Father shot dead after standoff with police at Inala in Brisbane’s southwest

THE gunman who was shot dead after a lengthy stand-off in Brisbane on Monday has been remembered as a doting father and hard worker who “struggled” with life.

Shaun Kumeroa, 42,was shot dead after emerging from a car with a gun during a four-hour siege at Inala.

Friends and family said he would be missed and they were in shock after his dramatic death.

“He was certainly a nice guy (but) like anybody had his problems. He had some personal issues,’’ one relative, who did not want to be named, said.

Mr Kumeroa, who had been living on Chevron Island on the Gold Coast, recently split from his partner and was missing their young daughter.

Police spent almost four hours negotiating with Mr Kumeroa, who was armed with a handgun and had refused to get out of a car parked at an Inala unit block Monday afternoon.

Shaun Kumeroa died in a siege at Inala on Monday.

Shaun Kumeroa died in a siege at Inala on Monday.

When he did suddenly emerge from the car he appeared to raise his gun infront of police before being shot several times.

Shelly Redding and her partner Nigel Butkowski were in their townhouse when the drama unfolded in the car park of their complex.

Mr Butkowski briefly spoke to Mr Kumeroa from his bedroom window on the second floor of his home and tried to calm him down.

He said at one moment he made eye contact with him from about 20m away.

“I said ‘don’t do it mate, don’t do it’,” Mr Butkowski said.

Shaun Kumeroa emerges from a car with a handgun moments before being shot dead. Pic: Chan

Shaun Kumeroa emerges from a car with a handgun moments before being shot dead. Pic: Channel Nine Brisbane

“He wasn’t erratic, he was basically sitting there looking straight ahead.

“In a few hours I only saw a couple of dozen moves.”

The couple said they stayed in the house about three hours before an officer told them they were in the line of fire and SERT evacuated them after climbing over their back fence.

“They were saying to him ‘get out, get out, drop all weapons,” Ms Redding said.

“‘Get out of the car and put your hands on your head’.”

SERT officers stand watch as paramedics tend to the shot man. Pic: Liam Kidston

SERT officers stand watch as paramedics tend to the shot man. Pic: Liam Kidston

She said they understood the man told police he had been trying to see his daughter but was unable to.

“The policeman said they would ring (his daughter) for him,” Ms Redding said.

When they rolled water to him she said he replied: “He said you could have brought it down I’m not going to shoot anyone.”

The couple were evacuated about 30 minutes before he was shot.

“You could see straight away he wasn’t in his right mind,” Ms Redding said

“After all the hours he was slumped back on the car seat.

“He must have been coming down … and thought ‘Gee, oh my God, what have I done’.

“And it was way too late.”

Eearlier

OFFICERS had no choice but to shoot a gunman after a lengthy stand-off in Brisbane, the Queensland Police Union says.

Police spent almost four hours negotiating with the man, who was armed with a handgun and refused to get out of a car that was parked at an Inala unit block on Monday.

Officers shot dead the 42-year-old when he threatened police.

Reports that he’d pointed his weapon at officers are expected to form part of an investigation by the ethical standards command.

A report is also being prepared for the coroner.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said the officers appeared to have no choice and were acting in self defence.

“That is the difficult and dangerous nature of police work.

“Things happen so quickly. You have to make instantaneous decisions, there are no other options,” he told ABC radio.

He said the officers involved would be having a difficult time, and the union would support them, including through the ethical standards investigation.

“I can say when you’ve used force, and things have changed dramatically, you never get over it. You have to learn to live with it and it is not easy.”

OVERNIGHT

The Courier-Mail reported heavily armed police called to a “drug deal gone wrong’’ shot dead a man after he pulled a gun on them after a four-hour siege at Inala in Brisbane’s southwest.

Specialised SERT officers surrounded the man, using the heavily armoured BearCat vehicle for cover as he held them at bay from the front seat of a car.

Attempts to negotiate with the man broke down when he suddenly got out of the vehicle and pointed what appeared to be a handgun at the officers.

Live-streamed footage from television helicopters captured the shooting, which is now subject to an internal Ethical Standards Command investigation.

“It all changed so quick,” said Chris Polson, who watched it unfold.

“(It) was all calm, then all of a sudden the guy got out of his car.”

A resident from the Gannet St apartment block said he was working on his car when he saw police arrive.

“Four policemen got out, went in, went around to where the car was sitting,” he said.

“They saw a gun and said ‘gun, gun, gun, drop the gun, drop the gun, drop the gun’. I got my little arse around behind the car. Then everything broke loose from there.”

The resident of the seven-unit complex said he heard five shots.

Police arrived at the units about noon and were attempting to speak to the man when he produced what appeared to be a handgun.

An area of the suburb was put into lockdown.

Gannet St, Inala

SERT officers arrived with the armoured vehicle and parked it alongside the man’s car, keeping automatic weapons drawn on him throughout the incident.

The officers could be seen surrounding the man, two of them perched on the bonnet of the BearCat.

Residents were told to stay indoors as the agitated man remained in his vehicle.

SERT officers debrief after the incident. Pic: Liam Kidston

SERT officers debrief after the incident. Pic: Liam Kidston

Police attempted to calm the 42-year-old, giving him a mobile phone so he could speak to a police negotiator and tossing him a bottle of water as the seige continued.

But shortly before 4pm, the man, who could be seen moving back and forth in his seat, suddenly emerged from the car with the gun.

“I can confirm … a male person has been shot. Unfortunately that person is deceased. The police Ethical Standards Command are investigating that incident and the matter will be put before the coroner,’’ Inspector Richard Kroon said.

“We were hopeful that this would be a peaceful resolution – that’s what we always strive to achieve and unfortunately this matter hasn’t turned out that way.”

Police move into position at the height of the siege. Pic: Liam Kidston

Police move into position at the height of the siege. Pic: Liam Kidston

Police, then paramedics worked on the man but he died at the scene.

“It’s a bit of a reminder about what police can encounter on any day,” Insp Kroon said.

The man was not a resident of the unit complex but was known to frequent the area.

The tragic incident coincided with National Police Remembrance Day, and Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said it was a poignant reminder of what it meant to be a police officer.

He said the incident demonstrated the unpredictable nature of police work and the real threat that could occur while police were protecting the community.

Families are at risk from our Family Court ‘industry’

Insipid Evil in Our Family Courts PLEASE FORWARD Can everyone email this petition to Senator.Madigan@aph.gov.au george.christensen.mp@aph.gov.au
So much corruption in the public services thousands of lawyers and psychologists who live off prolonging conflict in family court cases,
21 DEATHS PER WEEK,
costing us billions Please sign, like and click share … The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but building the new” -Socrates
1. 50 / 50 Shared care
2. No secret gags laws 121fla
3. Juries in family court appeals
4. Review judge for misbehaviour and incapacity
We need to get juries into these secret inhuman unlawful corrupt Australian Family courts, with no peer review or public scrutiny, mass fraud.
$21,000,000,000 Billion Dollar AUD PA 100,000 LAWYERS, BARBARISUM NO RULE OF LAW it is literally the Manson family on $21,000,000,000. Billion Dollar organised crime spree by way of fraud on steroids, in full knowledge, consent and facilitated by the judiciary.
This Is a shot long time coming, we need all the support we can muster, please leave a comments as well.
All Lawyers and judges including attorney generals are well aware secret courts with no juries are designed for ambushing the public, proving they are not interested in children or law only egocentric profits from slandering their victims.
The only reason why the court are deliberately secret and with no juries to hide the absolute corruption, exploitation unlawful abuses of our children and their rights.
They are doing so much damage to children, families over decades at the public and nation expense.
Look around the world today [birds of a feather] Dianna Bryant is running an oppressive regime as is Kim Jong-un’s regime, Bashar al-Assad regime, the examples of inhuman regimes are endless.
They are incapable of humanity, is why democracy works, and juries, neutralises these nasty packs of animals …
When the time comes we will print it make a book and hand it to the senator.
https://www.causes.com/campaigns/75585-open-jury-trials-in-australian-family-courts

