CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

The International Year of the What?

Nov 15, 1993

The United Nations has declared 1994 to be the International Year of the Family. The UN has said that the main purpose of the Year is “to enhance awareness of family issues and improve national institutional capability to carry out comprehensive policies to tackle the most serious family-related problems. Protection and strengthening of emotional, financial and material support between family members and between related families, including care for infants and children, the elderly, the sick and the disabled, are among the goals of a programme to be defined by the Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs.”

Accordingly, most countries will be sponsoring elaborate conferences and festivities centred on the family. Being a UN sponsored affair, however, one shouldn’t expect too much.

Indeed, given the UN’s clear guidelines which state that there is not to be an implicit or explicit promotion of an ideal form of the family, one can expect that every type of family structure except the traditional family will be celebrated. This is how the UN guidelines put it:

“The family constitutes the basic unit of society and therefore warrants special attention.” So far so good. But let me read on. “Families assume diverse forms and functions from one country to another, and within each national society… Consequently, the International Year of the Family encompasses and addresses the needs of all families.” The document continues, “Changes in social structures…have meant that there are many different types of family structure, with different strengths and weakness.” This means that “any image of what constitutes the ‘ideal family’ will differ greatly. Policies affecting the family should seek to avoid promoting, implicitly or explicitly, a single, ideal image of the family.”

Given such a loose definition of what constitutes families, one can expect the gay and lesbian lobbies will jump on the bandwagon, announcing that homosexual relationships are just as much “family” as any other relationship, and just as deserving of government (read: tax-payer-funded) largesse. The feminist lobby will of course also be out in force, demanding that its view of things be given a loud hearing.

And most governments, being indifferent or hostile to the traditional family, will acquiesce to these anti-family forces. That certainly seems to be the case in Australia where it was recently announced that a National Council has been set up to oversee the Year.

Among those appointed to the Council include the following:

–Bettina Cass, noted feminist, who has been appointed as Chair. She has a long standing history of devotion to various feminist causes. She has also been Deputy Chair of the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

–Dr Don Edgar, who for over a decade has wavered on the importance of the traditional family as Director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies.  As an indication of this he recently made it clear that housewives were unproductive and homemaking unimportant: “It is far better to have them [women] in the labour force working productively for the society than paying them for something that will be done anyway.” This comment is typical of the kind of remarks made by the Edgar and the AIFS over the years.

–Kay Setches of the late Kirner government. Since losing her seat, she has established the firm Kay Setches and Associates, which is involved with such issues as “gender information and education”.

–Jennie George, member of the ACTU Executive. Among other things in her activist past she has declared the traditional family to be a relic of the past and, while NSW Teachers Federation Secretary, has actively supported homosexual material in the classroom.

–Father David John Cappo has also been appointed, perhaps because he supported Keating versus Hewson on the GST.

In addition there is a host of exotic sounding names, indicating that the government did its best to get a political correct, culturally diverse bunch on the Council. There may be some on the Council who take a more traditional view of the family, but by the look of it, it is pretty much of a stacked deck, complete with political appointments and jobs for the girls.

The emphasis on diversity, of course, fits well with current government ideology: not only is there no ideal form of the family, but all family types should be viewed as equal. A government document on the IYF released this year makes this quite clear: it urges, among other things, that a kit be developed to “explain the range of family structures,” from the “traditional” family to “all household groupings now found in our community”. Any form of grouping, in other words, is to be considered as “family” with full government backing.

Bettina Cass has already stated which area she wants to make a priority during next year: industrial relations reform to help dual income families more easily combine work and the family. The aim is clear: get more women into the paid workforce, and put more kids into formal daycare. This is hardly pro-family policy. Indeed, it will only serve to further break down the family unit.

Funding for the IYF looks to be going the same way it does in most government bureaucracies: bureaucrats are consuming most of the funding, while needy groups are getting very little.

As an example, a Federal Government document released just recently reports that an Office of the International Year of the Family now employs thirteen full-time staff. The Government allocated $1.65 million in the 1992-1993 budget for IYF planning. As of 19 April, 1993 $796, 650 had been spent. And guess how much of that amount was spent on real IYF activities? You guessed it – just 15.9% – $127,076! The rest, $669,574, or over 84%, has been spent on salaries and administration!

Now another $4 million has been set aside for the Year ($2.8 million for 93/93 and $1.2 million for 94/95).  Given the above-mentioned track record, one can expect some $3.36 million to be gobbled up in salaries and administrative costs. Of the remaining $630,000, one shouldn’t be surprised if groups promoting the family are left out altogether. In fact, pro-family groups like the Australian Family Association (which will hold an International Conference on the Family next July at Melbourne University with family experts from Australia and overseas) have long ago put in requests for funding for the Year. Being non-taxpayer funded (unlike the Institute of Family Studies which gets $3 million a year of government handouts), groups like the AFA would surely be worthy candidates for any government funding. But such groups are not holding their breath.

Indeed, a phone call to Canberra has discovered that the Government has only a half million dollars left in its IYF budget! All the rest has been spent, presumably on bureaucratic costs. Of the remaining funds, it will go to “long-standing projects” which accord with the Council’s priorities – priorities which we have seen will largely please the feminists but will be of no hope to the traditional family.

It seems therefore that the traditional family will once again be the big loser in the government’s brouhaha over the IYF. Groups which support the traditional family will have to continue begging for crumbs, while the well-organised and financed feminist and homosexual groups will continue to prosper. So much for Mr Keating’s commitment to the family.

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