Paper for Policy Elective No 2
Margaret Andrews

Promote the need for sexual integrity in order to foster gender equality, gender reconciliation and healthy family relationships

The foundation of sexual integrity is the lifelong commitment that a man and a woman make to each other in marriage. How society fosters and supports marriage is fundamental to all other efforts which encourage a proper relationship between men and women.

The foundation of healthy family relationships is dependent on society's ability to encourage lasting committed relationships between men and women.  The best sign of this is strong, sustaining marriages which foster an environment where children can be nurtured and, in turn, grow up to be healthy individuals themselves committed to the primacy of marriage and family.

Further, society needs stable, healthy families in order to create an environment where children will be born and nurtured.  Australia's birth rate has been below replacement levels for three decades.  The retreat from marriage (the average age of first marriage is now around 30 years, up almost ten years in a generation), and the instability of marriage, are two key contributing factors to our population growing older year by year. Couples who are older when they commence their families tend to have fewer children. High levels of marital breakdown in society lead to an insecurity about marriage and a reticence towards child-bearing. As a result, society stagnates.

At the same time we are observing an significant increase in couples 'living together' before marriage and as an alternative to marriage. Social science research suggests that cohabitation before marriage is associated with an increase in the likelihood of subsequent divorce.  To this end, The Marriage Education Programme Inc has developed a leaflet which sets out issues related to living together which encourages couples to be aware of possible negative consequences.  The leaflet can also be used as a resource for younger adolescents to increase their awareness of the possible consequences of living together.

My background is of more than 25 years experience in the area of marriage education - mainly supporting couples in the time immediately before and immediately after marriage.  To this end, we offer programs which encourage couples - in a supportive environment - to reflect on their decision to marry, anticipate any potential pitfalls and consider how they can guard against negative influences on their relationship.

A further resource is the modern marriage newsletters.  These are mailed to newly wed couples at bimonthly intervals and offer encouragement and support over the early months and years of marriage.  The newsletters feature information on topics such as 'Good communication', Understanding anger' and 'Listening well'.

I am the editor of Threshold Magazine, which has been published for 17 years as a resource for educators who work in the area of marriage and family support.  It focuses on the marital relationship as the primary basis of a healthy society.

Margaret Andrews
Convenor, Marriage Education Programme Inc
Editor, Threshold Magazine