National charity The Fathering Project is in the process of recruiting volunteers as they prepare to roll out their services in the ACT early next year.
The Fathering Project works by establishing dads’ groups in school communities and delivering resources, programs and events specific to the engagement style and needs of dads and father-figures.
Their Canberra roll-out will begin via South Tuggeranong’s Charles Conder Primary School, with Taylor’s Margaret Hendry School in Gungahlin also looking to join.
“We’ll have the most northerly and southerly schools in the ACT, all we want to do is fill in between now,” said Fathering Project training and partnerships manager, David Forrest.
Prior to their February 2021 ACT start date, Mr Forrest has begun training local volunteers through online courses – they will go on to facilitate the dads’ groups.
To date they have several volunteers but hope to have 10 trained up by the time they launch next year so they’re on hand to bring additional schools online.
Mr Forrest said he’s commonly asked why the charity focuses solely on fathers.
“We clearly see families as important, but men traditionally don’t get involved in the school community or caring role of the children because it’s often not socially acceptable or not the done thing,” he said.
“Mums are critical, fathers are important, but the research says there’s often an invisible role of the caring father, it’s invisible … The role of the father is often underrated.”
The Fathering Project was founded in 2013 by Western Australian professor Dr Bruce Robinson.
As a lung specialist, Dr Robinson would sit with men dying and ask if they had any regrets and found nine times out of 10, they would say they wish they had spent more time with their kids.
“Having taught health and drug education and mental health for 30-odd years, I realised the greatest impact is not the teacher in the classroom but the family the child goes home to,” Mr Forrest said.
“The research shows that when fathers are involved and engaged with their kids’ lives there’s huge wellbeing benefits for kids.”
Inspired by that, Dr Robinson started the Fathering Project in WA, initially establishing dads’ groups in school communities.
From that point, the project has expanded nationally to now involve more than 300 schools in all states, with Charles Conder Primary to be their first school in an Australian territory.
Charles Conder Primary principal Jason Walmsley said the school has become involved to foster and promote fathers and father-figures engaging with their children’s learning.
“One of the things that attracted us to it was the events-based process to engage fathers with their children,” he said.
Mr Walmsley said, to date, six to eight fathers have nominated to be part of their dads’ group.
“It’s terrific to do something like this and have that research-driven project, it’s great and I’m hoping this sort of an advertisement can engage other schools … that broadens the network for us as well.”
If you’re interested in volunteering with The Fathering Project in the ACT, head to thefatheringproject.org