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27 December 2008

Some time ago I was walking down the street and a colleague came up to me with a surprised look on his face and asked "Was that your wife from Fiji I just saw inside the shops?" Yes I said.

"Wow," he replied. "How did you do it? How did you break through all the red tape and get her here so quickly?" He knew just days ago I was saying they were telling me it could be 12 months away. And here she and the kids are here.

I began to say well I did this, I did that, I jumped up and down and I told THEM what for. How great I made myself sound. What a man what a giant. Wow he was impressed.

As I walked away from him a sudden cringe came over my shoulder. You know the one when someone far greater gives you a smack in the back of the head. Oh Oh here comes another lesson. A lesson in humilility. I am taught a lot of those lessons of late. The trick is to take them in. They are all around us.

You see just a few posts ago I wrote of the power of prayer. I wrote of how it saved my daughters life, I wrote of how it changed another man's life. I wrote about the secret and even made some quotes about the power of the so called secret that has always been written within the pages of the bible.

And here I was telling a friend how great I was, how powerful, what a bloke I was. Truth is it was the Bigfella who answered my prayers. I talked about it in that previous post. If you have a big need pray hard and I had prayed hard and I enlisted the help of many to pray as well. Please GOD bring my wife and children back to Australia and he did. Not me, HE did. I cannot put one foot in front of the other without HIS help. Who was I? Just some piece of dirt bignoting myself.

Now you may be reading this and think Tony has gone all religious. Truth is I always have been, but I stuff up on a daily basis, sometimes hourly. It isn't easy. I don't try and shove my faith down anyone's throat. As I have said before, I have met many born again Christians, some maybe shouldn't have been, but who am I to judge. What you believe is your business. I am just relating some lessons I have learnt over Christmas.

I want to tell you something. Christmas Eve I raked up enough money (had to borrow it actually) to buy a bike for my son. It was important to me that he got his bike. I had already brought a second hand one for his sister. And I wanted them both to have a bike for there first Christmas in Australia.

Well the bike came in a box and anyone that knows me already knows I don't know a screwdriver from a hammer. Anyway I took it down to the office and a bunch of the guys unpacked it, borrowed tools and began putting it together. The only use I was in pumping up the tyres. I won't forget there kindness.Their generosity their love.

GOD sends helpers, sometimes they don't know it, sometimes you don't know it. My new son and daughter have been riding them since Christmas Day.

And then my beautiful wife went shopping. She didn't have a lot of money, it's a bit of a lean Christmas. But she came home with two little candle holders. When I quizzed her on why as we have plenty of candle holders, she explained that everyone else is getting presents then surely we should give GOD a present. The candle holders were for putting next to our open bible and the other in front of a picture of the Sacred Heart of JESUS.

And something else she taught me. The bible should always be open. No good having a bible in your house if it's closed. Then so will be your heart she said. The bible sits open on our kitchen table and I read it more now that it is in front of me. She is GODS helper. Sometimes I don't realise that but I am

As a single dad for so long and now getting remarried, I have lots of lessons to learn, GOD willing I will receive those lessons without too much pain. I won't lie and say it's all roses, it's not easy but the Bigfella once said.........If you had faith as big as a mustard seed, you can say to that mulberry tree, "Pull yourself up by the roots and plant yourself in the sea!" and it will obey you. I have faith and what I cannot handle today I give to the Bigfella to deal with, because often it's bigger then me and I call on HIS help............ I hope and pray your problems are not getting you down so much that you are scared to ask for help, because believe me help is there...Open your bible and read about the secret.

Tony Miller

21 December 2008

Right now I am on 6 weeks stress leave, can't cope, maybe burnt out or yes burnt out. I am in a hole at present but I am digging out. Sometimes life is just like that. I want to tell you a story because as I write about a Christmas tree is right across the room staring at me. You may read this after Christmas but still it is relevant, I have told the story many times but still it is relevant. As millions yes millions read this site, many may not of read it before. And you know what, Christmas should be every day not just one day. As a Christian I celebrate the birth of JESUS whatever is your belief I respect that but even as a Christian I find it difficult that people seem to be kinder or more thoughtful (me included) at Christmas and why not all year.

But the story I want to tell is not about JESUS but maybe about some of his unsuspecting helpers.

