Australian Dad’s Bridge Climb Highlights Anti-Dad Bias of Family Courts

Here’s a study in, among other things, differing media coverage of the same event.  The first article is here (Sydney Morning Herald, 5/13/11).  The second is here (The Age, 5/13/11).

It’s all about Australian military veteran, Michael “Mick” Fox, who scaled Sydney Harbor Bridge during the morning rush hour, totally stopping traffic for two hours.  He did that to protest the failure of family courts to protect children in divorce matters.

Now, if you read the Herald article, you have no idea of what that means.  He could be talking about separating parents from children or about exposing children to sexual abuse or domestic violence.  The closest we get to learning his point of view is from the note he left on the dashboard of his car which read “You’ve taken my kids.  I’ve taken your bridge.”

Fox descended voluntarily after two hours, apologized politely to inconvenienced motorists, was taken to jail and charged with several fairly minor offenses.

The Herald article quotes a couple of texters who were disgruntled at the traffic stoppage and the supposed fact that Fox’s prank cost the city $2.2 million in “lost productivity.”

Had the Herald piece been the only one, interested readers would never know what Fox was protesting.  To the Herald, the story was a man on a bridge, not what he was there for.  If he’d been selling lemonade, it would have all been the same to them.

By contrast, The Age piece includes a television video link with part of an interview with Fox while he was on the bridge.  It also makes clear why he was there.

When he phoned into two commercial radio stations this morning we learnt he separated from his wife or partner recently and felt he had been denied access to his children.

Mr Fox told 2GB he would not go into the details of his personal situation to protect his children but he made reference to “parental alienation syndrome” on Triple M.

“I’ve asked for help … so many times, no one wants to help the blokes; the chicks get in first and start throwing stones, the blokes don’t stand a chance,” he told the station’s Grill Team

More importantly, The Age allows details of Fox’s custody situation to be known and also details of Fox himself.  It does so through the words of an ex-girlfriend who called in to the radio station interviewing him:

She told listeners she had been friends with Mr Fox for “quite some time” and was his girlfriend for a period during the two years he has spent battling various authorities.

“I was with him for a lot of the time when he was trying to get in contact with DOCS [the Department of Community Services] and the police, purely because his kids were in danger every day,” the woman, who did not give her name, told the Grill Team…

The woman described Mr Fox as a “very straightforward kind of a guy who will do anything he can for his kids”.

“They’re the most important thing in his life and he’s willing to do anything for them and obviously going up on the bridge, it’s the next step that he felt he had to take,” the woman said.

“He’s the type of guy who really wouldn’t care if he got charged, if he got put in jail, he wouldn’t care,” she continued.

“Even if he doesn’t end up being able to get his kids [himself], he needs to get his kids out of their situation with their mother right now, because they are in danger every day that they are with her.”

The Herald gives almost no information about Fox himself, his custody problems or whether his protest might have some validity as criticism of family courts in Australia.  The Age piece is different on all counts.  In it Fox comes across a sympathetic figure who cares deeply about his children and whose ex-wife may be endangering them.

None of this exists in a vacuum.  In fact it occurs against a backdrop of anti-father interests convincing the Gillard government that dads are dangerous to children and that pretty much any claim of abuse by a mother, irrespective of how unlikely, should be sufficient to separate him from his children indefinitely.  How much do you want to bet that something very much like that is what happened to Mick Fox?

And speaking of that, you’ll notice that, due to his bridge stunt, a judge ordered Fox to have no contact with his kids, as if his demonstration in some way endangered them or made him a bad parent.  It’s just the way these people think.

Nothing Mick Fox does or doesn’t do will have much effect on family courts or the coming rollback of fathers’ rights in Australia.  But two articles reflect in their limited ways the conflict over fathers and children not only there, but in much of the rest of the world as well.

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