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Lawyers need to speak up for single mums

Lawyers need to speak up for single mums

Cassandra Pullos

As a family law specialist I am accustomed to encountering entrenched and negative mindsets, but how do you react to last-century attitudes that defy credulity? Asks Cassandra Pullos.

There is a One Nation candidate contesting a seat in the WA elections this month whose views on single mothers not only beggar belief, but demand a response from those in the community who can give a voice to single parents.

His name is David Archibald, and he recently made headlines around Australia for all of the wrong reasons with a diatribe against single mothers. His comments would be laughable, were he not contesting a state parliament seat for a party that had achieved surprising traction in Australia for its uncompromising policies.

In an opinion article in the literary online magazine Quadrant in 2015, One Nation candidate David Archibald described single mothers as "too lazy to attract and hold a mate, undoing the work of possibly 3 million years of evolutionary pressure".

"This will result in a rapid rise in the portion of the population that is lazy and ugly," he said.

He also said support payments for single mothers should be axed and described single motherhood as a "lifestyle choice". The remarks have come back to haunt him, but One Nation's candidate for the seat of Pilbara in the West Australian election is reportedly standing by his article.

So in David Archibald’s world, taxpayers should not support single mums who, in his mind, are "too lazy" to “attract and hold a mate”. Really, David Archibald? 

Mr Archibald’s remarks were widely denounced with Federal Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese, who was raised by a single mother, calling for Pauline Hanson to dump Mr Archibald as a candidate. She has not done so.

Irrespective of your politics, the mindset behind such thinking demands to be challenged. So why should lawyers, especially family lawyers, be speaking out against Mr Archibald’s attitudes and defending single mothers?

Simply put, family lawyers are often widely experienced in helping those struggling with the dynamics of single parenting. More significantly, many of us – myself included – have been single parents ourselves, coping with the dual pressures of raising a child and managing a career.

I am personally and professionally offended by David Archibald’s attitudes and hope others in the profession would also give their voices to this protest and speak out for single parents.

To suggest that support payments for single mothers should be axed is a monstrous thing to say, and ignores such realities as women escaping from domestic violence and relying on the single parent benefit to survive and raise their children.

His diatribe also ignores the fact that many fathers are single parents, and both single mothers and single fathers are doing a very difficult task of raising their children without the help and support of the other parent day to day.

Mr Archibald’s views were apparently prompted by former prime minister Tony Abbott’s 2015 remarks that living in remote indigenous communities was a lifestyle choice.

In this Quadrant article, David Archibald reflected on other lifestyle choices that could be defunded.

"The first that springs to mind is single motherhood," Mr Archibald wrote.

"We know what causes pregnancy these days, so everyone who gets pregnant outside of marriage is a volunteer. This is an easy one for defunding."

Let’s pause for a moment and compare reality to Mr Archibald’s take on the thinking of single mothers. He argues they are “too lazy to attract and hold a mate”, which is highly offensive and quite wrong.

As a single parent and a family lawyer raising a child, I was too busy caring for my child, providing a good home and holding down a job to pursue a new partner.

I know of other family lawyers in the same situation right now. It’s the sweeping generalisations of Mr Archibald that make his views all the more objectionable.

For example his belief that single mothers are too lazy to attract and hold a partner suggests these people are single by choice in the first place. He totally ignores those who may be widows or women who have fled from a relationship because of domestic violence.

And what about those of us who simply choose not to partner? Isn’t that our right? It doesn’t make me or anyone else lazy, just not conformist to some distorted 1950s notion that the only good woman is a married, stay-at-home woman.

And why is he targeting single mothers? Many single parents are fathers and the pressures on a single dad are exactly the same as those on a single mum.

Anthony Albanese remarked, "I have an enormous amount of love, and I have nothing but respect for my late mum. I regard his comments as incredibly personally offensive, but more importantly offensive towards all those single parents out there."

"The idea that if you have a single mother then somehow you're less of a human being really belongs way back in the dark ages, and I find it incredibly offensive," he said. 

Mr Archibald’s name has been in the news with him running for the seat of Pilbara in the WA elections this month. He also used his Quadrant article to suggest other radical ideas, such as defunding the disability support pension and childcare.

Writing about Australians on the disability pension, he said a good proportion “are able to drive cars, bash police and each other, go fishing and so on.” The remarks are a terrifying insight into his thought processes.

So, what needs to be done to challenge the David Archibalds of our world?

I believe our single parents deserve support, and more than that, they deserve our vocal support. Family lawyers, most especially, are uniquely placed to relate to those who are navigating through life as single parents, either by choice or circumstances forced upon them.

We have a voice in the community, and it’s time to use that voice on behalf of single parents who deserve more than ridicule and archaic mindsets.

Cassandra Pullos is an accredited family law specialist and director of Gold Coast specialist family law firm Pullos Lawyers.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

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Lawyers need to speak up for single mums
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