Don’t Repeal School Kids Bonus

The Council of Single Mothers and their Children (Victoria) implore both major parties to reconsider their decision to repeal the School Kids Bonus.

Both Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten made clear commitments to education during the leaders debate. However, somewhat hypocritically, both parties have agreed to remove the School Kids Bonus.

The School Kids Bonus, a payment of $410 for primary school students & $820 for high school students, enables 1.3 million low income families buy the equipment, uniforms and shoes all students need be active members of their school communities.

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Day four of the election and the honours went to Melinda

Melinda informed the Prime Minister that she is distressed by cuts to the Family Tax Benefit. The mum spoke to the Prime Minister as he did a walk through in Victoria.

If the legislation becomes a reality, a sole parent family with one child over 13 years will lose approximately $2,500 per year and a sole parent with two children will lose approximately $3,000 per year. The news is worse for families with children older than 16 years, as all support will be abolished. Ironically these cuts will arrive at the most expensive time to raise children, and as families try to keep their child in secondary school.

The Council of Single Mothers and their Children applauds Melinda for speaking to the Prime Minister and voicing the fear that thousands of families around Australia are feeling.

Family Payments provides essential support for low income families to help with the cost of raising children. Yet, these families, many of whom contend with housing stress, skip meals, and live with hardship are targeted as a ‘savings measure’.

Terese Edwards, CEO of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children stated that ‘Australia has one of the most tightly targeted income support systems and therefore any cuts directly impact upon struggling families’.

The original purpose of the Family Payment System was to protect against child poverty. Family payments are so much more than a ‘savings measure’ and for many it can be the difference between a family surviving or crumbling.

2016 State Budget

CSMC embraces the progressive budget handed down by the Andrews Labor Government last week. We gratefully acknowledge the governments commitment to addressing family violence, and supporting low income families.

In brief, this budget will see:

$148.3 million committed to the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund, which will help over 200,000 disadvantaged students receive these expensive but essential parts of an education.

The expansion of a free uniform, shoes and books program run by State Schools’ Relief, so it can assist more than twice as many students every year.

$81.3 million to support the work of the Royal Commission, and to take immediate action to protect women and children and hold perpetrators accountable.

Investment in children and family services will grow by 14.4 per cent in 2015-16, compared to growth of 6.6 per cent on average over the last four years.

$40.3 million for innovative early intervention projects, reducing homelessness by helping struggling families secure affordable housing or maintain their tenancy. These projects currently support approximately 2000 clients every year.

$200 million for a dedicated Western Women’s and Children’s Hospital, with 237 beds, 39 special care nursery cots and four theatres for families in the west.

For more comprehensive budget information, see the Budget Overview

CSMC looks forward to engaging further with the government to ensure the best outcomes for Victorian single mothers and their children

Federal Election 2016

Given that 2016 is an election year, Council of Single Mothers and their Children would like to give all major political parties the opportunity to inform the votes of single mothers by sharing their policy responses with us. CSMC has written to the Greens, Labor, Liberal and National Parties with a questionnaire about policy relevant to single mothers and their children

To date, only Labor has replied. You can read the full response below. An edited version will appear in the upcoming Scarlet Letter.

CSMC will update this page as we receive more responses and more news with the release of the Budget.

CSMC Victoria – Federal Election Questionnaire – ALP response

Alex Girle: What A Current Affair didn’t tell you

When Alex Girle invited reporter Ben McCormack from A Current Affair (ACA) into her home she did so openly, trusting he was there to tell her story with honesty and integrity and to report on her efforts to improve the life of her family.

Alex allowed McCormack and his camera crew to spend two days following and filming her family, getting to know her and befriending her children. Watching the footage it’s clear Alex and her children felt comfortable with the reporter and were lulled into a false sense of safety. At one stage Alex’s disabled son sweetly pats McCormack and tells the reporter he’d like to go to the park and Alex says McCormack even attended the birthday party her son invited him to.

Because she felt a sense of camaraderie with the reporter, Alex spoke openly and candidly about how much she received from Centrelink, the difficulties she faced finding work while looking after four children and why she was asking people to support her Go Fund Me project. She spoke about the small business she’d started, designing and making wall decals and the interest she was receiving in her designs; however, many customers were asking for larger decals, which Alex’s current equipment can’t accommodate. To buy the machine she needs Alex has to raise $13,000 and so she started the Go Fund Me campaign as a way to kick start this.

