2000 News Archive

The index for this page is here.

Citizen's Initiated Referendum to Launch on Aug 25th

15th August

Greetings all,
The following is some excellent news and although there is still a lot of hard work to be done I feel this marks a major turning point and presents us with an excellent window of opportunity. The government press releases of today would indicate an acceptance that the various issues that we have been fighting for recognition of, have in principal been acknowledged.

Dr Muriel Newman's bill was clearly a thorn in the governments side. We now have the opportunity to keep twisting that thorn with the CIR. At the introduction of her bill it was clear that the government intended to quash the Shared Parenting bill in favour of legislation of its own. Its about claiming credit for everything good that you can do and blaming anything bad on the previous administration, I believe its called politics. We have been heard and WE WILL REMAIN HEARD. All the fathers and their heart wrenching stories will now at least have the opportunity to be heard as well.

My one concern is that Laila Harre as Minister of Youth Affairs is also Minister of Woman's Affairs and my previous correspondence with her would indicate an attitude more consistent with the current family court regime.

Now it has to be submissions, submissions, submissions----- signatures, signatures, signatures. But we can smile because its been "the ripples in the pond" of all our groups up and down the country that have collectively made some difference.

The wording [of the referendum] has been decided, it reads:

"Should the Shared Parenting Bill introduced by Dr Muriel Newman (which creates a presumption that parents who are separated or divorced will have equal rights to custody of their children) be passed by Parliament?"

We will soon have the forms and more information. We would like the support of your people to launch the CIR collectively next week. We are not in a position to organize other centres but if you are in a position to take responsibility for your area please get in touch. Either directly with Dr. Newman's office: [email protected]

this writer via E-mail: [email protected]

or F.A.C.T. Otago 4776560, Fax 03,4776540,

Martin. J. Crosbie
Chairman Father and Child Trust Otago

More on Father and Child Trust Otago


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Government’s Discussion Paper on Parenting Disappoints

15th August      Media Release

The Government released its discussion paper on the revision of the Guardianship Act today at the Beehive.

“The discussion document is a sad disappointment because it does not provide the New Zealand public with an objective debate on the issues,” says Darryl Ward, spokesperson for Families Apart Require Equality (FARE).

“It is a bland and vague ramble that contributes almost nothing. We strongly suspect the Government is simply indulging in a thinly veiled exercise of trying to preserve the current preference for sole custody.

“Muriel Newman’s Shared Parenting Bill received massive public support earlier this year because it addressed the real issues of public concern. The Shared Parenting Bill would have promoted the welfare of children by helping to protect their right to have two equal parents, and by protecting children’s need to have frequent and ongoing contact with both parents, even if the parents separate. The Shared Parenting Bill would also have created an environment that encourages parents to cooperate in the interests of their children, unlike the sole custody regime that the Government appears to favor, which encourages parents to argue with each other.

“A team of family law experts came out to New Zealand from the USA earlier this year, and they explained how successful shared parenting has been throughout the USA. The Government seems intent on ignoring the message. In fact the Government voted down the Shared Parenting Bill when clearly it was the correct solution.

“Up until 1970 the welfare of children in New Zealand was improving, over the past 30 years it has dramatically declined, as our high suicide rate and high rate of child battering will confirm. Over the past 30 years Government intervention in the family has massively increased, as has Government expenditure on sole parent families. The Government now spends 2.5 billion dollars a year on family intervention, and the number of sole parent families has reached 110,000.

“We have become a nation of hypocrites, claiming to care about the welfare of children, when clearly the more we intervene the more we reduce our children’s welfare. The poor welfare of our children is mainly the result of expensive Government policies, which clearly have failed. The family has become so politicized that as a nation we can no longer discuss the welfare of children objectively.

“The Government’s discussion paper is misleading, and needs to be rewritten in a balanced and objective manner,” said Ward.

Darryl Ward FARE (Families Apart Require Equality)     

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Parents Welcome Government Moves To Establish Judicial Integrity Commission

10th August      Media Release

The Minister of Justice has advised that his ministry officials are to begin work on establishing an independent Judicial Commission. This will be empowered to make recommendations on “the appointment, discipline and if necessary removal of judges” where irregular conduct has been established.

Spokesperson for FARE, Bruce Tichbon, welcomes this move as the group has long been aware of decisions reached by the courts of this country which have been patently repugnant to natural justice and where evidential rules have been disregarded.

“In New South Wales,” Mr Tichbon explained, “litigants faced with questionable and unjust decisions of the courts may complain to that State’s Judicial Commission, or if the decision is affected by corruption, to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

“These bodies are necessary safeguards to help prevent the Judiciary from acting as a law unto themselves and to ensure that they follow their own rules by which even-handed, gender neutral, just and impartial decisions are usually reached. Otherwise decisions may be made governed mainly by the idiosyncratic prejudices and biases of the particular judge hearing the case.

“This is happening at present in our courts and is bringing about a loss of public confidence in the integrity the courts”, Mr Tichbon said.

FARE is to unite with other committed groups to actively support and hasten the Government’s intentions to establish a Judicial Commission.

Bruce Tichbon FARE (Families Apart Require Equality)     


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Submissions on family law requested

Separated Fathers Support Trust has been advised that the Social Services Select Committee will hear submissions following parliament accepting our petition for change to family law.

Submissions will be taken at the same time for Bruce Cheriton's Shared Parenting Proposal.

I haven't spoken to Bruce at this stage, but I suggest that those wishing to make specific submissions on shared parenting, or those in Wellington work with Bruce and those who haves Family Court grievances or who live in Auckland work with us.

SFST will be making a submission, but we would like more individual stories from those of us who have been shafted by the system, to increase the number of us who are giving evidence.

Please at this stage if you have a complaint about your contact with the Family Court.

Tell me if:

(a) you just want to give us some details to see if we are including information about your type of complaint.

(b) you would like us to include your written submission.

(c) you would be prepared to give evidence at a select committee hearing.

If we have enough witnesses in Auckland we may be able to have the select committee sit in Auckland. If not some of us will have to travel to Wellington.

Certainly this is the time to stand up and be counted. If not now when - and if you can't answer that question, well just carry on walking away, and don't look back.

Those who can assist please reply urgently. Just contact details and your degree of support at this stage please.

Bevan Berg     [email protected]


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Taking issue with views on psychiatric illnesses

13 June 2000  Letter to the Editor

North Shore Times Advertiser "Opinions" column, Page 7.

It is misleading for a psychologist to claim, or even suggest, that schizophrenia and similar psychotic disorders are caused by childhood abuse.

In your article "Psychologist discusses effects of child abuse" (NSTA June 6), that is exactly what Dr John Read has done in his study of psychiatric patients.

People become psychiatric patients because they often have a less than firm grip on reality. They are prone to adopting ambient social hysterias.

During the 1950's mentally unwell patients reported persecution by communists. More recently, some reported abduction by aliens. Childhood sexual abuse is the current one.
Self-reports of abuse by delusional psychiatric patients are not credible unless externally corroborated. It is widely accepted that psychotic disorders have bio-genetic causes.

To justify his claim, Read's "research" must meet elemental scientific standards by showing clear proof through credible external verification, that patients studied were in fact genuinely abused, and that no other possible cause of the disorder existed.

It must clearly distinguish between metaphor and reality, and between cause and association. His pet theory is fatally flawed. It failed on all these counts and wrongly assumed a causal link between abuse and a mental disorder.

Parents and families of people suffering with schizophrenia will be distressed and disgusted to learn that Dr Read continues to promote his daft gospel.

Gordon Waugh


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RE “New Age fathers PC, but mum still knows best” by Frank Haden 11-6-00

The Editor,
Sunday Star Times
[email protected]

13th June 2000

Dear Sir,

Its hard to know if Frank Haden was being serious or just tongue-in-cheek when he wrote “New Age fathers PC, but mum still knows best” 11-6-00. Just in case someone might take him seriously I would point out that shared parenting has been introduced with great success in 48 states of the USA. It has been shown to dramatically improve the welfare of children and reduce state intervention in broken families. Frank seems to be supporting the continuation of New Zealand’s preference for sole custody families, which have given us one of the most expensive and unsuccessful systems in the world when it come to protecting children.

Frank, to write good tongue-in-cheek, you need to know something about the subject. Whimsy is not a substitute for ignorance. Please do some research before you venture into this subject again.

Bruce Tichbon FARE (Families Apart Require Equality)     


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Naming Alleged Sex Offenders

Media Release 13th June 2000 from Mana Men's Rights Group.

“Naming sex offenders before they have been found guilty has frightening consequences for the innocent accused”, says Bruce Cheriton of Mana Men’s Rights Group.

“False allegations of sexual abuse are very common in custody cases. They are also common outside custody cases in any situation where someone wants to destroy someone else, or the so-called victim is mentally ill, abusing drugs, misguided, or misled and manipulated by psychotherapists and counsellors.

“Or the victim is a child that has been coached by an adult to make a false complaint. Yes, this really happens, but in our experience it is a form of child abuse itself that New Zealanders don’t seem to want to face.

“Therefor government has to be very careful with legislation like the Victim’s Rights Bill, because they will be unwittingly increasing the nightmare for a growing category of new victims – the innocent accused.

“Overseas countries were moving in different directions on these matters”, he says.

“Legislation has been introduced in Canada by Senator Anne Cools to prosecute perpetrators of false allegations, because the problem has become so bad.

“New Zealand is badly in need of this type of legislation, and also of more controls within the system, such as burden of proof for alleged sexual offences and better training for sexual abuse workers so they can tell the difference between true and false allegations, to protect the innocent accused.

Mana Men’s Rights Group
19 Greer Crescent, Tawa, Wellington Tel 04 232 3775 E-mail
[email protected]

For more information telephone Bruce Cheriton on 04 232 3775

More on Mana Men's Right's Group


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Citizens Initiated Referenda on Shared Parenting

31st  May 2000

On behalf of:


Your urgent assistance is required. A Citizens initiated referenda has been initiated. The question proposed to be put to voters is “Should Dr. Newman’s Shared parenting bill be made law in the family court?” Submissions are currently being called on the wording of this proposal.

