Barry Williams

Barry Williams – Australia’s Historic Lone Voice for Men, Children and Families

4 March 2024

7.3 MINS

Barry Williams’ lifelong advocacy for single parents and their children has been phenomenal.

“Don’t go in there,” she shouted, “He will kill you. He has court orders, but he cannot see his kids.” Barry calmly assured her it would be okay. “You don’t understand, Barry; he has a shotgun and a jerry can of petrol. He has promised to kill himself and anyone who tries to stop him. Don’t do it.”

Barry motioned for her to stand back and knocked at the door. “Who are you?” the man shouted, slurring his words slightly. ‘Dutch courage’ is a fatal friend in most suicide attempts.

“My name is Barry Williams, and I am from the Lone Fathers Association, and I am here to help you,” Barry said confidently. The man choked out the words in between sobs, “Come in.”

Without batting an eyelid, Barry opened the door, walked in and firmly said, “Give me the gun.” In moments, Barry was holding the shotgun and removing the shells while this man was now crying on his shoulder, pleading for help so he could see his kids again.

All in a day’s work for Barry Willams, who aptly was also a Justice of the Peace.

Dedicated Advocate

Barry Williams (18 April 1938 – 23 February 2024) has saved more men from suicide than anyone else I know. He has also been the greatest advocate for single fathers, their children and their families in the history of our nation. Watch my tribute video to my friend below. Get Barry’s funeral details here.

Let me tell you his story. In the early seventies, Barry Williams became acutely aware, as a single father to four young children, including a 13-month-old baby, of the lack of support for men and fathers.

As my friend Wayne Butler said, “Barry was not just a talker. but a doer.” As a result, Barry established the first branch of The Lone Fathers Association in 1973 in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Australia.Barry Williams

Over the next five decades, Lone Fathers branches were established in every state of Australia. The phones in their offices would ring around the clock, often with calls from men who were extremely distressed, sometimes suicidal, due to the trauma of their families breaking up. The anti-male bias in the Family Law system exasperated the problems and multiplied the trauma.

Through his charitable work, Barry Williams has helped hundreds of thousands of men who required emotional, moral, and practical support.

The Lone Fathers Association has grown to become perhaps the longest and most successful family law reform organisation in the world, helping both men and women throughout Australia by providing advice, help and direction, and free legal support.

Lone Fathers have also played a crucial role in suicide prevention in Australia over the last five decades. Barry has personally helped save thousands of men’s lives, like the opening story of the man with the gun.

During the eighties, Barry Williams and his team started Parents Without Partners to help single mothers who also suffered under the unjust Family Law System. His heart was always to help both men and women for the benefit of their children.

Barry Williams has been a federal lobbyist in the Australian Parliament since 1976 and has worked with both Labor and Liberal governments extensively.

Barry Williams

Barry Williams with Wayne Butler, Parliament House

Fair Laws

Barry played a key role in having the Single Mothers’ Pension extended in 1977 to include single fathers. It started with a hunger strike outside Parliament House, followed by personal representations to the then Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser. Thankfully, the Prime Minister listened.  This historic reform was an important move towards greater gender equality in family law.

Barry Williams was appointed by the Hawke Government as one of the consultants to advise on the development of the original Child Support Scheme, which was established in 1988.

He was subsequently asked by the Deputy Prime Minister of the day, Brian Howe, to act as a roving ambassador for the Government, and travelled throughout Australia over a period of two years explaining the new scheme. Mr Howe was complimentary about the work Barry did on this project.

Barry William was then subsequently appointed in 2004 by the Howard Government as a member of the Ministerial Task Force on Child Support, charged with advising on further reform to child support arrangements.

In the years following, he was engaged by the Government to assist the Child Support Communications Project by helping publicise the new Child Support Scheme and again was complimented by the then Government for his work.

Barry organised many National Single Father Conferences and events in Parliament House, Canberra, over the 50-year period. He also spoke at Fathers in Families events organised at Parliament House by groups like the Shared Parenting Council and Dads4Kids. In 2003, he was on the team that helped formulate the historic 12Pt Plan policy document.

Together with the groups mentioned above and with men such as Wayne Butler from the Shared Parenting Council and Tony Miller from Dads in Distress, he helped campaign for the biggest positive changes to Family Law seen in the last four decades. Sadly, these progressive bipartisan reforms were all swept away by the Albanese Labor Government last October 2023.

Barry Williams

Barry Williams with Senator Pauline Hanson and Tony Miller

Barry Williams played a key role, along with Dads4Kids and other Men’s groups, advocating for a National Men’s Health Policy before the 2007 election. The Rudd Labor Government, to their credit, promised and brought in a National Men’s Health Policy in 2008.

In 1999, Barry set up the first men’s shelter in Canberra, which became a model replicated in other parts of Australia. All his work for families over five decades is even more remarkable considering that, for the most part, he helped them with his own money and without pay. Only in later years did this change. Barry’s passion for helping others is the cornerstone of his achievements.

In recognition of Barry Williams’ work in support of families over several decades, he was awarded the medal of the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday honours list. The citation for the award records Mr Williams’ honour as being awarded for service to the community, particularly through the support of families.

The Australian of the Year committee awarded him the ACT Senior Australian of the Year in 2005. The awarding of the OAM followed the awarding of the British Empire Medal to Mr Williams in 1980 for his efforts in lobbying on behalf of lone fathers and their children and assisting lone fathers on an individual basis.