Many years ago at the beginning of starting Dads in Distress, it was coming up to Christmas. As a newly separated dad I was broke and related to a dids group I was attending at the time, that it was going to be a very poor Christmas that year. I had no money for presents for my kids, I had no money for Christmas dinner, in fact I had no money for anything. Funny all these years later things haven't changed much.

Anyway I happened to mention this fact at a dids meeting to a bunch of blokes I didn't know that well at the time. Well as it turned out they decided to put on a BBQ just the week before Christmas. At the time I was living under a house in an old artists studio. It was just one room, the kitchen was a dirt floor with an artist basin for a sink, there was no hot water or shower, it had a dirt floor, in fact I use to shower where I worked cleaning channel Ten studios here where I live. Don't tell them.

To cut a long story short, these blokes brought the sausages and some brought a plate of something or other. But one bloke turned up with a plastic Christmas tree and plonked it in what was my loungeroom at the time, the corner of the one room. And then slowly one by one these blokes who I hardly knew brought presents wrapped in Christmas paper all with a card or sticker attached and addressed to my kids 'love from dad.' My kids didn't know it that year but I did, they had many dads, many who were suffering an unjust system themselves and many who are still suffering yet they looked after me and my kids.

Well it's about 8 or so years down the track and I still have that same tree. It's worn and it's battered and my kids look at me in horror as I drag it out year after year. But you know what, I just don't have the heart to throw it away. Many things have changed over the years, but the injustice hasn't and the memory of what those blokes did for me that year hasn't either. My kids still don't know what took place that year, one day maybe when I am dead and gone they will read this and realise that Australian mateship was still alive back then.

The tree stands there today as I live in a caravan these days but with all its tinsel and bells and decorations it's just as grand as the day it was given to me, maybe a little worn maybe a little torn. But more so are the memories of how and why it was given to me. I still see some of those blokes, many I haven't spoke to for years, a few I spoke to just earlier tonight. And you know what? Many have moved on to better places in their lives and I like to think dids made a difference because I can tell you, it made a difference to my life. It kept me alive when I felt there was no hope. It gave me meaning and above all else it showed me that mateship hadn't died after all.

You know Christ didn't walk with the healthy, wealthy and the wise, he walked with the sick and the dieing, the unhealthy, the unclean, yet he offered hope, he offered salvation. Now I am not going to get all religious on you, but if you are doing it tough this Christmas, a word or two to the Bigfella to help you out may just help, in fact I know it will. Failing all else there's a dids meeting somewhere near you with a bunch of blokes who won't preach but who will be your mate.

I want to thank each and everyone of the volunteers and staff for getting the message out there that there is hope, there is mateship still alive and well in this country, there is light at the end of the tunnel and it's not a train coming, and I have lit a candle for each of you so your kids can find a way back to dad and maybe just maybe you can see the light too. To all who read and contribute to this website wherever you are in the world may GOD as you see him bring you peace and happiness. and remember kindness and compassion is the rent we must pay for this space we inhabit on this earth. Are you up to date with your Rent? I know I am still behind with mine

Tony Miller

12 December 2008

CSA all is Ok or is it? Is this Government prepared to listen? Or is it all smoke and mirrors.
What has Changed??? Please Tell Me.

I would like to inform you of just a few cases that have come across my desk of recent times.

One is about a dad who has 50/50 shared parenting of his children on a week on week off basis. He informed CSA of the arrangement and CSA contacted his wife who denied this was the case. To cut a long story short after protesting the fact, contacting CSA and Centrelink on numerous occasions, providing proof and referees he found that it was of no use. CSA just would not believe him. So on the days he had his children, this poor dad had no other avenue to pursue then to turn up to the local CSA office and produce his kids on the days he had them. "See here they are and they are with me". He did this for four days and then on the 5th day the manager of the local CSA office came out and said "If you come back tomorrow with the kids I will report you for child abuse!" Understanding this was not in the best interests of the children he decided not to return, he didn't want to do it in the first place but what choice did he have to prove that he had the children in his custody? He had already produced to them enough evidence it just wasn't enough in their eyes.