Submissions will close on the 26-6-2000. We will then have a year to gain the necessary signatures.

This effectively takes the issue away from politicians and places it with the people. It was clear that the proposal when presented by Dr Newman was not going to proceed simply because it was presented by an Act MP.

The government’s argument that this issue affects only 5% of people who separate with children is an insult to the intelligence of anybody who has been remotely involved with such issues.

Its time that the people had their say This is bound to show the government that this issue effects a lot of people very deeply and cuts at the heart of this nations youth. The government must also be made to face up to its international responsibly as it is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the rights of the Child.

It is paramount that we need to establish a strong network of committed people to be ready after the 26Th of June so that the appropriate distribution and collection of forms, media contacts, letters etc will be able to commence.

The proposal is currently being advertised in the public notices section of all major weekend newspapers. Use this to start letters to the Editor etc and start the publicity machine rolling.

More information will be posted. A 0900 number will soon be available and an office is being set-up. Appoint representatives and spokes people for your areas. Those willing to assist please contact me at this stage.

Martin James Crosbie

Fax (03) 4530667

Home Phone (03) 4530667

Cell phone (025) 6160220

E-mail: [email protected]


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Greens Request Second Look At Property Bill

Press Release Green Party 23rd May 2000

The Green Party has asked the Government to refer changes to the Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill (to be called the Property Relationships Bill) back to a select committee.

The bill is scheduled to return to the House on Thursday.

"While we strongly support the provisions in the bill, we want to ensure it works as well as possible, and there is a major issue of democracy here," Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today. "Our reasons are the opposite of the National Party, which is trying to delay, and if possible stop, the legislation."

"We are pleased the Government has produced a supplementary order parper which takes into account the issues raised by more than 60 percent of submitters to the original bill."

"They argued that it should be possible to split matrimonial property unequally when an equal split would economically disadvantage one partner. "But people who made detailed submissions to the government administration select committee need to able to check that the redrafting adequately achieves their objectives."

The bill includes fundamental changes that could affect every relationship
in the country."

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Herld_Glen_Pilkington.jpg (13039 bytes)Salute to fatherhood unites dads and kids

Photo: Arron Pilkington (6) and dad Glenn. NZ Herald.

On Saturday 20th May, almost 40 people met in QE ll Square at 9.45am and marched up Queen St to Aotea Square, promoting shared parenting and Family Court reform. Warren Heap from the Separated Fathers' Support Trust issued a media statement calling for family law practices to change to recognise value of fatherhood (more).

There was a 'Fathers for Families' event in the square, with displays by Auckland father's organisations. Organiser John White from the recently formed group Just Dads told the NZ Herald:

"The day is about getting dads together with their kids and together with their families and having a good time."

White said that dads should spend plenty of enjoyable time with their kids. He said "It doesn't give them the right sort of values if their old man isn't around." His group was set up to support fathers who are caregivers for a significant part of the time. "You get a bit isolated," he said. "The group gives us a chance to get together with other dads."

Craig Davis and a couple of other Shore Fathers set up a stall selling books, and Jim Bailey was there distributing MENZ Issues on behalf of the Men's Centre North Shore.

The day is intended to become an annual event offering entertainment, support, and information. White said that the importance of fathers has been neglected, and that his group aims to "put the heart and soul back into fatherhood."


More about Just Dads (here)


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Family Law Must Change to Recognise Value of Fatherhood

Media Release from Warren Heap, Separated Fathers' Support Trust.

20th May 2000

Our primary objective is to obtain recognition for the true value of fatherhood. The absence of a father is most often detrimental to the upbringing of a child.

We see the current family law and the family court system, as detrimental to the wellbeing of children, and others.

Through 16 years of experience we have seen too many children unjustifiably denied access to their fathers through Family Court decisions.

We believe it is essential to remove the secrecy from the Family Court so the outrageous injustices of the past do not continue.

Many children will never reach their full potential, some will commit suicide, some will lose their fathers to suicide. That is surely sufficient reason to change our family law.

We will lobby for:


More on Separated Fathers Support Trust here.


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March for Fathers and Families

To all concerned fathers,

Separated Fathers Support Trust will be attending the Fathers for Families march on the 20th May. We will be meeting in QE ll Square at 9.45am to march at 10.00am to Aotea Square. This is an organised march courtesy of the Auckland City Council Families Week. We have advised the nature of our march.

The focus of our march is the father child re-union, and banners will be of an appropriate nature.

We welcome fathers to join us to raise public awareness of father - child issues.
If you do not have your own banner to wave, please come and carry our spare ones.

There are many mens issues that will not receive appropriate attention if men are not prepared to stand up and make a public statement. This is a chance to move another step closer to reform.

This week has been in the planning by the council since October last year, yet we as fathers/mens group were only approached five weeks ago, and we believe this to be because of recent publicity regarding fathers. It is now obviously PC to acknowledge
fathers( in the fine print on the back page of course ), but we need more than that.

March with us next Saturday,

Bevan Berg
(Secretary SFST)

More on Separated Fathers Support Trust here.


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Greens recognise parents' frustration

On 17th May, Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons sent us the following letter:

As you will be aware the Shared Parenting Bill came up for its first reading before Parliament last week and the majority voted against having the Bill referred to select committee for further consideration.

The Green Party recognises the frustrations which many parents, mainly fathers, are facing in trying to secure adequate custody arrangements following a family break-up. With this in mind, Green Party MP, Sue Kedgley, sought assurances from the Labour Party for a review of Family Court procedures. The intention of such a review would be to improve access arrangements between custodial and non-custodial parents, in the spirit of good will. This would also include facilitating a better understanding of
shared parenting responsibilities.

The Bill, as it was presented failed to recognise some basic practical considerations - like the age of the children, schooling needs, and the logistics of time and place, and of course the difficulty many parents have in co-operating following a stressful family break-up. Shared childcare requires a good deal of co-operation and good will and in many cases may require professional facilitation. This is why the Green Party favoured a
review of the family court and an amendment to the Guardianship Act rather than supporting the Shared Parenting Bill.

We also objected to the use of ownership language in the bill. The bill as it was introduced is motivated by a wish for equality between parents, rather than the best interests of the child. The language suggests that children are like property, and concentrates on the needs of the parents.

It is now our objective to ensure the Labour/Alliance Government stands by its word and does, indeed, conduct a review of the Family Courts. I suggest you follow this up with the Minister.

Yours sincerely

Jeanette Fitzsimons
MP for Coromandel
Green Party Co-Leader


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Government Plans To Abolish Concept Of Marriage

Wednesday, 17 May 2000, 12:22 pm
Press Release: New Zealand First Party

New Zealand First MP, Hon Brian Donnelly, today said that the significant Government changes to the Matrimonial Property Bill essentially abolish the concept of marriage in our society.

“Not only has the Government changed the name of the Bill to the Property (Relationships) Bill, it has also changed the language of matrimonial property legislation. No longer will there be spouses, wives and husbands, everyone will be a partner.

“It concerns us that the institution of marriage is reduced to a partnership relationship. Matrimonial property becomes relationship property, and no longer will there be a matrimonial home.

“At the very time there is an increasing number of people entering into marriage, the Government plans to abolish this institution which is the very foundation of our society. New Zealand First will oppose these measures every step of the way,” concluded Mr Donnelly.

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Shared Parenting Bill will test government’s credibility.

Press Release     9 May 2000

“The government risks losing any democratic credibility it may have ever possessed if it stops Dr Muriel Newmans’s Shared Parenting Bill from being referred to a select committee tomorrow”, FARE spokesperson Darryl Ward said today.

“The Shared Parenting Bill is the most important piece of family and social law to come before Parliament in 30 years, because the bill will at last make mothers and fathers equal parents. Overseas experience shows shared parenting is highly beneficial for children and families.”

“Yet the government, with the connivance of the Greens and NZ First, has indicated it will force a party vote to ensure it can get rid of the Shared Parenting Bill. It is a travesty that last week the Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill, one of the government’s pet pieces of legislation, was allowed a conscience vote. If the Shared Parenting Bill was allowed a conscience vote it would certainly be passed to the select committee stage, where ordinary New Zealanders would at last be able to have their say. It seems dividing up the cutlery and linen after a separation is more important to the government than the welfare of our children and families.”

“New Zealand now has one of the worst environments in the world for children, with the highest suicide and mortality rates. One of the principle causes of these appalling statistics is that we have one of the world’s highest rates of sole parent families. The government seems determined to defeat the viable way to address these concerns by ignoring the issues addressed by the Shared Parenting Bill. This bill would dramatically lower our alarming rise of sole parent families by replacing most of them with families with two parents.”

“The people of New Zealand know in their hearts that given the choice of a two-parent family or a sole parent family, the majority of parents and children would choose two parents. Yet the government continues to favour the formation of sole parent families. Even the Governor General has warned that we are heading for a social disaster in ten years time when over half our children over 12 months will live in fatherless

“Democracy and children will pay a savage price when the government puts politics ahead of families and defeats the Shared Parenting Bill tomorrow,” concluded Ward.

Darryl Ward FARE (Families Apart Require Equality)     

Dr Newman's bill is here


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Government Moves To Marry Thousands Today

Press Release ACT New Zealand 4th May.

The Government will move this afternoon to shut out the public from having any input on its radical moves to include de facto and same sex couples in marriage law effectively marrying thousands of unsuspecting New Zealanders.  The Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill will today come before the House and MPs will take a conscience vote on whether defacto and same sex couples should be included in the Bill. These controversial provisions have not been scrutinised by a Select Committee and the public have had no chance to make submissions on them.

ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks is warning that the Government is trying to push the entire Bill through Parliament giving New Zealanders absolutely no say on whether marriage in New Zealand now simply means living together for three years. "In effect Helen Clark and Margaret Wilson want to put hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting New Zealand couples through the Registry Office in the next few days without any chance to say no," he said.

