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A men’s lobby on Wednesday staged a protest outside the Families Commission in Wellington after the commission cancelled a scheduled meeting with its representatives.
About five men – including Republic of NZ party leader Kerry Bevin and Wellington psychologist Craig Jackson, who had been due to meet commission executives – protested on the footpath outside the Lambton Quay premises.
Commission chief executive Paul Curry snubbed the Father’s Coalition, on his board’s advice, after becoming concerned that its supporters were planning to handing out inflammatory leaflets to boys outside schools.
Curry said the leaflet was anti-family and an attack on the well-being of young men in their formative years, with claims about society problems stemming from homes without fathers.
“The leaflet itself, we weren’t worried about – it was the tactic of handing it to boys outside schools,” he said.
“We don’t believe in targeting young boys with negative attitudes.”
He rejected the coalition’s complaints that the commission had been captured by a feminist agenda, and acted against the “natural family” by not being inclusive of fathers.
“We’re doing a lot of work with fathers,” he said.
On Tuesday an assembly of 40 organisations such as Plunket, Barnados and Parents’ Centres agreed to set up a Fathering Networks steering committee.
“That’s the positive way to support fathers to be successful,” he said.
Bevin said the Father’s Coalition had wanted to raise with the commission a range of issues, particularly the likelihood that family break-ups, and events such as separations and divorces, were key factors in a high incidence of suicide among middle-aged men.
This “man-toll” comprised many of the 300 men among the 500 annual suicides, he said.
But curry said the coalition’s concerns about Family Court proceeds potentially being a trigger for suicide had been confirmed by the court’s principal judge, Peter Boshier.
The commission had then gone to the Interagency Committee for the Prevention of Suicide, in the Ministry of Health, which had led to the Justice Ministry introducing additional training and court procedures to help staff identify at-risk fathers so they could be helped.