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MENZ Issues October – November 1999 Volume 4 Issue 9

Barriers to Fatherhood An Election Issue – Party Views Inside (here)

Letter To Editor, Contact Newspaper: I note that, in your description of recent protests by fathers’ groups at local [Wellington] Family Courts, you chose to devote considerable space to Dr Gabrielle Maxwell, a clear supporter of Preferential Sole Custody (of children whose parents have separated), which is the status quo. I must wonder whether you would ever do the reverse, and dare to feature a men’s rights advocate in a story about mothers’ issues.

Men’s Leadership Gathering Report On 30th October, four Men’s Centre members attended the New Zealand Men’s Leadership Gathering at the beautiful Tauhara Centre overlooking Lake Taupo. We learned about the recent struggle for power and control within the national body Stopping Violence Services Inc. Two agencies were recently expelled from the organisation and three were suspended, in a strategic move which prevented them speaking out at the A.G.M

What is the NZ Child Support Legislation Intended to Achieve? The reality of the child support system is somewhat different to the stated objects.

Men are not Wallets Efforts to derail shared-equal-parenting are intended to maintain the flow of money from men to women. Needless to say, there would not be a full-time care-giver if both parents were equally liable for raising their children.

Separated Father’s Support Trust Political Party Meeting On 11th October, 52 people attended a political meeting at Glenavon School, Blockhouse Bay. Six candidates from the major parties attended, and made their responses to five statements put forward by the SFST.

Call For Child Support Act Reform The Child Support Act, like the DPB, aims to give independence to separated women. But the end result of both can be that the state takes over the father’s role and shuts the father out of his kids’ life.

Taking the ‘Men’ out of Mental Health Review of a discussion paper issued in August 99 by the Mental Health Commission. The issue the paper doesn’t address, is the fact that New Zealand society currently takes care of the housing needs of many of our mentally ill men by locking them up.

Prison Study Shows High Levels of Mental Illness in NZ Jails The study authors state that around 175 prisoners require active psychiatric treatment. They suggest that approximately two-thirds of these people require admission to hospital, but point out that "such a level of service provision is quite beyond the capacity of current forensic psychiatric services."

Book Review: Fatherless Sons – The Experiences of New Zealand Men.by Rex McCann. The main strength of this work are the personal stories of McCann’s informants, told simply in their own words. While it is often claimed that males are unable to express their deep emotions, those interviewed here demonstrate that with a little encouragement and a sympathetic ear, men’s description of their experiences can be very moving for the listener / reader.

Complaint about Living Without Violence …the concepts of ‘non-physical actions’, and ‘power and control issues’ are on totally unrealistic grounds with the continued insistence by your programme that these are male issues. Dysfunction within relationships is non-gender in its perpetration, to insist otherwise is to lose the attention of any thinking individual on these programmes and this is exactly what is happening.

Dads’ Army Pushchair Protest 0900 hours: Unloaded, set up banners & pushchairs at Family Court. Each pushchair has missing child’s name in it.

IRD Stripping Bank Accounts Earlier this year, Paul Ireland warned that the Child Support Agency has been stripping peoples bank accounts.

A Friendly Message from the Inland Revenue Dept. Have you recently moved, changed employer or you bank account number? Both the custodial parent and paying parent need to advise Child Support when their circumstances change.

Chairman’s Doodle Gidday, welcome to the world of Men’s Centre North Shore. As the new Chairman I ponder constantly the direction for 99/2000 and beyond.

No Father's Day in FC.jpg (25176 bytes) Fathers’ Groups protesting in Wellington. Photo: Contact Newspaper

Letter To Editor, Contact Newspaper:

I note that, in your description of recent protests by fathers’ groups at local [Wellington] Family Courts, you chose to devote considerable space to Dr Gabrielle Maxwell, a clear supporter of Preferential Sole Custody (of children whose parents have separated), which is the status quo. I must wonder whether you would ever do the reverse, and dare to feature a men’s rights advocate in a story about mothers’ issues.

Dr Maxwell’s suggestion that most custody decisions favor mothers because women were usually the primary caregivers ignores the fact that this status is a direct result of the very same discrimination against fathers that she appears to be so ignorant of.

If we made the same effort toward according men the equal right to actively parent as women that we have made toward granting women the equal right to work as men, the biases that Dr Maxwell is so obviously in denial of would entirely disappear. Currently, we have a Family Court system which is a seething cesspit of sexism that blatantly discriminates against fathers and children.

Her claim that Shared (Joint) Custody was unsuitable where this was likely to be ongoing bitterness between parents ignores the fact that such bitterness is usually created by one parent caught up in a highly emotive setting being given the easy opportunity to deny the other parent all realistic rights to parent, except for the right to pay child support.

Preferential Joint Custody, as is rapidly becoming the accepted norm overseas, empowers both parents equally, and guess what? Parents are actually able to co-operate with each other in most cases. It goes without saying that this scenario is clearly in the best interests of the children.

It is true that there are some losers here. Social workers, psychologists, lawyers, and other members of the ‘Divorce Industry’ will miss out on a lot of business because their questionable services are no longer needed. Be wary of those who make a living out of the suffering of others.

Dr Maxwell is clearly on the side of the Divorce Industry and not on the side of children and their parents if she insists upon clinging to the sinking ship of Preferential Sole Custody.

Yours faithfully, Darryl Ward.

(ACT candidate Kapiti /Mana)

Mana.jpg (15067 bytes) Photo: Contact Newspapers

Men’s Leadership Gathering Report

On 30th October, four Men’s Centre members attended the New Zealand Men’s Leadership Gathering at the beautiful Tauhara Centre overlooking Lake Taupo. About 60 people attended, representing men’s groups and services from all over the country. Having not attended any of the previous eight gatherings, I was slightly nervous about encountering opposition, knowing that among the participants there would be a number of men who run stopping violence services.

