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The masculinity crisis

By Warwick Marsh - posted Thursday, 17 June 2010


On Thursday, June 26, 2003 history was made at Parliament House, Canberra when Mark Latham helped release The 12pt Plan (PDF 1.42MB). The 12pt Plan came out of a gathering of representatives of the Australian men and fathers’ movement at a Fatherhood Forum held in February of that year that advocated for a fairer go for men and boys in an increasingly feminised world.

The policy proposals were simple and commonsense: The need for a government ministry for men and fathers to promote positive male role models; remove discrimination against men; provide funding parity for men and women’s groups; and include better health funding for men with the need for a National Men’s Health Policy were just some of the issues raised in The 12pt Plan, with which I am sure most sane Australians would agree.

Mark Latham who helped release this breakthrough policy document said on the day:

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We don't want a men's movement that blames women; we want a men's movement that works with men and women to develop better identity, better relationships, a stronger fathering role in our society and to develop win-win outcomes, where as a society across both genders we can make advances and make successful changes. So, I'm honoured to be here today, honoured to launch “The 12pt Plan” and I wish (you) every success in the future.

Those words proved prophetic in more ways than one. The men and fathers’ movement thanks the Labor Government for introducing Australia's first National Men’s Health Policy - 20 years late mind you, but we are thankful none the less. Interestingly it was only less than a year later that Mark Latham stood in the National Press Club on February 18, 2004, to make his famous speech on the "Crisis of Masculinity".

In his speech he made the following statements:

There's a very strong feeling in our society, a very strong feeling in our politics, that too much power has slipped from the people's grasp and it's been concentrated in the hands of big bureaucracies and big corporations. I very much share this concern and I want to see more government power devolve to a community level.

Mark went on to say:

Now boys very much are suffering from a crisis of masculinity. As blue collar muscle jobs have declined, their identity and relationships have become blurred and somewhat confused. We need to give our boys a new centre to their lives, one grounded in community support and mentoring.

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David Leser in an article (PDF 531KB) in the September 2004 edition of the Australian Women's Weekly commenting on the masculinity crisis said:

Mark Latham talked about how boys’ school retention rate lagged well behind girls; how their literacy levels were lower; how they were, in disproportionate numbers, the victims of drug overdoses, road trauma and youth suicide. What he didn’t spell out were the graphic details - that men and boys were now committing suicide four times more frequently than women and girls. (Suicides among 15-19-year-old males have quadrupled since the 1970s.) Men were committing 90 per cent of the acts of convicted violence and comprising 90 per cent of the inmates of jails. They were making up 74 per cent of the unemployed. They were living, on average, six years less than women and in four out of five marriage breakdowns, they were the ones being left.

Unfortunately not much has changed since 2004; in fact many social workers and health professionals would argue the situation on the ground has just got a whole lot worse. This week we celebrate National Men’s Health Week but Aboriginal Men’s Health is only improving because the way we do statistics has changed. We not only have a Masculinity Crisis as pointed out by Mark Latham but a National Men’s Health crisis. Figures compiled by the Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation show:

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This article is based on a speech delivered by the author at the Lone Fathers Conference, June 17, 2010 in the Main Committee Room, Parliament House Canberra.



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About the Author

Warwick Marsh is the founder of the Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation with his wife Alison. They have five children and two grandchildren and have been married for 34 years.

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