Fathers' rights movement in Australia

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Fathers' rights groups began in Australia in the 1970s with the founding of organisations such as the Lone Fathers Association. Other well-known[who?] groups include Fathers4Equality, Dads Against Discrimination, Dads in Distress, Fathers Without Rights, The Men's Confraternity and the Shared Parenting Council.[1] As with other fathers' rights activists, Australian organisations focus on issues of erosion of the family unit, custody, access, child support, domestic violence (including false allegations, and violence against men), child abuse, maintenance, the reintroduction of fault into divorce proceedings, biased and adversarial court systems and secrecy issues. Groups have successfully garnered media, as well as influence on politicians and legal reform.[1] In 1980 the decision of Gronow v Gronow (1980 27 FLR 427) confirmed there is no presumption of "the preferred role of the mother". On 22 May 2006, Australia passed the "Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006" making both parents responsible for decisions about their child through the concept of 'equal shared parental responsibility'.[2] The Act requires courts to consider an order that the child spend equal amounts of time with each parent under certain circumstances, but the Act does not state that courts must order that the child spend equal amounts of time with each parent.[2][3] While Dads in Distress expressed both appreciation of the Act as a small step in the right direction and concern whether the changes would be taken seriously by Family Law Practitioners[4] and Barry Williams, national president and founder of the Lone Fathers Association, stated, "I think these new laws are going to be the best in 30 years",[5] The Men's Confraternity welcomed the changes but also expressed disappointment and stated that the Act does not "force the Court to view parents as equals."[6][7]

In 2009 the Chief Justice of the Family Court Diana Bryant, publicly sided against the 2006 amendments, flagging proposed changes soon after adopted by the Attorney General, Robert McLelland.[8]

A significant push followed by women's groups in association with other interested parties, suggesting that Australia's shared parenting laws promoted child abuse.[9] These claims were made despite the fact that there has never been a recorded incident of child abuse in a shared parenting arrangement in Australia, and the government's own study of 27,000 parents in the Australian Institute of Family Studies evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms found these claims to be unfounded and erroneous.[10]

Despite the overall positive impact of these changes,[citation needed] in November 2010 the Attorney General Robert McLelland submitted amendments to the 2006 reforms, widely condemned[who?] as a back-door attempt to dismatle the shared parenting laws.[11] These amendments included the removal of any penalties for the making of knowingly false allegations in the Family Court, the removal of the requirement of both parents to facilitate contact, and a broadening of the definition of child abuse to include non-abusive behaviour. The opposition[who?] has indicated they will oppose such changes to the Act.[citation needed]

The movement to promote fathers' rights in the context of family law is newly emerging in Australia. While some fathers' rights groups have been in existence for a number of years the movement has gathered momentum, credibility[who?] and popular support[citation needed] as a political and media force in more recent years. Evidence of this can be found in the media attention it has received,[citation needed] the proliferation of groups and branches, the organisation of conferences and infrastructure, the expressions of support from politicians, the setting up of political parties, and the increasing sophistication and quantity of submissions such groups are making in respect of law reform references. Implicit evidence can be found in the strong reaction of the Chief Justice of the Family Court and in the popular perception that fathers' rights groups have played an influential role in respect of a number of the recent Australian family law reforms.[1]

Rebuttable presumption of equal shared parenting time[edit]

One of the central aims of the Australian fathers' rights groups is to promote fairness in post separation child care arrangements. In legal terms this is referred to as a rebuttable presumption of equal shared parenting time. In 2005, Senator Steve Fielding of the political party Family First, tabled a dissenting report to the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Bill 2005, stipulating this legal proposal.[12]

Political Parties[edit]

There have been several family law reform political parties.

These include:-

The Family Law Reform Party[edit]

The Family Law Reform Party was registered on 9 September 1996 and de-registered on 4 August 1999.[13]

Abolish Child Support/Family Court Party[edit]

The party was originally known as the Abolish Child Support and Family Court Party. It was registered under that name on 25 July 1997, when the party was first registered by the AEC. It was then renamed as the Abolish Child Support/Family Court Party from 2 April 1998. The party was de-registered on 8 May 2001.[14]

The party was subsequently renamed as the No GST Party. This was until 27 December 2006, at which time it was de-registered.[15][16]

Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting)[edit]

The Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting)[17] was formed in Australia in 1998.

The party was originally registered as the Non-Custodial Parents Party by the Australian Electoral Commission on 12 January 1999 and temporarily de-registered on 27 December 2006.[18] All minor political parties were de-registered on that date.[16]

The party was then re-registered as the Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting) on 30 August 2007.[19]

The party’s web-site states that the core policies centre on the issue of family law and child support reform. The party also states that legislative changes are required in order to enshrine a child's natural rights to a meaningful relationship with both parents, and legal and procedural changes to ensure that the Child Support system is fair, equitable and aimed at fulfilling its primarily goal, that being to support the child/ren.[17]

The Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting) is currently registered as a political party with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Kaye, Miranda; Julia Tolmie (1998). "Fathers' rights groups in Australia and their engagement with issues in family law". Australian Journal of Family Law 12: 19–68. Retrieved 24 March 2007. [dead link]
  2. ^ a b Watts McCray Lawyers (2006). "A layman's guide to the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 January 2007. Retrieved 25 March 2007. 
  3. ^ Watts McCray Lawyers (2006). "Some practical implications of the Family Law Amendment". Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 June 2007. Retrieved 20 April 2007. 
  4. ^ "Dads in Distress welcome new changes" (Press release). Fatherhood Foundation. 29 June 2006. Retrieved 20 April 2007. 
  5. ^ "New law agony for divorced fathers" (Press release). Fatherhood Foundation. 2 July 2006. Retrieved 20 April 2007. 
  6. ^ "Submission by Men's Confraternity" (PDF) (Press release). Parliament of Australia. 15 July 2006. Retrieved 20 April 2007. 
  7. ^ "Men's Confraternity discuss family lawyer tricks". Men's Confraternity. Retrieved 20 April 2007. 
  8. ^ "...because lying in the Family Court is CHILD ABUSE, says Fathers4Equality" (Press release). Fathers4Equality. 10 May 2009. Retrieved 10 May 2009. 
  9. ^ "Top 10 myths about Shared Parenting (Child Custody laws) in Australia" (Press release). Articles About Men. 13 June 2010. Retrieved 13 June 2010. 
  10. ^ "Australian Institute of Family Studies evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms" (Press release). Australian Institute of Family Studies. 12 January 2009. Retrieved 12 January 2009. 
  11. ^ "Government’s new family violence bill – badly worded and open to abuse" (Press release). Attorney General Robert McLelland. 15 November 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2010. 
  12. ^ "Family First to table amendment for Presumption of Equal Parenting Time". Fathers4Equality. Retrieved 20 November 2008. 
  13. ^ Australian Electoral Commission’s archives [1]. Date accessed 28 March 2013
  14. ^ Australian Electoral Commission’s archives [2]. Date accessed 28 March 2013
  15. ^ Australian Electoral Commission’s archives [3]. Date accessed 28 March 2013
  16. ^ a b Australian Electoral Commission’s media release dated 22 December 2006 [4]. Date accessed 28 March 2013
  17. ^ a b Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting). Home Page. Date accessed 28 March 2013.
  18. ^ Australian Electoral Commission’s archives [5]. Date accessed 28 March 2013
  19. ^ Australian Electoral Commission’s registration details [6]. Date accessed 28 March 2013
  20. ^ Australian Electoral Commission’s current Index of Registered Political Parties. Date accessed 28 March 2013