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 groups include Fathers4Equality, Dads Against Discrimination, Fathers Without Rights, The Men's Confraternity, the Shared Parenting Council.,[1] the Men's Rights Agency [2] and One in Three.[3] 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.

The movement to promote fathers' rights in the context of family law is small, marginalised and falsely represented as a threat to gender equality in Australia. Peer reviewed publications that state the influence of men's rights groups, vastly exaggerate their influence, by making the fundamental error of failing to compare the influence of men's rights groups with the influence of women's rights groups.[1] Men's issues are not promoted in the media. Most Australians know that a women dies every week through family violence, but have no idea how many men die.

In addition the primary vote for single interest men's issues political party has dropped ten fold in recent years, and only one such party exists today. In the 2004 Federal election, prior to the 2006 reforms, the Non-Custodial (Equal Parenting) Party obtained 0.1% of the senate first party preference.[4] In 2013 the first party preference vote had dropped tenfold to 0.01%. [5]

The best example of the influence of men's rights groups was the "Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006, which made both parents responsible for decisions about their child through the concept of 'equal shared parental responsibility'.[6] 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.[6][7] While the peer support group 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[8] 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",[9] 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."[10][11]

In reality the laws have had little impact upon the implementation of shared parenting. Prior to the introduction of the shared parenting act in 2004

  • 23% of all children aged 0–17 years had a parent living elsewhere.
  • 31% did not see that parent or did so less than once a year
  • 50% did not have an overnight stay[12]

Six years after the implementation of the act in 2012

  • 21% of all children aged 0–17 years had a parent living elsewhere.
  • 26% did not see that parent or did so less than once a year
  • 52% did not have an overnight stay[13]

This is because in 90% of contested trials the court does not order shared parenting [14] Part of this is because of the belief of many judges that if parties have to litigate for shared custody then they are unsuited to it.

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.[15]

Once the shared parenting laws were in place, there was a significant push by women's groups in association with other interested parties, suggesting that Australia's shared parenting laws put children at risk because it marginalised family violence. Specifically it was alleged that "the legislation had moved away from protecting the rights of women and children to acceding to men’s demand for increased time with their children." [16] In 2009 the government commissioned a report into the shared parenting laws, justified as being a response to the murder of a four-year-old Melbourne girl Darcey Freeman, who was thrown to her death from the West Gate Bridge by her father. Her father Arthur Freeman had obtained shared custody with his daughter through the family court. [17] The story of Arthur Freeman was well but falsely publicised as an example of the danger that separated fathers posed to their children, despite the fact that separated mothers are just as likely to murder their children as separated fathers. According to the Victorian Coroner between 2000 and 2010, 44% of parent child homicide victims where killed by their mother alone, and 3% by the mother and father together.[18] For instance seven months prior to Arthur Freeman's actions Gabriela Garcia jumped off the same bridge with her 22-month-old son Oliver strapped to her chest to prevent Oliver's father from having contact with his son.[19] The name Arthur Freeman is well known to Victorians, but Gabriella Carcia is unknown to most Victorians. In addition the Australian Institute of Family Studies evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reforms, involving analysis of 27,000 parents stated that "the 2006 changes have improved the way in which the system is identifying and responding to families where there are concerns about family violence, child abuse and dysfunctional behaviours. In particular, systematic attempts to screen such families in the family relationship services sector and in some parts of the legal sector appear to have improved identification of such issues."[20]

Despite the overall positive impact of these changes,[20] in November 2010 the Attorney General Robert McLelland submitted amendments to the 2006 reforms, condemned by men's rights groups as a back-door attempt to dismatle the shared parenting laws.[21] 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.

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.[22]

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.[23]

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.[24]

The party was subsequently renamed as the No GST Party. This was until 27 December 2006, at which time it was de-registered.[25][26]

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

The Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting)[27] 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.[28] All minor political parties were de-registered on that date.[26]

The party was then re-registered as the Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting) on 30 August 2007.[29]

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 children.[27]

The Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting) is currently registered as a political party with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 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. ^ "Men's Rights Agency". 
  3. ^ "One in Three". 
  4. ^ "Australian Electoral Commission, Group Voting Ticket Usage By Group (2004 election)". 
  5. ^ "Australian Electoral Commission, Voting Ticket Usage By Group (2013 election)". 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ "Dads in Distress welcome new changes" (Press release). Fatherhood Foundation. 29 June 2006. Retrieved 20 April 2007. 
  9. ^ "New law agony for divorced fathers" (Press release). Fatherhood Foundation. 2 July 2006. Retrieved 20 April 2007. 
  10. ^ "Submission by Men's Confraternity" (PDF) (Press release). Parliament of Australia. 15 July 2006. Retrieved 20 April 2007. 
  11. ^ "Men's Confraternity discuss family lawyer tricks". Men's Confraternity. Retrieved 20 April 2007. 
  12. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics. "4442.0 - Family Characteristics, Australia, Jun 2003". 
  13. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics. "4442.0 - Family Characteristics and Transitions, Australia, 2012-13". 
  14. ^ "Family Court of Australia, Annual Report 2010-2011 page 70" (PDF). 
  15. ^ "...because lying in the Family Court is CHILD ABUSE, says Fathers4Equality" (Press release). Fathers4Equality. 10 May 2009. Retrieved 10 May 2009. 
  16. ^ Adiva Sifris (July 11, 2012). "Family Violence and the Impact of Recent Amendments to the Family Law Act". 
  17. ^ "Call to end shared custody: Chisholm report" (Press release). the Australian. January 29, 2010. Retrieved 23 June 2015. 
  18. ^ Judge Jennifer Coate. "Victorian Systemic Review Of Family Violence Deaths (Coroners Court of Victoria, November 2012)" (PDF). 
  19. ^ Chris Vedelago (December 21, 2014). "Government to be sued over West Gate suicide barriers" (Press release). 
  20. ^ a b "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. 
  21. ^ "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. 
  22. ^ "Family First to table amendment for Presumption of Equal Parenting Time". Fathers4Equality. Retrieved 20 November 2008. 
  23. ^ Australian Electoral Commission’s archives [1]. Date accessed 28 March 2013
  24. ^ Australian Electoral Commission’s archives [2]. Date accessed 28 March 2013
  25. ^ Australian Electoral Commission’s archives [3]. Date accessed 28 March 2013
  26. ^ a b Australian Electoral Commission’s media release dated 22 December 2006 [4]. Date accessed 28 March 2013
  27. ^ a b Non-Custodial Parents Party (Equal Parenting). Home Page. Date accessed 28 March 2013.
  28. ^ Australian Electoral Commission’s archives [5]. Date accessed 28 March 2013
  29. ^ Australian Electoral Commission’s registration details [6]. Date accessed 28 March 2013
  30. ^ Australian Electoral Commission’s current Index of Registered Political Parties. Date accessed 28 March 2013