MENZ Issues August – September 2001: Volume 6, Issue 5
Men’s Centre Annual General Meeting Our AGM will be held at Onepoto Awhina (Northcote Community House) at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday 17th October. We are fortunate this year that all the key executive members are standing again. New blood is always welcomed however, and if anyone reading this has ideas for projects which will benefit men or boys in our community he is encouraged to put his name forward. In addition, MENZ Issues is looking for a new editor.
Meeting with Judge Mahony After previously meeting with men’s groups in Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington, Principal Family Court Judge Mahony asked Warwick Pudney from Man Alive to organise an opportunity to discuss possible reforms with groups in Auckland.
Lone Mothers Vulnerable A recent study on ‘The Health of Lone Mothers in New Zealand’ published in the NZ Medical Journal on 8th June showed that compared to couple mothers they had higher rates of having been on medication for hypertension, and significantly worse self-reported mental health.
Prostate screening to be investigated Following pressure from specialists, general practitioners and patients, the National Health Committee has asked the NZ Guidelines Group to review the policy on screening for prostate cancer.
Atomic Seeds Fix Prostate Tauranga urologists Mark Fraundorfer and Peter Gilling have recently introduced a new method of treating prostate cancer. Since November 1999 they have carried out more than 50 brachytherapy procedures, which involves inserting a miniature radioactive seed close to the tumour.
Cash for Violence Counselling The North Harbour Living Without Violence Collective has scored a $105,000 contract from Child Youth and Family to provide a free counselling program for young witnesses of domestic violence.
Father & Child Social Policy Forum When Minister of Youth Affairs Laila Harre spoke at the opening of the third Father & Child Trust forum we received a clear indication of how far we have to go in changing official attitudes and perceptions.
Fathers Union Launched in Wellington On 8th September, United Future Party MP Peter Dunn spoke at the first public meeting of the Union of Fathers. in support of fathers’ continued involvement in families and raising of children.
Australian Report on Family Law Michael Green has just published a commentary on the recently released Australian report: Out Of the Maze – Pathways to the Future for Families Experiencing Separation.
View on Domestic Violence Programmes from Tai Tokerau (Northland) Any process of policy development can be construed as a site of struggle between competing interests. In the case of Family Violence Prevention, the struggle has clearly involved ideology and gender politics, to an (arguably) unusual degree. While it might be argued that the detailed framing of the DVA and associated Regulations is gender neutral in some respects, there is also an abundance of evidence that both the Act and Regulations are based on a philosophical and ideological analysis which owes more to gender politics than any other field of study.
New Zealand Court Sentencing Biased Against Males A study by Canterbury University PhD student Samantha Jeffries shows that women get more lenient sentences from the courts just because of their gender.
Men’s Centre Chairman’s Report 2001 The Men’s Centre North Shore has, I’m pleased to report, carried on the good work that was begun more than seven years ago.
Photo: Principal Family Court Judge Patrick Mahony and Man Alive founder Warwick Pudney at a meeting of Auckland men’s groups on 21st August.
Men’s Centre Annual General Meeting
It’s that time of the year again folks! Our AGM will be held at Onepoto Awhina (Northcote Community House) at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday 17th October. Only current financial members will be able to vote, but we will be happy to take your $30 on the night if you have not paid your fees for the 2001-2002 year. So that members can be informed of the agenda in advance, the chairman will not accept motions from the floor; any proposals should be sent to Secretary Richard Wheatcroft at PO Box 47 655 Ponsonby.
We are fortunate this year that all the key executive members are standing again. As Mark Walsh mentions in his Chairman’s Report, the committee has been working together cooperatively and mostly harmoniously since being elected last November. New blood is always welcomed however, and if anyone reading this has ideas for projects which will benefit men or boys in our community he is encouraged to put his name forward.
In addition, MENZ Issues is looking for a new editor. After producing 36 editions since taking over from Martin Lewis in October 1997, it is time for me to move on to other projects. I will be happy to support my successor with technical assistance and perhaps an occasional article. I also intend to keep managing the menz.org.nz website, and am particularly interested in continuing to develop resources for men representing themselves in the Family Court. Since we have made MENZ Issues available on the website for free, subscriptions have dropped markedly. The new committee will need to look carefully at the viability of a printed newsletter.
The political men’s movement in New Zealand has come a long way in the last four years. With the recent formation of the Union of Fathers we at last have a national body to coordinate the activities of the dozens of groups throughout the country. Politicians and bureaucrats are now well aware that there are significant problems with family law in particular that must be addressed. Some sections of the mainstream media are at last beginning to publicise unbiased examinations of gender issues, and the general public are increasingly rejecting the message of the 1990s that male oppression is solely responsible for the ills of our society.
To make progress, we will all need to move beyond the gender divisions of last century. The growing men’s movement is not a backlash by men who believe that fathers should be head of the family and that woman belong at home, as some commentators would have us believe. Overwhelmingly, the men I talk to believe in genuine equality, and that fathers deserve the same support and encouragement to stay at home and care for children as woman have received to succeed in the workforce. Contrary to radical feminist propaganda, statistically the safest place for children is a family where the biological father is present.
Government and funding agencies will need to look carefully at organisations which claim to deliver social services, but which in fact have been working to undermine the cultural values held by the majority of the population. We will only begin to improve our society when social policies are based on programs which can be demonstrated to actually work, rather than on obsolete 20th Century agendas to "overthrow the patriarchy".
Meeting with Judge Mahony
Photo: Warwick Pudney (far right) about to start the meeting with Judge Mahony at Man Alive. Dave Ryan and Bill Harrison from the NZ Police in centre of picture.
After previously meeting with men’s groups in Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington, Principal Family Court Judge Mahony asked Warwick Pudney from Man Alive to organise an opportunity to discuss possible reforms with groups in Auckland.
I thought that the meeting was generally constructive. Mahony appeared to listen intently and took a lot of notes. I imagine that by now he will have a pretty clear picture of what fathers are unhappy about.
He did not give much away about his intentions however. My feeling is that he is genuine in his stated desire to find ways to enable both parents to be involved in the care for their children. What I couldn’t assess is the degree to which he feels able to make reforms. I am sure there is pressure on him from groups who have a very different agenda to us.
One thing that has become clear as a result of this meeting is that he and the Court have little credibility with a sizeable proportion of the fathers’ movement. The Union of Fathers and the Separated Father’s Support Trust decided to boycott the meeting. Angry voices on the megaphone in the car park outside were heard throughout the evening.
Judge Mahony acknowledged that the social scene today is very different from when the current law regarding custody and access was written in 1968. He sees the job of the Court is to find a way for both parents to be involved in the care of their children; it is not about the rights of one parent against another, instead the focus is on the best outcome for the child. He admitted that "difficulties with the enforcement of access is really troubling to me". He said that because the Family Court is not a criminal Court, they cannot enforce their judgments. He suggested that this is up to the police and that fathers should try making a complaint to them if access is frustrated.
He told us that in Australia April 2001 a new law was introduced which requires "major role" parents who obstruct access to undergo compulsory training, fine, jail, or community service.
A conference of judges in the UK which Mahony will attend will look at ways to improve enforcement of access. He said this is a universal problem, and is getting worse. He indicated that mandatory parenting courses may be introduced.
Judge Mahony acknowledged that closed courts are an exception to the principle that Justice must be seen to be done. This allows families to deal with their problems privately, as children in particular have rights to privacy. He said that as far as Family Court judges are concerned they would be just as happy with open hearings as long as vulnerable children are protected. Mahony wants an urgent answer from the government on this question, hopefully by early 2002.
He said he realises that men need better information when served with a protection order.
While he cannot interfere directly in individual cases, he is always prepared to listen if men send their stories to him for review.
Dave Ryan of the NZ police said that he supports the idea of a seven to ten day temporary protection order. He also noted that many men do not understand what the orders mean, and their first reaction is to contact their ex-wife to discuss them. Dave suggested that respondents should be entitled to a free hour of counselling to explain the implications.
Judge Mahony commented that under the pre-1995 law a protection order was made for a finite time of around three to five weeks after which a hearing determined whether it should be made permanent or automatically discharged. He said that very few orders needed to be made permanent.
Lawyer Robert Brennan concluded the meeting by drawing attention to the "corroding effect of a man’s soul when he experiences injustice." He discussed the social contract and pointed out that we cannot expect men to have allegiance to a social system that has failed them. He said: "To take away the prospect of hope leaves them permanently alienated."
A detailed record of the meeting prepared by Warwick Pudney can be found on our website here. More pictures of meeting are here.
Lone Mothers Vulnerable
A recent study on ‘The Health of Lone Mothers in New Zealand’ published in the NZ Medical Journal on 8th June showed that compared to couple mothers they had higher rates of having been on medication for hypertension, and significantly worse self-reported mental health which persisted after adjustment for differences in socio-economic and other factors. 27% of all families with dependent children in NZ are headed by a lone parent, a proportion which has approximately trebled over the last 25 years.
Studies of health and well-being have found that lone parenthood appears to affect men differently from woman.
Lone mothers had significantly lower family incomes, lower educational qualifications, and were less likely to be in paid employment than couple mothers. Lone mothers were also more likely to be current smokers and categorised as hazardous drinkers.
