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PM urges male role models for boys

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Old June 24th 03, 10:31 AM
Max Burke
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Default PM urges male role models for boys

The West Australian
June 20, 2003

PM urges male role models for boys


Too many boys grew up without male role models after their parents
divorced, Prime Minister John Howard said yesterday - as sole parents
against automatic shared custody.

Mr Howard has flagged a review of child custody laws in response to
concerns raised by coalition MPs and senators about unfair child support
payments and access arrangements.

He said the review would consider a proposal to make shared custody the
default arrangement in child custody battles, as long as both parents
were considered fit.
The Family Court currently considers each case in the best interests of
the child.

"I'm not saying we are going to adopt this. It may on further
examination turn out to be prejudicial to the child, unworkable, but we
should be willing to have another look at it," Mr Howard said. He
indicated the review could involve both State and Federal governments,
parents' groups and community input.

Mr Howard said increasing numbers of marriage breakdowns meant more and
more children would be caught between warring parents, and he was
particularly worried about boys growing up without male influence. "If
a boy lives with his mother, sees little of his father, has no older
brothers or close uncles or close family male adult friends and
typically might go to a primary school where there are very few male
teachers, it's often not until the boy is 15 or 16 that he comes across
a male role model with which he can identify," he said. "Now I think
that's bad and it happens too often."

Sole Parents Union president Kathleen Swinbourne said the proposal
undermined the Family Court's power to decide each custody case in the
interests of the child.
"We would all like fathers to take more responsibility in raising their
children - but this is not the way to do it," she said.
Ms Swinbourne said distance, the financial burden of running two
households, and hostility between parents forced into shared custody
were arguments against making it the default solution.

Labor legal affairs spokesman Robert McClelland said judges should have
the discretion to decide, not politicians.
The Shared Parenting Council said the interests of the child would
remain paramount and the Family Court would step in only if couples
failed to reach agreement during a mandatory mediation process. "If both
parents are fit, they should share the kids," council Federal director
Geoffrey Greene said.

Statistics showed the Family Court ordered joint custody in only 3 per
cent of cases, with 76 per cent to the mother and 21 per cent to the
But informally, 30 to 40 per cent of divorcing parents opted for some
sort of shared parenting arrangement, he said.


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