Divorce is on the wane in Australia as people think more carefully about their choice of life partner before saying “I do”. Statistics from the Australian Institute of Family Studies show divorce has gone out of fashion this millennium, with the crude divorce rate falling from 2.8 per 1000 people in 2001 to 2.1 in 2013. The decline in divorce is particularly noticeable among couples aged 25-40. “Marriage has become a more considered decision than in the past,” the institute’s researcher Lixia Qu said. Divorce peaked in 1976 after the introduction of no-fault divorce. Couples are also road-testing relationships by living together before marriage. Eight in 10 marriages are now preceded by cohabitation. “Cohabitation serves as a weeding-out process,” Dr Qu said.

Relationships Australia Illawarra manager Rhonda O’Donnell said couples have become more cautious about making a life commitment. The median age for first marriages is now 30 for men and 28 for women. “People are delaying marriage until later, they’re older, they’ve often lived together and they’re being more considered about their choice of partner,” she said. Ms O’Donnell noted that many couples had experienced the divorce of their parents growing up, and did not want to end up in the same predicament. Those that do marry are increasingly choosing a secular ceremony. Whereas an equal number of marriages were performed by a civil celebrant as a religious minister at the turn of the century, now only a quarter of marriage ceremonies are religious.

The proportion of divorces involving children under 18 has also dropped, from 53 per cent to 47 per cent. While the average length of a marriage that ends in divorce is 12 years, one in five divorces now involve couples who have been married for 20 years or more. Couples are increasingly waiting until their children have left home before splitting up, to protect them from the fallout. Women are also likely to be back in the workforce, putting them in a more independent financial position. The median age for women who get divorced is now 42 (compared to 39 in 2001) and for men it is 45 (compared to 42). “There is less stigma attached to divorce than when they got married, there are no concerns about the impact on the children, and there are less concerns about the financial difficulties they face,” Dr Qu said.

When parents do separate, only 6 per cent of children under 17 spend their time equally with both mother and father. Three in 10 children see their non-resident parent daily or weekly, but an equal proportion sees that parent less than once a year or never. Half of all children whose parents are separated do not spend any nights at their non-resident parent’s house. Dr Qu said many of these children were either too little to stay away from home, or older teenagers who preferred to spend time with their friends.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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Labor has nailed its colours to the Greens’ anti-free speech mast by joining them to block a Senate motion supporting the Catholic church’s right to teach the orthodox Christian view of marriage. Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Lyle Shelton said it was chilling to have the alternative party of government oppose in Parliament the church’s right to teach about marriage being between one man and one woman. “Labor’s action raises serious questions about where the same-sex political debate is taking our nation. “Labor’s move coupled with Greens politicians Adam Bandt and Robert Simms calling people who support traditional marriage ‘bigots’, is evidence of a growing intolerance emerging in Australian politics.”

The Senate motion was to support the Catholic church’s right to free speech in the face of an anti-discrimination complaint lodged with authorities in Tasmania. The Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner is investigating the complaint by a transgender Greens’ political candidate against the Catholic church for distributing a booklet that explains its millennia-old view on marriage. The Commission has ruled the complaint sustained. The matter will now be decided by mediation or in the courts. In an extraordinary political manoeuvre, Labor joined the Greens in blocking the motion from even being discussed in the Senate. The motion was co-sponsored by Liberal senator Eric Abetz, independent John Madigan, Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm, Family First’s Bob Day, and Palmer United party’s Dio Wang.

The motion stated that: “The Senate, while not expressing a view on the contents of the booklet issued by the Australian Catholic Bishops conference entitled Don’t Mess with Marriage, fully supports the rights of members of the Catholic church, including Archbishop Julian Porteous, to distribute it.” Mr Shelton said it was a sad day for free speech and freedom of religion. “While Australians may have different views on its definition, I don’t think anyone ever thought we would see the day when political parties would use Parliament and the law to stifle free speech on marriage. “It is important that people who care about preserving marriage and free speech take an interest in the Turnbull Government’s plan to hold a people’s vote on marriage after the next federal election,” Mr Shelton said.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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The Catholic Church has described its history regarding child abuse in Australia as “shameful, corrosive and complicit”. The church says it now expects its liability exposure to be potentially $1 billion on top of payments already made. Catholic spokesman Francis Sullivan said the church’s history was “littered with examples of cover-ups and crimes and of church leaders failing in one of the basic tenets of their calling”. Mr Sullivan is leading the church’s support for a national redress scheme to compensate victims of abuse. The scheme has been recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. In a speech to the Australian Catholic University, Mr Sullivan said it was important Catholics did not succumb to a feeling that the commission or media were out to “get” the church.

“The facts are we are at the very centre of the royal commission because collectively the Catholic Church is responsible for more abuse than any other institution in Australia, public or private,” he said. “We are the focus because our history of child sexual abuse across several decades.” So far the federal government has been noncommittal in its response to the recommendation for a national redress scheme. Under the model recommended by the commission, the institutions in whose establishments the abuse occurred will pay the compensation to victims. It is estimated by the commission that payments will be $4.01bn over 10 years — they would be capped at a maximum of $200,000, and an average of $65,000. Mr Sullivan said in Australia the Catholic Church had a unique opportunity. “We should embrace this opportunity to re-establish the church as a credible organisation, willing to acknowledge failings, accept criticism and put in place reforms and move forward.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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A Melbourne public school is under fire for allowing Muslim students to be absent while the Australian national anthem is sung, during the traditional Islamic month of mourning. Cranbourne Carlisle Primary School Principal Cheryl Irving said that during the month of Muharram, Shi’a Muslims do not take part in joyous events such as singing or listening to music. “Prior to a Years 2-6 assembly, in respect of this religious observance, students were given the opportunity to leave the hall before music was played,” Ms Irving said. “The students then rejoined the assembly at the conclusion of the music.” In a public statement the Department of Education supported the school.

“The Department supports our schools being inclusive for all students, including respecting religious cultural observances,” the statement read. Islamic Council of Victoria secretary Kuranda Seyit said it was a “holy time” for Shi’a Muslims. “These Muslim children are not against the Australian national anthem but are not allowed to be deemed to be celebrating,” he said. He said for young children, these observances should be flexible and assessed on their merits in order to find an appropriate balance. One caller to talk back radio, grandmother Lorraine McCurdy, said she “saw red” that the children were not showing respect to the country. Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie also hit out at the school, saying “we should all be proud to be Australians and proud to sing the national anthem”.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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