Any fears were laid to rest on the first evening, as the various men’s groups present were being acknowledged. When Rex McCann introduced me as the editor of MENZ Issues there was a spontaneous burst of applause, and over the next few days well over a third of the men approached me privately and said how much they value the newsletter’s focus on social issues from a male perspective.

There was one challenge to the Men’s Centre made by a counsellor who said he thought we went "over the top" at times, and that he had some major problems with some of the things we say. We didn’t discover his specific objections until the next day, when he told the group that he was angry about an article written by my wife Felicity and printed in the November 1997 MENZ Issues titled ‘Sexual Abuse of Males – NZ’s untold story…. or untapped market?’ He said that as a counsellor, he was concerned that men who had been sexually abused would be deterred from seeking help. He acknowledged that his opposition to what he sees as our "extreme position", had allowed him to begin dialogue with groups such as Rape Crisis who have traditionally been fairly disinterested in the plight of male victims.

I replied that in our view, counselling for historic sexual abuse is generally only of benefit to the counsellor collecting $58.00 an hour from ACC. I said that we were well aware that some men do develop emotional and psychological problems as a result of childhood abuse, and that we fully support counsellors who treat current symptoms using psychotherapeutic techniques that have been proven safe and effective. I pointed out that the dramatic fall in the number of men approaching COSA (Casualties Of Sexual Allegations) suggests that most NZ therapists who were ‘recovering memories’ of past abuse have taken note of the large awards for damages being made against their American colleagues.

There were several strong statements from men who are "not interested in politics." In past years, the leadership gathering has been more focussed on ‘heart work’, personal growth and healing, to the extent that some leaders of men’s and fathers’ groups don’t bother to attend because they consider the Gathering irrelevant to the issues they and their members are struggling with. I only accepted the invitation to attend myself because one of the organisers told me they recognised the need for the weekend to develop a more political focus. We were reminded of the old feminist slogan "The personal is political", and that if men don’t play their part in the evolution of masculinity there are any number of determined, effective and powerful women out there who are ready do it for us.

The main lesson for me at the gathering is that I have been perhaps a little unfair in lumping all stopping violence service providers into one box. At the Father’s Forum last April in Wellington, we learned that radical feminists have not yet achieved total domination of the stopping violence field when one worker confided that he and his male colleagues "just ignore the feminist cr-p, and do our own thing."

At Tauhara however, we learned about the recent struggle for power and control within the national body Stopping Violence Services Inc. Two agencies were recently expelled from the organisation and three were suspended, in a strategic move which prevented them speaking out at the A.G.M. The reasons given may have more to do with anti-male stances.

This move could result in these agencies becoming ineligible to receive Justice Dept contracts, so the livelihoods of the workers affected are being directly threatened. These heavy-handed tactics send a powerful message to any other members who may be thinking of straying from the one true (radical feminist) path. This is a classic example of power and control being exercised using fear of punishment.

The issues in dispute include:

  • A push for co-gender facilitation to become mandatory (ie: a women attends every course to enforce ideological purity – men are not to be trusted on their own.)
  • Accountability – the suspended groups have developed strong ties with their local communities, and argue that the most effective interventions will be those that reflect the needs and culture of the people they serve. SVS on the other hand is attempting to enforce rigid accountability to their own internal power structure.
  • The Duluth model favoured by the radfems was not considered appropriate by any of the stopping violence workers we talked to. Several said bluntly: "Duluth just doesn’t work." Among its many shortcomings, this model fails to address female violence in any way, or to consider the effects of drug and alcohol problems.
  • Programmes and facilitators are not always culturally appropriate. One Maori man told about listening to a female facilitator describe how she insists that the ‘guilty’ men maintain eye contact with her while she is ‘re-educating’ them. One of the most basic of cultural safety lessons is that among most Polynesian men (and for that matter a great many Pakeha men) this kind of invasive staring is a message you intend to start a fight. Such a tactic is not likely to achieve engagement, much less co-operation.
  • Services for men who identify culturally as Maori (or Pacific Islanders), should be delivered by men who they respect and identify with. It was pointed out that many Maori men have well-developed defences against situations they perceive as Pakeha controlled, and that they need to see at least one brown face among the facilitators if they are to become fully involved.

There was considerable anger directed at Reese Helmondollar, who runs the North Harbour Family Violence Prevention Project here on the North Shore, and who is perceived to be one of those behind the power and control manoeuvres at Stopping Violence Services. Groups like these which actively use formal processes to exclude and silence opposition are operating more like a religious cult than a social service agency. Considering that the facilitators are backed up with the power of the legal system (each course starts with a threat that absences will be reported to the court), and are being financed with public money, we believe this is cause for alarm. One man made the comment that it is very appropriate the Men’s Centre North Shore has sprung up in this radical feminist heartland.

Because the members of Stopping Violence Services are only accountable to radical feminists, and not to the wider society, equity dictates that funding for stopping violence initiatives be shared with other agencies and organisations whose cultural values align more closely with the communities they serve. Where agencies have a monopoly in geographic areas, policies and reforms which encourage competition should be put in place.

For men who believe that modern feminist analysis is correct, the North Harbour Family Violence Prevention Project may deliver a perfectly adequate stopping violence service. However for the majority of men in this community, who have deep-seated cultural values that are very different from those held by Mr Helmondollar and his colleagues, there is currently no service available in this area which will meet their needs. Many men (see Page 10) who have attended NHFVPP courses have told us that they feel abused by the radical feminist indoctrination they are forced to endure. It is now obvious to us that in some parts of New Zealand there are some very fine men doing some innovative and effective work in partnership with a variety other local organisations. North Shore men are being short-changed.

We understand that truly non-violent agencies are setting up a new national body which at last offers some hope of much needed balance in this field. In the dark days since the feminist take-over of the old Men for Non-Violence organisation, too many of the best workers have simply pulled out, alienated by the political struggles.

John Potter.

What is the NZ Child Support Legislation Intended to Achieve?

To quote from the New Zealand Child Support Act 1991:

4. Objects—The objects of this Act are—

(a) To affirm the right of children to be maintained by their parents:

(b) To affirm the obligation of parents to maintain their children:

(c) To affirm the right of caregivers of children to receive financial support in respect of those children from non-custodial parents of the children:

(d) To provide that the level of financial support to be provided by parents for their children is to be determined according to their capacity to provide financial support:

(e) To ensure that parents with a like capacity to provide financial support for their children should provide like amounts of financial support:

(f) To provide legislatively fixed standards in accordance with which the level of financial support to be provided by parents for their children should be determined:

(g) To enable caregivers of children to receive support in respect of those children from parents without the need to resort to Court proceedings:

(h) To ensure that equity exists between custodial and non-custodial parents, in respect of the costs of supporting children:

(i) To ensure that obligations to birth and adopted children are not extinguished by obligations to stepchildren:

(j) To ensure that the costs to the State of providing an adequate level of financial support for children and their custodians is offset by the collection of a fair contribution from non-custodial parents:

(k) To provide a system whereby child support and spousal maintenance payments can be collected by the Crown, and paid by the Crown to those entitled to the money.

The reality of the child support system is somewhat different.

Object (a) refers to parents maintaining children, but the Act does not ensure that payments are made by both parents, nor does it ensure that payments actually benefit the children.

Object (b) also refers to parents, but the Act focuses only on ‘liable parents’.

Object (c) refers to payments from non-custodial parents to caregivers, but non-custodial parents could be the caregivers for up to 40 percent of nights with no effect on child support obligations.

Object (d) refers to financial support by parents being linked to capacity to provide support, but only liable parents are required to provide, and the other parent’s circumstances are generally not considered.

Object (e) refers to parents with like capacity to provide support, but this only applies for comparisons between liable parents.

The other parents’ circumstances are generally ignored.

Similarly, object (f) refers to parents, but it should only refer to liable parents.

Object (h) is commonly not met because only the circumstances of the liable parent are considered.

Object (j) refers to a "fair" contribution, but there is no change in contribution as the liable parent’s time with the children rises from 0 percent to 40 percent of nights.

Stuart Birks

Copied from his website here: www.massey.ac.nz/~kbirks/gender/econ/csa3.htm

pushchairs Photo:Where Are Our Kids? Dad’s Army in action outside the Auckland Family Court.

Men are not Wallets

Father-deprivation is a more reliable predictor of criminal activity than race, environment or poverty. Father-deprived children are:

  • 72% of all teenage murderers.
  • 60% of rapists.
  • 70% of kids incarcerated.
  • twice as likely to quit school.
  • 11 times more likely to be violent.
  • 3 of 4 teen suicides.
  • 80% of the adolescents in psychiatric hospitals.
  • 90% of runaways.

Source: National Fatherhood Initiative, US Bureau of Census, FBI

The consequences of absent fathers are having a profound effect on societies with high divorce rates. NZ is no exception, with statistics showing for boys aged 15-19 the suicide rate is almost twice that of girls, and for boys aged 20-24 the suicide rate is more than four times greater. Father-deprivation is a serious form of child abuse that is institutionalised and entrenched within our legal system.

Diminishing the role of men, especially their role as fathers has been a feature of recent years. However research shows that children thrive with the active and meaningful participation of both biological parents, and that this is true even for post-divorce families.

Efforts to derail shared-equal-parenting are intended to maintain the flow of money from men to women. A Feb 26th article in the NZ Herald, ‘State-endorsed support system behind times’ illustrates this. It claims that "A standardised child-support system would recognise that both parents are equally liable for raising their children." The very next sentence states, "When a parent is a full-time care-giver…the value of that work should be recognised in monetary form." Needless to say, there would not be a full-time care-giver if both parents were equally liable for raising their children.

So why are feminists placing so much emphasis on maintaining this full-time status? First, the biased family courts will overwhelmingly choose mothers as custodial parent. Second, money usually flows to the full-time care-giver. The axiomatic pattern is by way of this rule of thumb: follow the money. To this end, suggestions have been made that domestic violence victims (assumed to be exclusively women) be awarded more than 50% of assets. The hypocrisy rub is revealed when those same forces, who view men’s role as strictly provider, also speak of equality for women.

The phrase ‘Parental Alienation Syndrome’ (PAS) coined by Dr.Richard Gardner is the process whereby one parent initiates the systemic vilification of the other parent by manipulation of the child, with the intent of alienating the child from the other parent. He states "PAS also causes the child to enter the vilification dynamic, becoming a weapon and a spokesperson and a co-combatant. The psychological damage to children used as pawns is abuse in itself."

Shared parenting should be the presumption, with only neglect or abuse being valid cause to grant sole-custody. Demanding sole custody without cause should be considered evidence of parental irresponsibility and false allegations should result in penalties that will be effective deterrents.

Mediation should be the first step upon a non-mutual dissolution of a relationship with children. Failing that, both parents should submit their 50/50 version to the courts. The judge’s duty is to administer ‘principles of justice’, thereby choosing the version which most closely resembles 50/50. If neither version is in the spirit of equality, the judge then should impose a 50/50 court order.

One version that has worked for some couples is for the children to remain in the family home and for the parents to vacate and equally alternate living with their children. The children’s surrounding environment (friends, school, toys,) would not change for the most part. After all, why should children have to pack and travel back and forth when their parents’ dissolution was not their doing? In this situation both parents are equally liable to support their children, who are able to bond equally with both parents. It also avoids the children having to live with a parent’s new partner, which often happens with full time care-givers. Full, equal-time care-giving is assured.

