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Wednesday, 18 November 1959


Sir GARFIELD BARWICK (Parramatta) (Attorney-General) .- I think it is necessary to remember that I am not, by this bill, setting up government agencies. I am subsidizing voluntary agencies.


Mr Stewart - It will all depend on finance how far they can go.


Sir GARFIELD BARWICK - Perhaps so. The bill provides for the subsidizing of approved organizations. Whether an organization has associated with it a clergyman or not may yet have to be seen, but I am not attempting to regulate the activities of people in marriage guidance so that only certain people can do this work. 1 am not doing that; I am saying that- approved organizations will be subsidized. In order to approve them I have taken wide powers, because we are entering a very new field and it will need to be developed.

My hope is that by this means we will build into this community, progressively over the years, a social mechanism which will expand and perhaps extend its activities further down the line towards pre-marital training. That is a matter for the future; but one has to begin. But in this bill, I have provided that the Attorney-General can approve these organizations on such terms as he thinks fit.

I am alive to the problem mentioned by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), that people will not want this work to be done just by do-gooders. I have already set in train in anticipation - perhaps too much in anticipation - inquiries and activities concerning standards or requirements of competence and training to be possessed by the people who are going to do this work. I will want to know from these organizations just who they are going to employ and what methods they will use and I will want them to tell me each twelve months, for the purpose of approval of such subsidy, what they are doing and how they are succeeding.

Honorable members will see that subclause (2.) of clause 10 stipulates the requirement that the Attorney-General shall be satisfied that the organization is not merely willing, but also able to engage in marriage guidance. That ability goes alone to the sort of people who have to do the work. Later, in sub-clause (5.) it is provided that the Attorney-General can withdraw the approval where he is satisfied that the people concerned are not adequately doing the work. These are general and wide powers, but I feel that I must necessarily provide for them, particularly in the early stages, if we are to build up a satisfactory organization for the purposes of subsidy and for the purposes of the work.

I have not attempted to define marriage guidance. I thought about whether I should endeavour to do so, but I rather thought that I should leave the term undefined so that there was no need to confine the activities too tightly. I have no doubt that marriage guidance may very often, on the one hand, spring out of perhaps some social welfare work with regard to children. This may lead to marriage guidance. On the other hand it may stretch back, on occasions, into pre-marital advice or training.

There are already some moves afoot to acquaint me sufficiently with the sort of standards that I ought to set. This will be attended to with as much care as I can possibly give it. I assure honorable members that this part of the bill is no gimmick. I really mean business in this particular activity because I am convinced that it is right.

Let me say one other thing. In the second-reading speech, I said that I thought that this work was better done by trained people who were offering their services than if it were done simply by a sort of officialdom. That has been misunderstood, 1 think, because some of these folk thought I had set my face against fully trained personnel. That is not right. I believe that these groups will need to have a substantial core, it may even go beyond being a substantial core, of fully trained people. But I know that there are many useful people - not busybodies - who have been well trained, who may have moved out into married life themselves and who come and assist because they have a sense of calling and devotion to the task. I think these people should be encouraged to come anc! offer their services alongside the trained assistants, the paid personnel.

Reference has been made to publicity. Of course, one would expect these marriage guidance organizations to let themselves be known. As I have said, I have not wanted to turn this into any sort of official outfit, but I do want to see these marriage guidance counsellors build themselves into the social structure of the community because they must take the place, as honorable members will agree, of sources of counsel and guidance which are drying up. The family doctor very often acted as a marriage guidance counsellor, but he is disappearing. The family lawyer did a lot of it. He gave good, quiet, sound, straight advice. But people do not have family lawyers now. Even the bank manager was often a very useful person. The local member does a little bit of it, no doubt. There is a larger section of the community now than formerly, who do not turn to their priest or parson, so these organizations are necessary to take up that slack.

Now may I answer the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) and say that I am quite alive to the difficulty of the country town and the inland city. At the outset it is going to be difficult to get enough good personnel to make this effort go quickly. I think we will have to be patient. However, I will do what I can to encourage the organizations to provide their assistance in the country as they grow stronger. But I would not encourage them to do it unless they have enough personnel - and we find people poorly trained trying to interfere. I have analysed that particular aspect, and I think that what I have said answers the question which the honorable member asked.







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