The theme this year is “Keeping Men and Boys Safe” and the five challenges are:
- Tackling male suicide
- Keeping men and boys safe to allow them to become tomorrow’s role models
- End tolerance of violence towards men and boys
- Boost men’s life expectancy by keeping men and boys safe from avoidable illness
- Keeping men and boys safe by promoting fathers and male role models
Dads4Kids is celebrating International Men’s Day by organizing a Men and Fathers’ Strategic Roundtable at Parliament House, Canberra. There will be 36 men and women coming from many parts of Australia, representing 25 different organizations, groups, businesses, charities and leaders who are passionate about helping men and fathers.
One of the exciting things we will be doing at Parliament House on International Men’s Day is partnering with Carolyn Managh, a researcher from M&C Saatchi to help release, “The Modern (Aussie) Man” Whitepaper to the media and the general public. This groundbreaking study into Australian manhood is supported by M&C Saatchi and is based on 140 interviews with men. Seventy of them are high profile men. Each interview averaged a couple of hours and the study has produced a remarkably accurate assessment of the average Aussie man, who still sees himself (surprise, surprise) as a man and wants to be recognized as such. Being a metro-sexual is definitely not cool from an Aussie male point of view, but more about the next week.
Dads4Kids IS also holding the Men and Fathers Strategic Roundtable in order to update the original The 12pt Plan, which was first released on June 2003 in Federal Parliament by the Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation in cooperation with leaders from the men and fathers’ movement. Part of that strategic policy was the commendation for government action for a national and holistic approach to a Men’s Health Policy to help both men and fathers. This is the ten year celebration 2003 – 2013 of that event to see how far we have come.
Dads4Kids has held many events at Parliament House to promote fatherhood, families, healthy masculinity and men’s health. The ‘Men and Fathers’ Strategic Roundtable’ would be another in the long list of such events held at Parliament House such as the ‘Men and Fathers Family Friendly Policy Forum’ in 2007 and the ‘Men and Fathers Health Summit’ in 2009. It might be noted that it was because of the Men and Father’s Family Friendly Policy Forum in 2007 and the policy presentation by Professor John MacDonald at that forum in Parliament House that the former Labor Government adopted a National Men’s Health Policy.
The Men and Fathers’ Strategic Roundtable will be strictly bipartisan in every respect and it is our goal to continue to draw the new government’s attention to the many issues facing men and fathers in Australia today, as well as promote positive family friendly policy to Government and Parliamentarians to help the men and children and families of Australia.
Almost 80 invitations have gone out to various men and father’s groups, knowing that many would be unable to come because of prior commitments. The response has been interesting, ranging from legitimate reasons to total apathy: “We have done this before; Does it really work?; We don’t have the time to help create policy for men and fathers – we are too busy doing the work.”
The hard cold reality is that none of us has the time to do this sort of work because most of us are too busy at the coalface doing preventative work, or picking up the pieces or simply surviving, which is a job on its own if you work in the men’s movement. Hardly any men in the various men and fathers’ groups get paid to do this work (including yours truly). Most of the work that is done for men and fathers is done by men motivated by a passion and desire to help others. Over 70% of the attendees coming to Parliament House for the Strategic Roundtable are working either full time or part time as unpaid volunteers. It is very humbling to be with such amazing men and women.
Having said all of the above, it is critical that ordinary men and women do go to Canberra. The reality is that if we are not at Parliament House putting forward positive commonsense policies, someone else will be. “The world is governed by those who turn up”. Many of the ordinary people I talk to who are visiting Parliament House for the first time are struck by how strange the atmosphere is in that place. It is as if the people that represent us, and the media that report on them, live in a world of their own. Barnaby Joyce commented in his maiden speech in the House of Reps that when one is elected to parliament “you gain weight and lose touch”. That is why it is so critical that we are there on your behalf and more importantly on behalf of the children of Australia.
Looking at The 12pt Plan, released in 2003, and the work Dads4Kids has done over the last few years reveals that Dads4Kids has had a few successes. Firstly the National Men’s Health Policy introduced in 2008 would not have happened but for the work of Dads4Kids in Parliament in 2007. Secondly the move towards shared parenting and Family Law Reform in 2006 was accelerated by the work of Dads4Kids in Parliament. The first 12 pt Plan talked about the need to address the epidemic of male suicide, indigenous health disadvantage, reform family law and the child support agency, introduce preventative policy as a foundational approach, gambling addiction, improve mental health delivery for men, improve safety in the workplace to reduce accidents, make education more male-friendly and improve services for men and fathers in general.
There have been improvements in all these areas. It would be arrogant to say it was because of the work of Dads4Kids but you never can tell who will get the ball over the line in a game of football, Sometimes it’s many passes, sometimes it is just one, but essentially it is all to do with teamwork. “You have to be in it to win it”.
As fathers we have to put our families first, but we also need to speak up when we can and advocate for good public policy for men and fathers and for the future of our children. Good father-friendly and family-friendly policy will help create a better world for our children. If we don’t, who will?
Thank you for your support, because together we can make a difference.
Yours for our children
PS. Remember to celebrate International Men’s Day with a few friends on Tuesday. Make sure you wish everyone you meet a ‘Happy International Men’s Day’ on Tuesday 19 November. As Diane Sears said:
“The world needs men”.