Dr. Warren Farrell asserts in ‘The Myth of Male Power’ that two affirmative actions need to co-exist as a Gender Transition Movement. If affirmative action exists for women outside the home, then affirmative action need also exist for men inside the home. It is however ironic that of the two affirmative actions, the one that would most benefit our children and society is precisely the one that is missing.

Feminist legal dogma has reduced divorced fathers to wallet-parents, possibly with a few visiting hours. Children are thereby deprived of their father and fathers are deprived of their children. Children need to see their fathers as strong defenders of their rights. Fathers need to take back their rightful place in their children’s lives, and refuse to be treated as second class parents.

Joseph Maiello

Separated Father’s Support Trust Political Party Meeting

On 11th October, 52 people attended a political meeting organised by the Separated Father’s Support Trust at Glenavon School, Blockhouse Bay. Six candidates from the major parties attended, and made their responses to five statements put forward by the SFST.

sfst political meeting Photo: Separated Fathers Trust Questioning Parliamentary Candidates in Auckland

Ex-parte orders should require substantive supporting evidence to demonstrate to the Court that they are necessary and appropriate.

Labour – Chris Carter: No court should make decisions without evidence.

National – Marie Hasler: Rules are obviously not working. Fathers and families are most important. Obvious that rules are there, but not being enforced.

ACT – Dr Muriel Newman: It’s obvious to me that the law has become skewed against fathers. I split up with my husband many years ago and fortunately we were able to put the children first and help with arrangements that meant the children were still connected with both their mother and father. These kids are now 19 and 21 years old and I think that we’ve actually done pretty well by them. At the same time I know families where this hasn’t happened and we have marginalised fathers in general and their children who are not actually connecting at all with their families and I think that is a poor state of affairs and I would like to discuss that with you. So with regards to question one: there must be evidence, otherwise the law is completely an ass.

Christian Heritage – Ewen McQueen: I agree. I think the problem at the moment is that while evidence is required, evidence can be given that is very flimsy and the judges are really a little bit afraid and are erring on the side of caution so that there is no judge not granting protection when it is needed. Perhaps what we need to do is make the criteria we use clearer so it is harder for them to err in one direction.

United – John Hubscher: I have been a liable parent for eight and-a-half years. It took a six year fight in the Family Court to prove supposed evidence was false. [He then related his case history and quoted letters to and from government.]

Alliance – Evana Belich: I am a feminist that believes in fairness. It seems [if] the Courts act in the best interest of the child, both parents must have access to that child.

Equal joint custody should be a starting point, unless there are special circumstances where a parent cannot share custody.

National – All these laws seem to centre around what’s best for the child and that seems to be subjective. Let’s assume both parents must have access to that child. That would be a better foundation. But I’m not sure how you go about it. I would really like joint custody to be a basis on which to start. I would agree with that, absolutely.

ACT – Earlier this year I initiated a private members bill that talked about shared parenting arrangements. I’m talking about a changed family law that is very complicated, but other countries and [most] states of America have done it. And that doesn’t mean the child lives with mum one night and the father the next. Nothing like that. It means the mother and father remain connected with all major decision making that goes on with the child. And it’s up to the parents to decide between them what’s in the best interest of the child. And so I think this country should be going in this direction and turn our backs on legislation that alienates parents from their children. Other public jurisdictions appear to have got it right and are making it work well and I think that’s the way NZ should go.

Christian Heritage – The issue here is custody; if 90% of the cases the custody goes to the woman and if you are concerned about the welfare of the child, that [concern extends] to the primary caregiver. If we can sort out the access issues, I don’t think we need to be so concerned about custody. I think the child’s welfare has to be paramount. I think we are concerned about the child and the primary care giver.

United: Men and woman in NZ need to be talking with each other and not to or at each other. I am very much in favour of equal joint custody.

Alliance: We talk about what is best for the child but we sometimes forget that a good relationship is in the best interest of the child. A good relationship between the parents is in the best interest of the child.

Labour: I agree with Evana. The primary issue for me is what’s best for the child is for the child to have access to both its biological parents. Where it’s appropriate, an equal amount. Many modern fathers have [taken] a very proactive role in looking after children and being primary care givers. My view is that’s how it should be.

old blind justice.jpg (9476 bytes) Blind Justice in the Past Favoured Males

Supervised access should only be used in cases where it has been clearly demonstrated that there is a real risk to the child.

ACT: I think the relationship between a parent and a child is a very special one and is something that is quite personal. The [practice] of treating that parent like a criminal by putting them in a place where someone is listening to every word is just wrong, unless there is clear evidence that the child is in danger. Now as I understand it, that was the original intention, but it’s been widened so that many non custodial parents find themselves having their relationship with their child in this supervised situation. I think it is just again an example of a law that has just gone way too far. So I think that in a situation where there is a clear danger to the child, fine, but in other areas [supervised access] is just an intrusion into the personal relationship between a father and child that shouldn’t happen.

Christian Heritage: I think the question is actually the answer isn’t it? I think the problem here as I understand it is that supervised access is an automatic consequence of an ex-parte order.

United : [When I] personally had supervised access I felt like a piece of furniture. It took 7 years to see my daughter.

Alliance: Supervised access is a humiliating experience. I would support it being reserved only for cases where there is clear evidence.

Labour: I agree with the question, it’s very sensible. Supervised access should only be used in cases where it has been clearly demonstrated that there is a real risk to the child.

National: The obvious problem is different sides [have opposing views on ‘risk’]. It seems to be a very broad question so I would support the statement on one hand [but also support] the side of the judge. I’m not here defending what the government said about this but I’m here looking to see what I can do to help to make changes. I just think it’s so easy to get evidence, [although] it’s not always substantiated and it’s such a broad area. I don’t know how you do this. It’s all very well to say that [the legal system is] abused but I still want to know how it’s going to work and how it’s not going to be abused.

now blind justice.jpg (9913 bytes) Blind Justice Now Favours Women

All orders for access breached by the custodial parent should be immediately and consistently enforced.