Reliance on welfare is not a lifestyle Alex willingly chose for her family and no one in their right mind could legitimately accuse her of being lazy. Alex has six children, four of whom live with her, including her teenage son with cerebral palsy, who requires near constant care. With the exception of her eldest daughter who now lives and works overseas, all of Alex’s children have the same father, including an infant daughter who died a number of years ago after only living for 16 days and whose loss Alex still grieves.

The better part of Alex’s life has been devoted to raising her children, leaving her with little opportunity to develop the kinds of skills that would give her access to employment which pays enough and provides the security she needs to look after her family. Alex wants to work, but finding an employer willing to accommodate her responsibilities as a parent (which includes being on call for her son) has proved impossible. The moment she mentions she has a high needs child doors start closing and the already rare job opportunities available to her dry up.

If she were to return to work, childcare costs alone would undo any economic benefit she’d gain and in fact would put her in a worse financial position than the one she’s in. While the ACA segment acknowledged this it failed to recognise there are numerous other costs associated with working, all of which would set Alex and her family even further back. Since she’s already struggling to make ends meet on what she receives from Centrelink it would be a foolish financial decision for her to take a job that won’t support her family. As she clearly stated in the interview, she often goes without food to pay for things her kids need and her sparsely furnished home is testament to how little Alex’s family really has.

Still, determined to find a way to support her family, Alex realised if no employer was going to give her a go she needed to take matters into her own hands.

When she approached ACA Alex wasn’t looking for sympathy or a handout, she was looking for a realistic way to help her family get out of poverty. You can imagine her horror then when the program aired, portraying her as a welfare queen, laughing all the way to Centrelink and living the high life off tax payer’s dollars.

ACA chose to edit their program in a way that clearly painted Alex’s family and other single mothers as welfare bludgers sponging off hard working Australians. They edited footage of a family experiencing intergenerational poverty into the segment, but failed to tell viewers Alex’s eldest daughter is now living and working overseas and was recently promoted in her work.

CSMC is dependent on donations to support to single mother families. Please join us.


 

The camera panned across her children sitting on the couch playing on iPads, knowing their viewers would surely question how a family on welfare could afford this expensive technology; however, they didn’t tell viewers Alex’s disabled son requires an iPad to help with his communication and learning, or that he dropped the original tablet, shattering the screen. It was only through a stroke of rare good fortune Alex was able to replace the broken iPad.

ACA deliberately didn’t show the cracked screen on the device her younger son was playing with. In fact in the shot where the little boy holds the iPad up Alex states he did so at the cameraman’s request, so the broken screen couldn’t be seen.

ACA didn’t tell its viewers Alex didn’t choose to be a single mum or that her family was shattered through violence and abuse. They didn’t tell you Alex and her partner moved their family from Sydney to Melbourne to access better medical care for their son. They didn’t tell you about the unscrupulous real estate agent who reneged on the lease the family had signed and paid bond and rent in advance for when they got to Melbourne, leaving them homeless with five children.

They didn’t show you the hard working mum who, in spite of the many setbacks she’s faced, still manages to get on with life or the mum who still keenly feels the loss of her baby daughter. They didn’t ask why Alex gets no child support, or tell you she manages the needs of their disabled son and the other children with almost no help from the children’s father. They didn’t focus on her genuine efforts to break her family’s current dependence on welfare and Alex’s attempts to create her own work were only added as a kind of afterthought.

During the segment ACA shows Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison saying “We don’t want to give children and people growing up in families the expectation that welfare is a career choice, ‘cause it shouldn’t be.” 2GB broadcaster Chris Smith followed this with, “. . . the system’s there to cushion her through this, but she shouldn’t think that that should be her future, nor the future of her children . . . with all the welfare benefits she can obtain we’ve now got a situation where she won’t be contributing to the country, she won’t be getting a job. She doesn’t have the motivation to get a job . . . we’ve gotta get that multi-generational welfare out of the heads of people and make them realise the benefits for people that accrue when you go out and get a job.”

Neither of these men met nor spoke to Alex and one wonders whether ACA told them Alex’s real story, because they clearly didn’t understand her situation. And instead of focusing on the lack of suitable jobs for women with caring responsibilities, or acknowledging employers are rarely willing to hire women in Alex’s situation they insinuated she was to blame for her circumstance.