Prostate screening to be investigated
Following pressure from specialists, general practitioners and patients, the National Health Committee has asked the NZ Guidelines Group to review the policy on screening for prostate cancer. The current guidelines do not recommend screening of men without symptoms. However, the rate of prostate cancer in younger New Zealand men is increasing at 2% per annum, while in some areas overseas where screening is done death rates are falling. The review will look for international evidence that supports population screening, consider the benefits and risks of testing asymptomatic men in various age groups, and develop information in conjunction with consumer groups.
Next to skin cancer, prostate is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in NZ males, with approximately 2,500 new cases each year. About one in five affected die from the disease, making it the third commonest cause of cancer death. The mortality rate appears to be increasing.
The advantages of screening, which combines a digital rectal examination (DRE) with a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test, is that many cancers can be picked up at an early stage when treatment has a high chance of success. The risk is that there is a significant rate of false positives, which could lead to unnecessary treatment. A proportion of men who undergo prostate operations suffer from impotence and / or incontinence.
NHC manager Ashley Bloomfield told New Zealand Doctor magazine (29th Aug. 2001) "All parties say it is important for men to have good information on what the benefits and risks are. A lot of PSA testing is going on and it may be appropriate if men ask for a test but only when they are well-informed."
Barry Young, vice president of the New Zealand Prostate Awareness and Support Society (PASS), advises men to ignore the current guidelines and talk to their family doctor about prostate cancer testing. In particular, those men with a family history of the disease should be getting regular check-ups. PASS has been running a poster campaign promoting this message with the slogan "The kindest gift for fathers day: a DRE and a PSA." For more information contact them on their free phone 0800 627 277, or look at their website: www.prostate.org.nz
Atomic Seeds Fix Prostate
Tauranga urologists Mark Fraundorfer and Peter Gilling have recently introduced a new method of treating prostate cancer. Since November 1999 they have carried out more than 50 brachytherapy procedures, which involves inserting a miniature radioactive seed close to the tumour. While this is not suitable for everyone, brachytherapy can offer significant advantages over traditional surgery or external beam radiation. Patients must have a reasonable life expectancy, no previous prostate surgery, a minimum the risk of urinary obstruction, and a prostate weight of less than 50g. They also need at least $20,000 or full medical insurance, as this treatment is not available through the public health system.
Brachytherapy involves just one hour in theatre and one night’s stay, and the patient usually resumes normal physical activity within 24 to 48 hours. Compared to radical prostatectomy (surgery to remove the tumor completely), there is a much lower rate of sexual impotence. There is virtually no risk of urinary incontinence, which affects about 4% of men who undergo surgery.
Although the seeds remain permanently, the radiation decays over about 12 months. While there is little radiation risk to others, patients are advised to hold young babies high and not to let pregnant woman sit on their laps. The disadvantage of this type of treatment is that the outcome is not as predictable compared to physically removing the tumour. PSA levels must be monitored, and if they continue to rise during follow-up the treatment is considered a failure. In this situation surgery is still a possibility but the risk of complications can be higher. A group of Auckland urologists now also offer brachytherapy.
New Zealand GP 30th May 2001
Cash for Violence Counselling
The North Harbour Living Without Violence Collective has scored a $105,000 contract from Child Youth and Family to provide a free counselling program for young witnesses of domestic violence at Albany and on the Hibiscus Coast. The money covers a salary, venue hire, materials and equipment, food, administration staff and transport for 18 months.
Collective co-ordinator Ms Norris Peel says "after that we have to hope the government still has a commitment to help stop family violence and to maintain a similar level of funding."
North Harbour News May 25th.
Father & Child Social Policy Forum
Photo: Father & Child Trust Social Policy Forum, 7th Sept. In the right hand side of the third row from the bottom are members of the Coalition for Safe Families and Rape Crisis, who handed out fliers headed "Men’s Rights" groups in New Zealand – What is the truth? The text and more photos of the forum are on our website. Merepeka Ruakawa-Tait, CEO Women’s Refuge is in foreground on left. To her credit, she attended despite being pressured to avoid any contact with the Father & Child Trust.
When Minister of Youth Affairs Laila Harre spoke at the opening of the third Father & Child Trust forum we received a clear indication of how far we have to go in changing official attitudes and perceptions. She said:
“A common argument here is that nowadays parental responsibility is less defined by gender and more equally shared, an argument that seems to have roots in the fact that more mothers are participating in paid work than ever before.
This is a fact, but the idea that this means that parenting, particularly childcare responsibilities, are being more evenly shouldered is not. Fathers’ contribution in the form of unpaid labour has not increased at the same rate as mother’s participation in paid work, and fewer mothers, particularly mothers of babies and young children, work than men.”
Harre went on to strike a low blow at those demonstrating in favour of Shared Parenting:
“It doesn’t escape some of our attention that the growing harassment at our family courts looks much like the gauntlet women still have to run to access legal abortions. And much of the rhetoric used demonstrates a similar analysis of women’s experience.” Full text of Harre’s speech here.
