A report from an observer who attended a Child Support Agency Information Meeting held at the Camden Civic Centre on Thursday evening February 1, 2001.

Anyone who doubts whether the Child Support Agency is a deeply despised institution should have attended the public information night the Agency held at Camden Civic Centre.

What was telling about the irate crowd of more than 150 citizens was not only that it was roughly equally divided between men and women, but across a pretty broad social spectrum. All they had in common was they loved their children and hated the CSA. From the man who was told not to use so much petrol driving to work to the second wife who wants to know why her children are worth nothing while the CSA drives her husband to the wall.

The two-hour meeting began with an information session, which most people could have done without. A Legal Aid lawyer, Jane Weber, who did not get a good reception, proudly announced that they now had millions of more taxpayer dollars to play with, and then freely acknowledged that they usually only fund the payee parents, in other words women against men in most instances!

The first man to ask a question said he found the CSA’s slogan “helping parents manage their responsibilities very demoralising after first being ripped off by the Family Court. He was roundly applauded. Agency Manager, Karina Murray and a panel of bureaucrats struggled to answer questions on why the Agency has taken it compensation policy off its web site or why it refuses to comply with the latest and most thorough analysis on the costs of children.

Just because you have laws and procedures doesn’t mean they are actually fair,” said one dad.

The meeting went rapidly downhill for the CSA. One man repeatedly described them as “reprehensible” was loudly applauded by both men and women alike.

Child Support just doesn’t care”, said one mother.

There were a string of moving stories; the Agency threatening to sell people’s assets; the struggle of bringing up children; the crippling of small businesses as a result of huge financial imposts.

John Fahey, Minister for Finance unable to attend sent his assistant. Saying she understood that “there are men who are desperate” Fahey’s assistant took extensive notes and promised to report the contents of the meeting to John Fahey and Larry Anthony.

The second wives were particularly vocal. “Let these people get on their feet,” said one. “I carry my partner so he can have a life.”

Another man shouted “You people don’t live in the real world. Can’t you see these people are hurting?”

The Agency once again refused to release the statistics on how many of its clients are dying or suiciding, believed to be in the order of 3 a day. It’s a simple question, of the 33,000 people who exit the scheme each year, how may are doing so in a coffin?

The CSA’s refusal to release this figure, a vital piece of information which would tell us a great deal about the state of family law in Australia today is a scandal.