Protests mar Ruddock?s message of hope
By ALEX EASTON email@example.com
NEW laws that will force warring couples to try mediation before going to court will help keep families together and save them money, Federal AttorneyGeneral Philip Ruddock said yesterday.
Mr Ruddock was in Lismore to talk up the new laws, announce plans to build one of the Government's first 15 new family relationship centres in the city, and open a new family centre run by Interrelate.
The visit was marked by a series of protests, the largest of which involved about 150 protestors and 20 police.
A Lismore police spokesman said that protest was vocal, but peaceful. There were no arrests.
The Government relationship centre, which is going through a tendering process and will eventually become part of a national network of 65 centres, differs from the Interrelate centre in that it is aimed at giving broad support and information for couples and families at different stages of their relationships.
Interrelate executive manager Karen Morris said the Interrelate centre focused on bringing troubled couples back together and offered a safe site for estranged couples to drop off and pick up children.
Mr Ruddock said the new legislation was aimed at 'keeping relationships in a good state of repair'.
"The starting point is that if people are experiencing difficulties with their relationships, the (government) centres should be able to help them or direct them to where they can get help," he said.
When couples with children are on the rocks, provided abuse is not an issue, they will have to go through mediation and try to resolve their problems or reach an agreement on access rights, before they can go to the Family Court.
"We're encouraging people to sit down together and come up with a parenting plan and what each can contribute," he said.
"Our desire is to give children what is one of their fundamental human rights ? to know both their parents."