Grieving dad takes cause to Canberra  8/11/2018 4:01:45 PM  3

THE father of four children killed by their grandfather near Margaret River in May will fly to Canberra this week to persuade MPs that a different approach is needed on family separation.

Aaron Cockman has several meetings lined up, but would also like to sit down with Attorney-General Christian Porter, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

“To be honest, if I had the choice of laying next to my kids and being shot with them, I would,” he said yesterday.

“It would have been so much easier. But I wasn’t in that situation.”

The deaths of his four children — Taye, 13, Rylan, 12, Ayre, 10, and Kayden, 8 — remain raw. They were shot in their beds as they slept by their grandfather Peter Miles, who also murdered their mother, Katrina, and his wife of more than 40 years, Cynda, before calling triple-0 and taking his own life on the front veranda of the family’s Margaret River hobby farm.

Mr Cockman said he still found it hard to look at photos of his children.

“It’s like a constant sadness,” he said. “My heart drops every time I think about the kids. I feel sometimes like spewing up.”

The carpenter had been in a long and costly court battle to see his children before the murder-suicide.

“I still love Kat and I miss her so much,” he said. “You don’t have four kids with someone you don’t love.”

The deaths of the Cockman children Rylan, Taye, Kayden and Ayre have prompted their father to call for changes to the way family separations are handled in the courts.
The deaths of the Cockman children Rylan, Taye, Kayden and Ayre have prompted their father to call for changes to the way family separations are handled in the courts.Picture: Supplied

He is flying to Canberra on Tuesday to join children’s advocates For Kids Sake and other groups lobbying for a fresh approach when families separate.

He said it was something he had to do and he didn’t feel brave for doing it.

“I feel the opposite. I feel like I can’t stop myself,” he said. “If I can help one parent see their kid again. If I can see just one change, I need to do this.”

Mr Cockman recommended couples go to mediation when they separate, instead of engaging lawyers.

“This is all about the kids,” he said. “Go straight to mediation. Get it all sorted in the same room. Force both parties to be there in mediation and get it sorted.”

Another problem is enforcing court orders.

“People don’t have the money to take the other party to the court every time they’re not abiding with court orders,” he said. “By then, they’re out of money. There is no point going through the whole system. It’s a waste of money, waste of time.

“I had many people when this all started happening to me, say, ‘You’ll see your kids when they get to be teenagers. They’ll come and see you’.”

Non-profit organisation For Kids Sake argues the way families separate puts thousands of kids at risk.

For Kids Sakeambassador Karen Clarke said 60,000 children around Australia were exposed to family separation each year.

“We need to consider them all to be at risk,” she said.

“Close to half of them effectively lose an important relationship with one of their parents after a family break-up; many lose contact with loving grandparents and other family members, too.

“That’s just one of the factors that leads to extreme trauma in children.

“We tend to believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but it’s just not true. The trauma of a prolonged, adversarial separation leaves children scarred for life. And we now have good evidence that this leads to greater risks of many illnesses, from heart disease to cancer, as well as higher risks of teenage self-harm and even suicide.

“We need to stop treating family separation as a legal issue focused on what parents get, and start treating it as an urgent, child health issue, focused on what children need for their long-term welfare.”

Mr Cockman, who runs a team of carpenters, said keeping busy helped him cope. “That’s what I need,” he said. “I have to work. If I have a day off I start getting depressed.”

« Go back