Celebrated

The Lone Fathers Association has also received a notable recognition from the USA, the Volunteer Achievement Award from President Obama, for their contribution to family law and suicide prevention. This award recognised the work of Barry Williams and his longstanding national executive at the time, including his vice president, Jenny Wilson; secretary, Faye Stacey; and treasurer, Nita Shaw.Barry Williams

Barry has received dozens of awards and acknowledgements, only a few of which are listed above. His last award I was privileged to give him along with Tony Miller outside Parliament House on 16 November 2023. It read: Barry Williams OAM — Lifetime Award in recognition of your Lifetime service and sacrifice for the men and families of Australia.Barry Williams

Stalwart

Barry Williams has overcome enormous challenges in life. His own mother and father broke up, and when he was a six-year-old, his mother sadly prevented him from seeing his own father. His stepfather was very cruel towards him, so at 14 years old, he ran away from home.

He left home with his trusty dog and .22 rifle. The police searched the woodlands for him, but they could not find him because he had become an expert bushman at an early age.

Barry walked and hitchhiked the 1,096 kilometres from his home in Brovinia Creek in Queensland to Sydney, where he was reunited with his father.

Tragically, his father passed away within a few years, and Barry married in his twenties. Sadly, his wife was an alcoholic, was abusive to the children and was violent towards Barry as well. At one stage, she broke a bottle over his head and put him in hospital.

They separated, but Barry always encouraged his children to connect with their biological mother on a regular basis. He lived and breathed the mantra that every child needs both a father and a mother. Barry re-partnered with Nita and had a daughter, Katrina, with her. He has five children, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

The good news is that his ex-wife broke her addiction to alcohol, and they have had a good working relationship ever since. She and Barry were good friends until she passed two years ago. Love and forgiveness were the foundation stones of his life.

In the Bible, in Hebrews 11:38, it says, “Men of whom the world was not worthy.” For me, he was in that category!

Barry was not an overtly religious man, but I cannot help but feel he showed the true spirit of Christ in a way that only Australians can really understand. He did not talk about Christ, but he lived Christ. The hard evidence of what I am talking about is found in Henry Lawson’s brilliant poem, The Christ of the Never.

So, I believe that when I cross the river to the other side, not too many years hence, I will see Barry Williams. Why so, you ask? Because Barry reminds me a lot of Henry Lawson’s “Christ of the Outer Out-back”. Vale, Barry Williams.

The Christ of the “Never”

Henry Lawson, 1898

With eyes that seem shrunken to pierce
To the awful horizons of land,
Through the haze of hot days, and the fierce
White heat-waves that flow on the sand;
Through the Never Land westward and nor’ward,
Bronzed, bearded and gaunt on the track,
Quiet-voiced and hard-knuckled, rides forward
The Christ of the Outer Out-back.

For the cause that will ne’er be relinquished
Spite of all the great cynics on earth —
In the ranks of the bush undistinguished
By manner or dress — if by birth —
God’s preacher, of churches unheeded —
God’s vineyard, though barren the sod —
Plain spokesman where spokesman is needed —
Rough link ‘twixt the bushman and God.

He works where the hearts of all nations
Are withered in flame from the sky,
Where the sinners work out their salvations
In a hell-upon-earth ere they die.
In the camp or the lonely hut lying
In a waste that seems out of God’s sight,
He’s the doctor — the mate of the dying
Through the smothering heat of the night.

By his work in the hells of the shearers,
Where the drinking is ghastly and grim,
Where the roughest and worst of his hearers
Have listened bareheaded to him.
By his paths through the parched desolation
Hot rides and the terrible tramps;
By the hunger, the thirst, the privation
Of his work in the furthermost camps

By his worth in the light that shall search men
And prove — ay! and justify each —
I place him in front of all churchmen
Who feel not, who know not — but preach!

Barry Williams

___

Originally published at Dads4Kids.

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3 Comments

  1. Leonie Robson 4 March 2024 at 8:54 am - Reply

    Tears flow down my face.
    I pause as I write these words, almost stifling a sob.
    We know that there is nothing new under the sun, the same heartbreak of family breakdown has been going on for a long, long time.
    When it comes to our family though, it’s brought into sharp focus.
    Hatred, bitterness and rage, bolstered with copious helpings of State sponsored revenge is tearing the fabric of ‘ex’ relationships apart.
    Children are the innocent victims. Parents, though deluded to think so, are not winners in the mess.
    I remember having a text conversation with my ex daughter in law several years ago, pleading with her to lay weapons of vengeance down and endeavour to walk in forgiveness, (after our son had attempted suicide, she pressed for no contact between him and his son and almost managed a near perfect outcome in this) her reply was ‘how dare you use your religion on me!’
    The system is certainly sliding into a one parent system. Communism cheers, because it’s efforts are bearing the bitter poisonous fruit in abundance.
    Thank God for this wonderful gentleman.
    Honouring him is so appropriate.
    Well done Warwick.

  2. Helen Gormlie 4 March 2024 at 8:57 am - Reply

    What a wonderful man.. A true man.

  3. Margaret 14 March 2024 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    My malignant narcissistic mother abused me in various ways including undermining my relationship with my father with her constant negative attitude towards him. I didn’t respect my father because of her power over me. When I became a teenager I began to see what she was doing so I started spending time with him and listening to him. Unfortunately his health was bad and he died when I was about 22. When a mother is evil enough she can separate her children from their father even though they live under the same roof.

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