"It took our law hundreds of years to develop the safeguards against forced marriage. A public "I do" is not just a quaint ritual. Open access to a consensual marriage ceremony was a major social advance," he said.  "If Parliament passes this Bill, thousands of New Zealanders will wake up 'married' without even knowing it," said Stephen Franks.

"I am outraged that Labour and the Alliance are so contemptuous of democracy on such an important and far reaching piece of legislation. They have not even bothered to survey same sex and de facto couples to ask whether they want to be deemed 'married'," he said.

"This Bill gives new meaning to the old phrase 'marry in haste, repent at leisure," said Stephen Franks.

"After the public made submissions on changes to the Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill last year it did not include de facto and same sex couples. The Government has unilaterally added them into the Bill and wants Parliament to pass it into law without any public scrutiny or submissions," said Stephen Franks.

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Petition To the House of Representatives

The petition of Bruce Cheriton and others respectfully requests:

"That Members of Parliament be given a conscience vote on Dr Muriel Newman’s Shared Parenting Bill so that the bill can be referred to a Select Committee so that parents, grandparents and other concerned New Zealanders can have their say".


Send to:

Dr Muriel Newman, Parliament Buildings, Wellington (no stamp required).

Bruce Cheriton,   Mana Men's Rights (more)   E-mail:  [email protected]


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Rape Awareness Week         1st May – 7th May 2000

Press Release from  Man Alive, 2nd May 2000

Rape and the law in New Zealand - a Male Perspective

We are seeing an increasing number of men and boys who are having the courage to disclose that they have been sexually abused – and a proportion of them that they have been abused by women.

Our society's attitudes make these disclosures extremely difficult for men.

Some of the myths are:

This puts immense pressure on men not to let anyone know that they have been abused.

The results are devastating – both for these men and for our society as a whole. Frequently men who have been abused will overcompensate to prove their manliness (including to themselves) by macho type behaviours. As a result they are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviours and so frequently appear in our accident injury/death statistics. They are also appearing in alarming numbers in our prisons, drug and alcohol units, and suicide statistics.

Our legal system continues to perpetuate these myths.

The law about Indecent assault still says that this is only done by men. The attitudes of our staff within the legal system continue to minimise or deny the men that do have enough courage to lay complaints and we still have stories of men being scorned when they do.

When our young men lash out from their pain and end up in prison as a result they are frequently further abused (One study in Australia showed 25% of prisoners 18-25 had been sexually assaulted in prison and this prevalence was inversely related to age peaking at 33% of 18 year olds).

Many men in our society have been sexually abused. Our laws and the attitudes of our legal staff (including police) and of society as a whole further abuses them. We all suffer as a result.

Peter Milne    [email protected]

Counselling Team Manager

Man Alive     Ph (09) 835 0509

I can contracted for further comment on the above number or on 025 395 957

more on Man Alive

more on sexual abuse of males


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Law Society out of touch with the community

Press Release  from Families Apart Require Equality 30 April 2000

“The Family Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society must be completely out of touch to suggest that Dr Muriel Newman’s Shared Parenting Bill is misconceived and fundamentally flawed”, said FARE spokesperson Darryl Ward today.

“The Shared Parenting Bill is directly modelled on overseas family legislation that has been very successful at improving the welfare of children and significantly reducing the litigation between parents. Perhaps then the real reason why the Law Society is so opposed to this Bill is that they fear loss of work for lawyers if families are encouraged to work out their own solutions.”

“Furthermore, the Shared Parenting Bill encourages equality between mothers and fathers in the family. Yet the Law Society has recently been openly advocating measures that would seriously augment the already serious inequality that exists between parents before the law. If the Law Society is successful, it will not only massively increase the
acrimony already caused by the status quo, but greatly increase the litigation, and lawyers’ fees, suffered by separating families”.

“The Law Society must have its head in the sand to be unaware of the massive and widespread suffering that is being caused by the our family law regime. New Zealand’s current family law is decades behind the rest of the world because every year it is responsible for the permanent denial to literally tens of thousands of New Zealand children of their right to receive love and care from both of their parents. Dr Newman’s
Bill strives to truly make the welfare of the child the first and paramount consideration, unlike the current regime which pays lip service to this concept but in reality causes children needless suffering”.

“Our organisation has been approached by many practicing lawyers who have expressed their concern that that the Family Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society is dominated by radical feminist philosophy. Perhaps another reason for the Law Societies opposition to this Bill is that they wish to continue to alienate the children of divorce from their fathers, which is one of the worst outcomes of the current regime”.

“If the New Zealand Law Society really did care about the welfare of children and not just its own welfare and ideology, it would support this Bill being referred to a Select Committee. That way, ordinary New Zealand parents could have their say on this momentous issue,” concluded Ward.


Darryl Ward FARE (Families Apart Require Equality)     

Refer News Release from The New Zealand Law Society (link) 28/4/00

Dr Newman's bill is  here


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Minister of Women’s Affairs Totally Deluded

Press Release from Families Apart Require Equality 18 April 2000

“The Minister for Women’s affairs, Hon. Laila Harre, must be totally deluded given her short-sighted condemnation of shared parenting”, said FARE spokesperson Darryl Ward in response to the Minister’s appearance on Morning Report today.

"Ms Harre has got matters completely wrong if she considers shared parenting has been unsuccessful overseas. I personally visited the United States on a fact-finding mission and spent time with various social agencies there. In particular, I was greatly impressed by their custody laws, which are generally vastly superior to what we have here. Under their laws, disputing parents are empowered to actually co-operate with each other and everyone wins, especially the children. The only losers are lawyers, psychologists, counsellors and others who previously profited from the suffering of children. ”

"We agree with Ms Harre that the welfare of the child should is most important. However, the welfare of children is in reality currently ignored, even though it is stated in law. How can laws that effectively shut one parent out of a child’s life be seen as being in the child’s best interests? Shared parenting on the other hand will in reality ratify the welfare of the child.”

“We are however at complete a loss to explain Ms Harre’s most bizarre claim that the New Zealand model of custody laws is ‘highly regarded overseas’. We must ask by whom! After all, New Zealand surely has amongst the worst family law in the world. We have the worst death rate for children under one year, the second highest rate of sole parent families in the industrialised world, the worst youth suicide rate and one of the worst teenage pregnancy rates. Overseas research clearly links such social disasters to children only having one parent.”

"It is time to once and for all dispel the myth that most children in sole parent families were abandoned by their fathers. It is a fact that over 70% of divorces in New Zealand are initiated by wives, not husbands. Your typical absent father is not absent by choice, and he is hindered by the current regime from having any meaningful involvement with his children other than payment of child support."

“There are those who claim that parents who do not live with their children retain guardianship. The reality is that guardianship in practice is not worth the paper it is written on, as any father who has survived a visit to the Family Court can tell you. Only a law change will uphold the right of children to receive love and care from both of
their parents, as is enshrined in the United nations Declaration of the rights of the Child, to which New Zealand is a signatory”.

"Of course the real losers under the current regime are the children. The horrific social consequences of a child being denied one of its parents are becoming obvious, even though it remains politically correct to be in denial of this. fact”

“Only shared parenting will ensure that the welfare of the child truly is paramount", concluded Ward.

FARE (Families Apart Require Equality)     


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New Zealand fathers Voting Lobby e-mail list:   [email protected]  

Please join so we can keep each other up to date with current issues such as the Shared Parenting Bill. Only by building up numbers will the politicians take notice.

This petition is asking  for Members of Parliament to vote in the best interest of children and not ignore the public and stifle debate because of petty party politics.

Allowing this bill to progress to a Select Committee so that concerned New Zealanders can make submissions must be in the best interest of children. Whether the bill is passed into law in its existing or revised form or existing legislation is amended to address the concerns of non-custodial parents, grandparents and others, the process will encourage positive change for children, families and society.

Please return as many signed petitions as possible by the 9th of May 2000.

Chuck Bird    


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Shared Parenting Bill Debate

9th April 2000.
The Shared Parenting Bill is now almost certain to be debated on 10 May 2000. The delay is good news because it gives us more time to generate support for the Bill. The Shared Parenting Bill hangs in the balance. It has many detractors but their arguments are superficial, and their objections can be proven to be incorrect.

A large crowd gathered at Parliament on 5 April for the reading of the Bill. It is frustrating that we cannot ever be sure when legislation that is so important to us is going to be debated, but that is the so called democracy we live in.

It is relatively easy to predict if the Bill will be read. To see the parliamentary order paper for the day go to www.parliament.govt.nz   and click House and Committees from the home/front page. This takes you straight to the business for the day, then go to Member’s Orders of the Day. If you listen to the Parliamentary debate on the radio and follow the member’s order paper, you will be able to predict accurately if and when the Shared Parenting Bill will be read. Member’s Orders of the Day usually start at 4 pm. The Shared Parenting Bill was number 3 on the order paper on 5 April, and number 8 two weeks before that, so it is moving up and will almost certainly be read on 10 May. We will put out more information closer to the time.

The first reading of the Shared Parenting Bill should last about 40-65 minutes. Please get down to the public gallery at Parliament if you possibly can and join the crowd. We will either be arrested or go to the pub afterwards.

Review of the Guardianship Act
A standard method used overseas to stall shared parenting initiatives is to have a long-winded review instead. In a meeting with Brian Donnelly at Parliament this week, Brian said a committee to review the Guardianship Act has been established, consisting of:

John Wright Alliance
Brian Donnelly NZ First
Sue Kedgley Greens
Margaret Wilson Labour

He said Act and National may or may not be invited to participate. My guess is they will shut Muriel Newman out if they possibly can. The Greens and NZ First agreed not to support the Shared Parenting Bill if the review was announced by the Government.

This review is almost certainly a front to cover for Labour/Alliance's real agenda of getting the Relationship Property Bill through, and introducing unequal splitting of property. Donnelly seemed sincere, but we think Labour/Alliance are in control.