Another is about a guy who has a trucking business in South East Queensland. He leases 7 trucks. The ATO assesses him of a taxable income of lets say $50,000, they have already assessed that some of his fuel is private, some of his phone bills are private etc etc. We all know the ATO don't miss a trick. But then comes along the CSA and says hold on we assess you as earning $70,000. How is it that one Government department assesses you as earning this much yet another says no we won't accept that? In raising the matter with the CSA they tell me but Tony these business people have surfisticated schemes, family trusts etc. HOGWASH! I am not talking about people in multi million dollar businesses, I am talking about the average Joe who is trying to make ends meet, trying to do the right thing, trying to survive. Small businesses are the backbone of this nation. As this bloke said I am just at the point of parking the 7 trucks outside the CSA office and throwing the keys of all of them on their desk and saying, "Well there you are, you can have the bloody lot, you have put me out of business, and by the way don't forget next months lease payments".

And yet another, this story is about a beekeeper, now I am sure this bloke has got some surfisticated schemes going on. Listen to this. He is living in a drought affected area. He says his hive produces approx 100 litres of honey, the DPI says on a good year the maximum you can get is 120 litres, the ATO assesses him on what he says but hold on his wife tells the CSA he is producing 220 litres. Now who do you think CSA is going to believe? The beekeeper? The DPI? Maybe the bees.

And how about this. A senior public servant divorces, remarries, has another family, pays his child support for his two children from his previous relationship. His ex wife who also has a very good job, remarries and down the track decides to have another baby to her NEW husband. All is good. But because now she decides she doesn't want to work anymore, she wants to spend time at home with the new baby, nothing wrong with that. But oops what happens to her ex husband? Well now she is deemed as having a nil income his child support rises 1100%. Yes 1100%. Now she has decided 3 years down the track to have another. All good and fair except to her former husband who will continue to pay for her sea change. It's kind of like HE is paying for her maternity leave isn't it?

These are but a few of the cases that come across my desk. often I wonder just what has changed. I was on the reference group to the Taskforce that made recommendations to the previous Government culminating in the current reform. Often I wish I wasn't.

Recently I attended the Child Support National Stakeholders Engagement Group CSNSEG with whom I am a member in Canberra. Minister Macklin also attended and addressed the group. I asked the Minister this question.

Is this Government prepared to adequately fund the current Family Relationship Centres and Contact Centres?

Because reports we know as true is that there is a huge timelag in accessing the services. Example. Dads are being ordered through the courts to see their children in contact centres. I have been told just this morning that at Kirrawee NSW Contact centre there is an 8 month waiting period. Yes 8 months. So dad has to wait 8 bloody months to see his kids. What is going on here. Is that fair on dad? Is that fair on his children? We have reports from Sydney from Qld from rural all the same. Often these centres are not open on weekends because they cannot afford the overtime. Yet hold on when do most dads get to see their kids? On WEEKENDS. Wake UP!!!!!!!!

The Family Relationship Centres are in not much better shape with waiting times at the crucial time when it all goes belly up. You need to see someone and you need to see them now rather then later. Possibly its a chance to even save the relationship if people can get in early. But 2 3 4 months etc. You may as well just post them the divorce papers and save your money. I have asked the question on many occasions is it true there is a spike in DVO or abuse allegations in so many being referred to contact centre visits and is this a ploy as I have heard from Family Law Practitioners to bypass the current system and go straight to court. Lets face it the lawyers are losing millions. And I have asked the question time and time again, "How many dads that are relegated to seeing their kids at a contact centre because of abuse or Domestic Violence allegations are actually PROVEN in the end?" No Answer.

I have also raised the question in CSNSEG re the denial of court ordered access to our children. This continues on a major scale and our concerns fall on deaf ears. When is Government going to take denial of court ordered access as breaking the law and when are we going to see the same energy commitment and financials put into compliance of court orders as Government so readily ensures with Child Support. No Answer.

And Finally all but sadly. at this last CSNSEG meeting a senior CSA manager when reporting to the group around Child Support debt, stated to my amazement that a big percentage of the CSA Debt was attributed to DEATH but that it still is collated into the debt data that is published. And I might add so is overseas debt.

So before the media jumps down our throat next time with percentages and amounts it would be invaluable to know just how much is actually owed by Australian Fathers and how much is actually attributed to overseas. And as I said SADLY what is the amount of debt that is still be calculated in the case of DEATH.

Sadly Death by suicide by males is still a major issue but is anyone listening anymore?