For me, the most interesting comments were made at the end of the day by researcher Jan Pryor. When she asked children for their views on what should happen when parents split, 61 – 68% endorsed the concept of equal time with each parent. Almost none endorsed only seeing one. There was little difference in attitude caused by children’s own experience.
Pryor also commented that one US study shows the loss of day-to-day contact is the worst aspect of parental separation for children.
There are more photos of the forum on our website here.
Fathers Union Launched in Wellington
Photo: Executive Members of the Union of Fathers. Standing: Katherine Burrell (Wellington) Bevan Berg (Auckland) Richard Macdonald (Christchurch) Jim Bagnall (Auckland) Seated: Michael Green QC (visiting from Sydney) Darrell Carlin (Tauranga) Bruce Cheriton (Wellington)
On 8th September, United Future Party MP Peter Dunne spoke at the first public meeting of the Union of Fathers. in support of fathers’ continued involvement in families and raising of children.
Michael Green QC, Australian author of the book Fathers After Divorce, also spoke on recent changes in his country. He said he was impressed with the concept of a national union, and would be discussing the issue with fathers’ groups when he arrived home. More pictures of the meeting are here.
UoF Spokesman Darrell Carlin issued the following statement for MENZ Issues:
I am a Union Man
While a lot of effort is being put in around the country to ensure changes happen in the Family Court and in the laws and mechanisms that surround it, much of the impact is being dissipated because we’re skirmishing rather than building a concerted and coordinated assault on the problem.
We introduce the Union Of Fathers to you as an important turning point in the way the battle is fought.
Although we hear it a lot, it is a myth that men don’t work together. Men have been working together since the beginning of time – as hunters providing for their families and in armies fighting so their children can grow up in a better world.
But let’s first go forward to look at a bigger picture. In 10 years the Union of Fathers will be one of the most powerful political organisations in this country. No social legislation will be enacted without consultation with the Union of Fathers. It will be formidable and will be driving social change, not responding to it.
To get there we need to clear away a few obstacles – and they are just that, obstacles. We need to change the nature and intent of the Family Court, open it up, change its focus, bring people to account and then move on. We need to change police policy and attitude, change IRD policy and attitude and then move on. We need to create a new definition of political correctness, establish taking children from fathers as recognised abuse, compensate fathers and children for that abuse and then move on.
We have called this new organisation a union because everyone understands what a union is. We advocate on behalf of fathers and we do it from a position of strength.
The Union of Fathers has a steering group that is purposeful but not democratic – the motto is “just get it done”. We will be uncompromising and very, very focused and for that we don’t apologise. In the past such initiatives have been killed off by friendly fire – it won’t happen this time. We won’t argue with you, we won’t use our time convincing you, we’ll just get on with it and ask you join us.
While we go to work and get on with our lives, Bruce Cheriton will get up each morning in Wellington and represent our interests. It will be his job to continuously bang on the doors of politicians, to present our case, to handle media enquires, respond to media stories and to create and lead campaigns on our behalf. That office will be funded in the first instance by the Union building membership and by you and the others who are joining paying annual union fees. We will also attract other funding sources with the proviso they do not restrict our political objectives.
Initially, our activities will be restricted to those that need little funding – as we build a war chest. We need you to think about how you can bring members into the Union and how you can bring funding to it. We will meet regularly around the country, work with the media, write letters to the editor, contact MPs, protest, build databases, research, organize and build membership. And we will have fun doing it.
The second step is the 15 Tasks we have identified. The system of tasks means that everyone can focus on their individual task while being sure all other aspects of the cause are moving forward at the same time. In this way we can stay focused and not try to do all things.
We are advertising around the country and bringing in new people. We are adding them to the task groups. We are finding people in every town who are putting up their hand and asking to organize the Union of Fathers activities in that area. We aim to have Union of Fathers offices everywhere – initially most of it will be voluntary; as resources build we aim to have paid people in most areas to serve fathers’ interests.
The third step is for each area to set up their own support centre and resource it. Our picture is that when a father finds himself in the kind of trouble that comes with separation he can phone his local Union office and get help. He may have to pay for some help such as creating affidavits, filing applications and court support, but that support will be cheaper than going to a lawyer. We aim to divert part of the huge payout Family Court lawyers get from fathers to the Union and so drive activities with fathers’ own dollars. We aim to train people throughout the country in legal support and in emotional support, in media, and in organisation. The Union will have support functions and political focus, you choose the areas you would like to work in.
You, as part of the Union of Fathers, are doing nothing more than that which was done by those who were with Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr, by Lech Walesa, by Vaclav Haval and by Gandhi – all of whom saw a great wrong, went out to change it, were severely criticized by those who were benefiting from the wrong, and eventually, with sacrifice, overcame tyranny.
We ask you to join with us and make a lasting difference. It won’t all happen as fast as you may want but with your support it will happen. Get a membership form from the Union of Fathers representative nearest you – they are listed on our website here: www.uof.org.nz
The Blue Dot Campaign
Photo: Darrell Carlin promoting the Union Of Fathers blue dot.
The Union of Fathers is using a blue dot as its symbol. The aim is for the blue dot to become as well recognized as the symbol for fathers wanting a better deal as the red ribbon is for the AIDS campaign.
We ask that everyone consider using this device to further the cause. The blue dot is one that can be bought from any stationers; we have chosen it for its simplicity. We have stamps made with it on and it can be used as signage. We urge all fathers filing anything with the Family Court to place a blue dot on each page which signals that you are not alone and that you are working with others and the court’s handling of your case will be observed. We urge any of you with businesses to place blue dots on correspondence. The Union of Fathers has blue dot lapel badges and car stickers.
Australian Report on Family Law
Michael Green has just published a commentary on the recently released Australian report: Out Of the Maze – Pathways to the Future for Families Experiencing Separation. Some excerpts:
“The Report acknowledges that the community perceives the current family law system as adversarial and that in some ways it does not work well. It also recognises that children’s interests are not always put first and that children deserve a voice.
“At long last we read in a government-supported document that most men are reasonable, are not violent, aggressive or uncooperative.
“The Report states that there is not enough emphasis on the fathering role. In particular it lists the concerns of men regarding their capacity to be effective parents after separation, difficulties in enforcement of child contact orders, lack of legal aid, lack of appropriate services for men, the effects of untested allegations of violence.
“So, if the Report says all this, what’s wrong with it? Plenty!
“It says continuing relationships are good when they are beneficial to the welfare of the children. In other words, separated fathers have to do something that is never expected of fathers in intact families. They have to prove they are good for their children!
“This doctrine – still alive and well in the Family Court and promoted by many professionals – is a result of radical feminist theories that all that any child needs is one good emotional relationship. They say: “What’s good for the mother is good for the child.”
View on Domestic Violence Programmes from Tai Tokerau (Northland)
A submission to the Ministry of Social Policy Prevention of Family Violence review by David Flaws; a psychologist and provider of individual DV programmes based in Whangarei.
A particular view of policy development and its concomitant effects around Family Violence.
Any process of policy development can be construed as a site of struggle between competing interests. In the case of Family Violence Prevention, the struggle has clearly involved ideology and gender politics, to an (arguably) unusual degree. While it might be argued that the detailed framing of the DVA and associated Regulations is gender neutral in some respects, there is also an abundance of evidence that both the Act and Regulations are based on a philosophical and ideological analysis which owes more to gender politics than any other field of study. This is both explicit in their wording and in the history of their policy development.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the development and implementation of programmes under the Act and Regulations has similarly been strongly affected by the analysis adopted. Again not surprisingly, opinions are strongly held (often, almost as dogma), and some people working in the field are explicit in their intentions to use the Act and the programmes they run or hold accountable under its Regulations to further much wider agendas. This is explicit in their language (“disempower the perpetrators”, “makes no sense to use resources on men”), and in their politicking at a local level and through National Organisations of providers (demanding assent to a common, narrowly gender biased definition of violence and excluding those unable to agree).
In many parts of the country, providers are in such profound personal and professional disagreement that they have stopped talking to one another, and some actively organise and politick to dominate the discourse and exclude other views.
In this climate it is not surprising that the MOSP review process itself is seen by some as a site of struggle. I have certainly had the opinion expressed in my hearing, that part of the agenda operating in your project can be seen as an attempt by women operating from a profeminist agenda to capture resources presently devoted to the reeducation of violent men, to rehegemonise the position of “victim organisations”, and to “get the operation of an amended Act back on track” In this light, the location of your consultative hui in areas where the prevailing discourse is seen as strongly favouring a particular analysis and set of practices has been coupled with a refusal (however rational) to consult in Te Tai Tokerau, an area where divergent views are clearly heard and strongly compete.
This only adds fuel to that paticular fire.
Again, a pity, because one thing missing from the discourse around Family Violence and its prevention at present is a perception that it is safe to disagree with the prevailing “correct” view and that dissent will be listened to and engaged with rather than banished. A second gap is in agreement about what constitutes effectiveness in programmes, and robust statistics about which programmes are effective. In this regard, there is a tendency to frame the question “what works” as an ideological rather than an empirical one.
What works in Tai Tokerau
The following comments are my particular “take” on the situation in Tai Tokerau. They are made from the perspective of a provider of respondent programmes and are limited to that field. I have intimately observed the workings of a number of groups using several theoretical models with varying degrees of fidelity, led by a variety of facilitators and a corresponding variety of facilitation styles.
The essential feature of all effective programmes is engagement. All other factors determining success are subordinate to this. Insofar as it engages respondents successfully, any programme produces behavior change. Insofar as any programme fails to engage its respondents, it produces no change. If quantitative research is ever carried out, I believe the “effect size” of this factor will be found to swamp all others right across models, accountability structures, facilitator training, and programme structure.
Engagement depends on rapport. There is a mountain of educational research supporting the commonsense experience that before any learner will learn anything, much less change ingrained behaviors, they will need to feel comfortable and safe, listened to and heard. They will need to believe, either intuitively or experientially, that their concerns will be addressed and that the material being covered relates to their lived experience. They will need to feel understood to some degree. Confrontation and challenge will only succeed if they follow the development of rapport. They can never usefully precede it. Participants who feel “blamed and shamed” become defensive and sullen. They attend grudgingly and any participation or cooperation that is elicited is limited. They adapt to the demands of the programme and “serve their time” rather than examining their behavior and making appropriate changes.
Effective reeducation does not depend on the adoption of particular models.
It depends rather on the facilitator’s ability to develop and maintain engagement with the participants. Some models of teaching and learning incorporate engagement more easily than others. Models based on guided reflection, experiential learning, or active choice (all incorporating a structural analysis of violence), have no inherent difficulty with the maintenance of engagement, but the use of the “Duluth” model, particularly when it is rigidly applied may pose some difficulties.
The Duluth Model was developed by people with a background in gender politics and social action rather than either education or therapy. (I am aware that the DVA and Regulations mandate an educational rather than therapeutic programme). Duluth reflects its developmental and underlying theoretical bias in practice, particularly when it is strictly applied. As Graves (1999, Nuance No.1 www.nuancejournal.com.au) has pointed out, the Duluth model derives from a theoretical position based on social stereotypes which are unsupported by facts; it fails to provide clear consistent or experiential definitions of its central concepts; and is useable only for one specific and limited abuse-context which fails to connect with the lived experience of the majority of respondents, and provides ample scope and justification for blaming and shaming and other unhelpful procedures.
Duluth’s emphasis on the avoidance of “collusion” results in some quite bizarre and unhelpful practices on the part of some facilitation teams. Some deliberately avoid taking tea breaks with participants for fear of colluding, and so lose their most effective opportunity to gain rapport and engagement. These deficiencies are only important in practice when the model is being rigidly applied or used without understanding of the importance of engagement. In my experience, this most often happens when facilitators are under pressure and lose touch with the dynamics of the group and the condition of individual participants. In these instances, the difficulties usually seem to arise from the facilitators’ background, lack of training, own unresolved distress, or desire to meet the expectations of victim organisations. On these occasions, a rigid application of the model can often lead them to lose rapport or “blame and shame” participants. The Duluth Model can also be applied loosely and effectively by competent facilitators who understand the primary importance of rapport and engagement. This requires much more training and a greater degree of skill than a rigid application.
There is no question that a degree of accountability to victim organisations is required in terms of the Act and regulations. In my view it can also be a prime cause of the ineffectiveness of some facilitators. There has been considerable debate about what constitutes accountability, but perhaps a more important question might be how this accountability is implemented. A consideration of implementation provides a definition of accountability that evolves in operation. There are several models used in Tai Tokerau. The least useful and helpful in my experience involves direct oversight of the delivery of the programme by representatives of the relevant victim organisation present in the group while the facilitators are working with respondents. In my experience, the “Victim Organisation Representatives” usually have very little idea about working with groups of respondents, no feeling for the dynamics of rapport, and no expertise in adult education.
Their understanding of what is occurring in the room is informed only by their own backgrounds in gender politics and experience of working with victims. Their presence is not helpful. The facilitators often freeze, the group goes dead, and if anything useful does begin to happen, the facilitators under scrutiny feel impelled to judge it in terms of its conformity with the ethos of the observing representatives. A more useful model involves the use of specially trained Representatives of Victim Organisations. These people are themselves competent group facilitators, and exercise oversight by debriefing each group at the end of their programme.
Facilitation, selection and training
Facilitators may be selected because of background, ethnicity, gender, or ability. Of these, the most important factor is ability. A skilled (and therefore probably experienced) facilitator with the “wrong” gender, background, ethnicity and culture will be more effective than one lacking experience and skill but “right” in other respects. Some facilitators are not well trained, and the resulting lack of competence in the facilitator produces a lack of engagement in the group. Training should encompass (at least):
* The model used and its limits;
* The ability to recognise the facilitator’s own unprocessed distress and to separate it from that of the learners;
* Group dynamics and their management;
* Rapport building;
* A variety of learner centred techniques of instruction;
* Use of supervision.