They will need to try to do damage control on Guardianship because the Relationship Property Bill will be so divisive. If they try to end 50:50 property splitting without introducing 50:50 custody the injustice will be so obvious that a huge backlash will occur. If the committee tries to maintain the preference for sole custody, it will be proof that the large number of sole custody families in NZ are the result of deliberate and carefully protected social policies, not natural social evolution.

Its interesting, Donnelly says it is a review of the Guardianship Act, the Greens say it is a review of the Family Court. These are two totally different things. There is still nothing available in writing yet from Margaret Wilson's office on whatever it is they are going to review. Are they just making all this up as they go along?

Please keep up the lobbying efforts everyone. Muriel Newman and her team never fail to amaze us with the time and energy they put into the Shared Parenting Bill.

Bruce Tichbon     FARE (Families Apart Require Equality)     


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Equal Rights On Break Up Of A Relationship
3rd April 2000
Press Release: New Zealand Government

"Cabinet agreed this morning to provide for a fairer and more equitable arrangement to allow de facto couples - including same sex couples – to allocate property at the end of a relationship," said Associate Minister of Justice, Margaret Wilson.

Ms Wilson was commenting on the Coalition Government's decision to include de facto couples in the current Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill currently before the Parliament.

"This has been an on-going source of at best irritation and at worst, severe financial and
economic disadvantage for de facto couples whose relationships have come to an end after often considerable periods of time but with no secure legal rights to ensure assets were equitably distributed on termination of the relationship."

"The Government proposes extending protections to those couples who have been living in a relationship in the nature of a marriage as determined by the courts for at least three years. There will be options for couples who so desire to opt out of coverage by the new measures as long as they agree to make their own legal arrangements appropriate for any future ending of that relationships," said Margaret Wilson.

"The National Government attempted reform in this area first as long ago as 1976. Nothing has happened subsequently to improve the situation. The previous Government introduced the Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill based largely on the recommendations of the 1988 Working Group Report and a De Factos Relationships (Property) Bill. The bills were referred to the Government Administration Committee for consideration. Work on the De Factos Bill was deferred pending consideration of submissions on the Ministry of Justice's discussion paper entitled Same-sex Couples and the Law which was released in August 1999. I note the moves by my colleague, the Justice Minister, Phil Goff while in Opposition to extend the De Factos Bill to include same sex couples."

"Frankly it is time this continuing impasse of deferral was resolved one way or another. The weight of recent submissions gives a clear guide on the need for reform in this area to allow sensible protections for those in de facto relationships who wish to use them," said Margaret Wilson.

It is intended the issue be dealt with as an Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) attached to the Matrimonial Property Bill. If passed by the Parliament the new measures would come into effect on 1 July 2001.

" The Prime Minister has determined there should be a free vote in the Parliament on this
Government's moves. She has indicated broad support from within the Coalition and support in principle from the Greens. There will be members of other parties in the Parliament I would hope who will also acknowledge the worth of determining this issue by giving it their support in the current session."

"The long time line through to implementation is to allow a full public information campaign to be conducted so those in relationships can know with greater certainty just what their legal rights and obligations might be under the new regime. Couples seem often in considerable ignorance of these matters when entering or leaving a relationship. Accurate information is essential and the Government can play an assisting role in this area."

"This is an issue surely whose time has come. New Zealand now lags behind comparable nations in its provision for end of relationship property settlements.
I see no advantage to anyone that the present unsatisfactory situation continues."

A MENZ Issues article on the key difference between equality and equity is here.


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New Bill Undermines Marriage And Puts Children At Risk

Press Release Christian Heritage Party 3rd April 2000

Party Leader Graham Capill has described the Government's decision to include homosexual and de facto couples in an amendment to the Matrimonial Property Act as "a sad day for the New Zealand family".

Mr Capill said, "The institution of marriage has been sacrosanct for centuries. This government is proposing to undermine family life by effectively rewriting the definition of marriage, and without even waiting for the findings of the Justice Department's Discussion Paper. It is dictatorial and extremely ill-advised.

That children will again be the victims of yet more turbulent relationships is obvious to any objective person. Once the State recognises same sex couples in this way, no logic will prevent homosexuals adopting children. To allow consenting adults to choose perverted practices is one thing, but to have non-consenting children mixed up in such practices is quite another.

Sinister forces have been at work for a very long time to destroy the family. The Gay Liberation Front Manifesto of 1979 stated blatantly,

'We, along with the women's movement, must fight for something more than reform. We must aim at the abolition of the family so that the sexist, male supremacist system can no longer be nurtured there. The oppression of gay people starts in the most basic unit of society, the family, consisting of the man in charge, a slave as his wife, and their children on whom they force themselves as the ideal models. .... The end of the sexist culture and of the family will benefit all women and gay people.'

Even some homosexual couples and de facto couples themselves do not want marriage; that is precisely why they have opted for a different kind of relationship. That they should be automatically included in the matrimonial property regime may be administratively tidy, but conceptually muddies the water.

Marriage has reached a low ebb, with fewer and fewer couples being committed to each other for life. To devalue it further by giving some of its privileges to other types of relationships, will remove yet another reason to get married and stay married.

The Leader of Opposition cannot claim the high moral ground here. She too pandered to the homosexual community by attending the "Hero" parade and by introducing this debate. God will not bless any leader who sets about undermining the union of a man to a woman; a union God set down, blessed and declared that no one should put asunder.

Christian Heritage believes the government should be strengthening marriage by creating more incentives to get married and stay married. It was to these ends that we campaigned for a Home Carers' Allowance and income splitting for married couples. Children would then benefit from greater input from both a mother and a father (not two males or two females), as well as reap the benefits of a stable home; something which de facto couples have never been able to offer.

The Christian Heritage Party will do all it can to oppose these changes. In the meantime we urge the government to delay any decisions and examine the findings of the Discussion Paper with an open mind," Mr Capill concluded.


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No Research Done On Effects Of De Facto Bill

Press Release ACT New Zealand 3rd April 2000

The Government has done no behavioural research on the effects of the proposed de facto law changes, said ACT Justice spokesman Stephen Franks. Mr Franks was commenting on the Governments decision to apply the same rules to marriage, same sex and de facto relationships.

"The proposed change to force de facto couples to share their property like married couples is a typical 'feel good' slogan law. The type of law that often hurts those it is meant to help.

This Government always talks loudly of giving 'rights' to some, when in reality, it wants to disguise taking away rights of others - in this case the right to choose to not make a commitment that extends to marriage.

In response to my questioning in the Justice and Electoral Select committee, the Ministry of Justice confirmed that no work had been done on what the Government's proposed law might actually do to the stability of de facto relationships.

If it becomes law that you must halve your property or become liable to support someone if you are in a relationship for more than three years, people will do things to protect themselves. The law could create more bust-ups and hurt for children and vulnerable partners that it is meant to help.

Sound law can assist parties involved in same sex or de facto relationships to know what they can expect from each other, and to simplify the rules that govern what they owe to children or the state.

ACT will support legislation that enables couples to opt in to agreements that cover these matters, but this must be based on choice.  And any legislation that further damages to make it easier for the Government to force all relationships into the same rules will not be supported by ACT.

ACT believes in open and informed debate. We will ensure that the proposals
are closely scrutinised in the house," said Stephen Franks.


Stephen Franks, himself a lawyer, has made some interesting statements about
the law and lawyers. See: www.act.org.nz/mps/franks/index.xtml.


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Govt goes too far imposing property rights

Press Release New Zealand National Party 3rd April 2000

The Government is wrong and has gone too far with its proposed changes to relationship property rights, Opposition Leader Jenny Shipley said today.

"What is worse, it is refusing to give New Zealanders a say on a proposal that is significantly different from anything Parliament has considered so far.

The decision to re-name the Matrimonial Property Act and include all relationships - marriage, same-sex and de facto - will be offensive to many people.

The Government is imposing the merger of property rights on couples without giving the public a say through either submissions to a select committee or through the discussion document still circulating on same-sex relationships.

The Ministry of Justice recently extended submissions on same-sex relationships until 30 April. Labour has now pre-empted its own officials with this announcement which is proposing major change without a chance for anyone - married people, de factos or people in same sex-relationships - to make any comment on the specific proposal.

Whether the Government likes it or not marriage does have a special status in law, and it's different from de facto or same-sex relationships.

The Government has also raised big questions with its plans to change the law to 'more fully address situations where there are likely to be significant disparities in income and living standards.'

This sounds like it is a fundamental change to the 50:50 split that New Zealanders have come to rely on. We don't know how far-reaching it will be but it is potentially highly divisive and there hasn't been any consultation with the public.

National strongly supports all couples having protection if their relationship breaks down. We introduced amendments to matrimonial property law, a bill on de facto property rights and a discussion paper on same-sex relationships to secure this. It could have been achieved through a separate law for each group, avoiding offence and allowing full discussions and submissions and allowing for all the differences among relationships," Mrs Shipley said.


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The Welfare of Children - In New Zealand, Who Cares?     
2nd April 2000

"If present trends continue, by 2010 half of European and nearly three quarters of the Maori infants under 12 months will be in families where there is no father. Unless we turn things around, we as a nation are going to be in serious trouble". So said the Governor-General, Sir Michael Hardie-Boys, at a breakfast meeting in Lower Hutt last month.

Sir Michael is right, a disaster is befalling the New Zealand family. Overseas research shows children in fatherless families are seriously disadvantaged. Children in fatherless families are twice as likely to get into trouble with the law or go to jail. They are about ten times more likely to suffer serious physical abuse. They are far more likely to commit suicide; overall they have a 40% higher death rate than children in stable two parent families. Today there are over 200,00 children in New Zealand suffering under such circumstances, and the number is growing.

Those of us who were lucky enough to grow up in a stable two-parent family were fortunate. We were not forced to live in poverty, or to wonder why we never saw our fathers.

What is driving this huge surge in fatherless families today? There are a number of factors. One is the rising divorce rate. But the main factor is current social policy in New Zealand, which favours the formation of sole parent families when parents separate. This means one parent is defined as the primary care giver, and that parent becomes the custodian of the children. The other parent becomes the non-custodial parent. Almost invariably if the mother who wants custody of the children she will get custody. It is commonly accepted amongst the majority of New Zealand adults, that “the children go with the mother”. Most documents, magazines or books you will ever read in this country or in Australia about divorce assume automatically there is a custodial parent and a non-custodial parent. Try this Aprils Australian Women's Weekly on divorce (NZ Edition, Page 91) “If, as is usually the case, the mother is the prime caretaker….”.

Strangely, this policy favouring the mother having sole custody is rarely written down. What is written down in s23 of the Guardianship Act is that "the welfare of the child is the first and paramount consideration". This statement initially sounds wonderful, and it certainly seems to give anyone who quotes it the moral high ground. But somehow "the welfare of the child" is almost invariably interpreted as meaning sole custody to the mother.

The preference for sole custody, although not explained in the Guardianship Act, is highly evident in the way government benefits are issued by WINZ favouring sole parents, and in recent legislation. The Child Support Act dictates there must be an "eligible custodian" and a "liable parent", effectively meaning a custodial mother and a non-custodial father.

So it is evident that the main factor that will cause the disaster predicted for 2010 by the Governor-General is actually being caused by the Government's own social policies. But wait, is there a saviour in sight? Dr Muriel Newman of ACT New Zealand has introduced a piece of private member's legislation, the Shared Parenting Bill. This Bill will remove the preference for sole parenting and replace it with a preference for the mother and the father to share the parenting of the children. Suddenly, mothers and fathers will become equal parents. Muriel says this kind of legislation is well proven overseas as a means to protect the two parent family unit, to reduce the number of absent fathers, and to improve the welfare of the children.

Sadly, there are agencies and individuals, including lawyers, social workers, psychologists, counsellors and bureaucrats who benefit from the present preference for sole custody. They almost exclusively oppose separated parents being empowered by the Shared Parenting Bill to co-operate for the sake of their children, instead of being encouraged to fight over custody as they are at present. Are they more concerned about the welfare of children or their own jobs?

So you will see many red herrings. One is the claim that a 50/50 split would be absolute and impractical. This is not true, Dr Newman’s bill proposes that a 50/50 split of custody would be used as the staring point, instead of 0/100 as happens at the moment. Then there is the ridiculous claim that children would be confused by having two households with two sets of rules. If that was the case, then we would not let children leave home to go to school, we would not let them visit friends, and we would not be preparing them for the realities of life.

And then there is the myth that non-custodial parents retain some kind “guardianship” of their children. Although this exists in theory under the Guardianship Act for non-custodial parents who were either married to or living with the respective custodial parents when their children were born, in practice, the status of guardianship is not worth the paper it is written on. This is where politicians like the Hon. Laila Harre, who also opposes the Bill, have got things so completely wrong.

We can all be sure that Sir Michael Hardie Boys, as Governor General, would be only too happy to give Royal Assent to this legislation, and help New Zealand to avoid the disaster he foresees.

Tragically, the Labour-Alliance government has indicted that they will vote against the Shared Parenting Bill. It seems the Ministry of Women's Affairs produced a report saying they didn't like the Bill. Are they worried about the welfare of children, or are they worried that the Bill will challenge the virtual monopoly that women have to get possession of the children after divorce, and the benefits that go with that? Or perhaps the Government departments, who already control the structure and finances of one third of New Zealand families because the parents don't live together, are looking forward to 2010 when they will control well over half of the families in New Zealand? This surely will mean thousands more staff in WINZ, CYPS and the Child Support Agency, and promotions all round.

In the late 19th century men were happy to share the vote with women. In the early 21st century it appears women are not prepared to share the family with men. Men in the 21st century want more to do with their children, but the Government seems determined to keep most families split along gender lines.

Who cares about the welfare of children? Ten points each to Sir Michael Hardie-Boys and Dr Muriel Newman. Zero points to the Labour-Alliance Government.

Darryl Ward   FARE (Families Apart Require Equality)       


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'Please Consider the Children' - Muriel Newman

Press Release ACT New Zealand         2nd April 2000

ACT Social Welfare Spokesman Muriel Newman says the right of children of parents who are separating to maintain contact with both parents hangs in the balance.

Dr Newman's Shared Parenting Bill comes up for first reading in Parliament this Wednesday (April 5). The Bill supports families making their own custody decisions, but if agreement can't be reached, parents would get 50/50 rights instead of the current sole custody law.

If a majority of MPs support the Bill on Wednesday, it will go to a select committee for consideration and public submissions. If it does not get majority support, it has no chance of becoming law.

Dr Newman says she has been surprised by the attitude of Labour and the Alliance who appear to be unwilling to support the Bill, saying they will instead do a review of the Family Court.

"While we would welcome such a review, I am concerned that it is a smokescreen to cloud the real issues of the rights of children to keep in contact with both parents - a right that is severely threatened under current family law practice," said Dr Newman.

"I am still hopeful that New Zealand First and the Greens will vote to advance the Bill to a select committee. This would mean the public would get the chance to make submissions on this vital issue.

Given the widespread support that we have so far received from New Zealanders adversely affected by the present law, I hope Labour and the Alliance will reconsider their position as well," said Muriel Newman.


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Govt Dictates Changes To Property Rights

Press Release New Zealand National Party 2nd April 2000

National understands that the Cabinet will tomorrow consider major changes to the way in which matrimonial, de facto and same-sex property rights will be handled, Opposition Leader Jenny Shipley said today.

Legislation on property rights for de facto couples is due to be debated again in Parliament possibly as early as this week. But National has learnt that Labour intends instead to extend the Matrimonial Property Act to cover de facto and same-sex relationships by means of a supplementary order paper (SOP).

"There are many views in the community about this issue, and instead of dictating its position to Parliament and New Zealanders, the Government should be prepared to listen," Mrs Shipley said.

"National believes marriage represents a commitment and its sanctity should be recognised in law.

National also believes de facto relationships need recognition in the law and that Parliament must have an opportunity to discuss whether this provision should be extended to same-sex couples.

National has led a long discussion on these issues and we strongly believe de facto and same-sex issues should be advanced each with a separate statute so that the special nature of the relationships can be better reflected.

National fully supports having statutory rights for de facto couples. We also support MPs having a conscience vote on whether these rights should be extended to same-sex couples," Mrs Shipley said.

The Law Commission has strongly backed such a view. In its December 1999 report it noted, 'No country has altered its definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. To attempt to do so in New Zealand would cause unnecessary and understandable offence.'

The Commission went on to say it seemed far more sensible to devise separate codes for same-sex relationships.

"Instead of forcing the matter through Parliament, the Government should consult the public if it intends to go down the path of having a single statute for married people, de factos and same-sex couples," Mrs Shipley said.

"Such a change should be sent back to a select committee so the public can have its say and more advice can be sought from the Law Commission and others.

National introduced the De Facto Relationships Property Bill in 1998. We also introduced a separate Bill that strengthened the Matrimonial Property Act.

I call on Helen Clark to give an assurance that the property rights of marriage be protected by retaining its own legislation. I also call on the Prime Minister to guarantee that the public would have a full opportunity to have their say if the Government is determined to force the merger of all relationships into a single statue," Mrs Shipley said.


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Shared parenting

Letter to Evening Standard, 28 March 2000, p.6:

I am puzzled by your lack of coverage of the Shared Parenting Bill, due to come before Parliament shortly, especially when our local MP is making strong statements about it.

Mr Maharey appears to be prejudging, rather than understanding, the issues then seeking to wash his hands of them.

His statements cast doubt on whether he has even read the Bill.

Instead, they appear to be based on a biased briefing paper from the Ministry of Women's Affairs.

In his latest press release on the Bill he says, "... that it risks making parental co-operation much harder to achieve and instead invites lawyers into the process."

Clearly, he has little understanding of how the Family Court currently operates.

As with many of those with the power to influence matters, he cites "the best interest of the child" as a justification for his position.

It is about time he and others declared what they believe the term to mean.

As it stands, his press release looks more like an attempt to stifle debate on an important issue for party political reasons.

Phil Etheridge


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Shared Parenting Bill - Update    27th March 2000

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Bill will receive its first (and perhaps only) reading in Parliament on Wednesday 5th of April at 5pm. This time could change if the House goes into urgency on some other matter, but that is unlikely. I will let you know if there are any changes closer to the time.

We know that Labour and Alliance will oppose the Shared Parenting Bill. NZ First and the Greens seem to be fence sitting. Act and National are in favour of the Bill. On current voting, it will be lost. But if we all put in some more well focused effort, the Shared Parenting Bill can be saved to go through to the select committee stage. We must proceed over the next 10 days as if we can save the Bill. Even if it is lost,
it has significantly elevated the concept of equal parenting and the family unit.

The alternative being offered by the Government is a “review” of family law. This is simply an excuse for killing the Bill. Any review (if it ever happens) will be another effort to protect the status quo (ie preferential sole custody). Offering a review is a standard tactic used overseas to kill shared parenting legislation. They are using this trick in Canada right now, the review there has been promised to take a very long time.

We are forming cells to focus renewed pressure on various key politicians, and to try to maximise publicity. Steve Maharey, Sue Kedgley and others will be targeted.

There can be no doubt that the Shared Parenting Bill, combined with the efforts of all of us, has given family law more exposure and publicity than it has ever had. The days leading up to the vote will be the time to leverage off the combined effort and get maximum effect for our publicity effort. We will not have it this good again for some time to come.

Muriel Newman and her staff are working very hard for the Shared Parenting Bill.

We have made contact with Maori leaders, seeking their support. We are also targeting Churches etc.