Christian Heritage: I agree with that entirely. One of the major problems is that there is no enforcement of access orders. As I understand it you have to get a court warrant and that takes time, and by the time it’s done it’s too late anyway. It’s not working and something [needs to be done.] Firstly you shouldn’t have to get a warrant. You should be able to talk to the police or somebody and say "look I’m not getting access and there should be something that you can do about it". Where it has been shown that parents are consistently breaching those access orders there needs to be some form of consequence for that. That may be a fine. That may be some sort of deduction from DPB. I also think that we need [to address] this issue of people taking kids to different parts of the country. I think for every custody order given there should be an automatic condition of the order that the child has to stay in the same area. And if they want to do that there has to be further court decisions made about that, and if they still do that they will be in breach of court orders and punitive consequences will come in on top of that

United: It is an offence under the Guardianship act to prevent access taking place

Alliance: I find [the lack of enforcement] appalling. I totally support [the principle] that orders from the court are [enforced.]

Labour: I agree with Evana.

ACT: It’s important to recognise that when parents separate it’s a really emotional time and it’s often absolute warfare between the two partners. What [sole parent] custody does is to give power to one [partner] over the other and the unfortunate thing is that it’s so highly charged emotionally that there is the temptation to make that power play. You end up by having [one partner] pulling the strings if you like. And so I think that the only way you can avoid any of that happening is to go for a shared parenting arrangement. It’s going to be the only way. I totally agree with what [Separated Father’s Support Trust] says here. If there is an order given by the court, then law states that it should be carried out. It should be fair, but the whole situation to do with custodial power means there are other forces operating, so I reckon shared parenting is the only way to go.

new blind justice.jpg (9834 bytes) Blind Justice in the Future Should Not Discriminate

The Child Support Act should be repealed and reasonable child support ought to be paid based on the personal circumstances of both parents.

Alliance: To me it’s absurd that the circumstances of both parents are not taken into consideration. When we are concerned about the welfare of the child you should take the circumstances of both parents into consideration.

Labour: When I was first elected to parliament in 1993 I had a large number of constituents coming to see me, mostly men, saying they had great difficulty meeting family support payments. I acknowledged there was a problem then and I acknowledge there is still a problem now, and it needs to be adjusted to give [more flexibility], especially where there are new relationships and a [liable parent] starts new family. There has to be changes to that. I’m not sure whether that involves scrapping the whole Act. I mean there are some good parts to the Act but there are certainly some things that we need to look at.

National: There are obviously some men here who don’t pay their Child Support. And I think for the reason that it’s probably very hard to get that all together. But I do agree that while [the Child Support Act] is being reviewed all the time, it’s probably not enough because it’s relatively new. At my clinic there are men who also have great difficulty with payment. Those who don’t work don’t pay very much at all so I do think a partner’s income should be taken into consideration more than it is. I would be very keen to see this review.

ACT: I remember reading an article a few years ago which described the Child Support Act as the worst law in NZ. In the case of the Domestic Purposes Benefit when we have a look at the outcomes we get to see six billion dollars [government spending] a year. From memory, about $160 million is collected from the Child Support Act. So in terms of outcomes it is clearly is not working. I think we [need to] have a look around the world at jurisdictions which have removed the DPB and [organised] the whole thing quite differently in a way that tried to be fairer to both parents. ACT did have an amendment to the Child Support Act through Parliament this year that we hope will look at the foundation instead of just fiddling around the edges. During my term in Parliament I’ve asked for a Select Committee of Enquiry into the family which could improve all family law based on what Australia has done. I think it is time that we had a holistic look at what we are doing to the family in NZ and I am hopeful that this will happen in the next Parliament.

Christian Heritage: Yes, we would want to repeal the Act as soon as possible. The basis of the Act is to make parents responsible for their kids which is a reasonable principle, but there are concerns about the assessment formula. I think we want to have a look at softening the criteria for allowing a departure from that assessment formula. Perhaps we can give people greater discretion as to what constitutes special circumstances. I think the real issue here is a justice issue, especially when we have no-fault divorces. Especially where you have to front up to a guy whose wife has actually left him and gone off perhaps with someone who is more wealthy and he ends up having to pay for this situation. So what we want to allow is the option of covenant marriage where we move away from the no-fault system. We would still have no-fault divorce, but the choice to opt for a covenant marriage will allow for the assessment of responsibility when a marriage breaks down.

Call For Child Support Act Reform

Part of an article by Kathryn Asare published in The Evening Post 7/5/99

How can a law meant for the welfare of children have caused so much grief for fathers?

I suspect because it’s founded on a feminist viewpoint, rather than a viewpoint that cares about families.

The Child Support Act, like the DPB, aims to give independence to separated women. But the end result of both can be that the state takes over the father’s role and shuts the father out of his kids’ life.

The father pays child support, but in few cases does it go directly to the mother. Dad wants his hard-earned money to go to the kids but is frustrated by the fact that the state takes more than a third of it in administration costs..

The formula doesn’t take any account of the mother’s financial circumstances. She may have a new partner with a much higher income than that of her former husband, but he still has to pay the same formula. The result can be two new families – one wealthy, the other penalised and impoverished.

How does the Act cut men out of their kids’ lives? It divides the parents into custodial parents (winners) and liable parents (losers). You have to be one or the other. The mother virtually always gets custody. The father pays child support, but can’t get access to his kids. The law says he should get access but when a marriage has broken down there’s often bitterness and it’s easy for the mother to keep the kids away from their father out of spite or anger.

It costs thousands of dollars to get court hearings and access orders, but at the end of the day, they’re not enforceable. The mother can take the kids to live on the other side of the world. The father hasn’t a hope of even seeing them, but must still pay child support.

The situation drags on for years because there’s no incentive for the woman to bother re-training, going back to work and sharing child support costs with the father. May as well just keep making him (and the state) pay.