Families are at risk from our Family Court ‘industry’

PLEASE FORWARD Can everyone email this petition to Senator.Madigan@aph.gov.au george.christensen.mp@aph.gov.au
So much corruption in the public services thousands of lawyers and psychologists who live off prolonging conflict in family court cases,
21 DEATHS PER WEEK,
costing us billions Please sign, like and click share … The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but building the new” -Socrates
1. 50 / 50 Shared care
2. No secret gags laws 121fla
3. Juries in family court appeals
4. Review judge for misbehaviour and incapacity
We need to get juries into these secret inhuman unlawful corrupt Australian Family courts, with no peer review or public scrutiny, mass fraud.
$21,000,000,000 Billion Dollar AUD PA 100,000 LAWYERS, BARBARISUM NO RULE OF LAW it is literally the Manson family on $21,000,000,000. Billion Dollar organised crime spree by way of fraud on steroids, in full knowledge, consent and facilitated by the judiciary.
This Is a shot long time coming, we need all the support we can muster, please leave a comments as well.
All Lawyers and judges including attorney generals are well aware secret courts with no juries are designed for ambushing the public, proving they are not interested in children or law only egocentric profits from slandering their victims.
The only reason why the court are deliberately secret and with no juries to hide the absolute corruption, exploitation unlawful abuses of our children and their rights.
They are doing so much damage to children, families over decades at the public and nation expense.
Look around the world today [birds of a feather] Dianna Bryant is running an oppressive regime as is Kim Jong-un’s regime, Bashar al-Assad regime, the examples of inhuman regimes are endless.
They are incapable of humanity, is why democracy works, and juries, neutralises these nasty packs of animals …
When the time comes we will print it make a book and hand it to the senator.
https://www.causes.com/campaigns/75585-open-jury-trials-in-australian-family-courts

I AM

I AM is an utterly engaging and entertaining non-fiction film that poses two practical and provocative questions: what’s wrong with our world, and what can we do to make it better?   The filmmaker behind the inquiry is Tom Shadyac, one of Hollywood’s leading comedy practitioners and the creative force behind such blockbusters as “Ace Ventura,” “Liar Liar,” “The Nutty Professor,” and “Bruce Almighty.”   However, in I AM, Shadyac steps in front of the camera to recount what happened to him after a cycling accident left him incapacitated, possibly for good. Though he ultimately recovered, he emerged with a new sense of purpose, determined to share his own awakening to his prior life of excess and greed, and to investigate how he as an individual, and we as a race, could improve the way we live and walk in the world.

Armed with nothing but his innate curiosity and a small crew to film his adventures, Shadyac set out on a twenty-first century quest for enlightenment.  Meeting with a variety of thinkers and doers–remarkable men and women from the worlds of science, philosophy, academia, and faith–including such luminaries as David Suzuki, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Lynne McTaggart, Ray Anderson, John Francis, Coleman Barks, and Marc Ian Barasch –  Shadyac appears on-screen as character, commentator, guide, and even, at times, guinea pig. An irrepressible “Everyman” who asks tough questions, but offers no easy answers, he takes the audience to places it has never been before, and presents even familiar phenomena in completely new and different ways.  The result is a fresh, energetic, and life-affirming film that challenges our preconceptions about human behavior while simultaneously celebrating the indomitable human spirit.

The pursuit of truth has been a lifelong passion for Shadyac. “As early as I can remember I simply wanted to know what was true,” he recalls, “and somehow I perceived at a very early age that what I was being taught was not the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”  He humorously describes himself as “questioning and searching and stumbling and fumbling toward the light.”  The “truth” may have been elusive, but success wasn’t.  Shadyac’s films grossed nearly two billion dollars and afforded him the glamorous and extravagent A-List lifestyle of the Hollywood blockbuster filmmaker.  Yet Shadyac found that more – in his case, a 17,000-square foot art-filled mansion, exotic antiques, and private jets — was definitely less.   “What I discovered, when I began to look deeply, was that the world I was living in was a lie,” he explains.  “Much to my surprise, the accumulation of material wealth was a neutral phenomenon, neither good or bad, and certainly did not buy happiness.”  Gradually, with much consideration and contemplation, he changed his lifestyle.  He sold his house, moved to a mobile home community, and started life—a simpler and more responsible life –  anew.

But, at this critical juncture, Shadyac suffered an injury that changed everything.  “In 2007, I got into a bike accident which left me with Post Concussion Syndrome, a condition where the symptoms of the original concussion don’t go away.”  These symptoms include intense and painful reactions to light and sound, severe mood swings, and a constant ringing sound in the head.  Shadyac tried every manner of treatment, traditional and alternative, but nothing worked.  He suffered months of isolation and pain, and finally reached a point where he welcomed death as a release. “I simply didn’t think I was going to make it,” he admits.

But, as Shadyac wisely points out, “Death can be a very powerful motivator.”  Confronting his own mortality, he asked himself, “If this is it for me –  if I really am going to die  –  what do I want to say before I go?  What will be my last testament?”  It was Shadyac’s modern day dark night of soul and out of it, I AM was born.  Thankfully, almost miraculously, his PCS symptoms began to recede, allowing him to travel and use his movie-making skills to explore the philosophical questions that inhabited him, and to communicate his findings in a lively, humorous, intellectually-challenging, and emotionally-charged film.

But this would not be a high-octane Hollywood production.  The director whose last film had a crew of 400, assembled a streamlined crew of four, and set out to find, and film, the thinkers who had helped to change his life, and to seek a better understanding of the world, its inhabitants, their past, and their future.  Thus, Shadyac interviews scientists, psychologists, artists, environmentalists, authors, activists, philosophers, entrepreneurs, and others in his quest for truth.   Bishop Desmond Tutu, Dr. Noam Chomsky, historian Dr. Howard Zinn, physicist Lynne McTaggart, and poet Coleman Banks are some of the subjects who engage in fascinating dialogue with Shadyac.

Shadyac was very specific about what he was after, wanting I AM to identify the underlying cause of the world’s ills – “I didn’t want to hear the usual answers, like war, hunger, poverty, the environmental crisis, or even greed,” he explains.  “These are not the problems, they are the symptoms of a larger endemic problem.  In I AM, I wanted to talk about the root cause of the ills of the world, because if there is a common cause, and we can talk about it, air it out in a public forum, then we have a chance to solve it.”

Ironically, in the process of trying to figure out what’s wrong with the world, Shadyac discovered there’s more right than he ever imagined.  He learned that the heart, not the brain, may be man’s primary organ of intelligence, and that human consciousness and emotions can actually affect the physical world, a point Shadyac makes with great humor by demonstrating the impact of his feelings on a bowl of yogurt. And, as Shadyac’s own story illustrates, money is not a pathway to happiness.  In fact, he even learns that in some native cultures, gross materialism is equated with insanity.

Shadyac also discovers that, contrary to conventional thinking, cooperation and not competition, may be nature’s most fundamental operating principle.   Thus, I AM shows consensus decision-making is the norm amongst many species, from insects and birds to deer and primates.  The film further discovers that humans actually function better and remain healthier when expressing positive emotions, such as love, care, compassion, and gratitude, versus their negative counterparts, anxiety, frustration, anger and fear. Charles Darwin may be best known for popularizing the notion that nature is red in tooth and claw, but, as Shadyac points out, he used the word love 95 times in The Descent of Man, while his most famous phrase,survival of the fittest, appears only twice.

“It was a revelation to me that for tens of thousands of years, indigenous cultures taught a very different story about our inherent goodness,” Shadyac marvels.  “Now, following this ancient wisdom, science is discovering a plethora of evidence about our hardwiring for connection and compassion, from the Vagus Nerve which releases oxytocin at simply witnessing a compassionate act, to the Mirror Neuron which causes us to literally feel another person’s pain.  Darwin himself, who was misunderstood to believe exclusively in our competitiveness, actually noted that humankind’s real power comes in their ability to perform complex tasks together, to sympathize and cooperate.”