A march to Parliament is being formulated. It will aim to meet Steve Maharey on the steps of Parliament, with TV etc, to ask him why making mothers and fathers equal parents is so unacceptable to the Labour Party. We will discuss this further at the Mana Men’s Rights meeting, 7.30 tonight, Crossways, corner Elizabeth and Brougham Streets, Mount Victoria, Wellington (enquires Tel 04 2323 775). We will also plan to
have a large and noisy turnout in the public gallery of Parliament when the Bill is debated.

Please keep up the good work everyone.


Bruce Tichbon.  FARE (Families Apart Require Equality)     

Dr Newman's bill is here


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Shared Parenting Bill Unlikely to Improve Child Welfare

Office of the Hon Laila Harré
Minister of Women's Affairs
Minister of Youth Affairs
Associate Minister of Commerce
Associate Minister of Labour

27 March 2000

The Minister of Women's Affairs Laila Harré supports the basis for Dr Newman’s Bill; to improve the welfare of children. Similarly she considers there is no question that the separation of parents does not and should not terminate parental responsibilities for either parent.

"The Bill however demonstrates a lack of understanding about current legislation around custody, access and guardianship and is not backed up by evidence", says Laila Harré.

While the stated purpose of the Bill is to “improve the welfare of children”, the Bill does not provide that the welfare or interests of the child are the primary consideration in deciding who has custody of the child. The Bill proposes that custody is to be awarded in a particular order of precedence, starting from 50 / 50 shared parenting as the preferred arrangement, to custody to other parties as the least preferred. Currently there is no provision for any preferential form of custody order in law and decisions are required to be made in the best interests of the child. Imposing a preferential form of custody order would restrict the discretion of the court to make decisions based on the best interests of the child, limit the options available for parental negotiation and ignores the diverse and complicated needs of separated families.

The Bill would replace the current law on guardianship and access with the concepts of shared legal and physical custody. It appears, although it is not clear, that the concept of legal custody would replace the concept of guardianship in New Zealand law. In this respect the Bill would offer parents less protection than the current law, which confers generally irrevocable guardianship rights at the birth of the child.

The Current Law
Currently if parents have been living together or married at the time a child is born, they are both legal guardians of the child. Guardianship is the overall right and responsibility for the upbringing of a child and the law provides that this is a shared responsibility. Guardianship includes the right to custody of a child. If the parents separate, the starting point is that they both have equal rights to custody of the child. Separation usually involves the parents living apart and this is where the term “custody” is often used – as describing the rights of the parent with whom the child spends most of their time. In fact, that person is the primary caregiver. The parent who is not the primary caregiver retains the rights of guardianship and of access to their child (sometimes called visitation).

Guardianship rights are, in general terms, inalienable – that is, the rights survive parental separation and divorce. A parent therefore has the right to be involved in decisions regarding the children’s schooling, health, religion, and welfare regardless of the custody and access arrangements. However, in practice the rights of guardianship are exercised by the parent who is the primary care giver.

The current law also provides for parties to agree to joint custody. New Zealand research shows that this arrangement only works well in those cases where there is good co-operation between the parents. It is an offence to hinder or prevent access without reasonable excuse and with intent to prevent an order for access to a child from being complied with.

Under New Zealand's current legislation parents come to an agreement over custody in the vast majority of cases, with only 5% of applications to the Family Court resulting in contested hearings.

Overseas Legislation
Great care needs to be exercised in the use of terms around custody as in different jurisdictions they can mean different things. For example while "joint custody' in New Zealand is commonly understood to mean both parents share physical custody of a child, it can in other jurisdictions refer to legal custody, but not necessarily physical custody.

In the United States the movement towards requiring joint legal custody appears to have been made in an attempt to minimise disputes between parents about legal custody (what is known as guardianship in New Zealand) where one parent was awarded sole physical custody. However, disputes about physical custody have subsequently become more common.

"As far as I have been able to ascertain", says Laila Harré, "there is no state of America which has law based on a presumption of equal joint (50:50) physical custody of a child where the parents are in dispute. In fact, the Courts in some states have made it clear that shared legal custody does not require shared physical custody .

Recently significant changes were made in Australian law with regard to custody and access of children. The Family Law Reform Act 1995 introduced counselling, conciliation, reconciliation and mediation methods for dispute resolution (methods long known in New Zealand) and modernised concepts of “guardianship”, “custody” and “access' and required parents to settle children’s issues by entering into a parenting plan and submitting this to the Court.

The cornerstone of the new law was the notion of “parental responsibility” for children under 18; a concept set out in the principles of the Act. The best interests of the child are the paramount consideration in determining whether a parenting plan is to be accepted by the Court.

The Australian law does not prescribe shared residence or joint physical custody as the model for parenting after separation nor is there a statutory presumption for this or any other type of shared parenting arrangement.

A recent study of the Australian reforms shows that there has been a marked increase in the number of contested applications for contact orders since the reforms and an increase in the number of litigated disputes arising out of breaches of parenting orders. Many of these applications have been brought by unrepresented contact fathers, many are without merit and are used as a mechanism to harass the resident parent with much Court time being wasted in dealing with them. The study concludes that as there was no specific mischief that the reforms were designed to remedy, significant difficulties have resulted.

The majority of calls for reforms to custody law had come consistently from aggrieved non-custodial parents, and in particular fathers’ rights groups who claimed that the legislation and the Family Court discriminated against them. Those claims were not supported by empirical studies which showed that the Family Court made orders in favour of fathers at twice the rate of those made by consent. Further, the need to encourage parents to share their parental responsibilities after separation was not based on any uncontested research information. Rather the research evidence that was available established that multiple interacting variables (including the custodian’s financial circumstances and the level of communication and conflict between the parents), rather than the single factor of shared parent-child contact, influence children’s adjustment following parental separation.

The Bill does not appear to be based on any empirical New Zealand based research on the effects of the current law on children post-divorce. There is a serious risk therefore that the problems experienced in Australia would follow here, with increased litigation.

Overseas experience shows that joint physical custody is most beneficial to children where parents are able to communicate effectively, something legislation cannot enforce. Similarly, legislation cannot force a parent to have contact with a child when they choose not to.

"A better approach would be to assess whether there are specific problems in particular cases and to try and address those, if necessary, rather than bring forth radical change through a Bill which isn't based on sound research,' says Laila Harré. There also appears to be a range of views about how best to improve the current procedures of the Family
Court. Such improvements may assist in resolving more quickly those cases where custody and access is disputed under the current law.

"The Government will be giving detailed consideration to a wide range of family matters later this year, including a review of the Guardianship Act", says Laila Harré. "This will provide an opportunity to take a considered view of all relevant issues, including those raised in the Newman bill."

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Mick Brown To Review Child Referral, Notification And Placement Procedures
Press Release New Zealand Government 23rd March 2000

Former Principal Youth Court Judge Mick Brown will conduct independent reviews into how the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services responds to referrals of child abuse or neglect, and places at risk children, the Minister of Social Services and Employment, Steve Maharey announced today.

The two reviews would focus on obtaining information on the current procedures administered by Child, Youth and Family for care and protection notification, and for placement of children and young people. The reviews will gather information from and consult with interest groups, community-based professionals, Police, relevant health and education services, the Office of the Commissioner for Children, Maori interests, and also Child, Youth and Family.

"I want to ensure the very best care and protection possible is available to those children and young people who may be suffering from neglect, abuse, or otherwise be at risk.

"The reviews will place a particular focus on the processes the Department uses when dealing with Mäori, reflecting the large number of Mäori who are involved in child care and protection cases, and among children placed in care outside their immediate families.

"I know that Child, Youth and Family social workers and staff work in a most difficult and trying area. However children's interest groups, community child protection specialists, and the department itself have raised sufficient concerns about responses to care and protection cases and the level of placements for me to seek these reviews so that any necessary improvements can be made.

"There have also been a number of high profile cases in recent years which have caused public concern.

"The terms of reference for the reviews will include placements with extended family members and with whanau, hapu and iwi kin groups.

"They will look at how effective procedures are, assess their strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations on improvements.

"I am delighted that Mick Brown has agreed to undertake these reviews. Mr Brown is a former District Court Judge and was Principal Youth Court Judge. As such, he made a significant contribution to the development of new approaches to offending by young people in New Zealand.

"The reviews will be undertaken sequentially, with the first to be completed by 30 June 2000. Mr Brown and the review team will be provided with management support by the Ministry of Social Policy," Steve Maharey said.


Mick Brown was District Court Judge and Principal Youth Court Judge from 1980 to 1995.

He was Chancellor of Auckland University from 1986 to 1991, is chairman of the Alcohol Liquor Advisory Council and was chairman of the Maori Education Commission.

He has tribal affiliations with Ngati-Kahu, Te Aupori, Te Rarawa, and Ngapuhi.

Last year he was also appointed to the Independent Biotechnology Advisory Council.

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Welfare of children not advanced by Shared Parenting Bill
Press Release New Zealand Government 22nd March 2000

The Government has decided not to support the Shared Parenting Bill promoted
by ACT's Muriel Newman, Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey said today.

Mr Maharey said that while the bill's stated objectives to promote fairness in child custody arrangements were laudable, it was unlikely that they would be realised or achievable through its provisions. The Government will be giving detailed consideration to a wide range of family matters later this year and this will provide an opportunity to take a considered view of all relevant issues, including those raised in the Newman bill.

Upholding the rights of children must be the paramount consideration of all custody legislation. The Government agrees that the separation of parents does not, and should not, terminate parental responsibilities for either parent.

Seeking to promote fairness in situations where child custody and access is being contested is a laudable objective.

However the Government does not consider that the one size fits all solution promoted by Mrs Newman through this bill is appropriate. In attempting to legislate preferred or favoured custody arrangements the bill places the rights of parents above those of children and as such it is inconsistent with other family law statutes.

New Zealand research shows that joint custody arrangements only work well when there is good co-operation between both parents. My concern about Mrs Newman's bill is that it risks making parental co-operation much harder to achieve and instead invites lawyers into the process.

