a new line at my place so that I can organise someone (most of the time anyway) to answer the phone. These calls will cost us 4c per minute, so please try to use the direct line xxx-xxxx (free) if you want to ring me. The voice mail log on the computer shows that when the answer service is on as few as one in six callers leave a message, so it is important that we organise to have someone avaliable as much as possible. When I am away for more than a few hours I will divert the calls to other members of the committee.

J.P.

An Increase in Violent Offending by Women

Sociologist Greg Newbold says that violent offending by women has nearly trebled in the last decade, but society and the justice system are excusing and ignoring the problem.

Statistics NZ figures show that between 1986 and 1995, violent offending by women increased 197%, and women were 14% of all violent offenders. 11 of the 71 homicides last year were committed by women.

Violent women were generally treated much more leniently by the courts, and seldom received jail sentences. They often offered excuses for their offending, such as being victims themselves or suffering hormonal or emotional problems.

Police headquarters planning and policy manager Gavin McFayden said that the police had noticed an increasing trend in female violence, but they did not consider it a priority to find out its causes or how to prevent it.

(ref:Bain H, Violence by women ‘ignored’, Sunday Star-Times, 27 Oct 1996)

F. Goodyear-Smith

New Domestic Violence Act

On 1 July last year, the new Domestic Violence Act came into force, bringing a raft of changes which extend the definition of violence and increase the powers of the state to intervene in private lives. One of the most concerning aspects of these is that concerned relatives, friends, police or other professionals, can apply for a protection order on behalf of children or adults for whose safety they are fearful. In the case of adults (usually women), this means that others can decide that someone is not capable of making decisions about her own life and take control out of her hands – a very frightening prospect.

This was demonstrated when a North Shore Family Court granted protection orders to the police on behalf of a 20 year old woman, but without her knowledge. This allowed the police to go to her home and force her partner Stephen Worth to leave, without notice and against her wishes, because they feared that she was not safe living with him. He had in fact been violent to her in the past, but she had returned to him and she claimed that they had sorted things out and that he had not hit her again since her return. Her parents did not want her to live with him, and they had supported the police’s action because they said they feared for her safety.

This is a disturbing extension of the prevailing belief which claims that all women are potential victims, not able to be in control of their own lives and needing to be protected – exactly the attitude of Victorian society and re-imposed on us by the feminist ideologues of the 1990s. Janet Lake, the manager of the Auckland Domestic Violence Centre, applauded the police’s action but Maria Bradshaw, the spokesperson for the National Collective of Women’s Refuges, appreciated that such an action means that others claim to know better than women about how to run their own lives.

A further worry is the Act’s widening of the definition of violence to include sexual or psychological abuse, or any threats of these. A child is supposedly psychologically abused if an abuser allows the child to see or hear, or risk seeing or hearing, the abuse of a person with whom that child has a domestic relationship. This means that parents who yell at each other at night with their children asleep in their own bedrooms might be deemed guilty of abusing their children. If a mother claims her ex-husband has shouted at her and verbally abused her, he can lose all custody rights to their children and be denied any unsupervised access. The broad scope of the definition of "violence" has terrifying consequences for this Act to be used as a weapon during divorce and custody procedures.

Appeal Lost.

Stephen Worth was subsequently prosecuted for assault, despite the fact that his girlfriend refused to testify against him. The police had asked her to sign a “victim impact report” and this was used as evidence against him. He was convicted and sentenced to 15 months in jail by Judge Simon Lockhart.

He has recently appealed the conviction on the grounds that there was a complete absence of complainant evidence, a complete absence of any eyewitness to any assault, and a complete absence of any admissions whatsoever by the appellant. The appeal was rejected by Justice Patterson and Worth must serve his sentence.

According to media reports this guy was no saint. Perhaps he even got what he deserved. But can this be called justice, in any traditional sense of the word? The chilling fact remains that the system is now in place to incacerate any man on the basis of an unsubstantiated accusation of abuse. This is the new Domestic Violence Act in operation folks – pioneered in Northcote, within a few km of the Men’s Centre.

F.G-S/J.P.

False Rape Complaint

Last year the New Plymouth District Court heard that a man was locked up overnight by the police after his partner, 28 year old Shona Perfect, made a false complaint of rape. The man was charged with five counts of rape and one of indecent assault, and the police conducted an investigation. Perfect later admitted to the police that she had made up the accusations to "get back at" her partner. Judge Harding sentenced her to six months’ supervision and ordered her to undergo relationship counselling.

False rape allegations have very serious consequences for the accused. If the case had been to court and the man convicted, he would have faced a prison sentence. If acquitted, it is likely that some would have still believed him guilty. Even in the current situation, it is possible that some people and agencies will claim that he really was guilty, but that he pressured his partner to recant. Once a rape allegation has been made, there is a presumption of guilt and the accused’s life is never the same again.

A number of similar false rape charges documented in COSA’s newsletter in the past year or so have also attracted non-custodial sentences In the Nick Wills case, the young woman making the allegations was even given permanent name suppression.

COSA calls for some equity of sentencing. The courts should give a very clear message that making a false complaint is a serious crime and will be punished accordingly. A few months counselling and supervision ordered in this and similar cases by the courts does not equate with the damage suffered by the falsely accused.

