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Remembering Jim Bagnall

Filed under: Gender Politics,General,Law & Courts — JohnPotter @ 7:33 pm Sun 3rd April 2016

A farewell will be held at Morrison’s Funeral Home, 220 Universal Drive, Henderson, at 3.00pm this Thursday, 7 April 2016. This will be an opportunity to pay a tribute and share anecdotes with a cup of tea. Jim was always adamant he didn’t want a religious funeral, but I’m sure he’ll cope with a few of us getting together to celebrate his life. After all, he tolerated a dinner to honor his achievements back in 2013.

There will also be an (unofficial) Dedication of the Bagnall Knoll Opposite Waitakere Court on Friday 29th April at 1pm followed by a meal at the local Valentine’s Restaurant.

For those of you who can’t make it to either of these events, or perhaps don’t know much about Jim’s contribution to the New Zealand Fathers’ Rights movement, I’ve gathered together a few photos and videos of him in action.

Jim Bagnall in Albany - November 2015

Jim Bagnall in Albany – November 2015

When I rang Jim and asked to see him at the end of 2015, he insisted on coming to Albany and buying me a coffee. “The docs tell me I’m now officially dead”, he greeted me cheerfully when I arrived. He was on his way further north to help a woman regain care of her children.

I first met Jim in the late 1990s. He came to visit me at my home, and informed me that he had recently been sent on a compulsory Anger Management course at Man Alive in Henderson. He felt that he had been treated unjustly by the system, experienced the Duluth-based course as abusive, and argued with the facilitator. The course didn’t achieve its intended result. “I’ve never been so bloody angry in my life”, he told me.

Jim was particularly incensed by the lack of due process; nobody was interested in hearing his side of the story. I believe he felt he had been unfairly alienated from his family, and that his personal need to re-connect with his own children drove him in his mission to support other parents to remain in their children’s lives. I feel sorry for his daughter Mary and her siblings that they weren’t able to reconcile with their dad before he passed on. When I look at the “Project Reunion” sign at the top of his van I know what motivated Jim.

When he learned that thousands of NZ fathers were loosing access to their children, Jim decided that the only sensible response was to try and change the system by means of political protest. Later that year, an informal group calling themselves Dad’s Army was formed, and he became known as “General Justice”.

Yes, Jim was angry. He developed an involved theory about Justifiable Anger. In an earlier period of his life, Jim worked at the Auckland Zoo. One of his most interesting jobs was parenting a young chimpanzee – one of our closest primate relatives. There were several occasions when Jim’s loud, theatrical antics reminded me of an adult male chimp displaying a carefully calculated and calibrated aggression message.

Over the next decade, Jim or one of his many other alter-egos organised hundreds of protests outside Family Courts up and down the country. There were also protests at various conferences, and outside the offices of professionals such as psychologists who supported the feminist-inspired father-removal project.

Family Court Protests

Ghost of Due Process

The Family Court Judge From Hell

The Pirate Judge

The Judge from Uranus, making a delivery to the Law Society

The Family Court Jester

The Grassy Knoll opposite the Waitakere Family Court – October 2004

Jim and the Police

While Jim was never afraid to challenge authority, he was always respectful and never provoked an aggressive response from Police. As far as I know, nobody was ever arrested at any protest organised by Jim, despite the fact that feelings were often running high.

Jim educating a smiling policeman

Talking to policeman outside Albany Family Court

Recently I stumbled across a Police Intelligence Noting online, reporting on a Family Court protest. The “older male with a long white beard who declined to give his details to Police” could only be one person:

Police Intelligence Note 2009

Police Intelligence Note 2009

Father & Child Trust Forum

Jim Bagnall at Father & Child Trust Forum 2001

Jim could be serious when the occasion warranted. Here he is at a forum put on by the Father & Child Trust in September 2001 titled Children in families as reflected in statistics, research and policy.

There is a report on the Wellington conference here. It is an old page, and many of the links have unfortunately rotted (ie: expired).

Union of Fathers Formation

The Wellington meeting had attracted dozens of father activists from all over the country. A group of us, inspired by Darrell Carlin from Tauranga, decided that there was a need for a national organisation to advocate for fairer treatment of fathers by the Family Court, and the Union of Fathers was formed. One early initiative was for fathers to place a small paper blue dot sticker on all court documents to remind officials the “the Union of Fathers is watching you”. It didn’t take long for court registrars to start refusing to accept any documents with a sticker attached!

