Dads in Distress hold weekly meetings to enable fathers who are affected by relationship and custody issues to come together in an atmosphere geared toward practical support, progress and healing. We don’t denigrate woman at our meetings, in fact we encourage men to look in the mirror to understand what part of the blame they own, if any.

We simply guide men to become the cause of their future and not be the result of their past. We believe that storing up bitterness, grief, anger, revenge… is like getting a glass of poison for your enemy and then drinking it yourself… eventually it will eat you away.

By the nature of our sharing, we learn from each other how to handle the complexities of being a weekend dad. We learn how to handle the depression, we learn how to handle the sorrow. We learn how to make ‘contact’ work. Many believe they are better dads now than they ever were in the marriage.

Many Dads in Distress now get together on weekends with their children and with other Dads in Distress and their children for BBQs and outings. It’s part of what we encourage, it’s called ‘community-based peer group support’. And it works. Often we refer dads to specialists if needed, often we show them where and how they can gain specific help in the area of their need. Often we seek out and encourage those specialists to provide free or discounted services to these dads. Often we cannot find the services that are sadly needed. Often they are just not there.

We have produced four television advertisements that were aired throughout regional Australia as community service announcements, and the message they send is: allow fair access, stop using the children as pawns. The message is there for everyone. We have groups in three states, QLD, NSW, VIC, and are still expanding with very little funding. We have one full-time employee, me. We have many volunteers, some highly skilled, many untrained. We have meetings in these states, and we have volunteers taking calls in others, just trying to ease the finger off the trigger.

I live in Coffs Harbour. Dads in Distress is operated from my lounge room. I take hundreds of calls, emails from dads in distress who plead for help. Legal advice specific to the Family Law Court is most commonly asked for. I am asked continually to get a group going in someone’s area. I have the groups that are already going, needing my support to continue. I have volunteers screaming for training. And while I chase the funding trail, and while I try and catch up with the paperwork, and even while I write this, I have one hand on the computer and the other holding a dad’s head just above water.

[Photo by Vitolda Klein on Unsplash]

About the Author: Tony Miller

Tony Miller was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in the 2010 Queen's Birthday honors list 'For service to the community through the provision of support services for separated families'.

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