AS Queensland president of the Australian Family Association, I attended the gathering in Melbourne entitled “Family – Dare to Dream” and I must take up the issue of the definition of family referred to both in your editorial (CL7/5/00) and the subsequent letter by Chris Christensen (CL 14/5/00).
The Governor-General, Sir William Deane was more than complimentary about the traditional family structure of mum, dad and the kids, and saw this as the optimal environment for the upbringing and nurture of children. His remarks about how the family can become an unhappy environment related to dysfunctional families where love and commitment were not present.
At no stage did Kevin Andrews in his address suggest that women and children should be subjected to harsh treatment within marriage or isolated if that marriage failed and to suggest otherwise is to completely misrepresent the tenor of his address.
The Governor-General did say that the definition of family should not be “exclusive” and that there were many types of families. It may have been better had he explained the difference between “family” and “social units” which may include those sharing accommodation and those who for whatever reason, choose to live in long-term or even serial de facto relationships.
Kevin Andrews defined “family” as those related by blood or adoption which is a fairly broad and “non-exclusive” definition, but it is not “inclusive” to the ludicrous extent of defining anyone who shares a wheelie-bin as “family”.
Where there are children from alternative living arrangements, family structures exist if both mother and father are blood relatives or even when children from other relationships are living with either their mother or father. Where it is a dangerous environment and certainly cannot be described as a “family” is where one partner (usually a male) is invited by a mother with children into a de facto relationship. This is where women and children are at serious risk of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.
Empirical evidence supports this and Kevin Andrews merely stated the statistical evidence and concluded that the intact, functional family was the basis of a stable society and a place of love and nurture for those who choose its safe haven.
The short report of the gathering by Peter Rosengren was a very selective and subjective critique and should be judged as such rather than taken as a true and correct record of the proceedings.
PATTI SMITH Australian Family Association Fortitude Valley, Qld
* The Catholic Leader stands by the coverage of the National Catholic Family Gathering published in the May 7 issue. The reports were fair and accurate summaries of what the key speakers said. Ed