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Our pain goes on for a lifetime

On Nine to Noon yesterday, Katherine Rich interviewed Bruce Tichbon from Families Apart Require Equality.


Photo: Bruce Tichbon in action last weekend (from Noelle’s video – link below transcript)
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For the next few days you can listen to the audio here.

I was so impressed with Bruce’s communication skills I have transcribed his responses for everyone to read. Rich’s questions are paraphrased.

Question: what happened over the weekend?

In Palmerston [Nth] we got a team together and we went around the homes of two Family Court lawyers and a psychologist. We are aware that other groups all round the country are staging similar protests.

The objective is to just make people aware of what is going on in the Family Court, and is to try and get the message across.

I have to say Katherine, we’ve tried everything. I have been actively campaigning for 15 years to try and get reform. We’ve been to Select Committees, politicians, we’ve talked to judges, the Law Society, the Law Commission, we’ve done reports, everything you can think of. It’s just doesn’t get a response.

So now we are ramping up the action, and we are just doing things that tend to get a bit more public attention. And a bit more media attention!

Question: Have you not seen any improvement over your 15 years?

No. I talk to hundreds of people out there who are affected. We are not seeing these improvements at all. In fact, what is being done and what is being presented by the Family Court industry (if I may call it that) is really quite misleading.

The current round of changes was brought about because of a Bill that was put before Parliament, a bill that we assisted with. The Shared Parenting Bill would have made mothers and fathers equal parents.

The government threw it out as fast as they could. They wouldn’t even allow it to go to Select Committee.

Part of the deal that was done with those parties who voted against the Bill (to make sure it would not even get discussed at Select Committee stage) was that some other ‘thing’ would be done with family law.

I can tell you emphatically Katherine, what had been done is purely a Clayton’s superficial dress-up. Now the people who make their living from the Family Court keep telling you and other people in the media: “everything is wonderful”.

I can tell you emphatically it is not, and that is why people are getting out of street and protesting more and more.

Question: in Palmerston North at was four fathers and their family members – is that the scale of the protests?

Well, some of the protests around the country have been 50 people more. The scale is building.

I’ll tell you what amazed me Katherine. We were protesting on a main street — probably a quarter of the cars passing tooted in support. Now that should be sending a very clear message to Judge Boshier, who is currently in hiding and not talking to the media about this. This should tell him that there is a huge public dissatisfaction out there.

Question: are you justified in protesting outside homes?

Absolutely. It is very appropriate. The people that we targeted are people who [according to locals] have committed real misdemeanours in the Family Court.

Question: Who judges that?

We, the people who have been affected. Those who have not seen their children for years. People who are alienated from their children. When you talk to these people they are very sincere and it sounds absolutely credible.

I have experienced it myself. I won’t bore you with my own story, but I have been ruthlessly done in the Family Court.

Question: aren’t you concerned people might be frightened?

I think it is a time-honoured tradition in protesting. The sufferagettes right back in the beginning of the protest movement did similar targeted protests and that is well-known. Right down to one of them throwing herself in front of King’s horse at Ascot.

Question: but a women psychologist giving professional advice?

No, no. The way we see it, the psychologists provide the information that basically drives the decision. This particular psychologist had made a report on a father without even actually meeting him!

That report had a profound effect on that father’s relationship with his daughter. Now that is a very, very serious proposition. I think the psychologist virtually admits in the newspaper, that she did that. That is absolutely unprofessional behaviour.

That is the standard of behaviour that we are seeing in the Family Court all the time. I have had lawyers (non-Family Court lawyers) say to me they are disgusted with what is going on in the Family Court.

Question: isn’t intimidation bad for your image?

Look, when we started [each of] these protests I got on the loud-hailer and said to the people “I apologise for taking 15 minutes of your time, in your street. Those of us here who are protesting, we have lost our children, our families. Your inconvenience will go on 10 minutes. Our pain goes on for a lifetime. Please understand why we are here”.

That is the kind of thing, the fact that all those people who are protesting in Palmerston North and everywhere else have been profoundly affected by grossly unprofessional and unfair behaviour by the Family Court. We feel we have an entitlement to take it right to the people who cause the suffering. I tell you Katherine, Greenpeace do similar sorts of targetting. Targeted protests work today.

Question: aren’t you putting undue pressure on court staff?

Let’s talk about the real target here. It is the Principal Family Court Judge, who has come out and said we are “disgruntled litigants” and we have a “vendetta”.

Where is that man displaying the conciliatory and mediatorial kinds of behaviour that he preaches goes on the Family Court?

Now he has gone to ground, he won’t even talk. Why won’t come out and confront the fact that there is no proper reporting of what goes on in his Court?

All statistics that used to show the gender bias is the Family Court were kept up until 1990.

You know Katherine, how they solved the problem of the huge gender bias that was being displayed in the Family Court? They stopped keeping the statistics! For 16 years, we have campaigned for those statistics to be reported.

We will do whatever is commensurate with the depth of our problem to try and get a response from the judicial system, from government, from the Law Commission – the people who are meant to be managing and leading this and who are NOT at the moment.

I’ll tell you one thing we will never do Katherine – I am firmly against breaking the law or doing anything serious.

Question: Is this instruction given to all the other protesters?

Absolutely.

Before we did the protest on the weekend, I said I want a dossier on all of these people. We worked very hard amongst all the people affected.

I’ve got two and a half pages here in front of me that precisely describes what these people [the protest targets] have done wrong. We have been thorough.

Question: what you make of the UK demo?

Personally, it is not the kind of thing I would like to participate in, but look, if you just look at what is going on, the pain that families are suffering.

We estimate 15,000 children here in this country are losing contact with one of their parents, almost invariably the father. Now there are so many people affected, those cars were tooting us incessantly in the street.

A taxi driver pulled in. She was in tears, she said: “I have been through a broken marriage. My children will not get married because marriage is such a disgusting institution.”

The Family Court is helping to make that happen.

Thanks to Noelle you can find photos, videos and audio of the Palmerston Nth protest here.

The Dominion Post has a report on the protest: Dads condemn lawyers’ ‘tricks’