Jim was very enthusiastic about the Union concept, and purchased a large van which he had professionally painted with Union of Fathers contact details, and fitted with a loud public address system and a microphone that he could use while driving around. He appeared on TV a number of times as the UOF spokesman.

Unfortunately, the Union of Fathers never really developed an effective organisational structure with proper national representation, which is unsurprising considering the fact that the group was never able to attract significant funding. When newer members decided to re-focus the Union on support for fathers, and try and shake off the protestor image, Jim’s highly visible presence became a bit incongruous. I don’t believe this ever worried Jim, he just carried on doing his own thing.

Founders of NZ Union of Fathers

Project Reunion van taking part in Convoy 2005

Jim Bagnall interviewed on TV about the “Save the Males” demonstration

McKenzie Friend workshop 2003

Jim became one of the main support people at the Men’s Centre North Shore Monday meetings. He began accompanying self-represented fathers into Family Courts and acting as their McKenzie friend. Over the next decade he attended almost 180 hearings, gaining an unprecedented knowledge of how the court actually worked. Some courts clearly felt threatened by Jim’s presence, and introduced extra paperwork for McKenzie Friends where they had to promise to keep what they heard secret. At least one judge banned him outright. Other judges realised that Jim’s close engagement with the father offered an opportunity for negotiation and compromise, and even went so far as to ask his opinion in some cases.

In May 2003, Jim hired the Remuera Bowling Club for a one-day workshop to train McKenzie Friends. Lawyer Rod Hooker made a very useful presentation, followed by a talk by MP Rodney Hide. In July the same year, Jim organised a second workshop on Child Support, which was attended by representatives from IRD who had been working with Men’s Centre to help fathers. These weres another more great networking opportunities for activists around the country.

Jim Bagnall opens Child Support Workshop, July 2003

“Jim Bagnall is a Saint” – Rodney Hide at McKenzie Friend workshop

Videos of Jim in action

NB: these videos are all tiny because they were made in the days when most of us only had dial-up internet.

For the Father’s Day Parade supporting Shared Parenting, September 2000, Jim hired a Highland Pipe Band to lead the march:

The Ghost of Due Process outside Auckland Family Court, April 2001:

The Pirate Judge outside Auckland Family Court, March 2001:

Interviewed on TV1 Holmes about “James” – whose baby daughter remained in the mother’s care despite the fact she admited to using the drug P while caring for the child – Jim was threatened by the judge if he revealed any details to Members of Parliament. Note the sophisticated video capture technology:

Protest at Counsel for Child Conference in Auckland October 2004:

RIP Jim Bagnall

Jim has been suffering from cancer for most of the 21st century. I remember him telling us over a decade ago that he didn’t expect to live more than a couple of years. Although there have been many reports since then about his illness getting worse, he continued to do the work he was passionate about; helping men and women deal with the Family Court process. I started to think of him as being like the Energizer Bunny, which just never runs down.

Jim Bagnall was a remarkable man, and all his children deserve to be proud of him.

If we ever need a patron saint of New Zealand men’s activists, I agree with Rodney Hide that Jim is the ideal candidate.


  1. I first met Jim Bagnall when he was at the height of his dramatic protests against the Family Court processes. He was wearing a shoulder length judge’s wig and a black gown and carrying a megaphone. In the background was his bus, fitted with loudspeakers and a music system.

    This was Jim’s dramatic phase. He was proud of the effect he had on the Family Court from conducting noisy protests.

    Jim was also a McKenzie Friend. He appeared in the Family Court 178 times. He was also proud of the respect which he gained from Family Court judges. He was particularly proud of the occasion on which Judge Ryan had sufficient confidence in him to ask him to conduct the cross-examination of the opposing parent, without any advance notice. At the end of the hearing Judge Ryan complimented Jim on his cross-examination questions.

    Jim was a thoughtful man. He was very interested in the psychological and emotional aspects of human nature. Jim and I formed a team at the Mens’ Centre North Shore. He would dispense advice on the emotions to distraught parents (not exclusively Dads) at our support group meetings, while I tried to provide advice on the operation of the Family Court. After the NMens’ Centre North Shore discontinued its support group meetings, we were invited to reconvene at the Hillsborough Bowling Club. Jim attended our Thursday night support group meeting until he was admitted to hospital 2 months ago.