Tony Miller

10 October 2008

Recently I was asked by the Rev. the Hon. Dr Gordon Moyes AC MLC to come and speak in the State Parliament of NSW at Christian Focus on Society. I spoke about what Dads in Distress is about and of the thousands of walking wounded amongst our population who are going through the trauma of divorce or separation and how they are trying to deal with their pain.

As I was about to leave Parliament House I was tapped on the shoulder by a man who apparently attended and heard my speech. He asked if we could talk a bit as he was feeling pretty low and after hearing my speech he thought I may be able to offer him some help. As we were standing next to some beautiful leather lounges that they have in the reception area of Parliament House, I suggested we sit and talk.

"My life is over,"he said softly. "I am just over the pain of it all, I mean here I am 55 years old and I feel like I'm 70," he lamented," I went through my divorce nearly ten years ago and you would think I would be over it but it still seems to drag me down. I have lost all my self confidence, I seem to live with constant self-doubt. I have been involved in a few relationships since the divorce but they always end, because anyone I meet soon gets sick of me and my depressive state. I don't know what to do anymore and I live with the constant thought of ending it all."

As I sat there listening to him, I caught a teardrop in the corner of his eye. Obviously this man was broken, his shoulders were slumped over, he was well dressed and looked as though he was at his wits end. I could see that the years of pain, difficulty and struggle had worn him down and were etched all over his face. I felt deeply saddened and humbled by this man because of his sincerity and in him wanting me to help. After all who am I?

We sat there talking for a fair time and I got to know more about him. He was once a sales manager for a pharmaceutical company. He apparently once supervised a lot of underlings. He was a bit of a high flyer. Made a lot of money, travelled and lived very well. Then his marriage to his child hood sweetheart fell apart. So did he. "It wasn't his fault or hers, he said, she just simply fell out of love with me." he told me as he was staring at the floor. Soon after the marriage breakdown, he walked away from his job because he could no longer cope and has been going downhill ever since.

I was curious so asked, "Were there any children?" He looked straight at me and blankly said "Yes, but I haven't seen them for years, I guess they are also sick of me." He then started to weep and then suddenly blurted out "My eldest hung himself a year after we split up. He was 15." Ouch! I wasn't expecting that. He sat there silently wiping the tears from his eyes." Well, Mr Miller is there anything you can do for me," he pleaded.

I sat there thinking about what had been said and what hadn't. "Do you blame yourself for your sons death," I asked. Still staring at the floor he said "Well I didn't help it any." "That's not what I asked, do you blame yourself," I reiterated. "Yes, I guess so," he sighed. "I am sure so," I said "Have you had any counselling," I asked. "Yes, I reckon I've been to hundreds of them over the years and nothing helps," he replied. "Well have you spoken to the Big Fella," I asked. "The Big Fella, who's he," he replied looking rather bemused." You heard me talking about him inside, you know, the Boss, Upstairs, I gestured with my finger. "Ohhhh, I get you, yes, yes yes I pray all the time but it doesn't seem to help much," he said as he shrugged his shoulders and then he continued, "the last thing I thought I would get from you is a lecture on religion. You are not going to get all religious on me are you?" he asked.

"I am not going to lecture you on religion, believe me I am the last person to give you a lecture on anything, but I will let you in on a tip, something that got me through those terrible times and something that continues to help me and millions of people around the world." I stopped and looked him square in the eye. "Yes, I'm all ears," he said. "Have you heard of "the Secret", I asked softly. "The Secret, yeah, yeah, there's a book about it, I haven't read it but I have heard about it." he said excitedly. "Yes, I said, there is a book, a film and even a website www.thesecret.tv. "Well have a look, it is all about the law of attraction, what you think is what you get, what you believe will happen will. It actually works and is scientifically proven. But you know what, I will let you in on another secret and that is, what they are talking about really isn't a secret after all."

"What do you mean?" he asked now all ears listening intently." It was written in the bible thousands of years ago. Have you heard of this: "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. Mark 11:24. or "Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them of My Father in heaven" Matthew 18:19. Now I didn't recite them quite like I have written them here and I had no idea where they were in the bible, I had to look them up for this article to be honest, but I did give him the general directions, and told him to go find out for himself. I also gave him some tips on prayer and I told him about this website and how I had asked people to pray for my daughter who was in a coma and dying and how miraculously she survived through what I believe was the power of prayer and FAITH which is basically what they teach in "the secret" the law of attraction, FAITH < BELIEF. "The bible is big on it, I said, no use asking if you don't believe you will be given it. It's like ringing up and ordering a pizza to be delivered, you don't ring them if you believe they wont deliver it! Prayer is the same. You may not get exactly what you ask for but you will get something close. Something you were meant to get." Come to think of it, ordering that Pizza is pretty similar isn't it.