Shadyac’s enthusiastic depiction of the brighter side of human nature and reality, itself, is what distinguishes I AM from so many well-intentioned, yet ultimately pessimistic, non-fiction films.  And while he does explore what’s wrong with the world, the film’s overwhelming emphasis is focused on what we can do to make it better.  Watching I AM is ultimately, for many, a transformative experience, yet Shadyac is reluctant to give specific steps for viewers who have been energized by the film.  “What can I do?” “I get asked that a lot,” he says.  “But the solution begins with a deeper transformation that must occur in each of us.  I AM isn’t as much about what you can do, as who you can be.  And from that transformation of being, action will naturally follow.”

Shadyac’s transformation remains in process.   He still lives simply, is back on his bicycle, riding to work, and teaching at a local college, another venue for sharing his life-affirming discoveries.  Reflecting Shadyac’s philosophy is the economic structure of the film’s release; all proceeds from I AM will go to The Foundation for I AM, a non-profit established by Shadyac to fund various worthy causes and to educate the next generation about the issues and challenges explored in the film.  When he directs another Hollywood movie, the bulk of his usual eight-figure fee will be deposited into a charitable account, as well.  “St. Augustine said, ‘Determine what God has given you, and take from it what you need; the remainder is needed by others.’  That’s my philosophy in a nutshell,” Shadyac says, “Or as Gandhi put it, ‘Live simply, so others may simply live.’”

Shadyac’s enthusiasm and optimism are contagious.  Whether conducting an interview with an intellectual giant, or offering himself as a flawed character in the narrative of the film, Shadyac is an engaging and persuasive guide as we experience the remarkable journey that is I AM. With great wit, warmth, curiosity, and masterful storytelling skills, he reveals what science now tells us is one of the principal truths of the universe, a message that is as simple as it is significant:  We are all connected –   connected to each other and to everything around us.  “My hope is that I AM is a window into Truth, a glimpse into the miracle, the mystery and magic of who we really are, and of the basic nature of the connection and unity of all things.  In a way,” says Shadyac, a seasoned Hollywood professional who has retained his unerring eye for a great story, “I think of I AM as the ultimate reality show.”

Written & Directed by: Tom Shadyac
Producer: Dagan Handy

Editor: Jennifer Abbott

Co-Producer: Jacquelyn Zampella

Associate Producer :: Nicole Pritchett

Director of Photography: Roko Belic
Executive Producers: Jennifer Abbott, Jonathan Watson
Media and PR Coordinator: Harold Mintz
Graphic Designers: Yusuke Nagano, Barry Thompson
Release Dates: March 11, 2011 – Los Angeles, March 18, 2011 – New York
Running Time: 80 minutes
Rating: Not rated

http://muvi.es/w3121/291763

Parental Alienation as a Diagnosis in Court Cases

Parental Alienation (PA) as a Diagnosis, its Course and Treatment are Inadmissible

Using the word Diagnosis is somewhat like a lightning rod. Opponents will quickly point out that there is no diagnosis in the DSM-5 called Parental Alienation, as if all known diagnoses can be found in the DSM, and if it’s not in the DSM it doesn’t exist.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision in, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., provided a non-exclusive criteria. The application of the Daubert decision to expert testimony relative to mental health issues is very much up for debate. For some, the Daubert decision ends psychological and psychiatric testimony because these fields are so subjective in nature and cannot meet the Daubert criteria. Others see little impact of Daubert on psychological testimony in criminal cases, including the admissibility of battered women syndrome evidence. In child custody cases, however, it is not clear whether courts are using Daubert criteria to evaluate expert testimony on the best interests of children issues.

The Dauber criteria are:

  1. Is the theory or technique at issue testable, and has it been tested?
  2. Has the theory or technique been subjected to peer review and publication?
  3. In the case of scientific techniques, what is the known or potential error rate, and are there standards controlling the technique’s operation? and
  4. Does the technique enjoy general acceptance within the scientific community?

The literature is now catching up on these criteria with regard to PA. PA is being tested much more frequently and comprehensively than ever before. There is an ever increasing library of peer review publications. As reported earlier the error rate of diagnosis and inter-rater reliability is being examined and reported.

Some might argue that there may be some difficulty in applying the Daubert decision as it applies its criteria of scientific admissibility to clinical testimony. General acceptance of the clinical evidence in the relevant scientific community is one of the Daubert factors. This criterion is a carry over from the previously accepted standard rendered in Frye v. United States for scientific testimony. Many courts, however, exempt psychological syndrome testimony from a Frye analysis. PA is widely recognized among mental health professionals, albeit controversial, therefore, the criterion “that a sizeable group of professionals find plausible, based on their specialized knowledge” appears satisfied. It already has in fact been recognized in 2001 in Hillsborough County, FL, in Kilgore v.Boyd. In the 13 Circuit Court of Hillsborough County, FL, ruled that, “PA had gained enough acceptance in the scientific community to satisfy the Frye test criteria for admissibility.” PA has been argued successfully in 22 states, 7 Canadian provinces, and in a number of countries internationally. In our application for the American Psychiatric Association to consider the diagnosis of Parental Alienation Disorder, professionals from over 30 countries were represented in the application.

Another index of the general acceptance of PA is the growing professional literature on PA in peer-review journals. Also, the American Psychological Association, in its Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Divorce Proceedings includes Gardner’s works on this subject in “Pertinent Literature” at the end of the guidelines. This could be taken to imply APA recognition of PA as pertinent to child custody proceedings. Critics may say, “not so fast, what about the APA’s public statement?”

The APA’s public stance on Parental Alienation is:

“The American Psychological Association (APA) believes that all mental health practitioners as well as law enforcement officials and the courts must take any reports of domestic violence in divorce and child custody cases seriously. An APA 1996 Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family noted the lack of data to support so-called “parental alienation syndrome”, and raised concern about the term’s use. However, we have no official position on the purported syndrome”.

It is noteworthy that the APA’s Task Force was 1996, 18 years ago. A lot of work has been done in those years, including an International Handbook on Parental Alienation Syndrome (2006) andParental Alienation: The Handbook for Mental Health and Legal Professionals (2013). It is also noteworthy that the APA does not have any public affirmations regarding any other diagnosis. We are not aware of any public statements where the APA publicly declares “clinical depression, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc. is officially recognized”. The American Psychiatric Association publishes the DSM-5 with its “recognized” disorders, not the American Psychological Association. In addition the implication of the APA’s statement is that somehow, using the terminology PA would lead someone to deny or negate the presence of domestic violence. This is clearly not the case and has been discussed beyond sufficiency. And, finally, the APA does not have an official position on this disorder or any other one.

Like Frye and Daubert, the Federal Rule of Evidence 702 allows the admission of expert scientific opinion only if “scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue…..” Under the rule, which has been adopted in identical or substantially similar form by the majority of states, the expert’s testimony must be “based on sufficient facts or data,” and is “the product of reliable principles and methods.”

The arguments presented above for PA meeting the Frye and Daubert equally apply to the FRE 702. There is sufficient evidence that PA meets the scientific and technical knowledge to assist courts in understanding the clinical issues in family law cases and especially in child custody cases.

Visit my blog for more information on Parent Alienation.

Erasing Dad (English)

Borrando a Papá 

Erasing Dad (English)

URGENT! Avant premier of Erasing Dad this Saturday, September 20th at 6pm Argentina Time (-3UTC) via Youtube. Link to be published here.

Trailer has English subtitles:

In Argentina, fathers are punished for wanting to be active parents to their children after a divorce. Latino men are stereotyped as “machistas”, but many dads in Argentina want to actively participate in their children´s lives after divorce. The justice system favors women and assumes that men are always violent aggressors, and allows fake accusations to prosper. As a result, many men are unjustly prevented from seeing their children.

