With special guests:
First up we speak with the founder of the Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation, which is now Australia’s largest pro-father, pro-marriage and pro-family charity, Warwick Marsh.
Warwick, together with his wife and daughter, recently attended the Smart Marriages Conference in Florida, USA. During his US tour in July, Warwick met with leaders in the American fatherhood and marriage movement and recorded many interviews for TV and radio. He speaks with us about his recent tour and his passion to promote marriage and the virtues of staying together for better or worse.
Next we introduce the newest member of the Dads on the Air team, Bill Kable. Bill is a Sydney lawyer who is also a professional mediator with a mission to encourage fathers to take an active role in the lives of their children, and to ensure they remain in the lives of their children should parental separation occur.
Bill speaks candidly about some of his own experiences with the family justice system, and how it fails non custodial parents and their children, especially in the area of non-enforcement of contact orders.
Also in the studio were two other new members of the Dads on the Air team, Bill’s wife Catherine, a University lecturer and Trevor Miller, a retired ABC TV editor. All of whom have had extensive experience with the family justice system and realize the urgent need to ensure the nation’s children obtain real equal shared parenting time with both of their parents, following parental separation. Welcome aboard.
On 13th August 2009 the Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation helped the Australian Family Association to stage Australia’s first National Marriage Day breakfast celebration to a capacity crowd in the Great Hall of Parliament House, Canberra. This is some of what Warwick had to say:
“Our society over the last few decades seems to be in terminal decay. As Bishop Al Stewart said, “We live in a society that talks about peace and contentment, and yet we seem to grow further and further from both. We get richer, but relationally poorer. Our weddings get bigger and our marriages get shorter. Our houses get bigger and our families get smaller. We communicate across the world without difficulty but can’t talk across the dinner table.”
The issues of family breakdown, accompanied by an even greater moral breakdown, fill our TV screens on a nightly basis. We have a global financial crisis with an accompanying financial deficit but our society appears to be suffering most of all from a love deficit. Our burgeoning prison population would seem to be the best indicator of this deficit.
The only way to keep our goals from overcrowding in our crime infested society is to keep lowering the penalties for crime. It is claimed that sexual assault is 70% unreported these days and yet reported sexual assault has increased by almost 30% since 1999. Men in prison for sexual assault in Australia have doubled since 1988.
The American prison population has skyrocketed over the past quarter of a century. In 1982, 1 in 77 adults were in the US correctional system in one form or another, totalling 2.2 million adults. In 2007 the US correctional population – those in gaol, prison, on probation or parole totalled 7.3 million or 1 in every 31 adults. That is a 50% increase in under 3 decades.
The really frightening statistic is that 78% of America’s prison inmates grew up in a fatherless household. Unfortunately it is not much different here in Australia. The great majority of prison inmates have grown up in fatherless homes. Indeed it is the single largest predictor of crime and incarceration.
Fatherlessness and family breakdown, as verified by the divorce rate, have been growing for decades. The good news is that things are beginning to change when it comes to long term love. The divorce rate in Australia peaked to an all time high in 2001 but had dropped 15% in overall numbers by 2007. There were 116,322 registered marriages in Australia in 2007, the highest number of marriages registered since 1990 and an increase of 12% since the marriage low point in 2001.
The tide is beginning to turn. Our society has hit the wall and the wall is hard. Divorce is a very painful experience for all concerned. Our children often take decades to recover. Many men, overcome with grief at losing their children through an anti-male family law system, take their own lives in desperation. Recent reports of a drop in suicide rate are a mirage according to Professor John Mendoza.
The cumulative pain is becoming too much to bear and our society is looking for answers. Our society has lost much over the last few decades, but that very loss might become part of our inspiration to reverse the love deficit.