Later this year I will be reviewing how the Government deals with a range of child welfare issues. My colleague the Attorney-General, Margaret Wilson, has also indicated that she intends to review the present Guardianship Act around the same time.

Our view is that, taken together, these evaluations will provide a better opportunity to consider the issues raised by Mrs Newman and that as a result we will be able to arrive a workable solutions which preserve the paramountcy of the rights of children", Steve Maharey said.

Dr Newman's bill is  here


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NZ First Seeks Guarantee Of Family Law Reform
Press Release New Zealand First 22nd March 2000

New Zealand First has approached the Government for a guarantee that it will make Family Law reform a priority.

Hon Brian Donnelly said today that New Zealand is lagging behind many other countries in this area and that reforms are needed urgently.

"I have written to the Attorney General, Margaret Wilson, today explaining that New Zealand First will oppose the simplistic and inadequate measures proposed in ACT's Shared Parenting Bill, if she can give an assurance that Family Law will be reformed.

However, if no commitment to Family Law reform is made by the Government we will vote for the Bill so the issues can be aired publicly."

Mr Donnelly stated New Zealand First stands by one non-negotiable principle - that the law should be founded on what is in the best interests of the children.

"We will not allow a situation in which children are treated as chattels," he said.

Dr Newman's bill is  here


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Bill postponed again 

22nd March 2000

The Shared Parenting Bill was No 6 on the order paper, they got to No 4 at 9.45 pm, then closed. This means the Bill is very likely to come up in two weeks time.

On National Radio it was reported tonight that the Labour Party and Greens would not support the Bill, therefore the commentator said it would fail. We can still get the Bill through to the select committee I believe, we have two weeks!

Good coverage on TV1 news tonight of the Bill, good work Robert [Murray], Bruce [Cheriton] and others. TV1 have given the Bill balanced coverage.

Media releases on the Bill were put out today by NZ First (Brian Donnelly), Muriel Newman and Laila Harre. The debate is hotting up.

Best Regards,

Bruce Tichbon FARE (Families Apart Require Equality)     

Dr Newman's bill is  here


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Government briefing papers released on Shared Parenting Bill
Press Release New Zealand Government 21st March 2000

Women's Affairs Minister Laila Harré says briefing papers released today show Muriel Newman's Shared Parenting Bill is unlikely to achieve its aim of improving the welfare of New Zealand children.

Laila Harré released the Ministry of Women's Affairs briefing papers on Tuesday night at a multi-party meeting of Women MPs.

"The briefing papers present some quite different facts than those being put forward by Dr Newman," she says.

"The Bill demonstrates a lack of understanding about current legislation around custody, access and guardianship and it isn't backed up by evidence."

The briefing papers conclude that the Shared Parenting Bill is not similar to laws in other jurisdictions, particularly the United States, as argued by Dr Newman.

Under New Zealand's current legislation parents come to an agreement over custody in 95% of cases, with only a small percentage of Family Court applications resulting in contested hearings.

Laila Harré says overseas experience shows that joint physical custody is most beneficial to children where parents are able to communicate effectively, something legislation cannot enforce.

"A better approach would be to assess whether there are specific problems in particular cases and to try and address those rather than bring forth radical change through a Bill which isn't based on sound research," she says.

"At this stage the evidence does not back a move away from the paramount consideration being the interests of the child."

Dr Newman's bill is  here


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Please Actively Support the Shared Parenting Bill!

18th March 2000

This legislation is the most important family law that has been put before Parliament for decades. It is sponsored by Dr Muriel Newman MP, and is due to have its first reading soon.

The Shared Parenting Bill will greatly improve the welfare of children and their parents by:

* Making fathers and mothers notionally equal as parents.

* Fathers and mothers who separate will have 50:50 physical custody as the starting point, but will be free to negotiate any other arrangement that suits them and the children.

* The Bill assumes that the vast majority of fathers and mothers are suitable parents who can work well with each other in the best interests of their children. The Bill also has provisions for the very few mothers and fathers who are determined to argue or are just plain unsuitable to be parents.

* Parents will be provided with positive incentives to cooperate (instead of them being turned against each other as happens under current family law).

* It will end the current regime that presently treats fathers like second class parents by discouraging sole custody and helping to remove incentives to make false allegations of family violence and/or sexual abuse.

These principles have been highly successful in other countries. The aim is to empower and guide parents with simple and obviously fair social policies (unlike our current family law that is 1,000+ pages of confusing contradictions).

What can you do to make sure the Government doesn’t vote the Bill down at the first reading?

Tell everyone you can about the Bill, and how good it will be for parents and children.

Lobby your local Member of Parliament. Drop a brief note saying you support the Bill, or best of all, go and visit him or her.

Write letters to the editor, make supportive comments on talk back radio.

Get your fathers group, church or any organisation you belong to support the Bill, and write to the Prime Minister telling her that your organisation supports it.

Once the Bill gets to the Parliamentary Select Committee stage, make a verbal and/or written submission.

Shared Parenting Bill

In this country we only get good family law by fighting for it!

FARE (Families Apart Require Equality)     


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Shared Parenting Bill  making excellent progress

The Shared Parenting Bill is making excellent progress. There have been major features in Holmes (TVNZ), the NZ Herald, Wellington Evening Post, Sunday Star Times, to mention a few. Many have written to politicians, gone to see them, talk back radio has been very active. Muriel Newman's office has been inundated with supportive letters and e-mails.

The Bill is now likely be debated (first reading) either Wednesday 22 March or two weeks after that. I will keep everyone informed closer to the time. I reiterate, this debate will be crucial, the Government may try to vote the Bill out of existence at its first reading.


We need activism please to help raise the profile of the Bill. But please try to avoid conflict or side issues, spread a positive message.

Please keep the 'letters to the editor' going, not enough have been printed to date. Keep the letters short and to the point.
Target any other publications that might give us coverage, especially where you have contacts (magazines, local newspapers, TV etc). Let us know if your need electronic copy about the Bill.
Please keep making appointments to see politicians, and write and e-mail them. Seeing them eyeball to eyeball is generally best. Target Greens especially, as they may hold the balance in Parliament on this Bill. Please let us know of any politicians who are especially supportive.
Ask politicians to make the Bill a personal vote in Parliament (conscience vote), not a party vote.
Please look out for people with personal stories that we can use in the media, especially women, children and grandparents. Get the stories written down (concisely) if you can and send (preferably e-mail) to us.
Look for contacts in special groups that you can use to spread the word (eg Grey Power, church groups, trade unions, Maori groups, Rotary, JC's etc).

We will get more fresh material on the Bill out to you soon.

Many Thanks,

Bruce Tichbon FARE (Families Apart Require Equality)     

Dr Newman's bill is  here


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Sandra Coney on the Ellis Case

NZ Sunday Star-Times, 12 March 2000, Page C6.

Title : "We've already been through the Ellis case"

We have heard a lot recently from a judiciously toned-down Peter Ellis.

Found guilty through the courts, the Ellis camp is running another trial by media. But while the former process is constrained by rigorous rules of conduct and evidence, the second is unrestrained. And while the first has a prosecution and a defence - and a judge to see people play by the rules - the second is all about making a good story and lifting the ratings.

Consequently, the fact that what the public is told is almost totally one-sided, doesn't seem to matter at all.

In fact there are not even two "sides" to this story. There is a truth which has been established through the judicial process and tested by cross-examination, and then there is a construction of allegations, half-truths and insinuations. This Ellis "case" has been repeated over and over again through the media, so it has accumulated a kind of fake veracity.

Everything in the Ellis "case" has been repeatedly tested by the courts. Four courts have examined Ellis' claims : the deposition hearing in 1992, the court case itself in 1993, an Appeal Court hearing in 1994, and a second Appeal Court hearing, with the full bench of five Appeal Court judges, in 1999.

I want to draw attention to this final Court of Appeal hearing. There is a 48-page judgement and I wish all those apologists for Peter Ellis would read it. With relentless logic it scrutinises Ellis' lawyers' claims and finds them wanting. The Court of Appeal said there was no fresh evidence on which to overturn the previous verdicts. Everything put before it by Ellis' lawyers had already been extensively considered at earlier hearings.

For example, criticisms have been made of the children's evidence and the methods used by counsellors. Ellis' lawyers say the methods used would have "contaminated" the children's accounts. But the Court of Appeal said those criticisms were known and were taken into account by the jury.

Furthermore, the judges were concerned Ellis lawyers showed the overseas defence experts they produced at appeal only a selection of the trial material. They did not show them the cross-examination of the children, the parents' evidence, or the cross-examinations of the psychologists who conducted the interviews. Unlike the jury, the experts were not shown all the evidence.

The Ellis campaign contends because some of the evidence given by the children was bizarre, all their evidence is suspect. Furthermore, as not all the nasty practices were presented by the prosecution, the jury may have been misled. In other words, had the jury known how nutty some of the things the kids said were, they would have disbelieved everything. Of course, their inexperience means pre-school children do not have a language for talking about sexual practices. It would not be surprising if they described them in strange ways.

But the judges pointed out all this material was available to the defence at the trials - nothing was suppressed - the defence played videotapes of children's interview other than those used by the prosecution. No defence request was denied by the trial judge.

On the other hand, evidence was presented by the prosecution Ellis spoke to other crèche workers about bizarre sexual practices he enjoyed, such as urinating over a partner (which he called a "golden shower") which were similar to some of the bizarre practices the children were subjected to.

Ellis denied some of these conversation, and those he admitted to he said he invented to shock his co-workers. This sounds like having a bob each way: I couldn't have done these things, but if I said I did, I made them up.

The final conclusion of the Appeal Court judges is that everything Ellis' lawyers produced had been looked at before. The various papers that Ellis ' expert witnesses produced, regarding child sex abuse in general, were of little use to the Court of Appeal as they were opinions rather than evidence. They said the proper forum for this would be some form of inquiry, but they stopped short of recommending one. The Ellis camp has latched on to this. On Friday [Mar 9] a heavily lobbied Minister of Justice Phil Goff announced a ministerial inquiry. It is hard to see what justification there is for such an inquiry. An inquiry does not have the strict rules of evidence of the court and it will simply prolong the agony for the children, now entering their teens.

