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  • A man who understood failure
  • By Bettina Arndt
  • Herald Sun
  • 21/07/2006 Make a Comment (1)
  • Contributed by: admin ( 61 articles in 2006 )
LAST Monday, the usual gathering of dog-walkers were wandering the cliff-side park near Sydney's Clovelly beach.

But the peaceful early morning scene was disturbed by the arrival of policemen who explained they were looking for a man with a baby.

As they peered over the cliff face to the rocks far below, they were joined by the police helicopter, hovering along the rugged coast line.

A desperate man with a two-month-old son.

Yet another tragedy in the making, with a father pushed to the edge by fear our family law system would rob him of his child.

This baby and his father are still alive, but so often we've seen these situations end in disaster.

Yet, never before, has a father had a better chance of fair treatment.

In the past few weeks a revolution has taken place in the family-law system, designed to improve the lives of divorced children by letting dads remain part of their lives.

Sadly, the man responsible for this family-law revolution didn't live to see it.

John Perrin didn't look like a powerful man. At first glance, John Howard's social issues adviser seemed plucked straight from the set of Yes, Prime Minister.

With grey suit, thinning hair, glasses and a trim moustache, this formal, mild-mannered man was the very model of the silent bureaucrat.

But Perrin, who died in late May at 53 from cancer, was a mighty influential political operator, who changed the social map of Australia.

This month, some of his most important reforms were set in motion.

Perrin was long determined to fix our family law system, a system which he knew to be a festering sore of discontent in the community.

Inquiry after inquiry had shown that there was bias against fathers in both the Family Court and the Child Support system.

For years, Perrin talked and listened -- prodding the experts for new ideas.

A plan for a revamp of the system gradually emerged.

This month would have been a great one for Perrin.

The first Family Relationship Centres have opened their doors.

These are key to the new system, which is all about trying to keep children's matters away from the adversarial system of lawyers and courts.

The aim of the FRCs is to revolutionise the way parents care for children after divorce.

This should see the fortnightly dad model thrown out the window and replaced by a range of alternatives that evolve and adapt as children grow older or family arrangements change.

There are also new laws which talk about children's right to know both their parents -- new language that pushes the notion of equal time, or at least "substantial and significant time", a very big shift from the fortnightly access pattern that has dominated in the past.

Plus, the new laws stress that children benefit when parenting issues are decided outside the courts.

The whole system is set up now to try to make sure this happens, with the FRCs offering child-centred mediation to help parents sort out parenting arrangements that are in their children's interests.

Some will need only a few sessions, but warring couples will be referred to the high intensity Children's Contact Programs, which deal with highly conflicted couples who have often spent years fighting through the court.

T HOSE who do end up in court will be also greeted by a new system, the Children's Cases Program, where judges talk directly to the parents and help them focus on their children's needs.

And finally, there are changes to the Child Support system, designed to help fathers afford to care for their children.

This remarkable package is only part of Perrin's legacy, but quite a tribute to an extraordinary man.

    By:Moses from QLD, Aust on April 13, 2011 @ 7:36 am
    There is plenty to be grateful for in this story

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