Some programmes extend over lengthy periods, others deliver the same number of hours by incorporating an intensive residential component. Advocates of both structures claim particular advantages. The long programme advocates believe that change is slow, and oversight and monitoring of perpetrators over time is important. Some believe that a long programme has a punitive effect (which they applaud). In my experience, such attitudes are quickly “picked up” by participants and are accordingly extremely unhelpful. Short programme advocates believe that change can be fast or slow, but that the 2-3 hour sessions that are typical of weekly sessions are too short to allow for an effective warm up to the issues and to effective experiential learning. In my experience, the residential component of short programs provides an invaluable opportunity for the group and individuals to warm up to issues and the learning tasks involved.
Some programmes are run in and by separate caucuses for Tangata Whenua and Tauiwi. I have no opinion about the efficacy of this procedure in terms of public education, the involvement of whanau or the development of whanaungatanga or community networks. In terms of effectiveness in producing change in the participants, I have observed extremely effective work in groups of mixed culture and ethnicity with skilled and culturally appropriate facilitation. I think that the practice of referring all respondents identified as Maori by the applicant to a Maori programme as a matter of policy without question or choice could be usefully scrutinised.
Some programmes mandate cogender facilitation to prevent collusion and to ensure that women’s viewpoint is provided. The nature of collusion has not been well defined, and the desire to avoid it has certainly produced some practices that I believe are not useful. A woman’s viewpoint can clearly only be provided by a female, but women’s viewpoint may be presented (however cautiously and tentatively) by a skilled and sensitive facilitator of either gender. In my experience, a skilled facilitator of either gender is much more effective than an unskilled one of the appropriate cogender. Skill and ability is the issue, not gender.
Talking to one another.
In Tai Tokerau the Northern Regional Approval Panel and the Adviser have worked together to ensure that Northland remains a “broad church”. In the face of some criticism, they have approved providers who fulfil the requirements of the Act and Regulations in quite different ways. At the same time they have been quite uncompromising in their demands that providers attend and use the Interagency Meeting to network and develop protocols together. This has helped to create a situation in which people with quite profound differences in theoretical orientation and practice in some areas are able to cooperate well in others. Initially, they had to be forced to communicate, and there was much politicking and jockeying for position. Latterly, since the Adviser has persevered, relations are much more cordial, and we are settling to talk about what we do and what we could do better, negotiating and ratifying protocols for communication, and generally developing a degree of cooperation despite our differences.
Photo: Paul Prestige, Executive Officer of the National Network of Stopping Violence Services staged a one-man counter protest when Union of Fathers members promoted Shared Parenting in Cuba Mall, Wellington on 8th September. The yellow fliers he distributed are headed “Men’s Rights” groups in New Zealand – What is the truth?” The text and more photos can be seen on our website here.
New Zealand Court SentencingBiased Against Males
A study by Canterbury University PhD student Samantha Jeffries shows that women get more lenient sentences from the courts just because of their gender. She recently spent 18 months examining records of serious offenders at the Christchurch District Court. Files of 388 offenders (194 women and 194 men sentenced between 1990 and 1997) showed that even if all other factors were held constant, gender was important in determining sentence.
Pre-sentencing reports she uncovered showed rather more sympathy towards the circumstances surrounding women’s offending, which judges were then inclined to act upon.
"With women they (judges) look for an explanation and an excuse for their offending. Whereas men are just men – it’s a case of ‘all men are bastards’," said Jeffries.
Victoria University senior law lecturer Dr John Miller said Jeffries’ research supported the impression of most practising lawyers that women often got lighter sentences than men for comparable crimes. "Certainly you find it’s easier to get bail for female defendants with violent offences." Yet research clearly showed violence in same sex relationships, including lesbian couples, was just as bad as that inflicted by males in heterosexual relationships. Similarly females committed violence against their male partners, he said.
An interesting aspect of Jeffries’ research is that the plight of male sole parents was all but ignored in her review of pre-sentence reports. Speculation on what impact imprisonment might have on children in a man’s care was not provided.
Canterbury University’s Dr Greg Newbold said another recent Justice Ministry study had also showed that when seriousness of offence, offender background and a range of other variables were held constant, men were still more likely to be imprisoned or to receive periodic detention than women.
Sunday Star-Times 12th June 2001
Men’s Centre Chairman‘s Report 2001
The Men’s Centre North Shore has, I’m pleased to report, carried on the good work that was begun more than seven years ago. We are in reasonably good health. 2001 has been a year of consolidation for our organisation. The new committee formed at the last AGM has worked well together. Committee meetings have been held regularly and have been well attended. Thanks go to Richard Wheatcroft for his efforts in ensuring that the necessary protocols associated with an incorporated society: regular meetings, accurate minutes, agendas etc, have been adhered to. Our formal structures have kept us focused on our tasks and have helped maintain a professional attitude to our work.
