Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Men need our support

Bettina Arndt

Over twenty years ago, Federal Member of Parliament Greg Wilton took his own life. The tragedy was the culmination of a series of events that highlight how poorly we deal with vulnerable men. Three weeks earlier, Wilton had been found ‘in a distressed state’ with his children in a car in the national park, apparently rigging a hose to the exhaust. It was widely reported as an attempted murder-suicide.

He spent time in psychiatric care, but with his Labor colleagues maneuvering to force him out of parliament and relentless hounding from the press, it wasn’t long before he tried again. This time he succeeded. On June 14, 2000, the 44-year was found dead in his car with the exhaust hose attached.

A few years earlier, Wilton had given a speech to Parliament pointing out that group most likely to commit suicide in this country were men like him – adult males struggling with marital separation. He mentioned extensive research that had emerged over previous years saying that, ‘Men kill themselves due to an inability to cope with life events such as relationship breakups of the kind I myself have suffered.’

In the two decades since then, that research has piled up. The case is now overwhelming that men facing relationship breakdown should be a key target of Australia’s suicide prevention policies.

There’s no way our health bureaucrats are going to let that happen. The March 2022 Budget allocated $2.1 billion to services for women and girls and just $1 million to ‘improve long-term health outcomes’ for men and boys. Isn’t that extraordinary? Somehow females are seen as deserving of 2,000-times more investment in their health than men, despite their more robust health resulting in four extra years of life expectancy.

What a tribute to the mighty efforts of our feminist health bureaucracy which for decades has strenuously ignored the enormous elephant sitting in their room – namely, the ever-increasing male suicide rate wiping out so many younger adult males.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged 25-44. Male vulnerability is at the heart of the problem. Look at these statistics:

Men account for 3 in 4 of the lives lost to suicide.
7 of the 9 people who kill themselves every day are male.
There have always been more male than female suicides.
Over the past ten years, males have become even more at risk.
The male suicide rate is twice the annual road toll.

Men wiping themselves out is a hugely important health issue – yet there’s a very good reason why our politicians and feminist bureaucrats don’t want to go there. As Greg Wilton pointed out, the evidence is piling up that a key reason many of these young men are at risk is they are casualties of family breakups.

The consequent minefield that hits these men, who are frequently fathers, often proves unbearable. Most face some combination of stressful legal battles, false accusations, crippling child support payments; financial ruin and most importantly, the loss of their children.

Marty Grant could have been one such casualty. He had it all planned. The tough young farmer from the West Australian wheat belt had the wire around his neck. The other end was tied to a tree and the car ready to surge into motion. But he stopped himself. ‘I realised I couldn’t do it to my family and friends.’ Marty pulled back, drove himself home, packed a bag and set off to seek help from the local nurse.

I wrote about Marty many years ago in an article on bush suicide for the Australian Women’s Weekly, covering all the stresses these farmers were going through, including crippling drought, dropping commodity prices, succession problems. But it took some doing to persuade the magazine editors to let me tackle the major suicide research issue emerging at that time – family breakdown. It was the loss of his loved ones which pushed Marty over the edge. His partner took off because she didn’t want to be a farmer’s wife, and then the son from a previous relationship – a child Marty had cared for a decade as a single parent – went off to live with his mum. Marty’s family disappeared.

This was the type of story highlighted in research published around that time by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention at Griffith University which found relationship breakdown to be the main trigger for suicide, with male risk four times that of females.

According to the researchers Drs Chris Cantor and Pierre Baume, men are most vulnerable in the period immediately after separation – with separation from children a major source of their despair.

That’s a red flag, crying out for suicide prevention intervention. Just think what usually happens when we discover one of these trigger points. Like mothers at risk of suicide due to post-partum depression. When that first made the news, support groups got to work, government funding started pouring in, and now prevention programs are everywhere.

Currently the federal government is targeting anorexic girls. Wham, the latest suicide funding promised $20 million for eating disorder treatment services. Then there’s indigenous suicide. Righty-o. They’ve come up with $79 million in the Budget for that one.

