CANBERRA OBSERVED by national correspondentNews Weekly
Successful National Marriage Day celebrated in Canberra
, September 13, 2014
With the resumption of Parliament after the winter break, the annual National Marriage Day was celebrated at Parliament House, Canberra on Wednesday, August 27, with a number of keynote speakers and a most successful dinner at the National Press Club, addressed by Australia’s greatest woman tennis player, Dr Margaret Court.
Margaret and Barry Court at the
National Marriage Day, Canberra
National Marriage Day is held close to the anniversary of the amendments to the Marriage Act in 2004, which embedded in the act the universal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, voluntarily entered into for life.
NMD 2014 was organised by the Australian Family Association, with generous sponsorship from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and other pro-family organisations.
This year, the 10th anniversary of that event, had special significance, and a number of keynote speakers were invited to address MPs and supporters of the family in the Main Committee Room of Parliament House.
The four keynote speakers were Neville Rochow SC and Christopher Brohier, barristers at the Adelaide Bar; Dr Alan Tapper, senior research fellow at the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy (JCIPP) at Curtin University, Perth; and Giulia Jones, shadow minister for women in the ACT Legislative Assembly.
They addressed a range of issues, including the social and economic benefits of marriage, family economic policy, education for marriage, avoiding unnecessary divorce and restoring justice to marital separation.
The focus of the addresses was on government policy on marriage and family, and to put forward a new vision for national prosperity and social progress, based on strengthening marriage and the family unit.
The national president of the Australian Family Association, Terri Kelleher, said: “Today we wish to open the discussion on the state of marriage and family in Australia, and what government policy can do to support marriage and the family.
“To get the policy settings right, we need to look at what is happening on the ground.”
She said that the situation of children in Australia who have been reported as victims of child abuse or neglect and, in particular, who are in out-of-home care as a result of family breakdown or dysfunction, is “harrowing”.
She highlighted the recent research report by Sydney University law school’s Professor Patrick Parkinson, For Kids’ Sake: Repairing the Social Environment for Australian Children and Young People, which referred to the increase in the number of children not living with their biological parents in an intact marriage, and the effect of this on the children.
Significantly, chapter 8 of this report was headed, “What does Government need to do?”, and in it, Professor Parkinson concluded that marriage does make a difference to children.
The AFA president continued: “There is considerable social research now showing that children do best when raised in an intact married family by their own biological parents.
“Illness or death of a parent or other difficulties will mean this is not always possible. But it should be the model or ideal or gold standard promoted and supported by government policy.
“This is what these sessions today are about — opening the discussion on government policy to promote and support marriage and family in Australia, to repair the social environment for Australia’s children and reduce the enormous economic cost of family breakdown and family fracture and dysfunction.”
Following the presentations and discussion, the following agreed positions were adopted by the attendees:
“Given the evidence of the social and economic benefits of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, to society, the economy, the individual spouses and most of all the children of those marriages, we call on the Australian government to maintain marriage in Australia as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others voluntarily entered into for life.”
“Given the seriously negative impacts of divorce and marriage breakdown, especially on the children, we ask the government to investigate existing programs and, where needed, develop programs directed to increasing the rate of success for people who marry, in particular:
• relationships education in schools;
• relationships development education for post-school young people aspiring to marriage;
• marriage preparation for engaged couples and people seriously contemplating marriage;
• marriage mentoring, especially in the vulnerable first five years of marriage and at “crisis points”;
• parenting education;
• marriage counselling; and
• divorce counselling.
We ask the government:
• to support community and church organisations that provide such programs to continue to improve content and approach and to increase access to participation;
• to fund development and availability of such programs;
• where such programs are directed to school-age young people, to facilitate access to schools to allow these programs to be delivered.”
“Given the high cost of marriage breakdown, we ask the Australian government to review the Family Law Act:
a) to revisit the one-year period of separation as proof of an irretrievable breakdown of marriage and consider a longer period;
b) to consider mandatory reconciliation counselling where children are involved;
c) to consider introducing the requirement to file a “notice of intention to file for divorce” as the initiating action;
d) to consider providing the right for a court to award damages for a breach of the marriage contract.”
The conference dinner was addressed by Australia’s greatest woman tennis player, Dr Margaret Court, a patron of the Australian Family Association, who has been married to her husband, Barry, for 47 years.