Of course ACA must have known their viewers would take one look at Alex and see a mum with four kids and make assumptions about her family without considering the dedication and obvious commitment it takes to raise four children on her own. They didn’t ask her about how hard it must be to be the sole carer of her disabled son. They told you what Alex receives from Centrelink but neglected to acknowledge how hard it is to raise one child on that income, let alone four or a child with a disability.

Australia’s safety net long ago became a poverty trap for those who most need support. Income support payments are now so low single mums and their children often don’t have enough even to cover the basics.

Women like Alex, who have experienced domestic violence and homelessness, still manage to achieve safety, security, education and love for their children, but programs like ACA choose to ignore this in favour of sensationalism and the opportunity to vilify single mothers and others caught in the devastating cycle of poverty.

Rather than highlight the true horror story, which is a system that abandons Australians to a minimum wage insufficient to support a family, a lack of real job opportunities or job security for anyone with limited experience, skills or education and the fact that support for income recipients has not increased to meet the real costs of living in more than two decades, ACA chose to use Alex and her family. They came into her home, gained her trust and befriended her children. They asked her loaded questions, repeatedly stopped the camera to coach her on what to say, including asking her numerous times to say the line, “I earn almost a thousand dollars a week on welfare. Why would I work for anything less?” and then edited her words out of context in order to misrepresent her and hold her up as an example of people on income support who don’t want to work.

It was a confusing and contradictory segment, which on one hand seemed to acknowledge wages were too low for a family to survive on, but then implied a minimum rate of income support provided as a safety net was too generous.

Since the segment aired Alex has received abuse from strangers and has had to suffer the embarrassment of a prospective employer “Googling” her during her interview and reading the mortifying details of the ACA beat up. After reading about her online this employer told Alex, “We are looking for someone with work ethic. Clearly you don’t have one,” so not only has ACA humiliated her, they’ve further damaged her already limited employment prospects.

What’s even more devastating however, is the impact the show has had on her kids. Alex’s children have been subjected to ongoing taunts and schoolyard bullying, including physical attacks and being told to “just give up and swallow a handful of pills” and “go home and cry to your welfare mum”.

Alex contacted the show to advise them of the torment she and her children were subjected to after the program aired. ACA advised her they had pulled the segment from their website, which suggests they recognise it was cruel and its misrepresentations were putting Alex’s children at risk; however the segment can still be viewed on the Nine msn website http://www.msn.com/en-au/video/tech/welfare-roundabout/vp-AAch8H1

Alex states ACA also tried to appease her by donating $1500 to her Go Fund Me account, but she returned this because ethically she couldn’t accept money from a program that had deliberately and publicly disgraced her.

The portrayal of vulnerable people, like Alex and others on income support payments by sections of the Australian media are polarising and often appear to coincide with the introduction of cuts to income support and harsher penalties for non compliance.

“Alex’s story on A Current Affair aired on the same day as a front page story in the Daily Telegraph claiming that Australia’s welfare bill was out of control,” says Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS.

Australia’s welfare bill to top $190b with taxpayers funding 240 million payments a year’, by Daniel Meers, The Daily Telegraph, June 29, 2015:

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/australias-welfare-bill-to-top-190b-with-taxpayers-funding-240-million-payments-a-year/story-fni0cx12-1227419226438

“This was at a time when the government was pushing to have legislation passed in Parliament to further reduce family payments that would particularly affect single parents,” she says.

“We have been concerned for a long time at the way sections of the Australian media treat people receiving income support payments, especially single mums, young people and people with work incapacities and with disability. Unfortunately, degrading and insulting portrayals of people doing it tough in our community have become commonplace and many of our members have repeatedly raised these issues with media outlets and the Australian Press Council over the years.

“ACOSS has also raised this with successive governments. It’s become striking to us that such stories invariably surface at a time when the government of the day is about to enact some harsh legislation that strips income or rights away from people receiving welfare payments. We saw this under the previous Labour government with the cuts to single parenting payments, which dropped around 80,000 sole parents onto the lower paying Newstart Allowance.

“It’s time for governments and media outlets to stop this practice of misrepresenting, demeaning and insulting people receiving income support payments. This only serves to damage people and divide our community.”