Erasing Dad is a 78 minute long documentary that follows six fathers who are fighting to raise their children after a divorce and features interviews with professionals who admit, on camera, that they do everything possible to keep children and fathers separated.

Co-Directors Ginger Gentile (from New York) and Sandra Fernández Ferreira are available for English language interviews.

After a theatrical release, the film will be available on the internet, with English subtitles, and we invite people to host screenings. Theatrical release in Argentina: October 2nd, 2014.

BACKGROUND ON CENSORSHIP AND ERASING DAD:

Censorship is not common in Argentina, yet one film has recently become the subject of prior restraint. The documentary Borrando a Papá (Erasing Dad) was originally set to premiere on August 28th, but it was suddenly pulled down at the behest of a non-governmental organization that criticized its release.

DirectedPoster-Borrando-Papá-2014 by Ginger Gentile and Sandra Fernández Ferreira, and produced by San Telmo Productions Erasing Dad is about the plight of fathers that are “erased” from their children’s lives after a divorce or separation by the family court system that tends to rule against fathers.

Why the controversy over a film about divorce? The film denounces the “thousands of lawyers and psychologists who live off prolonging conflict in family court cases”, states co-director Ginger Gentile, as well as the organizations that receive subsidies by exaggerating domestic violence statistics. The filmmakers claim that resources are not being used to protect the real victims of domestic violence but rather separate fathers who only “crimes” have been to speak Russian to their son or that the mother fears that “he will do something”, as two cases in the documentary show.

“Technical problems” were cited for the cancellation of the theatrical premier of Erasing Dad but few weeks before this date an NGO started a petition on Change.org asking for the film to be censored. This NGO and others pressured the Argentine film board (INCAA), which funded the film, to not allow it to be premiered.

In Argentina family court, case files are not computerized, adding delays to a process that is already biased against fathers.

Many of the people asking for censorship were interviewed for the film, where they admit, on camera, that they do everything possible to prevent fathers from seeing their children. They also want to revert the assumption of innocence in these cases. In the words of one psychologist: “If I say that a father is guilty, he is guilty until he can prove his innocence. . . we need to change the constitution so that in these types of cases so the burden of proof is on the father.”

After the movie theater premier was cancelled, the filmmakers arranged a screening open to the public on September 2 at the Colegio Público de Abogados (city law guild) but it was cancelled a few days prior. “Technical difficulties”, were cited but leaked emails revealed that two government functionaries, including a city congresswoman, had personally asked for the movie’s ban, citing its “erred focus”. The congresswoman, Gladys Gonzalez, has debated with Gentile on the radio defending her position and has received a firestorm of criticism on Twitter and Facebook for her views.

The case has since taken to the press, with several media outlets commenting on the issue. “They say they don’t want to censor the movie, just to prevent its exhibition,” reported the newspaper Perfil regarding the opposing NGO. “That’s like saying you don’t want a person dead, you just want him to stop breathing”. Ámbito Financiero likened the situation to “an act of prior restraint”. Of the affair, CineFreaks said: “A movie’s projection shouldn’t be censored at the request of those who haven’t seen it. It’s already helped open up a debate on a long-forgotten issue: fathers”.

Fathers protest against not being able to see their children.

The movie has only grown in popularity and support across social media, both locally and internationally, garnering over 17,000 Facebook “likes”, over 60,000 trailer views.  “30 to 40 fathers suffering contact us a day” as co-director Fernández Ferreira mentioned in an interview with newspaper La Nación, which has also reported on the “strong controversy”. This level of media coverage and social media following is unheard of for a small documentary in Argentina.

The filmmakers and the protagonists of the film (fathers and experts) have been making rounds on television news shows to talk about not only the censorship but the business behind divorce cases.  Lawyers, judges and politicians have also begun to meet with the filmmakers and experts to see how the current system can be modified, as the reaction to the film shows that there is a critical mass of affected families.

The support for Erasing Dad is far greater than the people who are against the film, as censorship in Argentina is unpopular (the dictatorship of 1977-1983 banned films and books). Also, many fathers have begun to speak out about a problem that until recently was taboo: that they can´t see their children after a divorce because the courts do not enforce visitation or they have been victims of false accusations. In the family court system, accusations are not investigated as they do not go to trial, rather, the law states that an accusation by the mother must result in the father being removed from the home for 90 days, whicborrando-a-papa-still-yurah can be renovated indefinitely.

While the movie focuses on Argentina, it demonstrates the issue is worldwide. Recently, Hollywood film star Jason Patric has raised awareness of parental alienation, educating the public and starting an NGO to help families in this situation called “Stand Up for Gus”.

Article 14 of the Constitution of Argentina states that all of the nation’s inhabitants have the right “to publish their ideas without prior restraint”. Gentile said “It’s weird for me as a filmmaker to see reviews of my movie by people who haven’t even seen it yet”. When it premiers it is sure to keep making waves in the family court system by its claim that children have the right to love both parents.

English language contact: info@santelmoproductions.com  “Erasing Dad” in subject line

Finance and Public Administration References Committee – 12/09/2014 – Domestic violence in Australia

Finance and Public Administration References Committee – 12/09/2014 – Domestic violence in Australia

McCORMACK, Ms Fiona, Chief Executive Officer, Domestic Violence Victoria

CHAIR: Welcome. Information has been provided to you on parliamentary privilege, the protection of witnesses and the giving of evidence to Senate committees. I now invite you to make a brief opening statement and then we will go to questions from senators. Thank you for being here today.

Ms McCormack : Madam Chair and members of the Finance and Public Administration References Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you this morning and thank you for your focus on what is such a critical issue facing Australia today. As the peak body for family violence services in Victoria, DV Vic has state-wide membership and regional family violence services across Victoria which provide a variety of responses to women and children who have experienced family violence, including community and women’s health organisations and hospitals.

DV Vic holds a central position in the Victorian family violence system and its governance structures. Against the central tenant of the safety and best interests of women and children, our mission is to provide leadership to change and enhance systems that prevent and respond to family violence. We represent the Victorian family violence sector on the ministerial advisory council on violence against women, the ministerial advisory committee on homelessness, the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children implementation panel, the former reference group for the protection of Victoria’s vulnerable children inquiry, and numerous other advisory mechanisms of the Victorian government.

Family violence is a prevalent and entrenched issue in contemporary Australian society and it is incumbent upon the Commonwealth government to provide strong leadership and national coordination to eliminate such violence in our communities. Domestic or family violence, sexual assaults, sexual harassment, child abuse and other forms of violence are often seen as separate problems but they are intrinsically linked. They are all forms of control and abuse of power. Evidence shows that women and men use and experience violence differently. Men are statistically more likely to use violence against other men and against women; women and girls are disproportionately the victims of family and sexual violence.

You have my submission. I want to particular point out that there are groups in our community who experience higher rates of violence than others—particularly women with disabilities and Aboriginal women at far higher rates because of their vulnerabilities beyond gender. This is of particular concern to us. It is also really affecting our children. We know that children are present at a third of police attendances in Victoria, on average, and yet this only represents those present. It does not necessarily represent the full gamut of children affected. We are really concerned about the number of children on waiting lists. In Victoria, I believe we are really failing children as a society in terms of the response that we are providing to them.

As you would have seen from our submission, family violence reform began a decade ago, and that has really heated up the system. The demand for responses far outweighs our capacity to respond, and that is not just family violence services but courts, police, child protection, and homelessness services particularly. There is lots that the federal government can do. We can go to any questions that you might have, based on the submission or anything else.

Senator WATERS: Thanks so much for your submission and for coming along today. It has been a really powerful day already. It is really helpful for us to hear directly from the experts about the challenges and how we can do better at all levels of government, particularly us here at the federal level of government. I have quite a number of questions and hopefully we will get time to get through many of them. Can you talk about how domestic violence impacts on homelessness? Can you reflect on the adequacy of housing support for women who are seeking to escape violence?

