The Final Days of Alastair Nicholson: Chief Justice Family Court of Australia
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Refusing to hide, Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia Alastair Nicholson, scheduled to appear before an inquiry into family law and child support, entered Australia's Parliament House in Canberra via the front door on the 10th October 2003.
As Chief Justice of one of the most unpopular courts in the country, Nicholson had become a key figure fuelling discontent with Australia's political, bureaucratic and judicial wings of government. With millions of Australians having gone through the shredder of the country's divorce regime, he had become a focus for community discontent.
So heightened had the debate around Nicholson become that politicians rightly feared the general public were losing faith in the country's governance.
Nicholson was arguably the single most outspoken, certainly the most controversial judge ever to serve in the Australian court system; deeply hated by some, admired by others. Politicians from both sides of politics had reason to fear his ever ready tongue.
The appearance before the Inquiry of the one man who had done more to shape the nature of Australian family law than any other individual had been looked forward to by his critics with a kind of wonder and anticipation, a fascination for the grotesque.
Despite a plethora of Inquiries, including a devastating critique from the government's chief adviser on legal matters the Australian Law Reform Commission, doubt was not a trait Nicholson ever displayed in public.
Was this the inquiry which would finally nail him to the wall?
To the chagrin of his critics, Nicholson showed not a sliver of regret or self-doubt. He has continued to be outspoken since his retirement from the bench and move into academic life.
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About the author

The first money William John Stapleton ever made out of writing was in 1972 when he was co-winner of Australia's leading cultural celebration the Adelaide Arts Festival's Short Story Competition. The amount of $75 seemed like a windfall at the time and opened his eyes to the fact he could make money out of what he liked to do the most - that is to write. He graduated in 1975 with a double major in philosophy and anthropology from Macquarie University and did post-graduate work in the Sociology Department at Flinders University. His articles and fiction have appeared in a wide range of magazines, newspapers and anthologies Men Love Sex, a collection of short stories which briefly topped Australia's bestseller lists, as well as Australian Politics, a collection of profiles and analyses by journalists from The Australian newspaper. After a long period as either a contributor or doing casual shifts as a reporter, Stapleton joined the staff of The Sydney Morning Herald in the mid-1980s. He later joined the staff of The Australian. As a general news reporter in Sydney John Stapleton, or "Stapo" as he was universally known, covered literally thousands of stories, from the funerals of bikies, children and dignitaries to fires, floods, droughts, from the demonstrations of inner-city worthies concerned over the plight of refugees to the sad and pointless deaths of youth in the city's impoverished housing estates. In 2000 he joined a small group of separated dads at the community radio station 2GLF in western Sydney as a volunteer, thereby helping to found Dads On The Air, now the world's longest running radio program dedicated to fatherhood issues. After a break during which he wrote two books and a movie script following his departure from full time work Stapleton has established a small publishing enterprise, A Sense of Place Publishing.

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Published on
May 22, 2013
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Biography & Autobiography / Lawyers & Judges
Biography & Autobiography / Literary
Family & Relationships / Divorce & Separation
Law / Family Law / Divorce & Separation
Literary Criticism / Australian & Oceanian
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From the Paperback edition.
The unique enterprise A Sense Of Place Publishing has just released its newest publication, Bangkok Busted: You Die For Sure. This is a deeply personal story by author William John Stapleton on the fallout after he wrote a book about being robbed, lied to and deceived by one of the city's go-go boys and the subsequent personal distress and widespread public ridicule he endured.
Few foreigners are crazy brave or stupidly insane enough to tell their often embarrassing and humiliating stories of falling for the practiced love lies peddled to them by Thai sex workers.
Such stories have resulted on the heterosexual side of the ledger in books such as My Private Dancer and Confessions of a Bangkok Private Eye. In the author's case he wrote The Twilight Soi, a book which made him a reviled figure by the Thai public who swallowed the lie that the book was an insult to Thailand, to its culture and to its sex workers. It is not and was never intended to be any such thing.
"Most people in Asia cannot imagine why anybody would write a story admitting to their own stupidity and misguided conduct in falling for the 'I love you very much I miss you very much' patter of their prostitutes, either male or female," Stapleton says. "For a start, I first wrote the Twilight Soi and now Bangkok Busted: You Die For Sure because painters paint, builders build and writers write, and that's what do.
"The story I related is so bizarre that I would not have believed it if it had not happened to me. The Thais were outraged that a foreigner as imperfect as myself should object to being robbed, cheated and publicly ridiculed. But I wanted to tell this story partly because I did not want what happened to me to happen to anyone else.
"These men often make easy prey. They are lonely, they are out of their own comfort zones and away from the spying eyes of friends, family and work colleagues, often are without obligations of work or children for the first time in their lives, and run off the rails in the torrid atmosphere of Asia and its bars. They often enough end up suiciding."
Despite the heat the issue of divorce, separation and the welfare of children had been generating for decades, the Australian Government was slow to address family law reform. While more than a million children were listed with the Child Support Agency, an institution as roundly and profoundly despised as the Family Court itself, politicians were reluctant to move into such an emotionally charged and gendered arena. Finally, with an increasingly large number of disenchanted constituents, the government had little choice but to move. As one Member of Parliament said, the level of anger in the community was "frightening."
The massive wave of supportive media following the then Prime Minister of Australia John Howard's announcement of an inquiry into joint custody in mid-June of 2003 demonstrated that Australia's wiliest conservative politicians had hit on a raw nerve. Whatever the faults and frustrations in the prolonged and frustrating path towards shared parenting that was to follow, the Inquiry itself produced solid evidence on the state of dysfunction prevailing in the courts and bureaucracies dealing with the more than 50,000 couples a year who had fallen out with each other; but not with their offspring.
No one reading the transcripts of the Inquiry, which conducted hearings around Australia and took hundreds of submissions, could be left under any illusion about the distress being caused by the prevailing sole-mother custody model.
This book traces the history of family law reform in Australia and its contentious treatment of non-custodial parents by the Family Court, usually but not always fathers, and documents its resistance to change despite the public odium in which Australia's Family Court is often held. What happened in Australia has relevance for fathers and campaigners for divorce reform around the world.
The series, which evolved out of what is now the world's longest running father's radio program Dads On The Air of which the author was a founding member, is the most complete record available of the prolonged push to change the nation's dysfunctional family law system.
This is the third book in the series Chaos At The Crossroads, which is the most definitive record ever published of the long struggle for family law reform by fathers and their sympathisers, as well as second families, grandparents and non-custodial mothers. The books are designed so they can be read separately or together. Others in the series include The Birth of Dads On The Air, Chaos at the Crossroads: In the Beginning, State Created Pain and The Final Days of Alastair Nicholson.
37,600 words.
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