CSMC sought comment from ACA, Ben McCormack and the two men interviewed for the segment, Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison and 2GB Announcer Chris Smith. ACA, Ben McCormack and Scott Morrison all declined to comment. Chris Smith was not available for comment at the time CSMC attempted to contact him.

Understandably, Alex was devastated by the program’s misrepresentation of her and her family and legitimately felt her trust had been horribly violated. Despite this awful setback however, she remains committed to doing whatever it takes to help her family and get her business off the ground. Working from home will allow Alex to be there when her son needs her and she’s hopeful the business will eventually make enough money so she and her family will no longer need to rely on government income support.

If you would like to support Alex you can visit her Go Fund Me webpage at gofundme.com/ww7qjqc and make a donation.

My child doesn’t want to go to visitation with the other parent. Do I have to force him?

Dara Isaacson

As a family lawyer one of the most common questions that I get asked by my clients is what their obligations are when their child or children do not want to spend time with the other parent when the parents have separated. This is particularly concerning for parents when there are Court Orders in place which provide for the child to spend time with the parents.

When faced with these issues one of the first questions that I ask is, what indicates to you that child X (let’s call him Lachlan for the purposes of this hypothetical) doesn’t want to go? The responses that I get run the gamut of ‘Lachlan screams and cries and says he doesn’t want to go’; ‘when it is time for handover Lachlan runs into his room and locks the door’; ‘when Lachlan returns from the visit he says that he never wants to see her/him again’.

Obviously, this is one of the most distressing things that separated parents can go through, so they need good sound advice, both from a legal and practical point of view. And in truth, the answer is not always straightforward. Continue reading

Tackling housing unaffordability: a 10-point national plan

 Image courtesy of image catalog flickr cc

Hal Pawson, UNSW Australia; Bill Randolph, UNSW Australia; Judith Yates, University of Sydney; Michael Darcy, University of Western Sydney; Nicole Gurran, University of Sydney; Peter Phibbs, University of Sydney, and Vivienne Milligan, UNSW Australia

The widening cracks in Australia’s housing system can no longer be concealed. The extraordinary recent debate has laid bare both the depth of public concern and the vacuum of coherent policy to promote housing affordability. The community is clamouring for leadership and change.

Especially as it affects our major cities, housing unaffordability is not just a problem for those priced out of a decent place to live. It also damages the efficiency of the entire urban economy as lower paid workers are forced further from jobs, adding to costly traffic congestion and pushing up unemployment.

There have recently been some positive developments at the state level, such as Western Australia’s ten year commitment to supply 20,000 affordable homes for low and moderate income earners. Meanwhile, following South Australia’s lead, Victoria plans to mandate affordable housing targets for developments on public land. And in March the NSW State Premier announced a fund to generate $1bn in affordable housing investment.

But although welcome, these initiatives will not turn the affordability problem around while tax settings continue to support existing homeowners and investors at the expense of first time buyers and renters. Moreover, apart from a brief interruption 2008-2012, the Commonwealth has been steadily winding back its explicit housing role for more than 20 years.

The post of housing minister was deleted in 2013, and just last month Government senators dismissed calls for renewed Commonwealth housing policy leadership recommended by the Senate’s extensive (2013-2015) Affordable Housing Inquiry. This complacency cannot go unchallenged.

Challenging the “best left to the market” mantra

The mantra adopted by Australian governments since the 1980s that housing provision is “best left to the market” will not wash. Government intervention already influences the housing market on a huge scale, especially through tax concessions to existing property owners, such as negative gearing. Unfortunately, these interventions largely contribute to the housing unaffordability problem rather than its solution.

But first we need to define what exactly constitutes the housing affordability challenge. In reality, it’s not a single problem, but several interrelated issues and any strategic housing plan must specifically address each of these.

Firstly, there is the problem faced by aspiring first home buyers contending with house prices escalating ahead of income growth in hot urban housing markets. The intensification of this issue is clear from the reduced home ownership rate among young adults from 53% in 1990 to just 34% in 2011 – a decline only minimally offset by the entry of well-off young households into the housing market as first-time investors.

Secondly, there is the problem of unaffordability in the private rental market affecting tenants able to keep arrears at bay only by going without basic essentials, or by tolerating unacceptable conditions such as overcrowding or disrepair. Newly published research shows that, by 2011, more than half of Australia’s low income tenants – nearly 400,000 households – were in this way being pushed into poverty by unaffordable rents.

