When my wife and I first started Dads4Kids in 2002, we discovered that fathers, and men in general, are barely noticed in government policy. Dads4Kids is a Harm Prevention Charity and our fundamental role is to work at a grass roots level, encouraging individual men to go for gold as fathers, for the sake of their families.
Our initial research showed us that men are largely invisible to government agencies and in many cases these same government agencies are derogatory to the male of the species. This is particularly the case in the areas of family Law, child support and men’s health. We realized that part of our job in restoring fatherhood in Australia and helping fathers be great dads for their children, is to bring forward positive fatherhood policies that guarantee win-win outcomes for all concerned: this includes mothers, fathers, children and extended families.
How do we bring positive change to our children as fathers?
Fathers build relationship by loving, caring and nurturing their children. It is no different in public policy.
Everything Dads4Kids has done to date has been through building positive relationships with many of our hardworking parliamentary friends from all parts of the political spectrum.
How did this happen?
In the latter half of the 1990s my family and I worked extensively in Parliament House, Canberra with Aboriginal leaders from all over Australia. I was coordinator for a couple of years of the Praise Corroboree, a reconciliation based prayer movement. I was privileged to organize, twice, for key Indigenous Elders and other reconciliation leaders, to meet with the Prime Minister. The word reconcile means ‘to make friendly after estrangement’ in the Oxford Dictionary.
Our job in the reconciliation movement was to build bridges of trust between Aboriginal people/leaders and parliamentary leaders. The parallel is the same for the fatherhood movement. It is because we have built a positive relationship with others that we can then speak into their lives. Our words are respected because our relationship is respected. It is no different with political change.
In late 1996 we had planned a large reconciliation/prayer event in Parliament House, Canberra. Some months before there was a riot at the front of the House, a union protest. The protestors smashed the front door of Parliament House down, and Aboriginal protesters were pushed to the front of the line and through the door first, in order to get the sympathy vote.
In the light of these experiences the government officials and parliamentary security officials had cancelled our booking for the Great Hall, Parliament House and we were really stuck.
Finally, we had a meeting with government/officials and some supporting parliamentarians. The tension was palpable. Ps Peter Walker, Aboriginal President of the Praise Corroboree spoke very graciously and humbly, even though he had every right to bang the table because the government representatives had broken their part of the bargain in providing the venue for the upcoming event.
It was Peter’s gracious approach that ultimately won them over and the celebration went ahead every year for the next five years. Over time, security staff began to look forward to our yearly events. They said that the Praise Corroboree and its 72 hours of prayer, worship and reconciliation brought a sense of peace and harmony to Parliament House. They enjoyed tapping their feet to the music and meeting the wonderful Indigenous Leaders who came from all parts of Australia for the 3 day event.
Just as Peter Walker won the hearts of the parliamentary/security officials through his gracious and humble approach, we must also do the same as fathers and for the cause of fatherhood.
If we are always demanding our own way because we think we are the boss and it is our right to expect obedience, we will soon run out of steam. Our job as fathers is not to exasperate our children because of our demands, whether they be right or wrong. Rather our job is to humbly and graciously argue for commonsense. Sometimes the low road gets you there quicker than the high road.
Mothers want to be in relationship with good fathers. Children need to be in relationship with good fathers. Once the government finally understands the contribution that fathers make to families, and commit to the process of supporting and encouraging Aussie dads, they may well recoup over $13 billion per year cost of fatherlessness and we might begin to see some real positive changes for Australian families.
Until then Dads4Kids is committed to bringing real change by building real and positive relationships. After all isn’t that the only way a father can see positive change in his children by being in it for the long haul?
We must become the change we seek.
On Wednesday 1 October 2014, Parliament House, Canberra, Dads4Kids organized a Parliamentary Roundtable on Shared Parenting, Family Law and Men’s Health. Fourteen external attendees, five parliamentary advisors and ten parliamentarians attended. ASsocite Professor Dr Robert Kenedy from Canada was the main presentor. Carolyn Managh has done a very insightful report on the Parliamentary Roundtable called “Dads Love Their Kids. Even after Divorce”
You can help Dads4Kids continue the work of ‘building positive relationships for positive change’.
Would you as a special favour send each parliamentarian who attended an individualised thank you letter? They are all extremely busy and your personal encouragement and thanks will mean a lot to them. Make sure you especially thank the two co-sponsors of the event, Senator John Madigan, VIC and George Christiansen, Member for Dawson. The event would not have happened without their courageous support.
Parliamentary Attendees at Parliamentary Roundtable Wednesday 1 October 2014
Senator John Madigan – Co Sponsors of Roundtable: firstname.lastname@example.org
George Christensen MP – Co Sponsors of Roundtable: email@example.com
Dr Peter Hendy MP: Peter.Hendy.MP@aph.gov.au
Dr David Gillespie MP: firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Matthew Canavan: email@example.com
Senator Joe Bullock: firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Fierravanti-Wells: email@example.com
Senator David Leyonhjelm: firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Claire Moore: email@example.com
Senator Bob Day: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yours for bringing change through relationships