Ms McCormack : The Victorian Homelessness Action Plan cites family violence as driving 44 per cent of Victorian’s homelessness. It is one of the key national drivers. We used to be able to exit women quite quickly from refuge. The only option, pretty much, was for women to go into refuge in the old days. We would exit them into rental properties that they might be able to afford or community or public housing. Those days are gone. Trying to get women into affordable housing is really problematic, which has caused a bottleneck in refuge—which means that, on any given night, there are hundreds of women and children in Victoria who are waiting to get in. And it often means that they are holed up in hotels; it means that there is no kitchen in which they can cook meals for their children; there is no playing area for their children. We often cite the statistic that it takes women seven times to leave a violent relationship. I wonder how much of this is about how much we fail women, in the justice system but also in terms of offering housing options. In Victoria, we had new legislation introduced that for the first time allowed for provisions to have the perpetrator removed from the home, and for women to remain—

Senator WATERS: Ouster orders: is that what they are called?

Ms McCormack : Not in Victoria, but that is basically what it is.

Senator WATERS: That is the concept.

Ms McCormack : Yes. And our hope for what that would mean in reducing rates of family-violence-precipitated homelessness has not been realised, for a couple of reasons that we would see. One is safety. Often it is not safe for women to remain in their own homes. I can talk at length about this further on, but what we have primarily is a system that is focused, in the main, on responding to women and children when they seek support. We have a kind of gaping hole in our system where it relates to responding to men who are a risk to others. And that means that we are not doing anywhere near enough what we could be doing in keeping women safe and protected. That is critical to addressing the issue of homelessness.

The other thing is affordability. It is very, very difficult for many women to be able to afford to live independently. As you know, family violence is experienced not just through physical assault but it is often and most commonly experienced as a range of different behaviours meant to control women. A common feature is financial abuse. So it can be really, really difficult for women: they might have a range of debts in their name but it is his debt; also just in terms of the cost of housing, it has become really difficult. Through NPAH, the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, we were able to invest in initiatives that supported women to remain in the home through a range of different mechanisms—either by supporting change of locks and tightening security measures; or brokerage funds to either address debt or provide advocacy in relation to addressing some of the debt issues; or brokerage funds to just get them over the hump of what might be a backlog in payments in relation to mortgage or rent. So we are really very concerned about the future of the NPAH funding. This has been really critical. We are concerned about what that means in the future.

What else can I say about homelessness? The national partnership funding has been used in Victoria in a very unique way. It coincided with the time of the reform that we had, and it was utilised for particular aspects of our system, particularly in relation to safety: for after-hours support for women and children, but also support for men when they were removed from the home, which is really critical in keeping women and children safe. It is a big part of our response to Aboriginal women and Aboriginal men in Victoria.

So we would see homelessness as a key challenge in Victoria for women and children experiencing family violence. I think that for women to have to return to violent circumstances, because they have nowhere to live, is not acceptable. But it is my belief that that commonly happens.

Senator WATERS: You have talked about the particular challenges faced by women with a disability, and by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and about the unbelievably high rates of domestic and family violence in both of those categories. Can you elaborate on that for us? Can you perhaps give us your views on any of the policy responses that the federal government should be considering to properly address that?

Ms McCormack : The more marginal groups,—and I should include women from non-English-speaking backgrounds in this group as well—the women with additional vulnerabilities beyond gender, can be more vulnerable to violence. For example, women with a disability may be being abused by a carer. Moving into different accommodation and taking a carer with you is really very difficult. Resources for that are very scarce. The Victorian government has invested in resources—’care packages’ are what we are calling them—for women, which has had a certain level of extent. There are issues around the definition. What it means is that women with disability are often not believed when they make claims of violence. It is very difficult for them to report. There are difficulties, I think, in that we need to build the capacity of both disability services and family violence services to work better and more closely together in being able to respond to family violence, because while they are not working together these women often slip through the cracks.

It is the same with Aboriginal women, they can be much less likely to report because they are worried about having their children removed. They can worry about death in custody. There is a range of barriers that they face to reporting and that, of course, means that they are far more vulnerable. We have women from non-English-speaking backgrounds. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to not understand the system and not to know whether there are legal provisions in place that they can utilise. There is the cultural divide. For example, with many Indian women in different cultural groups, it is completely unacceptable for an Indian woman to approach the police. It brings shame on her family. So, of course, Indian women have much higher rates of violence against women because they have no provisions. Men who choose to use violence take advantage of these vulnerabilities because they are much less likely to be caught and there is much less likely to be any type of redress for these groups of women.

When we look at family violence we can have a lot of difficulty, as Rosie said, just getting over the issue about it being gendered. Then we have the way in which the women who are experiencing far higher rates of violence against women are often just kind of tacked onto policy. It is really important in the homelessness data and it is important in the homelessness policy in a range of different ways. It really needs to be given priority.

Senator WATERS: It seems that a lot of the policy responses are directed at the reactive and clearly we need to do better in terms of support and safe pathways for women to get out of violence and remain safe. How have we let it get this bad, and what can we now do better to try to prevent family and domestic violence? The second action plan has now been issued under the national plan. What more should and could we be doing federally to try to precipitate that cultural change?

Ms McCormack : There is so much more that could be done. It really needs to be give the priority. It is outrageous that we ask thousands and thousands of Australians to leave their homes because we cannot keep them safe. If it were happening to any other quarter of our community, I doubt we would expect them to leave home before we could keep them safe. We do need further investment in this issue, and we need to take real care in the environment of budget constraints. We keep getting told about reducing budgets. There is so much more that we could be doing to intervene earlier and prevent the long-term impacts that then go on to cost us as a community. This costs the Australian economy $13.6 billion every year, and a lot of that, I believe, is around the way in which we have a constant churn of service utilisation because we are not supporting women in the best way, up-front, as Rosie’s story is a testament to. A lot of that, as I said earlier, is because we are focusing on responding to women and children, which is really, really important, but there is so much more we could be doing in relation to responding to men.

In Victoria, the Victorian government have just committed to a new initiative that mirrors something that has been introduced in the UK. There are many agencies that come into contact with men who are a risk to others that do not necessarily understand the significance of the risk they are witnessing. They often do not even understand that there are risks because the causes and the dynamics of violence against women are so little understood in our community. So a range of different agencies—think hospitals, corrective services, courts, child protection—come into contact with men who are a risk to others. Even if they did identify that someone was a high risk to others, they might not necessarily know where they could share that information. There are no mechanisms by which they can share that information or work with other agencies to do something about that.

So what they did in the UK was introduced legislation that compelled those agencies to work together locally. It allowed them to bypass privacy legislation—of course, when somebody is identified as being a high risk, it means that we can. The legislation supported that. It is also very difficult to get those agencies to work consistently at the table, in an ongoing way, so that brought those people to the table. What happens, once those agencies are trained, is that, if they identify that a person is a high risk to somebody else, that person’s name goes on a list. These local groups have that list and, before they meet, they are required to go through all their records and bring everything they have on that perpetrator and any of the victims, present or past. That means that those agencies are much better able to get a more comprehensive understanding of the significance of the risk, who is involved, the points of intervention, and they can work together. It really supports better agency accountability.

Senator WATERS: Collaboration.

Ms McCormack : That is right. What we need from the Commonwealth are federal agencies that are relevant, like Centrelink, to participate in that. But we currently do not have mechanisms by which we can communicate with the federal government on issues like perpetrator accountability. The NPIP no longer meets. There are no mechanisms or opportunities through which NGOs and relevant government departments can communicate with each other about, say, what is happening through the national plan or identifying gaps in the system, and we really, really need that.

So there are things that we need from the federal government, and we need them across Australia. The reality is that those programs will only focus on 10 per cent of the perpetrators, leaving 90 per cent to continue victimising others. So it is only scratching the surface of what we can do. It is like a really heavy table with one leg missing: we are trying to address the issue of family violence but we have that fourth corner balanced on a wafer when the only interventions against men are intervention orders or men’s behaviour change programs, which come too late. We really need to be building capacity across our community, to understand the causes and dynamics but also to work more strategically. It is very interesting when men feel the consequences of their behaviour, when there is a tightening of the web of accountability, how much this reduces. That is what we saw in the UK. A lot of it is political will.