Thirdly, there is the long-term decline in public housing and the public finance affordability challenge posed by the need to tackle this. In NSW, for example, 30-40% of all public housing is officially sub-standard.

“Why the “build more houses” approach won’t work

A factor underlying all these issues is the long-running tendency of housing construction numbers to lag behind household growth. But while action to maximise supply is unquestionably part of the required strategy, it is a lazy fallacy to claim that the solution is simply to ‘build more homes’.

Even if you could somehow double new construction in (say) 2016, this would expand overall supply of properties being put up for sale in that year only very slightly. More importantly, the growing inequality in the way housing is occupied (more and more second homes and underutilised homes) blunts any potential impact of extra supply in moderating house prices. Re-balancing demand and supply must surely therefore involve countering inefficient housing occupancy by re-tuning tax and social security settings.

Where maximising housing supply can directly ease housing unaffordability is through expanding the stock of affordable rental housing for lower income earners. Not-for-profit community housing providers – the entities best placed to help here – have expanded fast in recent years. But their potential remains constrained by the cost and terms of loan finance and by their ability to secure development sites.

Housing is different to other investment assets

Fundamentally, one of the reasons we’ve ended up in our current predicament is that the prime function of housing has transitioned from “usable facility” to “tradeable commodity and investment asset”. Policies designed to promote home ownership and rental housing provision have morphed into subsidies expanding property asset values.

Along with pro-speculative tax settings, this changed perception about the primary purpose of housing has inflated the entire urban property market. The OECD rates Australia as the fourth or fifth most “over-valued” housing market in the developed world. Property values have become detached from economic fundamentals; a longer term problem exaggerated by the boom of the past three years. As well as pushing prices beyond the reach of first home buyers, this also undermines possible market-based solutions by swelling land values which damage rental yields, undermining the scope for affordable housing. Moreover, this places Australia among those economies which, in OECD-speak, are “most vulnerable to a price correction”.

While moderated property prices could benefit national welfare, no one wants to trigger a price crash. Rather, governments need to face up to the challenge of managing a “soft landing” by phasing out the tax system’s economically and socially unjustifiable market distortions and re-directing housing subsidies to progressive effect.

A 10-point plan for improved housing affordability

Underpinned by a decade’s research on fixing Australia’s housing problems, we therefore propose the following priority actions for Commonwealth, State and Territory governments acting in concert:

  • Moderate speculative investment in housing by a phased reduction of existing tax incentives favouring rental investors (concessional treatment of negative gearing and capital gains tax liability)
  • Redirect the additional tax receipts accruing from reduced concessions to support provision of affordable rental housing at a range of price points and to offer appropriate incentives for prospective home buyers with limited means.
  • By developing structured financing arrangements (such as housing supply bonds backed by a government guarantee), actively engage with the super funds and other institutional players who have shown interest in investing in rental housing
  • Replace stamp duty (an inefficient tax on mobility) with a broad-based property value tax (a healthy incentive to fully utilise property assets)
  • Expand availability of more affordable hybrid ‘partial ownership’ tenures such as shared equity – to provide ‘another rung on the ladder’
  • Implement the Henry Tax Review recommendations on enhancing Rent Assistance to improve affordability for low income tenants especially in the capital city housing markets where rising rents have far outstripped the value of RA payments.
  • Reduce urban land price gradients (compounding housing inequity and economic segregation) by improving mass transit infrastructure and encouraging targeted regional development to redirect growth
  • Continue to simplify landuse planning processes to facilitate housing supply while retaining scope for community involvement and proper controls on inappropriate development
  • Require local authorities to develop local housing needs assessments and equip them with the means to secure mandated affordable housing targets within private housing development projects over a certain size
  • Develop a costed and funded plan for existing public housing to see it upgraded to a decent standard and placed on a firm financial footing within 10 years.

While not every interest group would endorse all of our proposals, most are widely supported by policymakers, academics and advocacy communities, as well as throughout the affordable housing industry. As the Senate Inquiry demonstrated beyond doubt, an increasingly dysfunctional housing system is exacting a growing toll on national welfare. This a policy area crying out for responsible bipartisan reform.

