COVER STORY: by Anthony BarichNews Weekly
Huge turn-out for Canberra marriage summit
, September 5, 2009
Hundreds of Australians gathered at Parliament House, Canberra, recently to celebrate National Marriage Day. However, few members of the public were even aware that this was happening, because the media, including the Canberra Times and The Australian, simply refused to report the event. Anthony Barich reports.Over 500 people from around Australia gathered to stand up for the institution of marriage at the inaugural National Marriage Day breakfast at the Great Hall of Parliament House, Canberra, on August 13.
Guests of honour, former governor-general Major-General Michael Jeffery and his wife Marlena, were proclaimed as National Marriage Day 2009 ambassadors.
The National Marriage Coalition, originally consisting of the Australian Family Association, the Fatherhood Foundation and the Australian Christian Lobby, in 2004 launched a nationwide campaign, which led to the passing of the Marriage Amendment Act. This was designed to entrench the traditional definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. This year's National Marriage Day marked the parliamentary act's fifth anniversary.
Over 10,000 petitions were presented at the breakfast for tabling in the federal parliament in support of establishing an annual National Marriage Day.
The turn-out in Canberra was larger than expected. Australian Family Association national vice-president Mary-Louise Fowler, one of the key organisers of the event, said that the presence of so many people at the breakfast reflected the fact that Australians see marriage as something worth standing up for.
She said National Marriage Day had been "inaugurated by popular appeal", whether the government gave it an "official seal" or not.
"It's a movement of the people. We need to own it," she said. She warned that government may eventually water down the definition of marriage to include other relationships.
Former governor-general Major-General Michael Jeffery called for better relationship preparation in schools. He said that the institution of marriage needed more public encouragement.
"Isn't it interesting that we train people to drive cars and build bridges, but we don't train young people for the biggest challenge of all," he said. "I'd like to see more relationship preparation for young people in schools."
Major-General Jeffery said that, after almost 43 years of marriage, he often wondered how he and his wife Marlena ever managed. "We had four children under five at one stage and it was a very busy time in our life, but we always worked as a very close team and shared the load where possible," he said.
Queensland-born James Bogle, a prominent barrister, historian and author in the United Kingdom, also addressed the National Marriage Day breakfast (see his speech in this issue
Mr Bogle said: "Volumes of research demonstrate beyond doubt the positive contribution that intact, stable marriages make to the well-being of children and society.
"Marriage is the key. Australia needs to invest in it now if it is to deliver the best opportunities for its children in the future."
RISE (Restoring Integrity and Sexual Ethics), a youth movement that describes its mission as "challenging modern declining standards of sexual integrity by promoting life-giving love", also had its inaugural national conference at Parliament House that week.
RISE has called for a government enquiry into the exploitation of women and the victimisation of men as the result of the advertising industry and all forms of media in popular culture.
Two of its leaders, Matthew Restall, an international politics student at Victoria's Deakin University, and Judi Limbers, a behavioural science student at Sydney's Notre Dame University, both 20, addressed the RISE launch.
They recommended avenues of assistance for exploited women and the establishment of help-lines for those with an addiction to pornography.
"We are calling on the government to address this crucial issue that means families, children and young people can't go out their front door without being bombarded by explicit sexual language and imagery," they said.
"Let's stop pretending that children aren't reading and viewing inappropriate material aimed at adults, and being affected by it. Legislative reform in the media industry, which the government can and should bring about, would be a first step in restoring meaning to human sexuality."
Mr Restall last year organised a successful petition in Victoria and NSW to protest against "offensive" billboards and vehicle advertisements which were using sex to sell products.
As a result of public pressure, the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) in August last year ordered the Advanced Medical Institute to replace across Australia 120 of its billboards promoting cures for sexual impotence. (See News Weekly
, September 13, 2008).
Mr Restall and Miss Limbers, at RISE's national launch, described today's exploitative media and culture as being "saturated with messages that promote pleasure at the expense of human dignity".