The other issue raised in this case is the police’s response to the allegations. Detective Sergeant Garth Bryan, the officer in charge of the case, is reported as saying (Daily News, New Plymouth, 9 Nov 1996) "We have a policy of believing every complaint made to us". This police policy greatly concerns COSA. Such a response is a presumption of guilt. We contend that the police should treat all rape allegations seriously, but should neither believe nor disbelieve. Rather they should say: "Here is an allegation. Maybe it is true, maybe not. What is the evidence?" F.G-S.-a horror story from the COSA files.

Liable Parents Refusing to Pay

The Shore News revealed last month that 3652 Nth. Shore parents owe Inland Revenue a total of $12 million for child support. 71% of this is owed by fathers.

Stuart Durham, secretary of FARE Auckland ,was reported as saying that the inflexible Child Support Act was to blame, because of the strict formula which doesn’t consider liable parents’expenses and overrides voluntary and private agreements parents may have. While FARE believe that non-custodial parents should support their children, they are concerned that the act is administered in a punitive manner.

Penalties for non-payment are very high and while the average debt is $3,500, one parent owes as much as $78,000. There is no right of appeal under the act, and once an application is made by a custodial parent you are just assessed and you have to pay.

At a recent meeting of FARE, alternative methods of paying child support were discussed. Under the current system men are forced to leave high paying jobs because they cannot afford to live on what is left after the IRD collects the Liable Parent Contribution. They also discussed the Domestic Violence Act and Battered Woman’s Syndrome. Chuck is looking for anyone with commitment, energy and good communication skills to help on the FARE committee.

J.P.

Book: Manufacturing victims: what the psychology industry is doing to people

by Tana Dineen (1996).

Robert Davies Publishing, Canada.

This hard-hitting, highly researched and well-referenced book chronicles how and why a psychological industry has developed in North America. Clinical practitioners (including psychologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists and social workers) have created a huge growth industry for their own benefit: they are in the business of manufacturing victims and marketing treatments, causing untold damage to individuals, family and society in the process.

F.G-S.

Laurie O’Reilly on Fathering

People all over New Zealand will have been saddened to hear recently that our Commissioner for Children, Laurie O’Reilly, has terminal cancer. He has dedicated his life to serving others – as a father and a family man, as a rugby coach, as a family lawyer, and more recently, as heading the office of the Commissioner for Children. He is passionate in defending young children, perhaps the only group in society who truly cannot be said to be the cause of anyone else’s pain and suffering. He steers a difficult course through a tangled legal system involving the Children, Young Person’s and Their Families Service, the Family Courts and the Youth Justice system.

Perhaps as never before the spotlight is now on the future of families, and with this in mind Laurie is determined that the project he has started, "Fathers Who Care – Partners in Parenting", will be completed, come what may.

It has been criticised in some quarters for its methodology, for its inadequate budget, and for the staff allocated to see it through. But with sufficient good will we might, just might, have a discussion document at the end of it all that points to what we can do to arrest the decline in fatherhood, family life and family values. This is, Laurie believes, and I agree with him, THE most urgent social problem facing us today.

Critics of fatherhood are many. The Herald editorial on the Saturday before Fathers’ Day could not resist making some really gender-biased observations about fatherhood and having a mean-spirited dig. Fathers and fathering are now fair game for every politically correct social commentator. The Minister for Youth Affairs just this morning weighed with an attack on fathers. The law in the form of the Family Court does nothing to ensure that fatherhood’s decline will be arrested and in fact seems more often than not hell-bent on seeking its demise. Unjust and unequal custody orders are common and there are few penalties for non-compliance by the custodial parent, usually the mother.

The Domestic Violence Act, while clearly beneficial in many situations, is now being deliberately misused by some lawyers and their clients in ways that are clearly disadvantaging fathers and separating them from their children. Separating them for no more reason than that mere allegations of violence are a silver bullet that gets a father out of the house or flat, away from his children and totally on the back foot in the forthcoming legal battle over the children and matrimonial property. Such allegations are easy to make, easy to withdraw once the damage is done, and with little or no punishment for misusing the law in this way. And the victims in all this are the children, deprived of their right for contact with their fathers, a right supposedly guaranteed under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Laurie, in several prominent articles and interviews over the last few weeks, has nailed his colours to the mast and declared unequivocally that good fathering, and the public recognition of good fathering, should be among our highest priorities.

For speaking out so clearly, courageously and forcefully at such a difficult time for himself and his own family we must accord him the utmost respect and our heartfelt thanks. We are certain that men and women of goodwill throughout the country will join with us at the Men’s Centre in recognising a fine man who has always put families and children to the forefront. Well done, Laurie O’Reilly, Commissioner for Children.

M.R., 8 September 1997

810AM Community Access Radio

Do Infants have Human Rights?

If a father kills his infant child, the very least he will be charged with is manslaughter. The law states a mother who kills an infant under two can plead guilty to a far lesser crime of infantacide. This law is not only antiquated but totally illogical. If one accepts that stress of childbirth is justification for reducing a murder charge of an infant, should the age of the victim be relevant? Does a child under two not have the same basic right to existence as all human beings?

The recent case of Sharon Moke is a gross miscarriage of justice. If a woman or man suddenly snaps and kills a child while under extreme stress, the law allows for a reduced charge of manslaughter. This child was repeatedly beaten. After the first time Moke lost control and beat her infant, she should have gone for help and stated clearly what happened and that she feared for the safety of her child.

Any reference to infanticide should be excluded from the new legislation on homicide that parliament is considering. Hormonal problems are no more an excuse for a mother to murder her child than excess testosterone is for a man to rape.

Chuck Bird spokesman, Auckland FARE.

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