By Oliver Lees
At Sunbury Heights Primary School, Josh McPhan is the co-ordinator of a program designed to help dads spend more quality time with their children.
The Dads’ Group is one of several hundred such groups across Victoria, where fathers can engage in activities with their kids and gain support from other parents in the community.
These localised programs are an initiative of the Fathering Project, a nationwide charitable organisation supported by many key figures in the Australian Football League, to drive home the message of positive parenting.
Mr McPhan, a father of three, said the Dads’ Group has proven to be a hit since it started at the school 18 months ago.
“We know how hard it can be for dads that have busy work lives to keep up meaningful time with their kids,” he said.
“That’s the biggest thing, is getting the dads or father figures interacting. We try to have four major events a year, things like a big bash cricket game have been hugely popular.”
Mr McPhan said the Dads’ Group also runs dedicated support sessions to discuss issues such as mental health.
“Before [getting involved] I wasn’t super aware of the support structures available for parents,” he said.
“Some dads might think they’re alone [in being father], but they’re definitely not,” he said.
Former Western Bulldogs coach and Fathering Project ambassador Rodney Eade said working IN the AFL system gave him perspective on how parents can lose sight of the importance of connecting with their kids.
“I was fortunate, I felt I was able to get a sense of balance,” Mr Eade said.
“But looking back certainly I missed out on certain things, and I know other coaches that have told me they’re biggest regret is not spending more time with family.”
This Father’s Day, The Fathering Project is encouraging families to keep a dad time booklet to set goals for spending quality time with their children.