The other thing is, we need significantly more investment in the issue of violence against women, but we could do so much more with the resources we have if we had political will driving this. Women’s services on their own cannot provide women with everything they need. It actually requires a more whole-of-government, federal and state, NGO and government partnership to really be working in earnest on this issue, and giving it the priority it requires.

Senator BERNARDI: Ms McCormack, you heard the evidence before by Ms Batty. She covered the lack of communication through various agencies. You are the peak body for domestic violence in Victoria. I am interested in whether you have a response to that and how well you integrate your communications with another government departments and non-government organisations.

Ms McCormack : I guess it is exactly what I am talking about, Senator, when I say that we need the mechanisms by which we can communicate. In Victoria we have had, in the past, really strong mechanisms by which we can work together. That was only begun 10 years ago and it is really focused on the crisis end of responses. It did not focus on perpetrator accountability. But we need models at the response end.

So there are two things we need in working together. We need to be working together on—I believe we are currently working in a policy vacuum. We do not necessarily have enough of a blueprint about where it is we are heading as a system that says, ‘Here’s the issue; here’s how we are going to work to intervene.’ When you are talking about a wicked problem, a very complex problem, and you need a range of different sectors working together, you need a policy document or a vision that a number of different sectors—from different backgrounds; different foci—to understand the vision and what it is we are working towards.

Then you need government ministers saying, ‘This is your priority; make this happen.’ Then we need the mechanisms by which we can communicate—governance mechanisms, if you like—that have representation from government and non-government people, across a range of different sectors, to monitor how that is happening and to ensure accountability. Then we need models, as I was talking about before, with the high-risk strategy. We need more models of those that actually join the efforts of a range of different services for different responses. That is an example of something at a very high risk level.

I think we need to do much more with child protection. We had eight children murdered in Victoria last year. We have had all the children in Victoria this year. It was a factor in 80 per cent of child deaths owned to child protection in Victoria last year. Rather than expecting women’s services to be working on this alone, or police over here, we need to do much better in coordinating those efforts. That is really where we need politicians’ help.

Senator BERNARDI: Are you saying there are legislative impediments to the communication or is it just the silos, the way bureaucracy operates?

Ms McCormack : That is right. For a service on the ground we have different ministers and they have different policies. They are siloed. You might have a women’s strategy to address violence against women, but it belongs to one minister. It has as much relevance to the police minister or the homelessness minister as it has for the minister for women’s affairs. We really need those ministers working together to monitor the progress of that strategy to ensure that we have the mechanisms by which people are brought to the table.

Senator BERNARDI: I understand there is a broad policy area, but my question is more about the communications. If someone comes to you and you need to get in touch with the police force, is there a legislative impediment to you getting information from the police force or another organisation? Do they say, ‘We can’t; there are privacy reasons’?

Ms McCormack : It is mainly around privacy legislation. That is why the legislation that accompanied the high risk strategy in the UK was really beneficial for cutting through. I guess it is a way in which men who choose to use violence go under the radar, because we are not able to share that information.

Senator BERNARDI: In Ms Batty’s evidence, she mentioned a crisis line. Is that something that you run?

Ms McCormack : No, it is one of our member services. It is a state-wide service for crisis responses to women and children. It is a phone line.

Senator BERNARDI: So is it government operated and funded?

Ms McCormack : No. It is funded by government, but it is an NGO.

Senator BERNARDI: Like Lifeline, or something like that, around the country?

Ms McCormack : Yes.

Senator BERNARDI: Your submission makes specific reference to men’s violence, but do you have much call for men using your services?

Ms McCormack : Very rarely. It is a gendered issue. The statistics show over and over again that this is an issue that primarily is perpetrated by men and where women and children are primarily victims. I think that this is one of the reasons why the statistics are so high. It is difficult to prevent something when we have an uncomfortable truth, and I think the way that this issue is understood by men and women in the community is that there is a claim being made that there is something inherently evil in men, that it is biological. I know that that is what I thought I first started studying this. As mother of two sons, I thought, ‘Does this mean there is no hope?’ But it is not biological. In fact, the gender that is spoken about in the research actually refers to the way in which we socially construct what it is to be male and female. We have really deeply held understandings and beliefs around the role of men and the rights of men, and the role of women and the rights of women. Men who choose to use violence have very hypermasculine attitudes about their rights and they often see their partners and their children as their possessions. That is why we see so many women and children murdered when women try to leave, because perpetrators can see it as a slight to their masculinity, and murder is the ultimate form of control and punishment.

These understandings are so deeply held. I remember years ago that a woman contacted a service that I used to work for. Her daughter was experiencing family violence and she was really worried about her and she said, ‘What do you think I can do?’ From what she told me, her daughter was really at high risk, so I talked the mother through what she could do. Then just as she was about to hang up she said, ‘I just think that if she lost a few pounds, or if she tidied the house a little bit, things would settle down.’ Women are sent a very strong message that they are responsible for the violence. We send the message to them over and over again: ‘Why don’t you just leave?’ or ‘Why was she wearing that?’ or ‘Why was she in that place?’ It is almost like we have a pathological resistance to holding men who choose to use violence to account.

Obviously not all men choose to use violence. The challenge at hand, if we are going to prevent violence from happening in the first place, is two things. We, men and women, really need to challenge sexism. I do not think that people understand the links between sexism and violence against women in the same way that we have an understanding about the links between, say, racism and race related violence or homophobia and homophobic related violence. We can do so much in terms of challenging sexist, derogatory and disrespectful attitudes to women in the way in which we parent, in the way in which we communicate with one another and the way in which we work. I think a lot of people think that they have got to wait until they see a violent altercation before they can do something. It is very simple; people can do it straightaway.

The other issue is the way in which we respond to violence against women. When people say, ‘But he such a great bloke,’ or, ‘He is such a good sportsman,’ when we minimise it, and when we constantly talk about, ‘Men are victims too’—which does not marry up on the evidence base—men who choose to use violence, and other men, internalise these messages. They really believe that the broader community supports them. They think, ‘I have this right to behave this way and people think I am okay to do this.’

Particularly when we have got this number of women and children being murdered in murder suicides, it is almost like we have got this contagion effect of men who believe that this is an option. I think we as a community right now, really, if we are going to prevent the further deaths of children like Luke Batty and women like Fiona Warzywoda, we need to be saying it is never okay. No matter how disaffected somebody might feel, no matter how hard done by in the system, it is never ever an option.

Senator BERNARDI: I agree with you; it is never okay. Violence is not okay any level but it works both ways. I think society is horrified if they see a man strike a woman yet I am not sure that the same horror is if a woman strikes a man. There is sometimes defences such as he was rude or he was belligerent and that is an attitude we need to redress as well, I suspect. Do we see many instances in the harm of children where it is not the male who harms the children? We sense in the frustration of mothers that children become the victims because perhaps there is an external aggressor. It might be the husband or past partner who is creating a nuisance and driving a mother to her wits end and she just sort of snaps. Do we see many instances of that?

Ms McCormack : We see women murder children and themselves when they believe that there is no way out. Like Rosie was saying earlier, you try all these different things and you think it is absolutely hopeless. When we look at those the 29 women murdered Victoria last year, all of the perpetrators were male. Of the eight children, I believe that all of the perpetrators were male again. It is part of the social phenomena. It is like we are fish but we do not see the water about how this plays out.

There is research by McKinners that interviewed both men and women about their experience of abuse. The men that were interviewed talked about things like not having a hot meal. They described abuse as not having a hot meal when they came home or not having the children bathed. At the very extreme end, a tiny proportion of physical violence. Whereas women who were interviewed were talking about things like being raped at knifepoint, being run over and those sorts of things. Women experience far greater and more horrific types of violence and they do because we let them. We make excuses for that. It is kind of a tacit cultural thing that we have. We are very resistant to holding men who choose to use violence to account. What we tend to do is make excuses or we put the focus of change on women. And that sends a strong message to men that they have got a right to behave this way.

