About Lone Fathers (Article)
Structure and Role
The LFAA embraces a number of separate but linked organisations. The Lone Fathers Association (ACT) Inc. was established in 1973, and there are approximately twenty LFA Branches around the country. The Lone Fathers Association (Australia) Inc. (LFAA) was established at the national level in 1975, and has been recognised by the Australian Government as the peak body for separated fathers and their children since 2000. The
LFAA was influential in the setting up the House of Representatives ISP inquiry into Joint Custody and in helping to convince the Australian Parliament that major changes were required in Australian family law away from an adversarial system and towards greater shared parenting. The concept of Family Relationships Centres now adopted into legislation is founded on the LFAA?s advocacy over many years of ?Family Assistance Bureaus? with closely similar objectives and functions.
The LFAA liaises closely with government organisations such as the Child Support Agency, the Family Court, the Institute of Family Studies, the Human Rights Commission, the Attorney-General's Department, the Department of Family and Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FAaCSIA), local government, welfare agencies, and MP?s and Senators.
The LFAA provides policy advice to government, conducts information meetings, and provides a free telephone information and counselling service throughout Australia dealing with family law and related matters, a free legal service in the ACT, and face-to-face counselling sessions for unemployed fathers on behalf of the CSA. It also maintains the present Web site, and publishes a bi-monthly newsletter.
The LFAA conducted for some years a men?s and children?s crisis and accommodation service in the ACT for homeless men and their children. A number of clients of that service informed the LFA that the assistance provided saved their lives. The LFAA conducted a National Conference on Family Law at Parliament House in June 2005. That Conference, entitled ?Systems failing fathers: a fatherless society in waiting?, was addressed by many members of the LFA and other men?s groups, and by the Attorney General, the Minister for Family and Community Services, the Acting Shadow Attorney-General, other members of Parliament, the Chief Executive Officers of the Family Court and the CSA, the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner, and distinguished academics. Important resolutions were passed at the Conference providing a strong basis for pursuing the Government?s new family law initiatives in a practical way. A further national LFA conference is planned for mid-2007 to examine progress being made in implementing the new family law reforms on shared parenting.
The LFAA is very familiar with the problems faced by men who are simultaneously in a low-income situation and faced with family breakdown. Problems may, inter alia, include alcohol and/or drug abuse, financial problems, family breakdown, illness, domestic violence, and/or crime, as well as the usual emotional and legal issues. The skills of LFA personnel as advisers reflect the LFA?s concerns about fairness and equality for both partners and their children. The organisation?s knowledge of the impact of the Child Support Scheme on its clients is considered to be second to none.
Policy submissions to government
Policy submissions provided by the LFA in recent years have included written and oral evidence to government and to Parliamentary Inquiries into family law and related matters, child custody, superannuation, other property, and poverty issues, inquiries by the Law Reform Council into matrimonial property, contempt orders, and access, and an inquiry by the Child Support Task Force into the Child Support Scheme.
The LFA contributes to the work of Government advisory panels on both policy and administration, and corresponds with State and Territory Governments on matters falling within the responsibilities of the State and Territory governments, e.g., domestic violence, and with peak professional legal professional bodies such as the Family Law Council.
The LFA ACT has for many years conducted monthly meetings to which members and others can come to discuss issues and receive information. Guest speakers in the ACT have included the CEO?s of the CSA and the ACT Legal Aid Office, and the Chief Magistrate for the ACT.
The target group is LFA members and any visitors who wish to attend. Outcomes from the meetings are a better idea of what members would wish to see in the way of improved government policies, fuller information from Government agencies, and general sharing of information. The meetings have been held regularly now for thirty years.
The LFA has for 30 years conducted a free telephone advice service throughout Australia dealing with family law and related matters. The telephone outreach service for the organisation as a whole has embraced something like 400,000 telephone calls and a similar number of distressed people over 30 years.
The LFA ACT has been conducting a free legal service on family law issues in the ACT once a week. The service is provided every Thursday afternoon to men needing legal advice on family questions. The service is provided by a legally qualified practitioner.
The service is based on an informal arrangement between the LFA and the legal practitioner concerned. The location for the service is in the suburb of Kingston, ACT. The target group is people who contact the LFA by telephone or other means seeking help who indicate that they need such advice. Many men who have attended the legal advice sessions have contacted the Association to say that they were greatly helped. The service has been provided over the last three years.
The organisation has run counselling sessions on behalf of the Child Support Agency for unemployed men who had recently become clients of the CSA. These sessions have advised on ways for the men to maintain beneficial contact with their children via a cooperative relationship with the ex-partner.
Part of the purpose of that project was/is to work with parents to enhance their self reliance and manage their child support responsibilities effectively. The obtaining of employment enhances a person?s self image, and contributes to the standard of living of his children.
The LFA?s understanding of the issues involved has been enhanced by the involvement of the LFA in both the original design and the recent re-design of the Child Support Scheme, and by membership of the CSA Registrar?s Advisory Panel (now Stakeholders? Group) since its inception.
LFA members have addressed groups of Parliamentarians, engaged in many talks on radio and TV, given talks to schools, provided regular mail-outs of information to members, issued press statements on matters of major interest, and conducted stalls at community events.
The LFA works closely with other organisations with similar aims, such as the Shared Parenting Council of Australia, the Fatherhood Foundation, Parents Without Partners, and Dads in Distress, and liaises with a large number of other organisations such as Families Australia. The organisation joins with other groups in promoting the status of the family, maintaining family values as a priority in welfare community programs, and sustaining ?family? as an issue throughout development of government social strategy. Initiative, resourcefulness and experience through member self-help has kept core functions in focus.