The judicial system has already bent over backwards to hear Ellis' claims.

Sandra Coney

"All those apologists for Peter Ellis" can read the 48-page judgement here (link).

Other material about Peter Ellis on this site here.


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Human Rights Commission Appoints Women's Advocate

Press Release The Human Rights Commission 8th March 2000

To celebrate International Women's Day, the Human Rights Commission has announced the appointment of a Women's Advocate, Lana Hart. The objective of the Women's Advocate role is to advance the human rights of women in New Zealand.

Commissioner Areta Koopu said that the Human Rights Commission was pleased to have appointed such a talented individual to the post. "Lana has had an extensive and varied career in promoting women's rights around the world. She will act as a catalyst for women to advance their human rights."

The Women's Advocate will be a reference point for women's groups, assisting and supporting them in their delivery of services that improve the lives of women. She comes to the Commission with the full support of New Zealand's key women's groups.

Ms Hart's first tasks include planning for a Sexual Harassment Prevention Week and conducting gender analysis training for the Commission. She will also produce a series of leaflets addressing rights issues for women at different stages of their lives. Lana will consult with women's groups, iwi organisations and other groups who have an interest in women's rights. Lana has a Bachelor's Degree in English and Philosophy from Illinois Wesleyan University and earned her Master's Degree in Women's Studies at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

Lana worked for the Chicago AIDS Foundation and volunteered for a number of women's groups. At the not-for-profit organisation Women Employed, she became a sexual harassment awareness trainer for community and student groups. Lana also staffed the Job Problems Hotline responding to women's enquiries about workplace issues. She also lived in a small Ugandan village which was suffering an AIDS epidemic, where she worked on disease prevention and sex education with local schools and groups of women.

Lana later joined the Women's Refuge movement in New Zealand. She serves on the Auckland Collective and helps staff its crisis line.

Lana began work as the Human Rights Commission's Women's Advocate in January 2000, on a fixed-term position of two years.

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Children’s rights upheld at last

29 February 2000

“The right of children to receive love and care from both of their parents, as guaranteed under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child, will become a reality if the Shared Parenting Bill is passed into law”, Families Apart Require Equality (FARE) spokesperson, Darryl Ward, said today.

“For too long now, children have been the innocent victims of New Zealand’s legal system that sets divorced parents up against each other instead of empowering each other and fostering co-operation”.

“It will become much harder under shared parenting for separating parents to use their children as weapons against other. It will become much harder for a parent to deny their children natural love and affection from their other parent. And it will be harder for such child abuse to remain state sanctioned”.

“It is now finally acknowledged that fatherlessness has disastrous consequences for children. This bill, if passed, will be the first ever piece of legislation that will effectively combat this frightening phenomenon”.

“There will of course be a backlash against the Shared Parenting Bill. However this will largely originate from those individuals who profit from the current adversarial regime, such as lawyers, government departments and counsellors. But such an inevitable backlash must not stand in the way of the rights and the welfare of our children.”

“Be wary of those who live off the suffering of others”, he concluded.

FARE (Families Apart Require Equality)     

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Child-advocate call 'premature' Goff meets families, Ellis' lawyer

WELLINGTON -- Justice Minister Phil Goff has dismissed a call for a child advocate in the Peter Ellis inquiry as premature.

Mr Goff said yesterday that there was no decision yet on whether to conduct an inquiry into Ellis' conviction for child abuse or, if there was one, what form it would take.

Mr Goff is awaiting advice from officials on whether an inquiry should be a Royal Commission or a scaled-down ministerial inquiry.

Children's Commissioner Roger McClay said yesterday that Ellis' victims had the right to be heard, and the Government should appoint someone to speak on their behalf if an inquiry was launched.

"It is of grave concern to me that over the past 6 years since Ellis' conviction for sexually abusing children, public attention has been focused almost exclusively on the campaign to clear Ellis' name," Mr McClay told a Wellington Rotary club.

"In the midst of all this, the evidence of the child victims and their families has been largely ignored. The media and the public seem ready to discredit the evidence of these seven children and the many others who have since spoken out about their abuse at the hands of this man."

Mr McClay plans to raise his concerns at a meeting with Mr Goff on Monday after a meeting with the parents of children from the Christchurch Civic Creche case.

Mr Goff said the commissioner should have waited until they had met before speaking out, however.

"The fact is it's not sensible to advocate a child advocate to any inquiry until we know whether there is an inquiry and what nature it will take.

"I think his comment was premature from that perspective."

Mr Goff also disputed the commissioner's "presumption" that he had not taken any account of the views of the families of the children involved in the creche case.

"I met last Friday with three of the families, giving them an equal amount of time that I gave to Mr Ellis' advocate and lawyer Judith Ablett Kerr. I certainly haven't ignored the views of one whole side, listening only to the views of the other."

Mr McClay raised questions over the focus of the inquiry, suggesting it would not be appropriate to relitigate the case.

To do so in the face of Ellis' conviction by a judge and jury would suggest there were "huge problems" with the justice system, he said.

"Is our justice system really so woefully hopeless, or worse still corrupt, as to allow such a miscarriage of justice?

"Or do people just have trouble believing the word of children."

Mr Goff said the justice system was not infallible. "From time to time it gets things wrong. That's why we have appeal procedures within the law and from time to time issues arise that cannot properly be dealt with by a court of law."

Mr Goff said it would have been irresponsible for the Government to ignore a statement by the Court of Appeal after rejecting an appeal by Ellis against his conviction, that there were issues which fell outside its scope and which could only be examined by a commission of inquiry.

They related predominately to the acquisition of evidence from children and whether the processes of that acquisition were safe, given new evidence from other parts of the world.

Mr Goff said such matters also needed to be examined before a recommendation could be made to the Governor-General on a petition from Mrs Ablett-Kerr seeking a pardon for Ellis.

"Answers to some of the questions that have been raised in that area need to be sought."

Ellis was freed from jail last month after being convicted in 1993 on 16 charges of sexually abusing seven children in his care at the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre.

He has always protested his innocence and doubts have emerged about the way allegations against him arose, the way young children were interviewed, and the impartiality of his trial jury.


Thursday, March 02, 2000.

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Private Member’s Bill on Shared Parenting

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with great excitement that I inform you that the private member’s bill on Shared Parenting, sponsored by Dr Muriel Newman of ACT, has been drawn from the ballot. This means it will be debated in Parliament on 1st March 2000.


This is a very important step forward that most of us have been working on for years. The Bill is pro-family and pro-children.
This time the pro-family lobby is able to take the initiative, instead of reacting to the initiatives of others who mostly do not share our views.

Joint custody/shared parenting will turn most of the existing Family Law on its head. The concept of custodial and non-custodial parents will generally disappear. The idea that fathers are second class parents will be challenged and removed.
The difficulties so many of us have faced being part of our children’s lives should be reversed. The Child Support Act will need to be re-done because it is written around the concept of custodial and non-custodial parents.

The Shared Parenting Bill must get at least 61 votes on 1st March, or it will be lost. If passed it will go to the select committee stage. A full time team has been established at Parliament to advance the Bill. A media campaign is planned (TV, radio, press, the lot). However, our support and effort is an essential component.

Please read the attached Bill (it will be published by Parliament Monday 21st). I apologise for the short notice, and the fact that you have not seen it previously, but we are all forced to live with the fact that Family Law is political. The Bill is based on overseas experience, particularly from the USA, where they have joint custody/shared parenting in about 48 states now. We welcome comments, but what is needed mostly for the next 10 days is your very active support. Changes to the Bill can be made at the select committee stage. We will get supporting information (press pack etc) out to you very soon.

Please, over the next 10 days:

Inform everyone you know about the Bill, particularly the membership of your organisation(s).

Please lobby all MP’s who you have a relationship with. If you can’t get their immediate support for shared parenting, at least ask them to support the Bill going through to the select committee stage. Regard ACT MP’s as supportive, its Labour, Alliance, National and NZ First that must be won over.

Write letters to the editor, MP’s, call talkback radio etc. As the media campaign kicks in there should be a lot of coverage, but its up to us to help to create the media interest.

Call friendly editors, journalists and discuss with them.

Network, network, and network.

Its up to us to get what we want, the politicians cant do much without us helping ourselves.  A lot of politicians and others have given their support. Our opposition has used this process to get what they have wanted over the past decades, now at
last it’s our turn.

For information/discussion/updates please use e-mail or call (or your MP of course):

I will do all I can to make this a success, but I am unwell so it limits me.

Best Regards,

Bruce Tichbon FARE (Families Apart Require Equality)     

Dr Newman's bill is here


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Protest as father charged for sending gift

NZPA - Nelson Mail - 21st January 2000

A men's rights group protested outside Wellington District Court yesterday after a man was charged with breaching a protection order by sending his daughter a Christmas present.

Mana Men's Rights Group chairman Bruce Cheriton said the man had been charged with breaching a protection order because he had sent his daughter some clothing as a Christmas present.

The case follows that of Invercargill prison inmate Lindsay Robin Parks, who was charged with breaching a protection order for sending his daughter a Christmas card from jail.

Mr Cheriton said it showed legislation had gone mad and he wants to see the system changed. It encouraged fathers not to have any contact with their children.

Police had a different view. Wellington family violence coordinator Senior Sergeant Terry O'Neill said it was not uncommon for people to face such charges. In certain circumstances sending a card or present to a child could equate to someone engaging in, or threatening to behave in, an intimidating and threatening manner that might amount to psychological abuse, he said. A breach of a domestic protection order can mean prison for up to six months or a fine of up to $5000.

The Invercargill man charged after sending his daughter a Christmas card was discharged without conviction after Judge Phil Moran heard that the message sent was Christmas wishes and congratulations about how well the girl was doing at school.

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