A 10 minute read.
Fathers and our supporters can passively protest all we like, but nothing has gotten done and nothing will get done. As the current situation stands there will still be wholesale removal of fathers from their children’s lives – worse than is already taking place now.
The way I see it, fathers and their supporters need to withdraw their labour in a coordinated approach across the country. This is the only way our plight will be recognised and taken seriously. Let’s be clear here, this is not just about fathers, this is also about the wellbeing of our children, and their human right to enjoy a relationship with both parents, equally.
The Australian press often quote the figure of six men per day killing themselves across Australia. I ask you, what percentage of these is related to child access disputes in the Family Court, or life-destroying child support assessments by the Child Support Agency? We need to ensure their deaths are not in vain. We need to stop this from happening.
We are up against powerful enemies, not to mention intransigent and apathetic politicians: self-interest lobby groups and professions who will go to any lengths to protect a source of income they derive by preying on the emotional heartstrings of fathers.
A post on a dads group got me thinking
I recently came across the following post (verbatim) on a Dads page on Facebook.
This was my response, along with the response from the lady member I tagged:
The lady member who responded to me is a qualified lawyer although she has never practised. These days she works for the Australian Government.
Along with a legion of other alienated and falsely accused fathers, I have wracked my brain trying to think of ways to bring attention to the injustices we have suffered, and continue to suffer. And how to bring about fundamental change to the various systems to ensure institutional (judicial and financial) fairness.
Although sustained protesting has become very topical due to the death (murder) of George Floyd. Is it really the way to go? Does protesting – peaceful or violent – bear fruit?
Some protests from history which spring to mind:
- Emmeline Pankhurst and the Suffragettes (member of militant women’s organisations): to get noticed their protests became increasingly violent. Emily Wilding Davison made the ultimate sacrifice when she lost her life after being struck by King George V’s horse Anmer at the 1913 Derby when she walked onto the track during the race
- Michael “Mick” Fox: in 2011, Sydney father and former elite soldier brought traffic to a standstill when he scaled Sydney Harbour Bridge. Mick Fox was protesting because he couldn’t see his children. He also stated on a live radio interview (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SfAK3Om8z0) from the bridge, he was protesting for all children who didn’t have a voice
- Colin Kaepernick: his “take a knee” protest during the playing of the national anthem at NFL games was to protest police violence against African-Americans. Even in the face of fierce criticism, including from President Trump, Kaepernick stuck to his principles and continued taking a knee in protest. Given some people perceived Kaepernick kneeling as disrespecting the Stars and Stripes, it was Army Special Forces veteran Nate Boyer who convinced him to take a knee (just like members of the military sometimes do) rather than sit during the national anthem
- Fathers4Justice (founded by Matt O’Connor in the UK in 2001): Sometimes when democracy fails, new laws are made by breaking old ones, restoring balance and justice to society. In the context of civil disobedience, it is law-breakers who demonstrate the greatest respect and understanding for the law. Our democracy was forged by courageous law breakers from the Tolpuddle Martyrs to the Suffragettes. Lord Hoffman said ‘we have a long and honourable tradition of law breaking in this country.’ Though Fathers4Justice is now making history by being part of that tradition, it is worth pointing out that in 7 out of 7 jury trials relating to peaceful non-violent direct action, campaigners were found not guilty (https://www.fathers-4-justice.org/about-f4j/campaign-faqs/)
So how successful were these protests?
In 1918 Parliament passed the Representation of the People Act 1918. Among the changes was the granting of the vote to women over the age of 30 who met minimum property qualifications; giving the vote to circa 8.4 million women. Subsequently, the same Act was extended to allow all women over the age of 21 to vote – a right men had gained ten years earlier. The passing of the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918 allowed women to be elected into parliament. The protests of Emmeline Pankhurst and the Suffragettes could by any measure be considered a success.
After his bridge protest Michael “Mick” Fox was ordered to stay away from the bridge, and his children. But in fairness to Fox he wasn’t just protesting for his children, but for all voiceless children. This could be considered a partial success.
In terms of his employment status at the time (and his future employment prospects), Kaepernick’s “take a knee” protest was a disaster: it cost him his job as starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. However, I doubt very much this deeply principled man was that bothered, if at all. I’m sure his settled-out-of-court law suit against the NFL would have taken the sting out of his unemployed status. Several years on Kaepernick is still considered a highly competitive and popular quarterback worthy of playing at the highest level. In terms of global publicity Kaepernick’s protest has been an unqualified success, even if he does remain a divisive personality. People either like him or they hate him. I’m in the former camp. Whether Kaepernick’s protest will ever translate into positive action remains to be seen.
Matt O’Connor (founder) and Fathers4Justice are yet to see the Family Court and Child Maintenance Service reforms they are campaigning and protesting for. It should be noted this is not from lack of trying. Matt O’Connor is not a man easily detracted from his goal – he is still plugging away.
1975 Icelandic Women’s Strike*
What became known as the “Woman’s Day Off” (or colloquially “the long Friday”) took place on 24 October 1975. Icelandic women went on strike for the day to “demonstrate the indispensable work of women for Iceland’s economy and society” and to “protest wage discrepancy and unfair employment practices”.