Senator BERNARDI: By violence, you are talking about physical violence? We heard earlier that there was financial violence, financial assault or whatever the term was, emotional abuse and those sorts of things. Are you specifically referring to physical violence?

Ms McCormack : Working with women who experience violence, it is almost like reading the same book over and over again. They come in and it is very rarely just a slap or a push; it is a range of different things. They will usually say they are not allowed to see their family or when their family come over he behaves in such a rude way nobody will be around. That is about keeping women isolated so they can no longer have a sounding board about what is normal or what is okay. It is about financial abuse and about intimidation. It is all these behaviours so that the woman is absolutely terrified.

It is difficult if you have lived in high levels of terrier for a long period of time—and I do not think there would be many men who would experience that unless they were in war, in fear of their life. Men will say, ‘If you leave me I’m going to kill you, I’m going to kill the children and am going to kill myself.’ They will do things like beat the dog in front of the family as a means of intimidation. We cannot just think of family violence as physical assault. It is a range of different ways that are meant to absolutely terrorise these women. They think if they leave, ‘Oh my God, he is going to kill me.’ Often we see that that is when the violence really escalates and when we are more likely to see women and children murdered.

Women cannot do that to men. It is not just about physical health; it is about the broader community attitudes because, if women behave that way, they are sanctioned and are lambasted in the media, by family and by friends. Look at the woman who said that if she lost a few pounds. Nobody could have cared more for that woman than that woman’s mother, but she had internalised that so much. These women are given these messages over and over again and we are getting these justifications to men. So it is kind of like this tacit thing that happens in our community. That is why it is so difficult.

Senator BERNARDI: Thank you very much.

Senator RICE: Thank you, Fiona, very much for your contribution today. I have a couple of questions. First, you say in your submission there is unprecedented demand for services without enough funding to meet the demand, that family violence services are struggling and are under pressure and that this increase in the demand for services is going to continue to grow. You said that yes, we can do things better and more strategically; it is not all about more resources. In order to be both preventing family violence and properly servicing the demand that is there, how much more resources do you think are needed?

Ms McCormack : That is a question I would love to be able to answer. I would say it is a heap more than what we have got right now. I think that the money invested in this issue is absolutely shameful—and I am not talking about the current governments; I am talking historically. This is an issue that has been neglected. Like Ken Lay says, if we were seeing 29 people murdered on public transport in one year, the government would be throwing money at this issue. It is a matter of political priorities.

We are starting to invest in primary prevention. That is absolutely critical but it is going to be the work of generations. It cannot be at the cost of service provision. So rather than saying, ‘Don’t put more money into this. We need more money here. We need a bigger slice of the pie,’ the reality is that we do not have a big enough pie. So we need more money for primary prevention.

We absolutely need money for demand. We had 60,000 police attendances to family violence incidences in Victoria last year, which was a 21 per cent increase on the year before that, which in turn was a 24 per cent increase on the year before that. We have protocols that mean most of those will result in referrals to family violence services. That has not been funded—there have been bits of money here and there but the demand has not been matched. Most of those end up in court. A lot of those end up in child protection. A lot of those mean that women are having to leave home.

A lot of it has to do with police doing a better job. It used to be that police would attend incidences and would say, ‘It is just a domestic.’ They would not record anything and they would just leave. They are doing increasingly a better job. There is still a fair way to go but we have the right leadership, at least in Victoria, to really drive that. We know that is going to increase in at least the relatively short term and we need to be investing there. We could also be doing so much more, as I said. So I do not know the answer, Senator Rice, but I would hazard it would be a heap more.

Senator RICE: A lot more, yes. Thank you. We will leave it at that, given the time constraints.

CHAIR: I am sorry about that. We were a little late back. Ms McCormack, thank you so much for appearing today.

Ms McCormack : Thank you for the opportunity.

The vengeful mothers who tear fathers from their children’s lives: Britain’s top parenting guru on one of the unspoken scandals of our age

Children desperate not to hurt parents going through divorce

  • They may say they don’t want contact with their father to please mother
  • Some bitter woman are accusing their ex of not being fit to be father
  • This leads to child protection investigations
  • Penelope Leach suggests separating couples try ‘mutual parenting’

 

By Penelope Leach

Child psychologist Penelope Leach has been working with families for nearly 40 years. Here, in the final instalment of her new book, Family Breakdown, she describes one of the cruellest consequences of divorce…

Before his divorce, Ben wouldn’t change his baby daughter’s nappies, seldom played with her eight-year-old brother and never once made it to the school carol concert. On top of that, he had an affair with a woman at work.

And now? Much to his ex-wife Maggie’s fury and disbelief, he’s demanding regular access to the children.

Unfair: Bitter mothers sometimes force their child to cut their father out

Unfair: Bitter mothers sometimes force their child to cut their father out

It’s not hard to see why women like Maggie can be reluctant to co-operate. Indeed, the lengths to which some parents will go to prevent their ex from keeping in contact with the children are truly shocking and, ultimately, very damaging to the children themselves.

When a father (it’s usually the father) leaves the family home, some mothers will lie to stop them from seeing the children or speaking to them.

A father, hoping to talk to his son, will be told: ‘He can’t come to the phone – he’s in the bath.’ To the child: ‘No, it wasn’t your father. Do you really think he’s going to bother phoning?’

To the father on doorstep: ‘They’re not coming out with you; they’ve gone to their nan’s.’ To the children: ‘You didn’t want to go with him and leave me all by myself, did you?’

Perhaps cruellest of all, a parent may play on a child’s sympathies, making him (or her) feel disloyal for loving the other parent: ‘Don’t you leave me, too… You’re all I’ve got.’ Or: ‘We’re all right together aren’t we? We don’t need him.’

 “However much a mother may wish it weren’t so, her ex is the children’s biological father and should never be airbrushed out of their lives…”

Research shows that children are often so desperate not to hurt the parent they live with that they’ll say whatever they know she (it’s usually the mother) wants to hear. They may even say they no longer want any contact with Daddy – when actually, they still love him.

The parent who has left home, of course, is in a far weaker position than the furious mother. Indeed, a lot of fathers are sufficiently intimidated that contact with their children gradually shrivels and even stops. If a dad insists on seeing them, the mother may eventually realise that she can’t continue refusing access without a very good reason. At that point, she may set about producing one.

Some women say there’s been sexual abuse or domestic violence. They may suggest that the father’s environment is unsafe, or that he’s a bad influence (alcoholism, drug addiction and mental illness may be mentioned), or that they suspect he’ll take the child abroad.

Whether such claims are accurate or not, they’ll have to be investigated because they’re to do with child protection – the family court’s principal concern.

And although parents no longer get legal aid for any other aspect of their break-up, mothers can get it for this because a child’s safety is involved. (A fact, I’m afraid, that’s making this type of accusation more common.)

Understandably, the father is often outraged. If the mother’s accusation has never previously been mentioned, it may seem difficult to understand why anyone takes any notice.

However, if there’s the least chance that a parent has been abusive, no contact can be allowed until the matter has been investigated. That means the father will have to apply to the court for a contact order. But the date for that hearing may well be months ahead – and until then, he won’t be able to see his child. As a result, their relationship will be further damaged.

Tread carefully: The psychological damage of warring parents on children can last a lifetime

Tread carefully: The psychological damage of warring parents on children can last a lifetime

For children who have been sexually abused by a parent, the psychological damage can last a lifetime. But if a child is falsely led to believe that a loving parent harmed him, that too can cause long-lasting psychological harm. An allegation of sexual abuse can be dismissed, found unproven, even withdrawn – but it cannot be unmade, ruining relationships that never recover.

Yet it really doesn’t have to be anything like this – even if one parent remains bitterly angry with the other. However much a mother may wish it weren’t so, her ex is the children’s biological father and should never be airbrushed out of their lives.