The committee has begun to gel over the last twelve months. Members have worked cooperatively. Differences of opinion have naturally arisen but tolerance and respect of individual points of view have strengthened the group as a whole.
Individual committee members have made valuable contributions to the organisation. Saeed Naraghizadeh arranged a public meeting where psychotherapist Cees Brusceker addressed the provocative topic “Do men have a Future”? John Brett’s press release ensured a good audience turnout for the evening. This was an example of individual initiative supported by the committee but, more importantly, represented the engagement of the Men’s Centre with the wider community. The need for the organisation to attract greater support, expand its membership and heighten its community profile remains critical for the survival and growth of the organisation.
Public awareness of the Men’s Centre North Shore and its activities remains an ongoing focus for the committee. To this end the committee has negotiated with the Auckland Regional Manager of the District Court to include Men’s Centre literature in the support material available to people involved in Family Court litigation. Negotiations have begun with community funding bodies for a grant to fund the production of a high quality brochure for this purpose. It is envisaged that we can place our literature in the courts as well as distribute it throughout the community: lawyers’ offices, general practitioner’s rooms, Citizen Advice Bureaus. To raise our profile it is essential that we capitalise on the publicity the Family Court has received in the press over the last year. Articles in North & South (download ‘Family Court of Injustice’ ) [61.2 KB pdf] and Metro magazines have alerted people to the fact that we exist. The increase in attendance at our meetings reflects this. We need to provide effective information early to people who contact us.
The Men’s Centre North Shore’s existence has ensured our inclusion in the growing public debate about the Family Court. I recently attended a meeting of men’s groups with the Principal Family Court Judge. We were able to give feedback to Judge Mahoney about the deficiencies of the Family Court system and the legislation it enforces.
The committee recognises that Men’s Centre North Shore represents a diverse range of men’s groups agitating for social reform. We remain tolerant of other men’s efforts to achieve change. We have been in contact with men who are endeavoring to unite various men’s groups into a national movement. Our publication MENZ Issues reflects a range of opinion from men outside our organisation.
Visibility in the community remains an important element in our work. We must acknowledge the tireless efforts of Jim Bagnall, and other Men’s Centre members, to promote shared parenting through regular public demonstration. Jim’s relentless pursuit of open justice as well as his support of individual men in crisis, is an inspiration to us all. In addition to his very public activities Jim responds to individual phone calls to the Men’s Centre for assistance and has on several occasions appeared in court to assist men who choose to represent themselves.
I am pleased to report that our weekly information and resource seminars, the core of our practical support for men, have operated smoothly throughout the year. The committee’s thanks is extended to those experts who have given freely of their time. These include Rod Hooker and Nick Wintour with legal advice, Dr Felicity Goodyear Smith in the area of false abuse allegations, Anne White the IRD representative who handles Child Support problems and psychologist Richard Aukett who has focused on the emotional health of our members. Behind the scenes, Andrew Wotton has expanded the series of information kits available on our website for fathers representing themselves in the Family Court. The input of these people means our organisation remains robust at a grass roots level. A significant growth in attendance at these meetings is a clear indicator of their need and importance.
Thanks are also extended to those long serving members who continue to facilitate weekly meetings. These gatherings are vital for men who need ongoing support through protracted difficulties and help break the isolation men feel in traumatic domestic circumstances. These meetings are fundamental to the success of the Men’s Centre.
Photo: Outgoing editor John Potter and his three children; Father’s Day 2001
Special thanks are also extended to John Potter who continues to make an invaluable contribution to the organisation. Through the editing of MENZ Issues and development of our web site (www.menz.org.nz) he maintains a highly credible interface between the organisation and its membership, politicians, academics and the general public. MENZ Issues keeps members well informed and connected even if they do not regularly attend meetings. The comprehensive nature of the web site is a valuable educational resource and extends the work of our organisation outside the Auckland area. Indeed, our internet presence is vital in connecting us to national and international communities who share our organisation’s concerns and objectives. In addition to this substantial commitment John organised a submission to government regarding their review of the Guardianship Act.
In summary I believe that the Men’s Centre North Shore has survived the year in good heart and good shape. It is important however to consider the future. We need more people to put their hands up to take on tasks that will ensure the survival and growth of our organisation. In the near future we need to look closely at funding for our operations. We need someone who can dedicate himself or herself to this task. The momentum for social change can build only with the expansion of a healthy organisation. There are many ways to move forward. There is much to be done. I encourage those who can offer their skills to do so.
Mark A Walsh, Chairman.