The Conversation

Hal Pawson is Associate Director – City Futures – Urban Policy and Strategy, City Futures Research Centre, Housing Policy and Practice at UNSW Australia.
Bill Randolph is Director, City Futures – Faculty Leadership, City Futures Research Centre, Urban Analytics and City Data, Infrastructure in the Built Environment at UNSW Australia.
Judith Yates is Honorary Associate Professor at University of Sydney.
Michael Darcy is Director of Urban Research Centre at University of Western Sydney.
Nicole Gurran is Professor – Urban and Regional Planning at University of Sydney.
Peter Phibbs is Chair of Urban Planning and Policy at University of Sydney.
Vivienne Milligan is Associate Professor – City Futures Research Centre, Housing Policy and Practice at UNSW Australia.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Ode to single mothers

Image credit: David Castillo Dominici freedigitalphotos.net

(Image credit: David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalphotos)

 

by rowan white

We love you when you host your baby shower,
or show us that first smile which makes us laugh
we say who rocks the cradle has the power
and sympathise if fortune leaves you last.

 

You’d think that bringing babies up was good,
especially when all other folk had bailed,
we acted like we cared and understood,
we said we knew it wasn’t you who’d ‘failed’.

 

For this we made you, from your days with dolls,
to vacuum floors and make another’s meals.
You ‘seek’ that other ‘work’ which fate extols,
yet mother, feeding growing tot who squeals,
then in the evening readies him for bath,
we cut your cash and wonder at your path.

 

Many thanks to Rowan White for permission to reprint Ode to single mothers from his first collection Tailwind and other poems which is available for puchase from Collected Works Bookshop at L1 37 Swanston St for $10.

We Need a Better World, Not Better Parents

BY ANNE FOY

Photo credit: Chaiwat, FreeDigitalPhotos

 

It (Always) Takes Two is a Damning Sentiment Regarding Parenthood

Every single parent knows what it’s like to be an outsider: It’s not just about the legal complications, outright social stigma, or the lack of inclusiveness in mainstream media; it’s in the little messages circulating back and forth which have big meaning. Single parenting may have come a long way in recent decades, making it a more tolerated and accepted aspect of parenthood in society, but single parenthood is not something to be tolerated. Single parenthood has just as much place in our society as any other kind of parenthood, yet it seems that we are constantly bombarded with heteronormative propaganda on a day to day basis suggesting otherwise.

Defining Normal

Before people jump the gun, it’s important to note that being against heteronormativity isn’t the same as being against heterosexual relationships. There is absolutely nothing wrong with men and women who choose to be together and have a family; however, it’s the notion that this kind of relationship is the only construct which is acceptable, particularly in a familial context, which is troubling. Recently an ad aired sponsored by the Australian Marriage Forum on the night of Mardi Gras celebrations sparked a huge backlash from the Australian LGBTIQA community. The ad blatantly states “You hear about marriage equality a lot, but what about equality for kids?”

This statement is problematic in a number of ways, and the LGBTIQA community was right to campaign to get the ad pulled. Homosexual people have proven that they are more than capable of being excellent parents, though, like heterosexual people, they are far from perfect. To say any kind of parent is flawless based on their sexuality is counter-intuitive. The fact is that we all have flaws, we all make mistakes, and on an equal level, we all have our successes. Why would straight or gay be any different, other than the restrictions which narrow-minds impose? Yet there is another aspect of this which people haven’t been as quick to focus on. While being clearly directed at the movement of marriage equality, by suggesting that the only appropriate formula for good parenting is man + woman, this supposed campaign of maintaining ‘integrity’ for marriage has isolated single parents in the process.

Not Alone

Single parenthood isn’t something which should be pitied. Nor should it be perceived as a situation which isn’t necessarily chosen. Certainly, there are many circumstances in which individuals find themselves single parents, and it can be a difficult situation to be in, but this situation can work out. Finding another partner may be part of the solution for some. For others, it isn’t. Some people actively choose to be single parents. Yes, choose. That doesn’t mean they aren’t anticipating challenges or difficulties, it just means that this is the formula which works for them.

We often talk about how important it is for a child to have men and women in their lives. And there is merit to this in the sense that both genders can have a balancing effect for children. But we also have to ask ourselves why this is important? Is it because a boy who only grows up around men won’t learn to respect women? Is this a fair assumption to make? Or should we endeavour to construct a society in which genders respect one another no matter what? If true equality exists, these issues become significantly less.

