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Monday, 4 June 1984
Page: 2404

Senator CROWLEY —Has the Attorney- General seen the advertising material prepared as part of the campaign promoting marriage counselling organisations and funded by his Department? Is he aware that the publicity given this campaign both on television and in the Press, particularly in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Adelaide Advertiser last week, has led to some expressions of disquiet about the contents of the publicity material? Will the Minister elaborate on the campaign, say when it will be launched and state its general purpose and the contents of the advertising material?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I have seen a number of Press references and heard some representations on the subject of the proposed advertising campaign on marriage counselling. I stress that it is not a government campaign as such, but it has been funded to the tune of $100,000 by the Government following representations made over many years by the 22 marriage counselling organisations which in respect of their ordinary activities are funded by the Government to the extent of $3.8m per annum. It was a matter of great disappointment to those organisations that they could not get a bean out of the previous Government for an advertising campaign of the kind they are now about to run. The present Government feels proud that it has been able to help those organisations in this way to promote a campaign with worthy objectives indeed. Those objectives are to draw to the attention of persons in the community other than the articulate middle class, who are perfectly able to help themselves in relation to helping organisations of this kind, the existence of these organisations which perform a most worthwhile job in helping to patch up shaky relationships and helping couples and their children avoid the kind of acute emotional trauma, not to mention the financial strain that is associated with the marriage breakup. Anything this campaign does to draw attention to those helping organisations will be greeted warmly by all honourable senators and indeed by all members of the community.

I am a little disappointed that there has been some feeling, based on the summary of pictures and things which have appeared so far, that there is some sexist quality about the advertising campaign put together on behalf of the committee of marriage counselling organisations that are running the campaign. I am not sure that is an appropriate reaction to the material. The material I have seen graphically depicts a situation in which a mother has custody of a child, who is holding out his hand towards a father walking off to the left of the picture. Although that kind of material might in some circles be thought to be an approach to the marriage relationship which is sex biased in some way, it is clearly designed to point out, in a graphic and moving way, some of the implications in terms of shattered human relationships that are involved in marriage breakdowns. I am not sure whether it might not be possible to present that imagery in a way that did not give rise to concern on the part of some women and women's organisations, but that is a matter for the marriage counselling organisations. I am sure they have taken to heart the expressions of concern which they have already received. I am assured that the campaign is intended to be utterly value neutral as between men and women and certainly not in any way intended to suggest that a greater degree of blame for marriage breakdown is attributable to one side of the relationship than another. Indeed, any such suggestion would be counter-productive in this kind of campaign. The theme of the campaign is that those concerned should take advantage of the available advice before it is too late. That is a message which, if the marriage counselling organisations succeed in communicating it, will be worthwhile indeed .