The very best way to manage the break-up of a family, with minimal long-term harm to your offspring, is to support the relationships that each of you has with the children.

Granted, it’s not easy; it may even seem downright impossible. But whatever you’re feeling about your ex is irrelevant. He’s never going to be an ‘ex’ to the children. To them he’s just Daddy.

HOME TRUTHS

Some one million children are growing up without fathers in the UK, says a 2013 Centre for Social Justice report

Ideally, you should do all you can to keep your sense of betrayal, loneliness and fury strictly private.

Best of all is if you can make a clear separation in your mind between your adult relationship with your ex, and your relationship with him as a parent. If you can manage that, your child will know that the unhappiness he sees and senses is only adult business; the parenting business that is central to his life is still intact.

When both parents make an effort to do this, they sometimes find that part of the lonely space left by the broken partnership has been filled with what I call ‘mutual parenting’.  This is the best possible gift they can make to their children.

The toxic truth: Penelope discusses the affects of divorce on children on ITV's This Morning

The toxic truth: Penelope discusses the affects of divorce on children on ITV’s This Morning

Mutual parenting means that they are jointly committed to putting their children’s wellbeing first and to protecting them as far as they can from the ill-effects of the family break-up.

The most important word in that sentence is ‘jointly’. Many mothers say that they put their children first, and many fathers say likewise – but not many of them credit each other with doing so.

The most difficult aspect of mutual parenting is that it requires frequent communication, when you’d probably prefer to have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. One way or another, your joint responsibilities will have to include making it possible – and enjoyable – for children to be closely in touch with each parent.

If you’re having trouble deciding whether you can manage mutual parenting, don’t rush. Give yourself time to get over the shock of separation – and then ask yourself:

  •  Would you phone your ex-partner or expect him to call you in the middle of the night if there were an emergency?
  • Would you discuss with him or expect him to discuss with you any worrying child behaviour, such as a three-year-old going back to nappies or a nine-year-old crying easily and often?
  • Would you do your best or expect him to do his best to make the transfer from one parent to the other at the beginning and end of visits easy for the children?
  • Would you cover for him or expect him to cover for you if one of you had forgotten a sports day or school play and couldn’t turn up?  
  • Would you pay attention to each other’s views on important educational decisions such as choosing a school?
  • Would you pay attention to each other’s views on managing children’s behaviour (such as how best to handle tantrums) and try to agree on routines (such as bedtimes) and limits?

If the answer to all or most of those is ‘yes’, then you have the foundations for mutual parenting.

Bear in mind that giving equal headspace to the children is more important than being equally hands-on.

So there must be give and take – particularly when the father has never had hands-on care of his offspring. This was clearly the case with Mark, who has two girls, aged five and seven, and a boy of nine. Indeed, his ex-wife Jenny was initially very dubious: ‘I’ve never known him put the children ahead of his own wishes,’ she said.

Co-operate: Try 'mutual parenting' to prevent children getting stuck in the middle of your rows

Co-operate: Try ‘mutual parenting’ to prevent children getting stuck in the middle of your rows

‘Finding time to spend with them – amid his work and the tennis club – was rare. He really doesn’t like family treats or celebrations. In fact, I don’t think he’s really a family man.’

Mark disagreed. His main responsibility, he felt, was to make generous financial arrangements after the divorce. In addition, he planned to play a part by sharing decisions about the children’s education and activities. Now that Jenny was a lone parent, he assumed it would also be his responsibility to provide emergency back-up – although ‘by throwing my money at it rather than my time’.

Meanwhile, he was looking for ways of seeing the children regularly that fit in with his lifestyle. His most successful initiative, he said, was taking them for lessons at the tennis club each weekend, which they very much enjoyed.

However, after more than a year, it became clear that mutual parenting wasn’t working and Mark and Jenny decided to settle for the next best thing: ‘polite parenting’. In polite parenting, there are lesser degrees of contact and communication but parents still protect the children from the worst fall-out from the separation.

Some couples draw up amazingly detailed documents, including lists of rules, templates for telephone calls between them, and ‘visit logs’ which each parent must fill in whenever a child is transferred to the care of the other. In practice, though, these are usually abandoned after a few months.

In time, as passions cool, it’s not unheard of for polite parenting to become closer to mutual.

Family Breakdown by Penelope Leach is published  by Unbound, price £12.99. To buy a copy for £8.99 plus p&p, order online at unbound.co.uk/books/family-breakdown and use the promotion code DM2FAM at checkout.

  • Extracted by Corinna Honan

Documentary “Erasing Dad” censored in Argentina

Documentary “Erasing Dad” censored in Argentina

by Lauren Pringle, contributing blogger

Censorship is not common in Argentina, yet one film has recently become the subject of prior restraint. The documentary Borrando a Papá (Erasing Dad) was originally set to premiere on August 28th, but it was suddenly pulled down at the behest of a non-governmental organization that criticized its release.

DirectedPoster-Borrando-Papá-2014 by Ginger Gentile and Sandra Fernández Ferreira, and produced by San Telmo Productions (owners of the blog Filming in Argentina) Erasing Dad is about the plight of fathers that are “erased” from their children’s lives after a divorce or separation by the family court system that tends to rule against fathers.

Why the controversy over a film about divorce? The film denounces the “thousands of lawyers and psychologists who live off prolonging conflict in family court cases”, states co-director Ginger Gentile, as well as the organizations that receive subsidies by exaggerating domestic violence statistics. The filmmakers claim that resources are not being used to protect the real victims of domestic violence but rather separate fathers who only “crimes” have been to speak Russian to their son or that the mother fears that “he will do something”, as two cases in the documentary show.

“Technical problems” were cited for the cancellation of the theatrical premier of Erasing Dad but few weeks before this date an NGO started a petition on Change.org asking for the film to be censored. This NGO and others pressured the Argentine film board (INCAA), which funded the film, to not allow it to be premiered.

In Argentina family court, case files are not computerized, adding delays to a process that is already biased against fathers.

Many of the people asking for censorship were interviewed for the film, where they admit, on camera, that they do everything possible to prevent fathers from seeing their children. They also want to revert the assumption of innocence in these cases. In the words of one psychologist: “If I say that a father is guilty, he is guilty until he can prove his innocence. . . we need to change the constitution so that in these types of cases so the burden of proof is on the father.”

After the movie theater premier was cancelled, the filmmakers arranged a screening open to the public on September 2 at the Colegio Público de Abogados (city law guild) but it was cancelled a few days prior. “Technical difficulties”, were cited but leaked emails revealed that two government functionaries, including a city congresswoman, had personally asked for the movie’s ban, citing its “erred focus”. The congresswoman, Gladys Gonzalez, has debated with Gentile on the radio defending her position and has received a firestorm of criticism on Twitter and Facebook for her views.

The case has since taken to the press, with several media outlets commenting on the issue. “They say they don’t want to censor the movie, just to prevent its exhibition,” reported the newspaper Perfil regarding the opposing NGO. “That’s like saying you don’t want a person dead, you just want him to stop breathing”. Ámbito Financiero likened the situation to “an act of prior restraint”. Of the affair, CineFreaks said: “A movie’s projection shouldn’t be censored at the request of those who haven’t seen it. It’s already helped open up a debate on a long-forgotten issue: fathers”.

Fathers protest against not being able to see their children.

The movie has only grown in popularity and support across social media, both locally and internationally, garnering over 17,000 Facebook “likes”, over 60,000 trailer views.  “30 to 40 fathers suffering contact us a day” as co-director Fernández Ferreira mentioned in an interview with newspaper La Nación, which has also reported on the “strong controversy”. This level of media coverage and social media following is unheard of for a small documentary in Argentina.

The filmmakers and the protagonists of the film (fathers and experts) have been making rounds on television news shows to talk about not only the censorship but the business behind divorce cases.  Lawyers, judges and politicians have also begun to meet with the filmmakers and experts to see how the current system can be modified, as the reaction to the film shows that there is a critical mass of affected families.