Research-based organisation The Fathering Project had its origins in Western Australia. Focussing on fathers and father figures, it aimed to inspire and equip dads to begin the conversation about what effective fathering might look like and it was a big success in the west. Now, it wants to bring that knowledge to the east coast.
... they all said, 'I wish I had worked less and spent more time with their kids and my family.'John Everett
Armidale regional co-ordinator of the The Fathering Project is John Everett, who met with community leaders to introduce the organisation's aims and means at its regional launch held in the Armidale Ex-services Club on Friday, April 5.
"We are driven by research that comes out of The University of Western Australia," Mr Everett said.
"The founder was Professor Bruce Robinson, a respiratory specialist who sat beside many men dying from lung conditions. Pretty much unanimously, they all said, 'I wish I had worked less and spent more time with their kids and my family.' So, that got him to do a lot of his own research.
"What came out of that was compelling, and drove him more and more to do something about it. We're now 20-odd years from his starting point."
Mr Everett said Prof Robinson was the 2013 Western Australian of the Year, and his work was quite successful in that state.
"We are very aware that families look very different these days," he said.
"And we're not here to say that dads are doing it wrong, or have done it wrong. We know what absent or disadvantaged fathers look like in the eyes of their kids, and what outcomes are there when father or father figures are more active in one way or another.
"When people hear about what we are doing they are really excited because they see a need, and there are bigger things at play here too. It plays into mentoring in the community."
The project works with schools to provide materials to inspire, encourage and support fathers and father figures to engage with their children and be a positive influence in their life, to help young people participate in the community as independent, mature and responsible individuals.
"We set up Dad's Groups in schools to do four events a year, two 'Dad and Kids', and two 'Dad's' nights. The dad and kids nights make time that dads put aside and just come into the school community to just spend a couple of hours with their kids," Mr Everett said.
"Those nights can be about anything, paper planes and pizza nights are a good example. The only rule is you have to remain with you children all the time because it's all about fun and time with kids.
"The dad's nights are, again, all about fun, building community and trust and there could be a three minute presentation, but we are not up there preaching. We just want to present the facts that we know impact fathering. They're just simple little things, like the stats say, 'We're only spending one minute 20 seconds a day with our kids - what do you think about that?'."
He said while the project was specifically fatherly focussed, they knew mums also played huge roles.
"Mums are generally more consistent, it's the dads who are variable. Again, this came out of knowing what the blokes who inspired this whole project said," he said.
"So, mothers are welcome to come along.
"We know a lot of the time the biological father may not be there - so it can be uncle Bob, it can be the next door neighbour or the coach and it certainly can be a mum, if mum is the most influential person at that point of time and there is no other."
Mr Everett said men were trying to do the right thing and be good dads, but but they needed to be fathers first.