Yet for the last two decades, there has been absolutely no government funding to follow up Cantor and Baume’s work on vulnerable divorcing men, even though recent Griffith University research still shows relationship difficulties to be the major triggering life event, accounting for 42.5 per cent of suicides. The Australian Bureau of Statistics data lists relationship disruptions/problems as the key suicide psychological risk factors after self-harm, which is more a symptom of distress than a trigger.

But this key issue never features in the public narrative. Instead, we are presented with carefully constructed red herrings. Remember the lavish 2016 ABC television program, Man Up, which spent three episodes claiming we need to teach suicidal men to show their feelings? Hours of television about men having to learn to cry, but not a word about what they were crying about.

Then they announced a mental health expert, Christine Morgan, as National Suicide Prevention Officer, and followed up with $5.6 million from mental health funding to encourage men to seek help. Don’t they love this new diversion, focusing on encouraging men to rid themselves of their toxic masculinity and show their softer side?

But the fact is that even though many suicidal men have mental health problems, our authorities are strenuously ignoring the key event which might push them over the edge. Data from the Queensland Suicide register shows that 42 per cent of men who die by suicide have a mental health diagnosis but 98 per cent have experienced a recent life event, such as relationship breakdown.

Given the ongoing male suicide crisis, it is an absolute scandal that our suicide policies are still proudly ‘gender neutral’ with up to 4 of 5 beneficiaries female, according to analysis by the Australian Men’s Health Forum. Read the case AMHF makes for a male suicide prevention strategy here.

Yet finally there are tiny green shoots appearing midst the ongoing gloom. In January this year Suicide Prevention Australia, the peak body for suicide prevention organisations, announced that ‘it’s time to talk about male suicide prevention’.

‘Of the 3,000 lives tragically lost to suicide each year, over 75 per cent are men. They are our husbands and fathers, our brothers and uncles, our colleagues and friends,’ wrote CEO Nieves Murray, announcing they were pushing for an ‘ambitious male suicide prevention strategy’ guided by ‘the evidence’ and ‘addressing underlying issues that might lead men to the point of crisis’ and actually mentioning support for men in family courts.

The Morrison government announced last November that some suicide prevention funding would be targeted at-risk groups including men but didn’t manage to get this up before the election. No doubt the health bureaucrats have no interest in rushing this one through and it’s hard to imagine this happening if a Labor/Green government gets into power.

Look what happened after Pauline Hanson had the guts to speak out about false allegations and bias against men when appointed Deputy Chair of the recent parliamentary inquiry into family law. She was ripped apart in the media and her Labor/Green committee members stymied any hope of addressing these issues, despite hundreds of submissions documenting how men are being done over.

Tackling male suicide means highlighting the way the family law system is now weaponised against men. This will attract huge resistance from the feminist mob controlling our media, so adept at cowering politicians into inaction. But too many people now know and care about what’s driving so many men to take their lives. The time is right for a mighty campaign to galvanise public opinion and demand real change. ?


Qld Police belatedly back inquiry as part of historic DV reforms

Police have accepted a commission of inquiry into widespread cultural issues that are denying domestic ­violence victims justice just months after railing against the need for one.

Acting Queensland Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski welcomed the ­government’s acceptance of the previously contentious recommendation to hold the inquiry, after Commissioner Katarina Carrol rejected it as unnecessary in December.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Tuesday accepted all 89 recommendations of Justice Margaret McMurdo’s first report of the Queensland Woman’s Safety and Justice Taskforce, which found ­perpetrators were being “emboldened” by police, lawyers and the courts in a scathing assessment of the failings of Queensland’s justice ­system.

Advocates and victims’ families, including those of Hannah Clarke and her children, Allison Baden-Clay, Doreen Langham and Kelly Wilkinson, sat in the parliament as Ms Palaszczuk announced the historic $363m, four-year investment to better protect women and children against domestic violence.

They include the criminalisation of coercive control, a four-month-long commission of inquiry – the details of which will be announced on Wednesday – and a raft of other watershed reforms.

“This is far-reaching, it is historic, and it is once again Queensland leading the way,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“What we have seen is that some women have fallen through the cracks and we want to do everything we can to prevent that from happening,” she said.