Meanwhile, many men find there are no incentives to work either. They’re better off financially to quit work and go on welfare – it reduces their child support to $10 a week. They’ve lost a career and a future and lost their kids.

Justice for men? I don’t think so.

Kathryn Asare is co-ordinator for ‘Families First’, an organisation that seeks to make improvements to NZ’s family law, and a candidate for ACT in Ohariu-Belmont.

Taking the ‘Men’ out of Mental Health

Review of a discussion paper issued in August 99 by the Mental Health Commission. Head of the organisation Barbara Disley notes:

"Over the last decade, there have been changes in the way mental health services are delivered, with increasing emphasis on providing care within the community rather than in hospitals or institutions. This has increased the need to make sure that people with serious mental illness have access to affordable, appropriate, good quality housing."

The paper is intended to generate discussion and better understanding of the issues. To put matters in perspective, the paper states that 20 percent of New Zealanders have a diagnosable mental illness at any one time, with around 3 percent so disabled as to require ongoing treatment.

Overall, the paper is a thorough survey of the housing scene as it relates to mental illness. Our interest of course is how they deal with gender issues (if at all). One might expect gender to be relevant here, considering that homelessness (in peacetime anyway) has always been largely a male phenomenon. Mental illness affects males disproportionately as well, particularly the more disabling varieties such as schizophrenia.

There are three references to gender in the document.

  • "Women in boarding houses are particularly vulnerable, and have been reported as experiencing violence, abuse and theft."
  • "Other groups who are not well served by supported housing include women caring for children…."
  • "One example is Christchurch City Council which underwrote a loan to the Housing for Women Trust to provide low cost housing for women."

Is the commission suggesting that mentally ill men don’t experience violence, abuse or theft? Or is it that men just don’t matter? Did they consider the needs of men with children, or do they assume that the father removal industry will take care of things? Could they not find an example of a "housing for men trust" (or similar) receiving public financial support?

What is most important of course, is the issue the paper doesn’t address, and that is the fact that New Zealand society currently takes care of the housing needs of many of our mentally ill men by locking them up.

The best that can be said is this discussion paper is unbalanced. At worst, it reflects a tacit acceptance by the Commission of the status quo with regard to men, suggesting that this might be yet another publicly funded radical feminist-dominated organisation dedicated to looking after women at the expense of men.

J.P.

Prison Study Shows High Levels of Mental Illness in NZ Jails

The National Study of Psychiatric Morbidity in New Zealand Prisons was published in September 1999. The investigation into the prevalence of psychiatric disorders among NZ inmates was commissioned by the Department of Corrections and co-sponsored by the Ministries of Health and Justice.

All women, all remand and about 15% of male sentenced inmates were invited to voluntarily participate in the examination of the type and nature of mental health problems that inmates suffer. 1248 individuals were interviewed (162 women, 441 remand men, 645 sentenced men) from NZ’s total population of approximately 5,500 prisoners. The response rate of 80% was considered most satisfactory. The study found:

  • 89.4% of prison inmates have at some time in their life had a substance-abuse disorder.
  • About 60% of prisoners have a diagnosable personality disorder.
  • A quarter have had a major depressive disorder.
  • 10 percent were currently suffering a major depressive episode.
  • Frequent suicidal thoughts were common (20.5%).
  • 4.5% had plans for self-harm.
  • 2.6% had made some act of self-harm since being in prison.
  • There may be as many as 121 inmates currently suffering either a schizophrenia or related disorder.
  • There are about 54 inmates currently suffering from a manic episode or bipolar affective disorder.

The study authors state that the 175 prisoners in the last two categories require active psychiatric treatment. They suggest that approximately two-thirds of these people require admission to hospital, but point out that "such a level of service provision is quite beyond the capacity of current forensic psychiatric services."

About 50% of inmates with mood disorders or psychotic illness had received some form of mental health treatment while being in prison. Mt Eden Prison Doctor John Malloy told the New Zealand Doctor (13th Oct) that it was actually easier to access psychiatric services for patients in prison compared to outside. He said "It would be better if we could get services when they are out in the community before they end up in prison."

Malloy believes that because there are now very few inpatient psychiatric services (ie: mental hospitals), mental illness has been criminalised. He points out that more mentally ill people living in the general community has contributed to the high rates in prison.

Having worked at the prison since 1982, he said he has seen a big change in the quality of psychiatric services for inmates since the Mason Report in 1988. This report followed a sharp increase in the rate of prison suicide, and lead to the establishment of a national network of six Regional Forensic Psychiatry Services. The Mason report made the important philosophical statement that mentally ill people are the responsibility of the Health sector, and that being a prisoner did not diminish the right to proper psychiatric care.

J.P.

Book Review: Fatherless Sons – The Experiences of New Zealand Men.

by Rex McCann HarperCollins Publishers NZ 1999

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Some years ago, while leading a retreat for men on the edge of the New Zealand bush, the author discovered that of the twelve men sharing their stories around the campfire, only one was living with all his children. What stunned him most was the men’s acceptance of the situation. At the end of the weekend, two fatherless teenage boys from the local community took part in a simple ceremony to welcome them into manhood. Years later, one of the boys contacted McCann and told him proudly that he was now a father himself. However, he wasn’t living with the mother, and his concept of "fatherhood" did not seem to include the idea of any active parenting. Each night around a third of New Zealand children go to bed in a house in which their biological father does not live. Rex writes: "Welcome to the world of men without fathers, who father from a distance."

This is a sad book in many ways, despite of the positive and constructive attitude of the author. Rex McCann’s work with thousands of New Zealand and Australian men over the last 15 years has identified that a great many of them carry the burden of unresolved issues with their fathers. Skilfully using the voices and stories of the men themselves, McCann explores the social forces that have led to so many men losing the plot when it comes to fathering. The obvious fact that he genuinely likes and cares for men allows him to make strong challenges in a way that does not alienate or generate defensiveness.

