What do young Aboriginal fathers say about responsibility, support and being an Aboriginal dad?  We interviewed young Aboriginal fathers who had been involved in building the Stayin’ On Track website.  Below are some of their comments.

Being an Aboriginal Dad -

Yeah, it’s good to have someone relying on you all the time; you’re a bit more responsible and a bit more grown up I suppose.

ON RESPONSIBILITY

Oh when I first found out my partner was pregnant,  I was the type of person that would be out drinking and stuff all the time and yeah, and smoking and that. And it just really, it was like a wakeup call, made me realise that I can’t go around getting in trouble or drinking around like I used to…

Yeah, the way that it made me think [about] stuff, that I have to start providing for him and that, it just made me realise that if he did come along and I was out drinking and that still and doing the stuff that I used to, that I’m not really setting a good example for him.

And I don’t want him to grow up and be a nuisance to the society. ‘Cause that’s basically the, all that I was, was just getting into trouble all the time and I realised that I don’t want to be labelled as that type of person my whole life, especially when my son comes along. ‘Cause it’s only going to encourage him to turn out like that. And I just, I don’t want him to see me as that type of person. I want him to see me as a good father, a working man and always trying to provide for him. And not mucking around all the time. 

You don’t, like, go out and stuff as much anymore. Or you can, but not as much, so, but yeah, I’m enjoying it. I like it.

Being an Aboriginal Dad -

ON SUPPORT

I have a yarn to my cousins, they’re pretty much like my brothers so I always have a yarn to them about anything and they always make me feel a bit better than I was, so they got me through the tough times in my life […] I was at a bad place in my life, it was around that time and pretty much they’re the reason – my family, my mother and father, my brothers – the reason why I pretty much overcame that stage in my life.

We’re all dads, we’re all young dads at some point or stage and we all go through similar things, but Aboriginal men, there’s that pressure, not only from non-Aboriginal people but from Aboriginal people ourselves: is he gonna be a great dad? And if he falls through the cracks, people hear he didn’t have any support when that pressure come through and he didn’t have anyone to talk to at that time, so it’s a bit hard. Whereas some of us, you know, we are great dads and we strive to be better in our fatherhood and also in the community as well.

Being an Aboriginal Dad -

ON BEING AN ABORIGINAL DAD

Growing up in an Aboriginal family, you know, there are plenty of our mob out there and we’ve got pretty big families. So, just looking back on now, you know, you think “I had a great childhood” because I had all these family members around me you know from younger ones to the older ones, but we were always together. And that’s something I wanted my boys to, or myself to have with my children, you know, to be around all my family as well, so…

There’s definitely a uniqueness about being an Aboriginal dad because we actually still practice a lot of our culture, or what culture we have left that has been passed down through generations. That’s something that, for me, I never got to learn most of that, especially where I’m from, we barely have anything. But now that I’m a part of something back home, that’s starting the revival of our language, it’s important that I can pass on to my boys at their age and they can learn it, that I didn’t get to, you know?

Being an Aboriginal dad definitely has its uniqueness in having our culture and being able to instil some pride and some resilience and strength, empowered within our young fellas, it’s definitely something to be proud of that, you know, at the same token, some of us don’t get the chance to do that. 

Being an Aboriginal Dad -

WANT TO KNOW MORE?

You can read the whole research paper at Journal of Family Studies and How do young aboriginal fathers in Australia ‘stay on track’? – Perspectives on the support networks of aboriginal fathers
Darren Faulkner, Craig Hammond, Louise Nisbet & Richard Fletcher, Pages: 1-14 | DOI: 10.1080/13229400.2018.1537193

Other Blog Posts

Richard’s research revealed possible long-term negative impacts on the children of dads with mental health issues. Fathers’ depressive symptoms in the first year after the birth predicted behaviour problems in their children years later.

“If dads’ mental health has such a dramatic impact then we need to be screening dads for depression, not just mums,” Richard explains.

In response to these limitations, Richard and his team have designed a smart-phone based program that allows mobile connection for new and expectant dads.

Participants receive texts containing information and links, and self-report their mood. If the mood tracker identifies dads as needing extra support, they will be offered a phone call from a counsellor trained in this area.

Following the success of the pilot of the SMS4dads program, Funding was received to enable a National roll-out.

“When dad’s miss antenatal classes or activities, they also miss out on contact and links to other people.  They may never get the chance to say to anyone, look I’m really stressed,” he points out.

“SMS4dads is a way of bringing dads into the health system and keeping them linked in with services and support,” explains Richard.

Richard Fletcher

Associate Professor, PhD

Richard credits a varied career, a talented and innovative team, and much life experience for affording him the insight needed to address the challenges related to actively engaging dads.

After completing his masters in Medical Science, studying epidemiology, Richard earned his PhD focusing on fathers and attachment.

“Fathers are invisible in many places, and that is endemic. Not because people dislike fathers, but because the system is set up to be focused on mothers.”

Some services and organisations are aware of the need to engage dads, but have been unsuccessful in their attempts.

“When people are challenged about this, they generally want dads involved,” Richard affirms.

“Often, however, they just don’t know how to do it.”

Richard works with health professionals on issues related to fathers, and has delivered many antenatal programs for expectant dads.

He credits his own family with giving him an understanding of the role of fathers needed to make his work relevant.

“I have three daughters and two stepdaughters,”

“My kids would say they taught me just about everything I know and they’d be right. They’ve taught me a lot, and still do.”

Richard’s research revealed possible long-term negative impacts on the children of dads with mental health issues. Fathers’ depressive symptoms in the first year after the birth predicted behaviour problems in their children years later.

“If dads’ mental health has such a dramatic impact then we need to be screening dads for depression, not just mums,” Richard explains.

In response to these limitations, Richard and his team have designed a smart-phone based program that allows mobile connection for new and expectant dads.

Participants receive texts containing information and links, and self-report their mood. If the mood tracker identifies dads as needing extra support, they will be offered a phone call from a counsellor trained in this area.

Following the success of the pilot of the SMS4dads program, Funding was received to enable a National roll-out.

“When dad’s miss antenatal classes or activities, they also miss out on contact and links to other people.  They may never get the chance to say to anyone, look I’m really stressed,” he points out.

“SMS4dads is a way of bringing dads into the health system and keeping them linked in with services and support,” explains Richard.