Fathers v Family Court
We’ve had a gutsful of the Family Court, their discrimination against fathers,” says Jack Gielen, a spokesman for the Hamilton branch of the coalition, which has about 20 members.
“We want to replace it with mediation services and equal parenting focused on joint responsibility and joint decision-making.”
The group also wants a Ministry of Men’s Affairs established and more support services for men, including retreat facilities for fathers and children.
“If you had the Family Court out of the way tomorrow, the mother, father and child could sit down and will be able to do it,” says Gielen. “It’s God-given, innate common sense.”
The group doesn’t like women in power. He derides Prime Minister Helen Clark and her Labour colleagues —- “Helen and the funny girls”, he calls them.
Gielen also has a bee in his bonnet about the more moderate Union of Fathers, which has opposed the coalition’s aggressive tactics. “The head guy of Union of Fathers has his wife on the committee,” he says. When asked why they wouldn’t want support from women, Gielen says “it’s okay to join, but we don’t want a feminised takeover”.
Fraser Penny, the newly elected national chairperson of the Union of Fathers, based in Hamilton, says having women support their cause is essential. Penny, a Waikato man and foundation member of the union, says his wife (Maggie Revell-Penny, secretary of the union) “has stayed up on numerous occasion into the wee hours, helping guys with affidavits”.
He estimates the union has more than 1000 members nationwide, with about 40 in Hamilton, and works with community groups such as Parentline and the Citizens Advice Bureau. Much of their work with fathers is as a support system. “We can go from the point of pulling a guy up who is angry, to have him focusing on his children and pulling his head in,” Penny says. “They change, grow and carry on being awesome dads and role models.”
Parentline child and family therapist Audrey Hutcheson says it is important to differentiate between the coalition and the union. They get calls from some fathers from the union seeking advice, and some also attend parenting groups.
Penny says the union does not condone the coalition protests outside private homes. Although their starting point is also shared parenting, they prefer to support fathers (and occasionally mothers) and work through the system. “They’ve chosen their path, we have chosen our own.”
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