Attorney-General and Domestic Violence Prevention Minister Shannon Fentiman said the government would take its time to get the reforms right, which would include greater training for first-responders, judges and court staff, the modernisation of stalking laws, expanding specialist DV courts, trials of “co-responder” models staffed with police and specialist domestic violence workers and the establishment of a disclosure register of serious domestic and family violence offenders for authorities.

Ms Fentiman said some of the reforms would go directly to stopping the mistaken identification of victims as perpetrators, which happened too often, including by refusing to award DVO cross applications and instead insisting a judge decide which party was most in need of the protection.

More than $15m will fund Respectful Relationship education in schools and more than $16m will be spent on an education campaign in the media to raise awareness of the dangers of non-physical violence and how people can respond to coercive control.

In Australia, one in four women will experience domestic violence at the hands of their partner but it may not be as visible as we think. Take a look at what makes up coercive control.

And $25.5m will be spent on training and new positions within perpetrator programs, so more staff can work with them to stop dangerous behaviour.

Mr Gollschewski said the police service accepted the reforms announced and would fully co-operate with the commission of inquiry.

“The QPS responds to most DFV incidents very effectively, however, we acknowledge there have been some instances where we have not gotten it right and our organisation welcomes the opportunity to learn and improve,” he said in a statement.

“Responding to incidents of DFV is often challenging and complex. The inquiry is an opportunity for us to understand and reflect on what we can do, within our Service, to better protect victims of DFV.”

It was a stark difference to Ms Carroll’s initial response in December when she said that while she did not “fear a ­commission of inquiry, I cannot support this recommendation”, that it was “not warranted” and would be “extraordinarily costly”.

It is understood since then, police have determined an inquiry could bring about much-wanted changes to time-consuming processes and paperwork unpopular with officers. They include extensive paperwork resulting from domestic violence call-outs and cumbersome processes such as requiring written statements from victims, rather than being able to use body cam recordings of testimony given on scene – a move that will soon be trialled.

Queensland Police Union (QPU) president Ian Leavers previously described the McMurdo report as “another woke, out-of-touch report by a retired judge that overreaches where it pertains to police”. But on Tuesday he said the union had changed its position.

“Initially, the QPU was opposed to yet another Commission of Inquiry,” he said.

“However, after I gave evidence at the recent inquest surrounding the deaths of Hannah Clarke and her children, and, having spoken with Sue and Lloyd Clarke, we have now formed the view that the inquiry will present a real opportunity to continue to push for genuine reforms that the QPU has been seeking for some time.”


Urban Forest tower proposed for Southbank scrapped

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Plans for a 32-storey apartment tower that was heralded as being one of the world’s greenest residential buildings have been scrapped after the development was deemed unfeasible.

Brisbane developer Aria Property Group had proposed building Urban Forest, which would have featured “backyards in the sky”, in Southbank.

But it can be revealed the developer has scrapped its $300 million plans and late last week submitted a new development application to Brisbane City Council for a 12-level medical facility instead.

Aria’s Development Manager Michael Hurley said the company thought Brisbane “was ready for Urban Forest however unfortunately circumstances have conspired against us”.

“It is a disappointing outcome and a lost opportunity to pioneer subtropical design in a vertical setting,” he said.

The development was originally designed to have 32 storeys however council approved it for 20 levels late last year.

The company said while Urban Forest had been mooted as one of the greenest projects ever to be built in Australia, objections to the scheme coupled with an “overheated” construction market rendered the project unfeasible.

It’s understood legal action taken by the West End Community Association over the building’s height also contributed to the change of plans.


New curriculum: eco identity, dating and the three Rs
Mindfulness and positive self-talk will be covered

Children will be taught about their “eco identity’’, safe dating and giving clear sexual consent, in a new national curriculum that combines back-to-basics rigour in maths and English with “woke” schoolwork.

Aboriginal perspectives of a white invasion will be taught alongside concepts of a Christian and Western heritage in a more balanced bid to end the “culture wars’’, in the ninth version of the curriculum, published on Monday for classroom teaching from next year.

Respectful relationships will be taught from the first year of school, with teenagers instructed how to clearly give or deny consent to sex, and told about the “role of gender, power, coercion and disrespect in violent or disrespectful relationships”.

Mindfulness and positive self-talk will be covered in the new physical education curriculum, which explores the “eco-identity’’ of students.