I told him it's no use praying small if he has a big problem. Big problem's need big prayers, so don't be frightened to go hard and also to ask friends to throw a line to the big fella as well. "The more noise going upstairs about your problem the better," I said

"Now it doesn't work on everything," I told him. I've been praying to win the lotto for years but to be honest I lent over and whispered in his ear, "I don't think the Big Fella is a gambler." " But you never know, so I keep asking anyway, I smiled. I could sure do with that lotto.

Well to cut a long story short we talked some more and as it turned out, yes, he had been blaming himself for his son's death and for a whole range of things. And to be honest he had done a pretty good job whipping himself for years. We parted company with me giving him my card and him promising to go talk to the Big Fella and also attend a dids group to see if he could share some of the load, that he had been carrying on his back for all those years. That's what we do in dids groups, share the load. you won't get a lecture on religion, but you will meet a bunch of blokes who care and who will listen.

He rang me the other day "Remember me, remember me, the bloke from Parliament House!" he exclaimed. "Yes Mr Rudd," I said tongue in cheek. He laughed and just in that fact I knew this bloke had experienced some kind of revelation. He boomed down the phone loud and clear. He was pumping! He told me he had taken my advice and gone to a dids meeting, " WOW! he exclaimed, I wished I had done that years ago, I feel like a new man." And he sounded like it too. It was hard to believe this was the same pitiful character I had spoken to at Parliament House only a few weeks ago." And you know what, I did as you said and talked to the Big Fella!" he said gleefully. "What did he say?" I inquired with a laugh and away he went telling me all about his new found lease on life, the dids meetings and his focus now on prayer and talking to the Big Fella. He harangued me for a least an hour and in the end I had to say goodbye but added with a laugh, "You are not going to get all religious on me are you?" "Of course not," he laughed and as he hung up, his last words were "Thanks mate".

The secret of making something work in your lives is first of all, the deep desire to make it work: then the faith and belief that it can work: then hold that clear definite vision in your consciousness and see it working out step by step, without one thought of doubt or disbelief. Eileen Caddy

The thing always happens that you really believe in; and in the belief in a thing makes it happen. Frank Lloyd Wright 1869

Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact. William James 1842

Whether you believe you can do a thing or believe you can't , you are right. Henry Ford 1863

Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief is denying them. Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803

I know I am going to win the lotto, I just know I am. Tony Miller 2008

Tony Miller

29 August 2008

Fathers Day 2008

When I was asked to write an article to emphasise the important role of fathers as role models for their children I eagerly accepted. Then on beginning to write it I realised I might have too hastily accepted.

Why? Simply put, I, like many of those I know am an every second weekend dad. I am fortunate this year that my weekend with my son falls on Fathers Day. Many of those I know won't be as fortunate. If it's not their weekend then they don't get to see their children.

Many people say to me, "your children are so lucky to have a father like you". Are they? How does being an every second weekend dad impact on my children? I feel totally disenfranchised as a father in today's society. I find it difficult to be just dad.

As an every second weekend dad I have lost that connect-ability. I can do my best to be the dad I think my son needs but I have to say it is difficult when I only see him for a short period of time. And sometimes I miss, sometimes I just don't get it right. He, as much as I, struggle with the space in between each visit and I can see as he gets older that the space is growing. Whose fault is that? Maybe no-ones or maybe all of us own a piece.

The sad reality is what divorce or separation does to our children. In his book 'Twice Adopted' the author Michael Reagan (past President Ronald Reagan's son) describes poignantly how divorce hurts kids;

'Divorce is where two adults take everything that matters to a child - the child's home, family, security, and sense of being loved and protected - and they smash it all up, leave it in ruins on the floor, then walk out and leave the child to clean up the mess.'

Why? Because we adults always look at things like divorce and remarriage through adult eyes, through the eyes of our grown up selfishness. We never stop and try and look at these issues through the eyes of the child.

We're so busy arguing and bickering, so busy breaking crockery and marriage vows, that we don't stop and think about the scared little child over in the corner whose entire world is being torn apart.

Maybe if we would think a little more about that child and a little less about ourselves, we wouldn't be so quick to pull the divorce trigger and shoot our wedding vows through the heart'

We only have such a short period of time, a small window of opportunity to connect with our children before they get to an age where they no longer want to connect with us. It is that window of opportunity of which many fathers in today's society are being denied. Often for them Fathers Day is a day to stay hidden under the covers of a doona, hoping the day will pass quickly and without the painful memory of lost and loved children.

For many the harsh reality of not seeing or hearing from their children on this one day of the year, in which you are supposed to celebrate "Fatherhood", is just too much to take. Some sit by the phone awaiting that elusive call from children they haven't seen or heard from in years. Others simply choose to forget the day and make themselves busy doing anything but think about it. For some it is a time to wish their own dad a happy father's day.

I could quote you all the statistics and studies that will tell you of the importance of a father's role model in children's lives but until we stop waging wars beyond the court rooms in denying our children the right to a relationship with both parents, then what is the point.

On this mornings news it was broadcast across Australia and the world of a small whale that had snuggled up to a boat because it had lost its mum. The flood of calls and offers of support or help were unbelievable according to reports. "The country is distressed over this", one reporter added.

Well on this day, Fathers Day 2008. There is a little boy or little girl standing at the front gate, waiting for a dad who may not be allowed simply because it is not his weekend. The country should be distressed over this.

Tony Miller

16 July 2008

As some may or may not be aware. I recently remarried. My wife is of Fijian Indian decent and I wanted to share with you a simple type of ritual that is spoken each night just before going to sleep. I am not sure if it is something directly relating to Indian culture but it's new to me and I find it so beautiful I wanted to share it with you. It is just a simple saying, "gudnight, sweetdreams, love you." Now you may think, what is he on about?

Well the simple truth is, what I like about these four words is, it doesn't matter if you have had a disagreement earlier in the day, these four words call an end to it, before you close your eyes. No-matter what's been said, no-matter what's been done. It's over. Time to call an end to it. Tomorrow is a new day. Now this is new to me. If you are like me and in the past if I have had a disagreement with my former partner, or anyone for that matter, I would take that disagreement to bed with me. I would wrestle with it all night. I would relive the disagreement in my mind, tossing and turning, keeping myself awake. I would slide over to my side of the bed and let the disagreement boil in my mind all night and in the morning I would wake up with grumpy and cranky attached firmly to my back. Sound familiar?

"Gudnight, sweetdreams, love you." Stops the process. Allowing you to sleep peacefully knowing that the person laying next to you is not waiting for your eyes to close to hit you over the head with a four b two (only joking). Isn't it a shame we couldn't all end our day with those four words. Well we can. It doesn't matter if its a disagreement with your wife, your employer, your kids, your family or whoever. Tomorrow is a new day.Today is over, forget the blunders of the past, be done with it and start afresh. I wonder how many marriages could of been saved if only we could all learn and practice those four words each night as the last spoken?

Now don't think I am a marriage expert because I'm not, believe me, maybe a divorce expert sadly. But that is my point. A simple few words that put an end to any baggage you are carrying to bed with you and the realisation that hey, there is a chance you may not wake in the morning, you may not be able to say goodbye, you may not be able to say you are sorry. Doesn't matter who was right or who was wrong. Put an end to it. It is over, tomorrow is a new day.

"There is left for myself but one day in the week-today. Any man can fight the battles of today. It isn't the experiences of today that drives men mad. It is the remorse for something that happened yesterday, and the dread of what tomorrow may disclose..... Robert J. Burdette

"Its only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth-and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up-that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had....... Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

So Gudnight, sweetdreams, love you.

Tony Miller

27 June 2008

What a sad time we live in. Last month I was asked by the Fatherhood Foundation to speak in State Parliament House against the proposed bill to remove the word "Father" from birth certificates. Just this week I was in Parliament House Canberra listening to a Ministerial Speech given by Senator the Hon Joe Ludwig Minister for Human Services while he outlined the new Governments Compliance Strategy. Nothing wrong with that, it was just the baying for blood that followed from the media.