There will no doubt be those who are offended by some of McCann’s statements in this book. He is no politically correct wimp. His vision of a "partnership between men and women that acknowledges and supports our differences and encourages their creative interplay" is in sharp contrast to current radical feminist dogma, which has goals of ‘feminising’ males and ‘redressing the balance’ for centuries of oppression.

Discussing the influence of feminism in chapter 6, McCann writes: "There is much about feminism that benefits women, and men, in its challenge to gender inequality, but it has lost sight of the vision of equality and focused on gender division." He points out that: "Some in the woman’s movements have cast (the father) as the visitor of control and abuse on the family, normally physically and emotionally distant and with no ability or interest to nurture his children. Fatherhood has been seen as representative of masculine authority to be challenged."

In Chapter 10, he takes issue with feminist Olga Silverstein, author of the book The Courage To Raise Good Men. He says: "I disagree strongly with her assumption that the male gender is somehow faulty and that it is up to women to use the power of motherhood to fix it by raising a generation of new ‘good men’. This is an invasive notion and it makes me angry. It is typical of the kind of arrogance I find common these days in ideological circles with regard to masculinity. It is linked to beliefs that gender is solely a social construction, that biology and the course of history can be ignored, and that women are fit to redefine masculinity here and now."

On the other hand, there will be some in the men’s movement who may be disappointed that this book is not the ‘call to arms’ they are hoping for. ‘Fatherless Sons’ is at heart a series of intimate conversations with men about very deep, emotional, and fundamental life issues. One of the great strengths of modern feminists has been their use of stories to create an emotional context in which to make necessary reforms. Hopefully this book will inspire many more fatherless sons (and sonless fathers) to share their experiences as well.

The men’s stories make it clear that substitute fathers do not touch the same place in their hearts as their ‘real’ father. Deep within each boy at the fundamental place of "who I am", there is a difference between the social father and the biological father. McCann acknowledges many stepfathers do a magnificent job (as it happens he is one himself), but points out that with no connection to his male ancestry, a man is left with a feeling of not really knowing who he is.

Discussing the effects of father absence, McCann suggests that fatherlessness is the main generator of crime among young men. He says: "We have too many prisons because too few fathers are involved in fathering. Prisons cannot replace fathers; they store the consequences of their absence. These men are being ‘fathered’ by a rigid, punitive system that does nothing to help them develop the internal authority they need to grasp their own lives."

In part three, McCann looks at ways in which boys can have their needs met from men when the biological father is not present. Although he criticises the new broad definition of fathering because it avoids recognition of the extent of fatherlessness, and indicates how much we have accepted father absence, he discusses the importance of role models and mentors, and calls for a quality of fathering towards children from men generally.

The situation facing men who are alienated from their families by the action of the Family Court is covered competently but perhaps a little too briefly in chapter 11, and some pertinent suggestions for reforms are made in chapter 17. Ironically, it is precisely the men who take on the messages contained in this book, and get fully involved in active parenting with their young children, who are most likely to find themselves in the kind of nightmares we hear about at the Men’s Centre. The psychological impact of being ripped away from children who they have bonded closely with is extremely difficult for most men to deal with, and it seems to be a rapidly increasing problem as more men become ‘hands on’ fathers. Some young men tell us they feel that it’s just not worth the risk of making a long-term commitment to marriage and children. The impact of official policies, practices and propaganda on men’s (and women’s) expectations of fatherhood could have usefully received more attention in the opinion of this reviewer.

The book concludes with a positive vision for the years ahead. McCann states that "it is our task to create a new cultural story of fathering. The principle of a father for every child needs to be remembered and the institutions that support this, such as marriage, reinvented to suit our times." He calls on agencies that train and support parents to wake up to the needs of men, and points out that our processes for separating families need an overhaul. He says "men and women must find a partnership that puts them side-by-side in the service of children, who are our future."

Although there are a number of references to scientific literature and other publications on the subject of fathers, this is not a heavy, academic book. It is certainly not a complete review of the now extensive literature on the subject of fatherlessness.

The main strength of this work are the personal stories of McCann’s informants, told simply in their own words. While it is often claimed that males are unable to express their deep emotions, those interviewed here demonstrate that with a little encouragement and a sympathetic ear, men’s description of their experiences can be very moving for the listener / reader. Combined with McCann’s exceptional compassion and understanding of the male psyche, this book is essential reading for anyone interested in the wellbeing of our future society.

J.P.

Complaint about Living Without Violence

Letter to Family Court co-ordinator

5th September 1999

Dear Madam,

Re: Living Without Violence Programmes

I am writing to you as an individual concerned about the issues the programme seeks to address and also as a member of a group who will continue in efforts to either bring about changes in the organisational philosophy or the end of the programme. This is because of my feelings about the much wider issues that the programme fails to acknowledge and the harm you are helping to perpetuate in the lives of many people with your current programme and the policies of the Family Court.

I find it ironic and indicative of your programme that at the same time you are telling men to "get into their backroom with a torch and acknowledge their personal problems", you have refused to enter into public debate on an examination of your programme and the wider issues and have instead sought to muzzle our concerns by contacting the media. Stalin resorted to the same tactics. This refers specifically to a [named person] approaching [our local] newspaper asking them to not print our letters to the editor.

I wish to lay a complaint about aspects of the programme I attended at [somewhere outside of Auckland]. More importantly, I wish to alert you and your organisation to its involvement in systematised abuse of the men who you are apparently seeking to make into ‘better’ citizens. That while there are aspects of your program that are good and worth saving, the overall effect on a lot of men is one of disenfranchisement and a polarisation of views, sometimes at opposite extremes to what I guess you are trying to achieve. In short, the programme is failing in its objectives because a set formula is being applied to situations that have arisen for many more reasons than your programme is apparently willing to admit to and address.

It is my view that the concept of domestic violence has been too widely interpreted by both the application of the law and the LWOV programme. Certainly that the concepts of ‘non-physical actions’, and ‘power and control issues’ are on totally unrealistic grounds with the continued insistence by your programme that these are male issues. Dysfunction within relationships is non-gender in its perpetration, to insist otherwise is to lose the attention of any thinking individual on these programmes and this is exactly what is happening.

The men are sent to the programme by the Court solely on the often unsubstantiated, and more often than not distorted affidavit of a disenchanted ex-partner. There they are told to take ownership of their actions, not to minimise or make excuses for their behaviour. While this is a fine principle in concept, your organisation at both its meetings and through any media releases consistently minimises any reference to the input of women into domestic situations. [You condone women] making false complaints, and abusing children by denying them access to their father. You do not actively lobby for non-gender based anger management programs, and you perpetrate the myths in our society that vilify men and sanctify women as the ‘victim’ in all matters.

Even actual physical violence perpetrated by women is camouflaged by men not reporting it because of societal conditioning that says they should be able to deal with it, don’t be a wimp etc. Also there is the more direct action of police refusing to deal with a complaint from a man. Or more subtly in the form of a facilitator excusing the actions as "but you didn’t really feel threatened, did you?" and "but you must have done something for her to react that way". Women commit violence for pretty much the same reasons as men.

The ideology perpetuated by your group continues the alienation, and thus abuse of children from their fathers. It is epitomised by the introductory talk by a relief facilitator who said to us "I am here because I don’t want any of my children associating with any of your children until you learn to be a better role model". A sweeping, generalised, personally hurtful statement that alienated me from anything else this person might have had to say.

As long as you condone or excuse actions by women such as contributory input, escalation of domestic incidences, false, distorted and exaggerated affidavits for protection orders or [false] complaints to Police of breaches of protection orders, your group lacks credibility. It is certainly inconsistent with its own rhetoric to the men in the programmes. Living Without Violence is itself a minimiser of relationship issues.

The issues for your organisation are ones of credibility. You are simply not achieving your aim of solving problems associated with anger with your present course, you are in fact creating further and ongoing hostility and anger. You are perpetrating anger for fathers and abuse of children by condoning a system that pushes fathers away from their children. Dysfunction in relationships is generally to do with the adults, not parent/child interaction. To use [withholding of] access as a ‘weapon’ for your course is wrong and it is repeat, abusive to children and their fathers. Thinking people in society are now recognising the harm being done to children by the absence of one parent, mostly fathers, from the lives in terms of their aspirations, educational or otherwise and anti-social behaviour etc. My challenge to you is that your organisation be prepared to look at its input into the destruction of people’s lives and to correct issues that need correcting.

Max Thomas

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Dads’ Army Pushchair Protest

Dispatch dated 18th October 1999

0900 Unloaded, set up banners & pushchairs at Family Court. Each pushchair has missing child’s name in it.

0930 General Justice started speaking about injustices in the Family Court:

  • Non-participation by male respondent,

  • ‘Conviction’ of men in absentia,

  • ‘Sentencing’ of men to life without their house and children,

  • ‘Sentencing’ of men to Living Without Violence courses without the judge having ever seen them.

0945 Photographers and reporters interviewed us.

1000 Marched down to Brookfields legal firm and continued protest.

1015 Protest ended.

General Jim Justice.

IRD Stripping Bank Accounts

Earlier this year, Paul Ireland warned that the Child Support Agency has been stripping peoples bank accounts (11 cases in 2 days). The rule is, they deduct $500 from the amount owed (according to their calculations), and if there is that amount available they will take it.

Eg: if $3000 is owed they will strip the account of $2500 if it is there, but they will not take anything from the account if there is only $2499.

Of course, they cannot touch a joint account that has dual signatories.

Enquiries to Paul: paulri@xtra.co.nz

Ph 07 886 7202

A Friendly Message from the Inland Revenue Dept.

Have you recently moved, changed employer or you bank account number? Both the custodial parent and paying parent need to advise Child Support when their circumstances change. If you don’t keep us informed, you may not be receiving your full entitlement or you may be paying too much.

Even if you are receiving a benefit/community wage from Work and Income New Zealand you must still inform Child Support when any of the following happens:

  • a child starts living with you or leaves your care
  • you change your address/ employer/ bank account
  • You enter a shared care arrangement
  • You go on or off a community wage/benefit
  • Children in your care start working or start receiving a benefit / student allowance
  • You start living with the mother of the children for whom Child Support is received or payable
  • Your income reduces by at least 15% for the Child Support year
  • Any other changes you think might affect your entitlements.

If you are receiving payments that you are not entitled to, you will have to repay the money.

If you have paid more than your correct assessment the credit will be moved forward to future months or in some circumstances, may be refunded.

Contact Child Support on freephone 0800-221-221 to discuss any changes in your circumstances.

Chairman’s Doodle

Gidday, welcome to the world of Men’s Centre North Shore. As the new Chairman I ponder constantly the direction for 99/2000 and beyond.

Do you?

How do I give of my best?

How do you?

What do I want from MCNS?

What do you?

What do I want left as it is?

What do you value about MCNS? What do I want to change?

What do you want changed?

What attracted me to MCNS?

What attracted you?

Something that is blatantly clear. There’s a few men/women doing lots of work and lots doing very little.

What do you do for MCNS?

My passion is to live with my children in a vibrant community of Diversity-Wonder-Life-Integrity-Compassion.

All reaching their potential supported and honored by that vibrant community.

What is your passion?

Men! and Women who love men.

What do you want of MCNS?

What can you give in return?

If you HAVE paid your subs

communicate TODAY.

If you HAVEN’T send them in with your comments.

Regards, Jim Bailey

TOWARDS POSITIVE MALENESS AND

NO COMPROMISE FATHERING

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