    Jim was a friend, a mentor, a debating adversary. I will miss him. RIP.

    “Twilight and evening bell,
    And after that the dark!
    And may there be no sadness of farewell,
    When I embark”
    Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1889

    Comment by Anthony Morahan — Sun 3rd April 2016 @ 7:34 pm

  2. Thank you John. What a wonderful eulogy and history.

    Comment by Alastair — Sun 3rd April 2016 @ 9:10 pm

  3. Great work John, thanks so much. Sad to realize how little has changed but we’re chipping away from the foundations that Jim Bagnall and others laid down.

    By the way, the dedication of Bagnall Knoll at 1pm on Friday 29th April may be ‘unofficial’ but it was fully discussed with Jim and will be in accordance with his wishes.

    Comment by Ministry of Men's Affairs — Sun 3rd April 2016 @ 10:01 pm

  4. Jim was a man full of passion. I remember crossing a busy road in Auckland with my young daughter when he spotted me so he stopped his van in the middle of the road so he could quickly shake my hand and share in a moment of joy. He carried great pain over his personal experiences with the FC but was equally able to rise above it and enjoy his quest in gaining justice for dads. So sad to see him depart from a world still thin on the ground with those willing to fight for what is right.

    Comment by Triassic — Mon 4th April 2016 @ 12:25 am

  5. As i see these photos of the exact same places we have also been protesting outside in 2015 / 2016, I see that nothing has really changed except for a lot more people being aware and hopefully through these types of events we can all continue to push the message that the family court is nothing more than a shameful mess and continues to be so, RIP JIM YOU LEGEND , it was good to meet you , have coffees with you , have lots of chats with you and for you to join us at the sames family courts you were at decades before us, you will never be forgotten. Thank you for inspiring and showing us what and how to do it along with many others that have joined the ongoing fight with you.I can only imagine how many peoples lives you make better …….. #notyourright

    Comment by Dom — Mon 4th April 2016 @ 8:39 am

  6. Rest in Peace Jim. A life well lived.

    Comment by Donald Pettitt — Mon 4th April 2016 @ 10:29 am

  7. Jim was a beacon of light in a land of disappointment. RIP Sir.

    Comment by Peadar — Mon 4th April 2016 @ 1:14 pm

  8. Sir Jim.

    Has a nice ring to it. But he would never have accepted a knighthood. He used to say the OBE was short for ‘Other Buggers Efforts’.

    Comment by Downunder — Mon 4th April 2016 @ 2:40 pm

  9. Is there any thought of some permanent memorial on the Jim Bagnall Mall opposite the Waitakere Court?
    Something that would sum up what Jimmy was about? How about a big Tombstone with RIP to Justice in the Family Court.
    Permission would be needed from the Auckland City Council, the Justice Dept would not have a say.
    Any thoughts?

    Comment by John Brett — Mon 4th April 2016 @ 4:41 pm

  10. I saw Jim not so long ago. I knew his time was near and went to say my goodbye.

    I HUGGED him and he HUGGED me, there is no shame in that, we were friends.

    If you know Jim, you will know he doesn’t want a funeral. I respect his wishes. I won’t be there. Maybe we can catch up another time.

    In understanding the man, I see that he thought what he did in life was more important than a moment at a funeral.

    If we can find a place of remembrance for Jim, I think that would be good for many people.

    Comment by Downunder — Mon 4th April 2016 @ 4:55 pm

  11. Its nice to see a comment from Donald Pettit above, Donald is the captain down at the Canterbury Men’s Centre. Men facing difficulties during divorce,false accusations,child support issues or just about anything else can knock on the door, go in and talk about it without feeling that they must be held to blame for everything and need to be cured of something.
    I hope more men will utilise the help that’s available.

    Comment by voices back from the bush — Mon 4th April 2016 @ 6:06 pm

  12. @9 Hi John Brett, I’m not sure the council would authorise such an enterprise but it might be worth a try.
    If not here is another recipe for your idea:
    8 rolls of chicken wire.
    9 rolls of hessian.
    15 bags of river sand.
    6 bags of cement.
    Form chicken wire into the shape of Jim’s bus outside that caught house.
    Cement plaster the whole thing on a Saturday go back on the Sunday and paint it. All welcome and finish the day with a cold ale. Perhaps this coming fathers day?
    Something of a spectacle, Jim style?

