Like you, I’m pro-family and a strong advocate for family values

It shouldn’t be surprising, but although (or, indeed, because) I disagree with pretty much everything proposed or demanded by any of the political lobby groups who without conscious irony put “Family” in their name, I consider myself “pro-family”.

I love my family. I like it when people form a family, or join an existing family. I like the things families do, from raising kids to looking after the elderly to supporting each other to building meaningful lifelong relationships. I like legislation that makes it easier for committed people to form families (like marriage equality), and family law that ameliorates the negative effects of destructive families by ensuring that no-one is abused by or trapped unhappily in one, and instead can escape if necessary to become part of a more positive family. Policies that help disadvantaged families, and assist workers to have more time to spend with theirs. Ones that help those seeking to start their own families overcome medical problems preventing it. Programs that help reunite families.


Families are awesome.

I support family values like love, and commitment, and care, and support, and forgiveness, and tolerance.

And I bet that, unless you’re a psychotic misanthrope, you’re probably pro-family and love these family values too.

So let’s defend those concepts and those words from those who would use them to fight against actual families. Who would, through repeated misrepresentation, redefine them to mean “anti-family”.

Imagine a world in which the word “family” became a code-word for bigotry and discrimination, just because we silently let it happen. Because we let the anti-family brigade make us ashamed of it. Let them make us cringe whenever we heard the word used in public discourse, because we knew what would come next would be poisonous bile.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Be open about your support for families. Be clear that “pro-family” actually means being pro-families, not a code for nastiness. Make it a word to enjoy, not one to fear.

UPDATE: You know, we should start an Australian Family Lobby, at, say, australianfamilies.org, to lobby for real family values (in contrast to the bullshit ones the Australian Family Association keeps pushing). The word “family” needs to be wrested back from those people.

Suggestions for main policy points welcome in the comments.

UPDATE #2: A post about reclaiming various American right-wing talking points.

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28 responses to “Like you, I’m pro-family and a strong advocate for family values

  1. What? Don’t you know that it’s only Christian or Islamic conservatives that can claim to speak for the family?

    Damn lefties, don’t know enough to keep to their own views.

  2. jordanrastrick

    I challenged a friend the other day to come up with a recent example of a deliberate Orwellian corruption of the meaning of an English word for political purposes (as opposed to natural lingusitic evolution which obeys shifting cultural norms.)

    He couldn’t. But now that you’ve mentioned it, this one probably comes close to fitting the bill.

  3. I’m serious about the australianfamilies.org thing.

    Any other ideas for the sort of pro-family policies it should advocate?

    – for marriage equality
    – for better work-life balance
    – policies to help young Australians buy homes
    – full Medicare support for IVF
    – more compassionate family reunion policy with immigrants

  4. Yeh I agree wholeheartedly and support all types of families.

    Why though do I feel slightly nauseated when reading about Elton John and his partner paying for a surrogate and then housing the resulting baby in an apartment next to their LA digs?

  5. On a really practical level:

    – promoting relationship and parenting skills
    – sexual counselling / advice
    – supporting families of all sizes and shapes
    – supporting multi-generational households
    – family-based care for family memnbers with a physical or mental disabiliaty and/or mental illness
    – support for the victims and the perpetrators of domestic violence (i.e. behavior modification programs, etc)

    There’s a lot of social problems you can effectively address using the family as the basic unit of analysis and action. This isn’t to say that the nuclear family unit should be supported at all costs (you’ve got an interest in family law, Jeremy, you know this), but that the family will generally form a key part of a person’s relationships with wider society.

  6. You old class warrior, PJH.

    😉

  7. I am very much pro-family as far as my family goes. I would literally die for them. I am just as sure my family is the same as yours. What is meant by family values. Some seem to believe they are set in stone and cannot change. I am not a great believer in religion or for that matter marriage. I love my family and I believe they love me. My children are in many different relationships that are cemented together with love and respect. Some are in de facto relationships. Another has married, divorce and is separated again. My other daughter was in a destructive marriage which led to divorce. She is now in a loving lesbian relationship. I have eleven grandchildren and five and half great grandchildren. All these children have been loved by their parents and do not appear to have suffered from their varied upbringing. I cannot say the same for my own four children, They were reared in a violent marriage which I only had the guts to get out of after a tragedy occurred. This was in spite of me believing I would separate if the children were being harmed. I was too blind to see the harm been done by sticking to my marriage vows. You know, you made the bed, you lie on it or it’s the mother’s responsibility to make a marriage work. Those are the pro-family values that I refused to follow any more.

  8. jordanrastrick

    Yay, policy suggestions! Now we can have a debate instead of all this boring agreeing with each other nonsense 😛

    – for marriage equality
    Hell yes.

    – for better work-life balance
    I think most people are in favour of work-life balance, but it doesn’t strike me as an area in which the government can fruitfully intervene via policy. Going to legislate that upper middle class professionals on 100 grand salaries can’t work unpaid overtime or check their work emails from their smartphones at home? Not going to happen. This needs a corporate cultural shift, possibly some management innovation – overworked people aren’t actually more productive most of the time so its in everyone’s economic interest to deal with this.

