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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Mr STEWART (Lang) .- The points which I should like the AttorneyGeneral (Sir Garfield Barwick) to clarify concern marriage guidance. How far does he intend this to extend? Does he intend it to include preparation for marriage and general education for marriage, or is the subsidy to be only for guidance to people whose marriages are actually breaking down? The Reverend Coughlan, who I mentioned earlier, believes that there is great scope for expansion of activities in that field. He has pointed out that many breakdowns occur in marriage because young couples are not prepared to make concessions to each other.

What publicity will be given to these marriage guidance organizations in order that people who are having marital difficulties and, perhaps, people who want to enter the marital state, after having correct preparation, will be able to go to them and receive information and guidance. The report of the United Kingdom royal commission on marriage and divorce states under the heading " Marriage Guidance and Conciliation " -

The first task of marriage guidance must be to bring to light the causes of failure, actual or threatened. If these prove to be largely external (housing shortage, unwise relatives and the like), or largely personal (petty selfishness, lack of understanding, sexual maladjustment, failure to have children), there is a reasonable chance that wise and skilled counsel may bear fruit.

The report goes on to say -

The tendency to take the duties and responsibilities of marriage less seriously, to which we have referred in paragraph 47, coupled with the fact that marriage can be entered into so easily, in our view goes far to explain why so many marriages are predisposed to break down under the first sign of serious strain.

We consider that the removal of this major source of marital unrest can be achieved only by the development of a carefully graded system of education for young people as they grow up, in order to fit them for marriage and family living, and by the provision of specific instruction for those about to enter marriage. By "education " we do not mean merely formal education in school but education in the widest sense. We received a large amount of evidence containing many varying and helpful suggestions as to how best such a programme could be put into effect, and many of our witnesses also urged that such steps should be accompanied by amendment ot the marriage laws so as to put a brake upon hasty and ill-considered marriages.

I break in there to say that I understand the Attorney-General has announced that he intends to take the step of reviewing the marriage laws. The report goes on -

In our opinion, the consideration of such matters is not within our terms of reference. All of our witnesses were, however, agreed on the urgency of the problem and we were left in no doubt that while much valuable work is already being carried out much more needs to be done. We therefore consider that the Government should at an early date set up a suitably qualified body to review the marriage law and the existing arrangements for pre-marital education and training.

The report then proceeds to talk about a programme for education and training in marriage and suggests that any plans which may be laid down at this stage will take years to bear fruit. I feel that the same condition applies here. Any plans which may be laid down by marriage guidance organizations will take years to develop. But I should like the Minister to bear in mind the fact that publicity is absolutely essential. If those people whose homes are likely to break up because of domestic difficulties do not know that these services are available, or if people who are contemplating marriage do not know that they can go along to any of these organizations, whatever its denomination may be, to receive instruction - sexual instruction, parent education, training of children and so forth - then I feel that this provision in the Matrimonial Causes Act will be just so many words and will not prove to be the benefit that I am certain the AttorneyGeneral and all honorable members want it to be.

Dr Evatt - Could the honorable member give the reference in the book from which he has just quoted?

Mr STEWART - Yes, it is the report of the Royal Commission on Marriage and

Divorce which was conducted in the United Kingdom from 1951 to 1955. I was reading at pages 93 and 94.

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