Media Release: Wednesday, 9 April, 2008

With marriage and the family under increasing pressure in Australian society, resulting in rising social, personal and economic costs, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) is calling for a nationwide public campaign to promote marriage, together with concerted policy action to strengthen marriages and remove financial disincentives.

In a submission to the 2020 Summit’s ‘communities and families’ policy area lodged today, ACL said that marriage is being undervalued in Australia despite its importance to a healthy society and the severe costs of family breakdown. “Countless studies show that marriage is fundamental to a healthy society and is far more stable and beneficial than cohabitation,” ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said today.

“It creates intergenerational connections, and provides personal, financial, family and society-wide benefits, as well as the most stable environment in which to nurture children.

“Strong marriages also have a vital role in facilitating social justice. Families that are strongly bound together are better able to avoid the multiple disadvantages often associated with family breakdown, such as poor educational achievement, teenage pregnancy, homelessness, and criminal behaviour.”

Mr Wallace said the Federal Government should sponsor a well-crafted, multi-faceted campaign to highlight the unique benefits of marriage for husbands, wives, children and society. The aim would be to promote marriage as a fulfilling, committed and lifelong relationship to the great benefit of all.

Mr Wallace also put forward a range of policy measures to better support marriages, including:

• introducing free vouchers for marriage preparation courses for all engaged couples, with similar vouchers for parenting courses for those with young children;

• increasing the support available through Family Relationship Centres;

• introducing meaningful family impact statements on proposed legislation;

• remodelling the welfare and tax systems to eliminate disincentives to marriage;

• reducing the availability of pornography which undermines relationships between men and women and thereby destabilises marriages.

Mr Wallace also called on the Government to fund a large-scale study to examine the full range of positive and negative social influences on a child’s growth to adulthood, including the family construct, pressures on parents, media influences, the entertainment culture, the sexualisation of children, violent computer games, education, and other factors. He said that where similar work is already underway, then this study should focus on studying facets not included in those studies.

“As a society we need to be taking more action to safeguard children and address the increasing pressures they are facing such as unstable families, overworked parents, and a toxic culture that prematurely sexualises children in its advertising, toys, clothing and ‘tween’ magazines,” Mr Wallace said.

“The new study should review existing research, undertake fresh work in other needed areas, and arrive at concrete policy recommendations to create a more healthy culture for Australia’s children.”

ACL has also lodged submissions to the 2020 summit on two other policy areas – indigenous Australia and governance.

Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan