The Lone Fathers Association (LFA)
What it is
The Lone Fathers Association, a national peak body for separated parents, is a non-sexist, non-sectarian, non-profit, and self-help educational and welfare organisation devoted to the interests of lone fathers and their children, as well as their friends, extended family, and carers.
Membership is open to all separated parents - with the proviso that members must be willing to help financially support their children. Currently, 35% of the membership of the organisation are women.
New members are always welcome, and can register and pay for membership online. (Read more about membership and its benefits on our Members page.)
Professional advisers, lawyers, and legislators contribute expertise to the organisation.
The LFA’s vision is to assist and encourage parents who have, or desire to have, shared parenting status or care of their children to support and sustain their children in a happy and viable family unit, and to help parents without shared parenting status to maintain adequate, positive contact with their children.
Our aims are:
To represent to the community, government, and other agencies, the special needs of lone fathers and their families as a significant group in the population.
To promote and assist the development of a better understanding and equity in the family courts on residency, access, shared care and property settlement.
To aid, assist, and encourage lone fathers to support and sustain their children and do their utmost to prevent any abuse (physical or emotional) of children.
To promote an explicit code of conduct and behaviour for lone fathers with special emphasis on the welfare of their children, and develop acceptable methods by which lone fathers can handle problems affecting their children.
To promote and encourage the best possible practice on access and residency matters, always with the happiness and emotional well-being of the child as the primary consideration, accepting that each child needs the love and guidance of both father and mother.
To open Branches in various States and Territories and endeavour to educate Branch Committees in suicide prevention, basic family law, knowledge of child support and other issues relating to separation.
To encourage lone fathers not to degrade their former partner in any way to young children, as this affects children in many ways.
The Lone Fathers Association is a non-sectarian, non-political, educational and welfare organisation devoted to the best interests of the children by way of educating and supporting fathers, mothers, grandparents, relatives, and extended family, and
To work towards bringing in a fair and equitable family law and child support system and also grandparents rights.
History of the LFA
The Lone Fathers’ Association (LFA) is the largest and longest-running of the non-government organisations in Australia which have been set up to assist individuals and lobby for improvements in law and administration of family law. The LFA has a particular focus on fathers and their children, but does not discriminate between men and women. About a third of its members and half of its national executive are women.
The Lone Fathers Association ACT Inc was established in 1973, and there have been about twenty LFA Branches established throughout Australia.
The Lone Fathers Association (Australia) Inc. (LFAA) was established at the national level in 1982, and has been recognised by Australian Governments as the key peak body for separated fathers and their children since 2000.
A modest amount of government funding has been provided to the LFA over the last ten years or so, but for four decades the organisation has relied largely on its own volunteer resources and its keen concern for the rights of children to be loved and guided by both their fathers and mothers. In directing public attention to these basic issues for the health of society, the LFA has always operated scrupulously within the law.
Early LFA publicity for the cause of lone fathers and their children included:
- a “tent embassy” on the lawns of Parliament House by Mr Barry Williams in 1977, and again by the LFA in 1995, designed to attract the attention of the national media and members of Parliament,
- in 1990 the largest national conference on family law held in Australia up until that time, with a broad range of invited expert speakers, both male and female, to inform the Government and the public about key family law issues.
The 1977 tent embassy was followed by the swift passage of Commonwealth legislation extending the Single Mothers’ Benefit to single fathers with care of their children, and renaming it as the Sole Parents Benefit. The 1995 embassy exposed many issues in family law, including the serious issue of denial of access.
The 1990 national conference on family law resulted in a major expansion of public understanding of key issues in family law - including a consensus on many of them - and also enhanced awareness of the expertise of the LFA in this area.
The LFA established a capability for providing advice to government across a wide range of family law issues. With this capacity, it has been able to provide sound analysis of the extensive range of information and comment available on family law and administration.
The trail-blazing1990 conference was/has been followed by triennial national conferences covering similar ground. The most recent of these conferences was held in 2010.
Government appreciation of the LFA’s high-quality submissions to government inquiries have led to requests for an LFA representative to be appointed to deliberative groups such as the consultative committee that designed the original child support scheme, and, nearly twenty years later, the Ministerial task force which redesigned it. There is clear evidence of the influence that the LFA representative was able to bring to bear on the deliberations of those committees - for example, the changes from the parameters in the early design of the original child support scheme to those eventually recommended by the consultative committee.
Many policy suggestions made by the LFA over the years have been accepted by successive Australian governments. Policy ideas which have been developed and energetically promoted by the LFA over the years and were eventually adopted by government include:
- Extension of the single mothers benefit to include fathers (1977)
- A system of Federal magistrates courts to assist the Family Court in dealing effectively and expeditiously with less complex family law disputes (1984)
- Penalties for defiance of contravention orders (1991)
- Guides for mounting litigants’ own cases in family law proceedings (1997)
- A pioneer crisis and accommodation service for fathers and their children in the ACT (1999-2002)
- Legislation encouraging shared parenting after separation, greater access to mediation, via an Australia-wide network of Family Relationship Centres, in settling family disputes, and a less adversarial approach in the operation of the family court system (2003-2006). The policy of introducing Family Relationships Centres, now implemented, was largely founded on the LFA's advocacy over many years of “family assistance bureaus” with the same objectives
- Reform of the Child Support Scheme (2004-2008).
Nevertheless, much further policy reform remains to be to done. Continuing gender bias in Government policy is indicated by –
- Failure on the part of the Government to establish a Government Office of the Status of Men and Their Families to provide essential policy balance to the (very well resourced) Office of Women
- Anti-discrimination measures confined to measures which accord with radical feminist agendas,
- Government funding going overwhelmingly to bodies with feminist objectives and feminist staff, and
- Crisis and accommodation services for men and their children accounting for only a tiny fraction of the services available to women.
The LFA will continue to address these issues with government.
The LFA has joined other affiliated 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 while the work of the LFA has matured well beyond the special needs of lone fathers.
More about Lone Fathers Association of Australia
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 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.