    – policies to help young Australians buy homes
    You already know I don’t agree with the lot of the specifics of your plans for the housing market, Jeremy, although I do think taxing land heavily, not less, than other forms of capital is a top idea. And the planning system needs massive reform. Its not really a “family issue”, though, except in the trivial sense that every person is a family. Singles like myself need homes, too.

    – full Medicare support for IVF
    Agreed. Surely infertility is a medical problem impacting on a major part of human flourishing, more so than other equally or more expensive to treat areas of health.

    – more compassionate family reunion policy with immigrants
    I actually disagree with this one, in a sense, because I’d like to see our current family reunion visas go to new migrants, and provide an alternate avenue for those with relatives here. That’s probably the subject for a blog post of my own on immigration policy, though.

    Now for redravens.

    – promoting relationship and parenting skills
    Yes, although the State ideally should channel most of its education efforts through schools, at which point it’d probably be over the heads of most students. So implementation is an issue.

    – sexual counselling / advice
    Agreed, although in fairness this is pretty readily available already in many cases.

    – supporting families of all sizes and shapes
    Sure. But we already have de facto equality before the law for most famillies, and I’m confident that will be de jure relatively soon (with respect to Jeremy’s point 1). Since this is on a “really pragmatic level”, what’s the actual policy takeaway of this sentiment?

    – supporting multi-generational households

    – family-based care for family memnbers with a physical or mental disabiliaty and/or mental illness

    I’d be very interested to see details of such a policy, although its easy to set up welfare systems that are lousy at helping those in need for structural reasons, and in some cases actually exacerbate the problems their trying to cause. On a side note, “Intellectual vs psychiatric disability”, while not entirely accurate, does a pretty reasonable job of capturing the distinction I assume you’re trying to draw between people with developmental issues and those who are less sane than average.

    – support for the victims and the perpetrators of domestic violence (i.e. behavior modification programs, etc)

    This is a good one, particularily the part about perpetrators (not that they should at all take priority over victims, just that its a less widely accepted political point that rehabilitation is a good idea.)

    OK so I didn’t manage to do a lot of actual disagreeing there. Where can I subscribe to your newsletter?

  9. Once Jeremy and I write the party platform of course, silly!

    Agree with the early intervention about relationship and parenting skills, but the conservative fundies would be up in arms about this, as it shades into the acknowledgement that young people are interested in sex. The sexual conselling and advice sort of segues in there, as it’s not necessarily something that you can hive off from (adult) relationships. However, given that couples can find themseles in deep water at any stage of a relationship, and that irrevocable breakdown can be avoidable, I think it’s worth putting a bit of effort and expenditure into this sort of early intervention.

    ITO “all shapes and sizes”, I suppose we’re looking at a reform of welfare and tax to take into account that families have very different structures, capabilities and needs which should be adapted to by legislation and procedure rather than the other way around.

    The “mutli-generational” and “carer” provisions need to be looked at carefully in order to bring in practical and effective policies that actually result in better home situations and family relationships.

    It’s about trying to provide families with the resources, knowledge and support networks required to both effecvitvely care for those who need care, and also have an independent life of their own (live-in matyrs breed poor families).

    Bill Shorten seemed to understand this in his time as the responsible minister, but seemed either powerless or apathetic towards applying the appropriate budget pressure at the level required to get ‘er done. This is made complex by the fact that while Great-Aunt Sally may need a wheelchair, young Brendan needs a teacher’s aide, wheras Stephanie needs 24-hour attention and Alan needs respite care and a CAT team on call. If there’s a one-size policy solution to that, I’d like to see it!

    And yeah, the qualification between psychiatric versus ID is actually an important one (even if it’s quite fluid, especially in conditions like autism and acquired brain injury). An ex of mine was a residential care worker, and in the house she worked in they lumped in some ID clients with psychiatric (well… autistic, which is sort of both) ones in the same household. Hilarity ensued… NOT!

    An organisation like Jeremy is proposing would need academic muscle, financial support as well as political/PR knowhow. If we could cobble that together…

  10. Oh, and the perpetrator rehab thing is reasonably important, although it wouldn’t give a warm glow to too many people.Yes, it’s the second order concern, but… people will continue to have familial relationships even with abusive spouses, children and parents. It’s not unreasonable to try and remove as much risk from those relationships as is humanly possible.

  11. Encourage businesses to support parents – mothers AND fathers – via parental leave and pathways to return when they are ready (part time and job share, working from home, etc). Support small businesses in achieving something similar where possible.

    Support for families where (for example) grandparents are the caretakers on a day-to-day basis while both parents work.

    Improved access to adoption and fostering, and removing the requirement for police checks for reproductive assistance. Proper reproductive counselling and nation-wide decrimanisation of abortion – recognising that people are in the position to determine what is best for their family, and that this may not include more children, especially if the pregnancy would put the mother’s life at stake.

    Full marriage equality, recognition of chosen parents as well as/rather than biological parents on birth certificates where appropriate.

  12. Also, I very much like the idea of reclaiming ‘Family’ for, you know, actual families.

  13. Thats awesome Jeremy.

    WE should start an Australian Family Lobby. What do we need to do? Lets start it now.

