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Children in Crisis

With special guest:

  • Dr David Curl

Our distinguished guest in today’s program is very familiar with threatened species in the animal kingdom, having worked with luminaries such as the late Gerald Durrell OBE and Sir David Attenborough. He is now directing his considerable energy and ability to helping our own species in a crisis that is of our own making.

For a child, few crises are bigger than the loss of a loving parent. We often hear about those who had to grow up after the early death of a parent and those who never got over it. Fortunately, this does not happen to many of us. But a parent can be taken away by the Family Court just as effectively. If not handled properly, the separation of the child’ parents from each other can lead to immense personal suffering for their children and increased lifetime risks of physical and mental illness, even suicide. For this to happen to even one child is a catastrophe, but the reality is that tens of thousands of children, in Australia alone, are being forced to experience this trauma, compounded by the loss of other family members, as a direct result of the action or inaction of Australia’s adversarial family court system.

David Curl argues cogently that Australia’s family courts (the Family Court, the Family Court of WA and the Federal Circuit Court) are not fit for purpose. They are slow, unaffordable and adversarial - characteristics incompatible with what’s best for children. Worse still, he argues, they actually incentivise and even cause child abuse - extreme psychological abuse of children manipulated by one of their parents into rejecting other family members.

Equally remarkable is the lack of research carried out by the courts into the life-changing outcomes of their decisions; the courts make no attempt to get routine feedback on the impact of their decisions on tens of thousands of children whose families they judge. The realisation of the inadequacy of our family law system is dawning on our representatives in government for other reasons, namely the billowing cost of maintaining an isolated court system with its own judges and courthouses, let alone the cost to the parents. We can only hope that in this time of need the lawmakers will listen to David Curl and the members of the Family Law Reform Coalition about what could and should be done to improve the situation. As he explains to us in this program, the solution is not that difficult and would follow the recommendations of the Government’s own 2003 report Every Picture Tells a Story.

This story is timely, but if change is to come, it needs support to build on the momentum created in meetings between the Coalition and a number of Senators in Canberra. After listening to the program, listeners are invited to go to the Family Law Reform Coalition website, their Facebook and Twitter pages to find a wealth of information, including the Children in Crisis document delivered to Parliament, and what we can do to promote this cause that is so critical to the heart of this country, the children, parents, grandparents and extended families.

Dr David Curl

Father, film-maker, writer & biologist, David’s career bridges art and science. Former Board Member of the Australian Directors Guild and Australian Cinematographers Society, and contributor to the development of film/TV industry policy, he has filmed for international productions, from David Attenborough’s Trials of Life to Baz Luhrmann’s Australia, and produced two of Australia’s most successful factual films, The Call of Kakadu & Silhouettes of the Desert - translated into more than 14 languages and reaching audiences of over 100 million in 40 countries. Beyond his media work for TV, radio, film & magazines/books, David has been active in wildlife conservation (working with the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust and the late Gerald Durrell on IUCN Red List Threatened Species) and children’s rights - campaigning for family law reform in Australia and overseas - and enjoys watching wildlife, playing sports and music, and sharing time with children.

Music selections by our guest: All By Myself by Celine Dion & Rachmaninovs Piano Concerto 2 in C minor, op.18, II Adagio sostenuto by Vladimir Ashkenazy with the London Symphony Orchestra, conductor Andre Previn.

Note: This program is a repeat of the one aired on 21 January 2016.

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