    Comment by voices back from the bush — Mon 4th April 2016 @ 6:31 pm

  13. Monument, Plaque etc. The grassy Knoll is No 8 Ratanui street. It is privately owned.
    Council will not provide the details of the owner over the phone, but would provide this info to a person applying at the local Council service centre.

    Q1 Is there anyone living locally who would volunteer to find out the land owner?
    (The Council would NO SAY in anything erected here, nor would the Court.)

    Q2 Does anyone have any ideas of what might be appropriate for here, to commemorate Jim’s work?

    Comment by John Brett — Tue 5th April 2016 @ 3:34 pm

  14. Julie, you’re a Westie, could you do that?

    Comment by Downunder — Tue 5th April 2016 @ 3:50 pm

  15. Kerry Bevin who is organizing the dedication of Bagnall Knoll, was not envisaging any permanent monument but who knows how the event will turn out? The idea from ‘voices’, to leave something that will probably be removed, sounds appealing and in the spirit of Jim’s protests, but maybe this shouldn’t involve cement etc.

    Comment by Ministry of Men's Affairs — Tue 5th April 2016 @ 7:11 pm

  16. What does “The idea from ‘voices'” mean?
    If the land owner agrees, a memorial on private property can’t be removed by Council, or by the Court.
    I respect Kerry Bevan’s opinion, but his is not the only opinion.
    What about a seat- marked as “The Witness bench” or some such?

    Comment by John Brett — Wed 6th April 2016 @ 3:55 am

  17. John (#16): Yes, quite right, that’s why we said “…who knows how the event will turn out?”, and we’re sure Kerry would love to leave a permanent memorial.

    Reading your piece again, we realize we misunderstood thinking you were saying the council and Court would ‘say no’ to anything erected there, when in fact you were saying they would have ‘no say’ but left out the word ‘have’. The sentence didn’t sound right at the time! Sorry. That’s why we referred to the idea from ‘voices’ (#12).

    Actually, council probably would have some say under planning regulations etc, but that may not apply to something smaller such as the bench you suggested. Keep up the good work in exploring these possibilities.

    Comment by Ministry of Men's Affairs — Wed 6th April 2016 @ 8:26 am

  18. I’m glad we’ve cleared that up! now- Land owner? Ideas? please!

    Comment by John Brett — Wed 6th April 2016 @ 9:39 am

  19. Land information NZ. Information is publicly available online.

    Comment by Downunder — Wed 6th April 2016 @ 9:50 am

  20. John, I made a suggestion above @ comment number 12, you have ignored it.
    A permanent memorial Is preferrable and Im sure theres fathers (probably many) who feel that a bronze statue is appropriate and the bigger the better but realisticly its unlikely and as others suggest- it wasn’t Jims wish.
    Also permanent public memorials on private land are rare because it resricts the lands future sales potential.
    My suggestion abouve to Have something on fathers day give us an option to plan a get together after the shock of grief has subsided.
    Also I’d lke to see protests against family courts continue and I’d like to be able to contribute. I live in chch and will be unable to attention this weeks memorial.
    Id like to see Jims passing recorded in history as the ship that sunk that created the reef that made the wave that washed away the injustices of our national disgrace.
    Theres plenty of seats around with plaques on them and suitable for a moments contemplation but no more than that.
    Imajine if just 2% of the fathers that have lost rights to thier children (this includes me)from that waitakere caught house turned up to pay respect to Jim by protesting on fathers day with a sand cement sculpture, hands on event. Perhaps it might be successful and repeated the following year.
    Jim has passed but his cause has not.
    Statues are just portaloos for seaguls.
    Just my thoughts. You asked.

    Comment by voices back from the bush — Wed 6th April 2016 @ 10:58 am

  21. Well done Jim,
    A life well lived: diverse, full, and with purpose.
    Thanks for the leadership you offered,
    Thanks for the novel ideas and that fiery passion.
    While we have yet to change the world Jim and others have caused many to think, many to consider and there has been some changes for the better.
    Allan Harvey

    Comment by Allan Harvey — Wed 6th April 2016 @ 6:57 pm

  22. Jim is probably the most interesting person I’ve met. I’ve never had a better friend.

    Argumentative Pome Git (his words, not mine)

    He lived a life to be proud of.