    – for marriage equality
    – for better work-life balance
    – full Medicare support for IVF
    – more compassionate family reunion policy with immigrants
    – promoting relationship and parenting skills
    – sexual counselling / advice
    – supporting families of all sizes and shapes
    – supporting multi-generational households
    – family-based care for family memnbers with a physical or mental disabiliaty and/or mental illness
    – support for the victims and the perpetrators of domestic violence (i.e. behavior modification programs, etc) (Yes it is important.)

    All good.

    – policies to help young Australians buy homes

    On its own this could be problematic. Policies to help young australians maintain secure long term homes for themselves and their families might be better, especially if a proportion of them were to promote home buying for people (young families) who want to

    Not everyone wants to buy a home tho, and I think security for families who rent is just important, especially disadvantaged families with pre school age young kids. (IE a single mum with 3 kids and no desire to own a home but a desire that her kids feel secure till they’re older.)

  14. Excellent ideas, guys. I’m working on getting the site up and running and making it look like a real lobby organisation – which, of course, it will be. It’s not satire.

    It’s at AustralianFamilies.org. It’s on twitter as @austfamilylobby

    Some great proposals above – I hadn’t thought of the improving the lot of people stuck renting, for example, but that’s a good one. And decent parental leave for both genders – equal parental leave, in fact – is fairly critical.

  15. As a dad who took time off to look after his children, one of the hardest things I encountered was the distinct lack of other dads to talk and hang out with. Okay, that was 15 years ago and I would have hoped things would have improved but often the hostility from some mothers at the playgroups was palpable.

    On the subject of work-life baalance, I think it’s an admirable ideal to advocate for but I think there’s a lot to do. Again 15 years ago when I took time off there was a fair degree of political and industrial will behind the idea but today when I look up the ladder of my workplace all I see is predominantly single, middle aged, child free workaholics.

    So I think there’s a need for active encouragement for dads to take parenting leave.

  16. Oh, by the way Jeremy – well done for getting the website up so fast. Good work sir

  17. Oh, and encouraging the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution in the event of irrevocable family breakdown rather than funnelling people through the court system to “divvy up the spoils” (had to add that one, my sister-in-law works in collaborative law).A sepratated family is often still a family.

  18. Splatterbottom

    Perhaps you need to include a special “Motherhood Statement” section in your website.

    The cynic in me says that this is just another gambit in the culture wars, yet it really is for people to decide for themselves how to arrange their lives and relationships. I am grateful to have had that opportunity, and cannot see any rational argument for denying it to others.

  19. Pingback: The Australian Family Lobby | An Onymous Lefty

  20. Ironically, I think that terms like “pro-family” have now been so totally co-opted by anti-gay fundies that if I were to chance upon the website australianfamilies.org, I would quickly assume it was part of that agenda and move on before I read something offensive. But hats off to you for trying.

    I am grateful to have had that opportunity, and cannot see any rational argument for denying it to others.

    Nobody here is trying to deny anybody anything. It’s just that you’re so desperate to fight with lefties that you’ve created a strawman.

  21. I got the impression SB was acknowledging his tendency to be cynical about this sort of thing yet was still supporting it buns.

  22. Yes, you are right, jules. I misread him. I withdraw and apologise for my earlier comment.

  23. Splatterbottom

    Not to worry Buns. No doubt there will be plenty of other opportunities for you to set me straight.

  24. “Ironically, I think that terms like “pro-family” have now been so totally co-opted by anti-gay fundies that if I were to chance upon the website australianfamilies.org, I would quickly assume it was part of that agenda and move on before I read something offensive. But hats off to you for trying.”

    That’s alright – we’re not seeking to replace the already obvious advocates for progressive policy. The goal is much more humble – to reclaim the word “family”, or at least remind people that it doesn’t mean what the fundamentalists would like to pretend it means.

    Ultimately I’d like it to be impossible for a politician to use the “pro-family” codeword to give a nice massage to far-right extremism. I’d like the media to follow up any “I’m pro-family” declaration by having to ask “what precisely do you mean by that?”

  25. And what does the Australian Family Lobby mean by being “pro-family”?

    100 words or less please, so it can fit on a promotional postcard.

    🙂

    All these definitional debates need to take place if you want to move the AFL (unfortunate acronym, really) beyond a placeholder website and some feel-good affirmations. Even if, as you say, it’s an attempt merely to paint a picture in which “pro-family” isn’t immediately connected with homophobia and sexism then a bit of tweaking might still be required in order to get the message across with both force and directness.

  26. Not to worry Buns. No doubt there will be plenty of other opportunities for you to set me straight.

    And vice versa.

  27. We’re working on it redravens

  28. This is a great idea, and i agree with almost all of what has been suggested, except for the idea of subsidised IVF.

    Yes, the technology exists that allows infertile couples to get pregnant, but unlike health care or dentistry or education, pregnancy is not a basic right. If people want to have kids that badly, and can’t achieve it without medical help, then let them pay for it themselves or adopt.

    The world is full of unwanted children who have little hope of a decent upbringing, it makes no sense to me to be spending public money making more, particularly considering the global problem of over population.

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