Basically, this guy Mick scaled the Harbour Bridge and had two signs hanging from it: “Kids first” and “Plz help my kids”. It took a couple of hours of shutting the bridge and not permitting any road or rail transport and negotiating with Mick before things returned to normal. Apparently, from what I heard on the radio that morning when he called in, he was making a statement. He apparently was not permitted to see his kids based on family court orders and thought they were in danger with his ex-partner and had been trying different services to intervene for years to no avail. Podcasts here.
Now, I don’t know about the truth in terms of his kids being in danger. I did feel sorry for the man and thought he did make a statement if his story is true and if his kids really are in danger. The reason I don’t completely disbelieve him is because of what I see at work. Which is what I really want to talk about in this post. Not about Mick and his actions. But rather, when I see not much being done for the kids who are in the custody of a parent (mother or father) who are endangering the child.
I am not a fan of the family court system.
Nor the child protection system here at times.
Family court works on the principle that a child is better off with contact with both parents. And while in most cases this may work, there are cases where this is the worst thing you could do to a child. For instance, I have seen children who are forced to visit a parent fortnightly when they are scared of them for various reasons — physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, threats. I do what I can in my power. Which is to make a report to the child protection authorities.
But do I see change?
And then I feel helpless.
Some of these kids actually think I can help them not see the parent they don’t want to see. And I have to tell them that I have no power over the courts. Because I really don’t. All I can do is make a report. And that too, only to child protection services. That’s it. And then I see the disappointment written on their faces. Their faces say to me how the system is failing them. And I agree.
Why make it mandatory for a child to see both parents? A seven year old can tell you if their mum hits them on the head with a pan or broom. A nine year old can tell you if their dad threatens them and harrasses them to provide information about mum. A ten year old can tell you if their mum constantly criticises them about their weight and looks and locks them in the bedroom on weekend visits. A six year old can tell you that dad tells them they shouldn’t talk about what happened that weekend but they don’t want to go over anymore.
But who listens to them?
If the other parent, the one the child feels comfortable with, tries to give in to the child’s wishes of not seeing the problem parent, then they are the ones in trouble with the courts. So they too have to let their kids down and force them to visit the problem parent.
It’s about time family courts gave the kids a voice.
Because these kids have a lot to say. It’s not like they are complaining about getting bored at dad’s over the weekend or not liking mum’s food over the weekend.
It’s a lot worse than that in some cases.
If courts don’t listen to the kids, or for that matter professionals who work with them, what hope is there?
Kids can continue to feel helpless.
Continue to feel like the system fails them.
And continue to think that people like me who are supposed to help them are part and parcel of that system.
Making us feel helpless.
So yes, if Mick’s actions make the Family Court system take into account what kids have to say, then it’s worth 2 hours of a traffic standstill in Sydney.
Until next time,
P.S. I have used ‘parent’ instead of mum or dad because in my experience, while most of the time custody is given to the mother and dads have been the ‘bad guy’, there have been instances where the father was given custody and the child has not wanted to visit mum because she is the abusive one.