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Chaos at the Crossroads: Family Law Reform in Australia

By John Stapleton - posted Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The book Chaos at the Crossroads: Family Law Reform in Australia is launched today and fulfils a long held dream of Dads On The Air to include publishing alongside its weekly broadcasts. The book marks another step forward for the community radio program that began in Western Sydney in 2000 with a small group of disgruntled separated men who had no experience of radio and no resources.

The book tells the story of the last decade of struggle for family law reform in Australia, not just by separated fathers, their supporters and their lobby groups, but by grandparents and other family members cut out of children's lives by the discriminatory and destructive sole-custody model purveyed by the court.

Chaos also tells the story of how, from the humble beginnings of that disheveled little group, Dads On The Air became the world's longest running and most famous fathers radio program, regularly interviewing national and international activists, advocates, academics and authors. Dads On The Air, broadcast on Liverpool's community radio station 2GLF each Tuesday morning, went on to attract a talented team of people with legal, journalistic, managerial, entertainment, academic and counseling backgrounds. This was achieved with no more motivation than a sense of outrage over institutional corruption, social injustice and the fate of our children.


From today Chaos at the Crossroads will progressively become available throughout the month in most of the world's online eBook retail outlets, beginning with Amazon and ending with Apple's iBook store.

When Dads On The Air began in 2000 we had no idea we were part of a worldwide trend protesting the treatment of fathers in separated families. Internationally, Fathers 4 Justice in Britain had yet to climb Buckingham Palace or invade the House Of Commons. Bob Geldoff was yet to speak out. But we were fortunate to find ourselves broadcasting in an era when there was no shortage of stories. As that first small band of dads rapidly discovered, like no other subject, family law cut deep into hearts and lives, a seemingly infinite well of pain.

The history of Dads On The Air coincided closely with the evolution of Australian groups such as Dads In Distress, the Non-Custodial Parents (Equal Parenting) Party and the Shared Parenting Council of Australia. Dads On The Air was born not just out of a sense of outrage, but frustration with the mainstream media's failure to take men's issues seriously. We were proud to provide a conduit for groups otherwise little heard.

At first we felt very much alone. Our bolshie broadcasts put us out on a limb. We would say what we had to say nervously, thinking that at any time the Australian Federal Police would come to silence us. Our fears were not unfounded. The Court, which we referred to as The Palace Of Lies, had a long history of attempting to stifle its critics. One man who suggested in a letter that the court belonged on a garbage tip found himself being arrested by three Federal Police. Criticism of the court as "criminal" and "corrupt" now fly across the internet without consequence.

Dads On The Air was itself a prime example of the way the information revolution made it possible for a small group in western Sydney to cheaply create a 90 minute weekly program that could be downloaded by anyone with a computer in many different parts of the world. The immediate reach the internet provided outside the Liverpool radio footprint allowed us to attract some of the nation's and the world's leading political, academic and social commentators simply did not exist a decade before.

With the spread of communication technology, the court's arbitrary and cruel judgements were already the stuff of legends by the time we began broadcasting. One Indian immigrant was jailed for writing to his parents in English. The court ignored his protestations that his father had two masters' degrees in English. The court has also ordered litigants not to contact the United Nations with their concerns, not to publicise the injustices of their cases in any way and not to take their children to a doctor or raise welfare concerns. One father was ordered not to contact his children after he allegedly carried his daughter around on his shoulders, in a crowded park, in a suggestive manner. Another father who expressed a desire to see his adolescent son after the boy's suicide attempt was ridiculed from the bench. Yet another was jailed for sending his child a birthday card.


Similar stories of damaged lives circled the Child Support Agency. The Agency claimed to be treating fairly a young father who was losing 80 per cent of his income in tax and child support and died with one of their letters in his hand. Another man took more than two weeks to die when he swallowed poison after a call from a CSA officer. The CSA refused to attend the inquest despite a request from the Magistrate.

Chaos at the Crossroads unabashedly looks at the issue of family law from a father's perspective. Father's voices are often invisible in the public debate and we try to redress the imbalance in our humble way.

Dads On The Air was strategically placed to cover the push for family law reform in Australia. For a period many of the country's leading politicians, including the Attorney-General, queued to come on the show; most wanting to demonstrate their support for shared parenting and for fathers. This openness has not been matched by the present government.

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Chaos at the Crossroads is now available directly from the internet publishers at:

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About the Author

John Stapleton is an Australian writer and a founder of the world's longest running fathers' radio program Dads on The Air. He has just published Chaos at the Crossroads: Family Law Reform in Australia.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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