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The fatherhood revolution

By Warwick Marsh - posted Friday, 12 September 2008

Father's Day was celebrated in Australia with a renewed sense of vigour and excitement. Fathers and children are appearing in more advertisements. Print media are running father-friendly stories along with both TV and radio. These days restaurants are booked out for Father's Day as well as Mother's Day.

When the Fatherhood Foundation was formed in 2002 to help and encourage Australian dads, their television community service adverts (CSAs) were initially threatened with a black-ban by the Advertising Standards Board. Political correctness ruled the day and fathers were an endangered species. This would not happen today. A recent headline in an Australian paper said that fatherhood had become sexy. Looking at popular culture it is hard to disagree with this statement.

Fatherhood is under renovation and the refurbishment is well underway. More than likely it will appear on a screen near you.


Finding Nemo, released in 2003, the story of a father fish looking for his son is well inside the top 20 grossing movies of all time worldwide. Further down that list, but no less important are some other great, recent movies with positive fatherhood themes. These include: I am Sam, Dear Frankie, The Incredibles, Night at the Museum, Pursuit of Happyness, and the brilliant Australian movie starring Eric Bana, Romulus My Father. Even Snoop Dogg is getting in on the fatherhood revival with his Father Hood TV show, albeit for pecuniary reasons.

Closer to home, songwriter Colin George put together a compilation CD called Fatherhood which features some of Australia's best artists such as Paul Kelly, Shane Howard, Neil Murray and John Butler, singing about their children, fatherhood and families.

What started as an album release has now become a charity and Colin, along with his intrepid team, are into their 5th year of organising the annual Fatherhood Festival in Byron Bay. The home of counterculture is now the home of fatherhood. Putting family first has become more than the name of a political party. Just like the 60s counterculture, it has the beginnings of a revolution. Not content to restrict the festival to Byron Bay the Fatherhood Festival has spread to Taree, Bendigo and even Perth.

The renovation of fatherhood and the renewal of masculinity have been heralded by brave authors such as Ed Cole, author of Maximised Manhood; Robert Bly, Iron John; Warren Farrell, Father and Child Reunion and even feminist authors such as Adrienne Burgess, Fatherhood Reclaimed and Susan Falundi, Stiffed and many others. Australian author Steve Biddulph has been a trail blazer for the Australian fatherhood and men's movement for many years and will be the speaker at this year's Fatherhood Festival in Byron Bay, 4-7 September 2008. Australia's greatest fatherhood author Dr Bruce Robinson has just released his brilliant new book, Daughters and their Dads, in time for Father's Day 2008.

The Fatherhood Foundation has produced television CSAs every Father's Day. For Father's Day 2008, Matthew Hayden, one of Australia's most famous cricketers, was pleased to go in to bat for Aussie dads and their children. Matthew Hayden has fronted the Dads4Kids TV CSAs which are currently being seen all across Australia. Dads4Kids is an initiative of the Fatherhood Foundation, to involve the whole community, and help Aussie children get a fair go in life. Matthew Hayden asks Australians to give their best ideas on how to help Australian kids have the opportunities they need to succeed. It's all about providing the opportunities for our children to lead truly exceptional lives. Aussie kids need our help and support.

Did you know that:

  • a child is abused every 13 minutes in Australia;
  • in 2003 there were 40,416 substantiated child abuse cases in Australia;
  • reports of child abuse have more than doubled over the last decade;
  • 23 per cent of children who are physically abused become juvenile offenders;
  • 2/3rds of all sex crimes are committed against our children;
  • 14.7 per cent of Australia's children live in poverty;
  • more than half of Australia's youth have been touched by suicide;
  • 1 in 6 young people (12-17 years) have seriously thought of ending their life by suicide;
  • almost half of Australia's homeless people are children or young people;
  • homelessness is closely linked with family breakdown and fatherlessness;
  • between 20-35 per cent of young people are involved in alcohol, cigarettes or drug abuse;
  • 1 in 5 children are overweight or obese;
  • childhood obesity is increasing in epidemic proportions and is a major contributor to bad health outcomes for our children; and
  • one of the issues that worry children the most is the divorce or separation of their parents.

For these reasons the Fatherhood Foundation is asking Australians to help Dads4Kids with their ideas on how to solve these problems and will give prizes for the best answers.

The Fatherhood Foundation believes that fatherlessness is a major contributor to the problems our children face. Dr Bruce Robinson says that fatherlessness costs Australia $13 billion a year. Fatherlessness increases the likelihood that children will grow up in poverty, increased crime, drug abuse, youth suicide, child sexual abuse, mental health problems, high levels of child obesity, poor health, poor nutrition and lower levels of educational performance for children. In spite of what radical feminists may say about the ills of patriarchy, involved and loving fathers are foundational for the development of healthy children and strong families.

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About the Author

Warwick Marsh is the founder of the Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation with his wife Alison. They have five children and two grandchildren and have been married for 34 years.

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