Perhaps the inspiration to reverse the love deficit is coming from our young people. Older people and politicians think that young people aren’t interested in marriage and family but nothing could be further from the truth. In a study released in 2002 in ‘Family Matters’, a publication of the ‘Australian Institute of Family Studies’, over 80% of 17 and 18 year old teenagers want to get married. Over 75% of 17 and 18 year old teenagers want to have children and become mums and dads, most sooner than later, and over 90% want a long-term relationship which in our adult world of ‘throw away’ relationships is revolutionary to say the least.
Another indicator of the renewed desire to reverse the love deficit and encourage marriage in Australia was the inaugural National Marriage Day breakfast held on 13th August in the Great Hall of Parliament House, Canberra. Five hundred people jammed the Great Hall for a mid-week celebration of life and love, organised by the Australian Family Association. Major General Michael Jeffery, Australia’s former Governor General, was appointed with his wife Marlena as National Marriage Day Ambassadors.
However many would argue that the real highlight of the morning was the young revolutionaries from RISE (Restoring Integrity and Sexual Ethics). Jessica Langrell, one of the 19 year old leaders of RISE, in her speech to the capacity crowd in the Great Hall said, “I stand on behalf of the entire RISE team as the new generation who genuinely believe that romantic relationships are properly orientated towards marriage and that sex belongs in marriage, not outside it – and we want to show how this is a better way for all young people in Australia … We oppose the ‘hook up’ culture and want to support each other in resisting it … We are challenging young people to be courageous and act with integrity, but also in truth, clarity and sharpness…this choice should be available for all young people.”
There are many young revolutionaries like Jessica who are becoming part of the new counter culture who are rejecting the ‘if it feels good, do it’ mantra of the baby-boomer ‘sex, drugs, rock and roll’ generation. They are looking for authentic relationships in a culture that has lost its ability to sustain them.
The popularity of ‘Find Your Family’, one of the highest rating shows on TV, is mute testament to the hunger for deeper family relationships. The massive popularity of the ‘World’s Strictest Parents’ is according to a recent article in the Herald Sun an indicator of a shift in values. The article stated, “The difference in 2009 is that networks realise that the mood of Australian TV viewers has changed and they are hankering for positive, uplifting reality shows.”
Hollywood is also getting in on the party. Movies with hero father figures have been strangely popular of late e.g. the last two ‘Night at the Museum’s, featuring Ben Stiller as the dad hero. Other movies like ‘Swing Vote’ with Kevin Costner and ‘Mall Cop’ are stories featuring imperfect but heroic fathers. After decades of father bashing, Hollywood is now realising that family themed movies are its biggest grossing productions.
Maybe our society is beginning to listen to the cry of our children. Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation has recently completed its community service announcements (CSAs) that will be released for Father’s Day and aired for the rest of the year. This Father’s Day we asked children what advice they would give to Australia’s fathers. Eleven year old Brad said, ‘Fathers should spend more time with their children and less time at work.” A seven year old girl said something similar but added that Dads should let their children win when they play games with them. Her words became the caption for the CSA campaign, ‘Dads – Helping Kids Win’; because when dads put their children first they create a win-win situation.
In our society it seems that the voice of the children is beginning to be heard. The dads are responding, our TV stations are listening and even Hollywood can hear the voice of the children. Call it a renewal of fatherhood, or a love revolution, but whatever you call it, if it continues, there will be empty gaols dotted all over the Australian landscape and that would be a big win for our nation, our families and our children.”
About Warwick Marsh
Warwick Marsh is the founder of the Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation with his wife Alison. They have five children and have been married for 34 years. Warwick is on the board of a number of non profit organisations and has been working in the community on a voluntary basis for 19 years. Warwick’s background is as a musician and creative communicator/TV producer. He has produced over a dozen albums and over 20 TV shows. Warwick is also the editor in chief of Australia’s longest running weekly Dads4Kids email newsletter which started in 2002. The Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation has produced Fathers Day and Mothers Day TV community service announcements for national TV over the same period. In 2001 Warwick received a Centenary Medal from the Governor General for service in musical leadership for young people and the Aboriginal community and his international missions and aid work.
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