On this day 25,000 out of a population of 220,000 people in Iceland gathered in the centre of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital. That’s over ten percent of the population! Participants, led by women’s organisations, did not go to their paid jobs and did not do any housework or child-rearing for the whole day: that was ninety percent of women!
As a result of the strike, within a year a law guaranteeing equal pay was passed by Iceland’s parliament. Five years later, in 1980 Vigdís Finnbogadóttir became the first democratically-elected female president in the world.
The plight of fathers today
So, where does that leave the fathers who have been given short shrift by the Family Courts and all of the associated departments and industries? How do we and our supporters go about bringing change? Many fathers have little or no faith in the current Australian Family Law Inquiry. Personally, I don’t expect to see any concrete and meaningful reforms. And what about reforms to the Child Support Agency, Administrative Appeals tribunal, Department of Child Protect, etc?
If you recall, the original poster (above) mentioned a Class Action law suit. I have no doubt in some instances these can be very successful. Class action law suits in the USA are very common place, and no doubt make law firms a lot of money. For the purpose of father’s rights, I don’t believe they are the way to proceed, as I will explain. First, a large percentage of any monetary compensation award will be offset by high legal fees. Second, if allowed to proceed in the first place, they are extremely time consuming and labour intensive. Litigants could wait around for several years only to lose the case at trial. It seems highly unlikely that the Australia Government would settle out of court. What we need is immediate and significant action that sends the right message – we have had enough and we ned change!
Given the entire Family Court, Child Support Agency and False Allegations processes revolve around money – make no mistake, these are industries are worth many billions across the globe – it would seem the only way to disrupt these processes is by hitting them where it hurts most. Financially. I once again quote the lady member above:
The only way men can do anything is withdraw their labour en masse. A bunch of women all stopped working in a Scandinavian country for a day and got everything. If every bloke took the day off, all the tradies, all the Transport guys etc and said they were on strike due to the family law bias but every guy, doctors, nurses, teachers, builders, police absolutely everyone of you and your allies then there may be some notice.
Call to action!
Until people who are unaffected become as outraged as those of us who are affected by parental alienation and false allegations, the status quo will remain.
The problem is, do all those affected fathers and their supporters have the stomach for this kind of protest? And if the answer is yes, how many protesters and for what period of time, would it take to bring about any significant change? Perhaps rolling protests might be the way to go: starting off with one day per week and ramping up from there. It goes without saying such protests would need to be nationwide to be effective. I am certainly not advocating violence, there is no need for that. But withdrawing labour across multiple industries and professions, in every state would cause the Prime Minister, State Premiers, Ministers and politicians to take notice.
Let’s be honest here, many fathers, just like myself, are stuck in a no man’s land unable to move forward with any purpose. At best, these fathers are just treading water ticking off the days. Many of us suffer from long-term mental ill health and trauma, and as a result, often times we are unable to contribute to society in any meaningful way. In fact, it could be argued we are a burden to society, although we don’t want to be. As such, many fathers have nothing left to lose by taking part in such protests.
Arguments such as we can’t afford the time off don’t hold water. Many men are paying disproportionate amounts of child support, often for children they rarely see, or never see. In my own case due to false allegations of abuse, I have not seen my soon to be 13-year old son for nearly a decade. No contact at all, not even a photo or school report. NOTHING!
We can peacefully protest all we like, but nothing has gotten done and nothing will get done! We can write letters to our local politicians and ministers, or even the PM, but nothing has gotten done and nothing will get done! If fathers and their supporters don’t take solid and meaningful action soon, the situation for us fathers maybe irretrievable. There will be wholesale removal of fathers from their children’s lives – worse than is already taking place now.
The way I see it, fathers and their supporters need to withdraw their labour in a coordinated approach across the country. This withdrawal of labour needs to continue until such time meaningful change to the Federal and State Family Courts, Child Support Agency, Administrative Appeals tribunal, Department of Child Protection, etc is implemented. Men aren’t asking for anything other than to be treated equally in the Family Courts: to this end 50/50 shared parenting should be the starting point, not some mythical and magical figure that can never be attained. Fifty/fifty shared parenting should also alleviate the requirement for disproportionate child support payments. Further, false allegations arising during Family Matters should be investigated as such. And where allegations of abuse and/or violence are found to be unsubstantiated, or false, the false accuser should be punished accordingly. Slapping a false accuser over the wrist with a feather is not a deterrent. It only serves to perpetuate the false allegations cycle. I’ve heard it said many times, the false accuser should face the same punishment as the falsely accused would if they were guilty of said crimes. Currently it is not the policy of State Police Forces to punish such false allegations – and don’t the false accusers know it!!!
Let’s be clear here, this is not just about father’s rights, this is also about the wellbeing of our children, and their human right to enjoy a relationship with both parents.
I repeat, fathers and their supporters need to withdraw their labour across all industries across all states. This is the only way we will get noticed.