Happy Father’s Day. I hope and pray you have a good one.
Recently I received a call at the Dads4Kids office. It was most unusual.
Junior Stowers was his name, and he was was calling from inside a detention centre. Having performed concerts in 20 gaols across Australia (where nobody has a mobile phone), this really did my head in. However, I found that Immigration Detention Centres have a different set of rules, and detainees are allowed that privilege.
Junior had received a 6-month prison sentence, and so with his parole added, his permanent resident visa in Australia had been revoked. He was due to be deported back to his homeland at any tick of the clock. Unfortunately, the clock has been ticking for two and a half years. Three years inside razor wire is a long time.
So rather than sit around moping and feeling sorry for himself, Junior decided to do something for someone else. He wanted to raise money for charity, and having grown up fatherless himself, he decided to make that charity Dads4Kids. This also did my head in. How can someone inside the Villawood Detention Centre raise money for a charity? If he did so, how would he get that money to that charity?
Junior even spoke of Walkathons for Dads4Kids, and getting people on the outside to sponsor someone on the inside. If a prisoner walked a mile for Dads4Kids, his sponsor could donate a minimum of $10 to Dads4Kids. Every $10 raised would help turn the tide of fatherlessness in our nation. He was passionate, and his passion was formed by his experience. The majority of prisoners in the Australian prison system are fatherless and dislocated, whether in their heart, family or both.
Inmates well know the pain of growing up without a father. According to the Texas Department of Correction, 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes, 20 times the national average. According to the US Department of Justice (1988), 70% of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes, which is 9 times the average. According to the research journal Justice and Behavior (Vol 14, page 403-26), 80% of rapists come from fatherless homes: 9 times the average.
I once shared these statistics with a governor of a prison in Western Sydney, and he said, “Try 100%, Warwick! I have yet to meet a prisoner in my gaol who was not fatherless or had a major problem with his father.” With all my experience working in gaols and rehabs over the last 30 years, I would agree with the Sydney Gaol Superintendent. The official statistics on fatherlessness in the gaol population are conservative and understated.
So I will let Junior tell his story:
“My name is Junior Stowers. I was born in Samoa, second eldest of five siblings at the time. I grew up around domestic violence; I often witnessed my father come home drunk, and he would beat my mother, myself and my siblings. I had a close and supportive relationship with mum and my sisters. From the age of seven, I was sexually assaulted by my dad’s friend — I never told anyone. In 1995 when I was just nine years old, I was adopted by an aunt I had never met before, and she moved me to New Zealand.
I had very little self-worth, I was angry and confused. I started getting into fights at school. I joined football as a way to vent, and physically hurt myself and others. I got used to the beatings at home; I began drinking alcohol to numb the pain and try to escape — this led to many suicide attempts.
In 2005 I arrived in Australia, with hopes and dreams of starting my life over. I got a job and started working. I quickly realised things were not going to be as easy as I had thought and hoped. I struggled to make friends, I struggled to trust people; I lacked so much self-confidence due to all the destructive abuse inflicted on me in my younger years. I was lost and hurt, I started to isolate myself, I became manipulative, angry and confused.
In 2008 my first son Roman was born; I love my son very much and I love being a dad to him. Even though my relationship with his mum was on and off for a few years, we later broke up as I didn’t feel I could fix my problems, and I didn’t want them to suffer because of me. I continued to see my son when I could. I tried to do counselling, but it was an uphill battle to try to address the past.
In 2011 I moved away to Newcastle — there I met my current partner, Renay. In 2014 we had our first son Isaiah, followed by my youngest son Zion, born in June 2016. In July that same year, I was sent to prison for six months. After my release in January 2017, I was brought to Villawood Detention Centre, where I have currently been detained for the last two and a half years. It has been difficult to be absent from my children’s and partner’s lives at such a pivotal time. I have already missed so many things, I do not want to continue to miss out on more. I am remorseful and very sorry for my past actions, and I am determined to never repeat such behaviour again.
I now want to be a light to everyone who has made the same bad choices, especially to my Australian Pacific Island people who are dealing with the same issues. I want to prevent more fathers leaving their children behind. I organised the collection of plastic bottles every week, donating the money to the ‘Dads4Kids’ charity, to support dads to care for their kids.
I want the opportunity to be able to protect and teach my children; I want to instill my faith in them. I want to be their encourager, role model and best friend. I never want them to experience the loneliness I grew up with. I want to be here to attend their first day at school, birthdays, Christmas and all special and significant moments in their lives. I really wish to be present at all their milestones and not be separated by different continents.
I hope the change in me is truly evident and I am given the opportunity to prove to the Government of Australia, as well as my family, that I am now the person I have been fighting all my life to be.”
Last Thursday I attended Junior’s Tribunal/Court Hearing as a character witness, because I believe the change in Junior is truly evident.
I would greatly appreciate your prayers for Junior Stowers, a young father of three. He needs a second chance – don’t we all?
Once again – have a Happy Father’s Day! Remember we all need second chances, and so do our children.
While you are enjoying your special day, shoot up a prayer for fathers on the inside and single fathers on the outside, who can’t see their kids this Father’s Day.
Yours for our children,
PS: Watch out for the Dads4Kids adverts showing on: WIN TV, 7 Network, Southern Cross, all regional TV, NITV, some cable stations, Imparja and community channels in Melbourne and Adelaide. Even better, check them out on the Dads4Kids YouTube Channel along with some short stories on the dads involved in making them.
PPS: Considering its minuscule budget of $5 million dollars, Overcomer is doing extremely well in the cinemas. In America on the first weekend of its release, it was the number three movie, beating the likes of The Lion King and the Fast and Furious franchise. Audiences in the USA polled by CinemaScore gave the film a rare average grade of “A+” on an A+ to F scale. In New Zealand, Overcomer was number 7 at the box office. In Australia, it was the number ten film at the box office on the weekend, which for an independent movie release is an astonishing result. As I have already said, “Overcomer is an amazing movie. I have seen Overcomer twice and it gets better every time! I strongly encourage everyone to see this movie and take your friends and family!!!”
[Photo by Jude Beck