    Comment by Bevan Berg — Wed 6th April 2016 @ 7:13 pm

  23. Kerry Bevin’s plan is, every year on the last Friday of April on Bagnall Knoll to present, or invite someone to present, a ‘State of the Nation’ assessment as pertaining to men and boys in NZ.

    Comment by Ministry of Men's Affairs — Wed 6th April 2016 @ 10:58 pm

  24. Kerry’s idea is based on ongoing, positive effort. I believe that is what Jim would want the most of all. It also doesn’t tread on the rights of the land owner and could easily relocate if this ever became necessary.

    This continues the tradition that Jim laid out. My first opportunity to talk with Jim was about 2003 at his Seminar about Family Court and Child Support. Met lots of interesting people that day and made good contacts.

    About 2005 or 2006 there was the Men’s Conference at Waitakere. Jim gave a talk and I seem to remember it was controversial.

    Plus of course all of the protests. Quite a lot of entertainment along the way…….

    So, families and children are important to all of us and we should keep up an energetic and creative follow on to Jim’s original actions, keeping a spotlight and cannons focussed onto protection of families, children in particular.

    Comment by MurrayBacon — Thu 7th April 2016 @ 1:59 pm

  25. @JP the picture of the 2003 Mckenzie Friend workshop, is that Alan Marino from the IRD with the red tie?

    Comment by Downunder — Thu 7th April 2016 @ 8:18 pm

  26. Yes it is Alan Marino. The guy next to him was also from IRD.

    Comment by JohnPotter — Thu 7th April 2016 @ 11:00 pm

  27. When he was introduced I couldn’t help but chuckle. The wolf with a sheep’s name.

    Comment by Downunder — Fri 8th April 2016 @ 6:22 am

  28. Why were IRD representatives at a workshop on McKenzie Friends?

    Comment by Man X Norton — Fri 8th April 2016 @ 8:15 am

  29. Was it the workshop on Mckenzie Friends or the one on child support?

    Comment by Downunder — Fri 8th April 2016 @ 8:43 am

  30. You are correct Downunder, there was a second workshop on Child Support held on July 2003:

    Here’s my original post about the McKenzie Friend workshop:

    A couple of years ago Murray posted some notes that I think were from this day, even though the date he gives is different:

    Thanks for the correction, I have edited the post accordingly.

    Comment by JohnPotter — Fri 8th April 2016 @ 9:39 am

  31. Well I never!

    That protest outside the family court was Jim and I, Brent Matches, damn did we give them some shit that day! So whoever posted it can now put it up again and remove the ink hahaha!

    Comment by brent — Fri 8th April 2016 @ 9:48 pm

  32. Sorry about my wrong recollections and thanks for correcting them. It shows how much Jim Bagnall did!!

    It shows how effectively and parasitically the familycaught$ has bedded itself into NZ Government. It doesn’t have to justify its performance in any way at all, it just carries on sucking the Government and parents who don’t look before they leap.

    National talk accountability, in lots of ways but more and more they are nakedly breaching accountability requirements and checks and balances.

    I think any new Government could spend 3 years just removing all the loopholes National is putting in everywhere, for their rich fiends and themselves. National supports clean rivers in talk and sells them down the river in clipping the wings of Government enforcement agencies. Barefaced cheek what they say to voters.

    They are morphing fast into Republicans (USA style) of NZ.

    Pike River 29 dead, absolutely no accountability. Those white boys are so protected. Someone else throws a punch – zero tolerance! Someone looks like they might throw a punch – zero tolerance. They must be “good” people!!!!!!!!

    But they won’t protect dolphins, birds, rivers, lakes, children, workers, minorities, white trash……….

    So look to who is taking the benefits out of the fast increasing corruption. Make sure you don’t accidentally support them or feed them.

    Comment by MurrayBacon — Sat 9th April 2016 @ 10:03 am

  33. Sorry to hear the passing of Jim Bagnall (I just found out today June 24 2016). He was my MacKenzie friend travelling Auckland to Rotorua frequently for many years. Rodney Hide was my MacKenzie friend too, once to Rotorua High Court and Wellington Supreme Court. I had emigrated from New Zealand to Canada since 2008. I lost contacts with many good friends from men’s group in Auckland and Tauranga.

    Comment by Benny Leemingjuen — Mon 27th June 2016 @ 12:52 pm

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