Critics will say, “This is an ideal world”. Fair enough, but most parents – be they single, same-sex, or heterosexual – will strive to maintain a balance in their child’s life as much as possible. There are places in this world where entire communities bring up children, where having a mother and father isn’t the be-all or end-all. There are countless stories of children who have grown up under a different relationship dynamic to become strong, intuitive, and balanced individuals. There is no fool-proof formula set in stone for parenthood. There is only the formula which works for you as a family. For some single parents this may mean finding another partner. For others, it may not.

It’s a Better World We Need, Not Better Parents

We see so much pressure being placed on individuals these days, whether it is aspiring to academic achievement or professional prowess, and parents are no exception. Critics may want to argue against single parenting when it comes to a variety of circumstances, such as juggling part-time work and motherhood/fatherhood, or how to handle the difficult teenage years. Yet as single parents, we require what anyone requires when it comes to this – patience, compassion and understanding, as well as the appropriate access to resources. There are ways to help our growing young who bring the same challenges as anyone else’s children, but in different shoes. In many ways these circumstances will be more difficult, but such a huge portion of that is down to society’s own intolerance and hostility towards anything which defies the accepted formula. No one wants their children to suffer, but aren’t we making all our children suffer if we only validate one type of family?

In response to the Australian Marriage Forum, there are many things to be said. One of them is: If you truly care about the future of our children, then be a part of a world where we can all love and accept one another. This ad isn’t doing anyone any favours.

 

His Name is Man

By Tenar Dwyer and Kerry Davies

 

Three days before Man Haron Monis walked into the Lindt café in Martin Place and took 17 people hostage his conviction for using the Australian postal service to send threatening letters to war widows had been upheld in the high court.

A violent predator with a history of misogynistic abuse of women, Monis was also out on bail for charges relating to his involvement with the brutal murder and immolation of his ex wife, as well as more than 50 counts of indecent assault stemming from his time as a self-styled spiritual healer.

Despite receiving a moderate sentence of 300 hours of community service and a two-year good behaviour bond for the postal service offence, the failure to have his convictions overturned was viewed by Monis as a gross injustice. Like other violent men who claim persecution by the system, Monis was displeased with the outcome of the court and felt justified to take his outrage out on innocent people.

While his actions on Monday were no doubt terrifying for the innocent women and men caught up in his vendetta, Man Haron Monis was not connected to any known terrorist group and it would be dangerous and potentially inflammatory to conflate his actions with acts of terrorism; at least not in the traditional sense of the word.

Monis acted alone. He was a man with a self-inflated sense of importance and a belief in his own entitlement, which ultimately made him a danger to women and the community at large. By cloaking himself in the symbolism associated with extremist cults he was seeking justification for his outrage and attempting to divert attention from the fact of his own selfish motives.

In the aftermath of the siege, which left two innocent people dead, it’s fair to ask how this was allowed to happen. The same questions were asked about Adrian Bayley, a sexually violent criminal who, while out on parole, went on to brutally rape and murder Jill Meagher. It was the question on everyone’s lips after Greg Anderson took a cricket bat to Luke Batty’s head and the question countless women ask when authorities fail to protect them and their children from violent men.

Our Minister for Women and Prime Minister, Tony Abbott asked what could have been done to prevent the horrible tragedy that unfolded in Sydney this week. This is the very same Prime Minister who led the first government in 25 years to tell the UN Committee against Torture that domestic violence, men’s everyday violence against women, isn’t torture.

Tony Abbott is spending billions of taxpayer dollars fighting terrorists overseas and at home despite not one person having been killed as the result of a terrorist attack on our soil. Meanwhile, Australian women are dying in droves at the hands of violent men who move through our communities with impunity.

Monday’s siege and its tragic outcome is just one of countless stories that highlight the consequences of inaction from the police, media and our governments to hold men accountable for the overwhelming sense of entitlement that leads to these acts of violence. If Man Haron Monis’ history of abuse and hatred of women had been treated with the gravity it deserved we could have avoided the horror we witnessed this week and innocent people would not have lost their lives.

The apathy toward men’s violence against women has to end NOW. The consequences of inaction are deadly. This year alone 73 Australian women have died as a result of men’s violence. The majority of those women have died at the hands of their partner or ex-partner.

What our leaders and protective services don’t seem to understand is for far too many Australian women there is only one terrorist.

His name is man.