Students are taught the virtues of a vegetarian diet – one activity is to prepare a presentation on food that has been “prepared sustainably’’, using local ingredients to cut down on emissions, using vegetarian or vegan dishes or kangaroo instead of beef, and not using single-use plastic for serving. They can use “nature experiences to understand how these activities can promote the development of eco-identity and positive sense of wellbeing’’.

To tackle a scourge of sexual assaults between high school students, teens from the age of 14 will investigate the legal requirements for their state or territory in relation to seeking, giving and refusing consent to sex.

To “enhance the safety and wellbeing of sexual partners’’, students in Years 9 and 10 will learn about “safe dating’’, including how to communicate feelings, ­respect boundaries and choices, and gain affirmative consent to sexual activity.

History lessons have been made more balanced and relevant to Australian students, with a new “deep time” strand focusing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait ­Islander history and the impact of European arrival, including the concept of an “invasion’’.

“The occupation and colonisation of Australia by the British, under the now overturned ­doctrine of terra nullius, were experienced by First Nations Australians as an invasion that denied their occupation of, and connection to, country/place,’’ the document states.

Students will learn about the impact of British colonisation on the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, “for example, dispossession, dislocation and the loss of lives through frontier conflict, disease, and loss of food sources and medicines, the embrace of some colonial technologies, the practice of colonial religion, and intermarriage’’.

The origins of Australia‘s democracy, and its Christian and Western heritage, will be taught explicitly, along with the diversity of Australian communities through migration.

In Year 10, students must study World War II, as well as a learning strand called Building Modern Australia.

Ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt will be covered alongside Aboriginal history and culture, while history students will also learn about the Great Depression, both world wars – including the Western Front Battle of the Somme and the Armistice in World War I – as well as the Holocaust and the Cold War.

Climate change is only mentioned twice in the geography curriculum for Years 9 and 10, with students asked to investigate the “causes of human-induced ­climate change at the global scale and its impacts on Australia, Bangladesh and/or a Pacific Island country at the national scale’’.

The Coalition and Labor both support the new curriculum, which was signed off by federal, state and territory education ministers last month.

Its release coincides with a Labor Party plan to pay high-achieving school leavers to study to become teachers, following a Coalition pledge to weed out “dud” teachers through a literacy and numeracy test before they start a university teaching degree.

The 2022 curriculum is more clearly written than the 2014 version, and provides more practical outlines and examples of subject content for teachers to use in classrooms, with less jargon.

In English, children must be able to write letters, spell simple words and “experiment’’ with capital letters and full stops in the first year of school, when they are four or five years old.

By the end of Year 3 they should be reading fluently and writing compound sentences.

Civics and citizenship has been simplified for high school students, with more explicit teaching about the origins of Australian democracy, and its Christian and Western heritage.

Maths teaching has been simplified to focus on mastery of mathematical concepts in the early years, with kids in the “foundation year’’ of prep or kindergarten expected to count to 20, instead of 10, and to know the days of the week.

Students must be able to skip-count to 120 and add or subtract numbers to 20 by the end of Year 1, tell the time in Year 2 and recite their times tables in Year 3.

The outmoded digital technologies syllabus has been updated to include cyber security and privacy for the first time.

In high school, maths and science content has been aligned with exam questions for the Program for International Student Assessment, which measures the reading, mathematics and science knowledge of 600,000 15-year-old students across 79 OECD industrialised nations every three years. Australia has plunged to 29th place in mathematics – down from 11th in 2003 – and has slipped from eighth to 15th place in science and from fourth to 16th place in literacy.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, which designed the updated curriculum, said it had been developed “with teachers for teachers’’.

ACARA chief executive David de Carvalho said the “more stripped back and teachable curriculum’’ would make teachers’ work easier.

“Teachers will be able to quickly and intuitively find relevant ­information, and lessons can be more easily planned,’’ he said.

MultiLit director of strategy Jennifer Buckingham, whose PhD research was on effective instruction for struggling readers, welcomed the new focus on teaching children to read and write through phonics – sounding out letters and sounds.

The curriculum has been published as 1.2 million students start sitting for the 2022 NAPLAN test




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