And as usual figures were quoted that added to the angst against fathers. The figures quoted included overseas debt, it included debt that went back to the beginning of the scheme nearly 20 years ago and dare I say could some relate back to unrecoverable suicide of clients? We will never know. Both the Minister and the General Manager of CSA stated it is a minority of people who are doing the wrong thing. The metrics of 4 out of 5 were doing the right thing was used in the meeting by Matt Miller CSA. Yet do we here that, no.

Once again the word "dad" became a dirty word and replaced with "Bludging dads," "deadbeat dads," "dodging dads," etc, etc. Once again because of a minority of blokes who are doing the wrong thing we are all tarred with the same brush. Once again Government comes out welding a big stick threatening to sell up houses, assets etc if you don't pay your child support but once again fails to recognise the difficulties faced by men who are paying their child support and are being denied access to their children. Where is the compliance strategy here? And once again Government has failed to recognise the difficulties of men and women in second marriages who are struggling to support their new families while continuing to support their past. Could there be such a thing as a "deadbeat mum" dare I say, who is rorting the system. Claiming benefits that are not due, refusing to work, or working and not declaring, withholding children from their father etc etc. No never. Only dads do the wrong thing, silly me.

But then again lets remember the word "dad" has become a dirty word here not "mum." And so it goes I return to the office to the news that Scottish schools ban Father's Day cards. Last week thousands of children were prevented from making Father's Day cards at school to avoid causing embarrassment to classmates who live with single mothers and lesbian couples. While primary children are banned from making cards for their fathers, few schools impose similar restrictions in the run up to Mothers Day.

Amazing isn't it. What are our kids learning from all this? It's not good to be male in these times that is for sure. It is certainly not good to be dad anymore. So where do we go to from here? We should all be disgusted with the denigration we allow our boys, our men, our father's to endure. This is not effecting you? Don't kid yourself. You're next!!!!!

Tony Miller

06 May 2008

Some time ago I sent this to a friend whom I thought I had lost, after re reading it I thought I should just change the name and address the same letter to another friend whom I also thought I had lost.....God.

The path I've chosen has its share of obstacles... a broken dream, a wounded heart, a tired spirit...

Dear GOD,

I don't hear from you much these days and I guess your work takes priority and so it should, however I can't help thinking that I have contributed to the loss of connection. Hence my email today.

A lot has happened over the past 12 months in my life. Some things I welcomed and many I did not. The changes occurring within Dads in Distress as an organisation have been for me, hard to accept. I guess I am still just a battle wearied veteran. I guess I often imagined some changes or suggestions as threats. Not to me personally but as a change of direction of the organisation I founded. I was concerned we would be taken down a path that was not intended initially. Rightly or wrongly that was how I perceived it, as a threat. So I guess I immediately went into battle mode. I put up the armour, fortified my bunker and stood fast.

Recently my life has changed dramatically not just in my capacity at dids but personally. After eight long lonely years, I married in Fiji on the 3rd March to a lovely Indian Fijian girl and that process on top of the challenges of the organisation has made me take a long hard look at my life. As I have said before, that looking at that reflection of yourself in the mirror often takes some doing. My wife is still in Fiji with our two children (they are hers but are now ours) as we have been refused our first visa application. I guess you can understand those feelings that those circumstance brings up. I am in that fight up to my neck and won't give up. The feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, anger, doubt, trust have all pervaded my daily thoughts of late.

The changes for dids as an organisation I founded are inevitable and I hope and pray I can be granted the wisdom and the courage to go with them and play a small part in that evolution. On top of these things my son Beau and I have recently been filmed and interviewed for a reality series called 'The Lost Boys Project'. That in itself was a extremely emotional experience and we await the results of that process while at the same time experience the depth of our own admissions. I am told we are strong contenders.

My book which is nearly at an end and has also taken me on an emotional rollercoaster ride and has evolved in something that I had initially not intended, however grateful of the experience. I wish to acknowledge your encouragement when I submitted a very raw first draft of what I thought it might look like. My intention and goal is to have it ready to submit to a publisher no later then July 1. I need to put those dates down even though I have put them down before and failed. I now have a reason and that is to maximise the impact and have it printed prior to the airing of 'The Lost Boys Project', which I believe is going to have a massive impact on the Fatherhood Movement as a whole. And more to the point reunite my son with me. It was your encouragement in those early days that have kept me at it and I cannot really say enough about how much I appreciate that.

So I guess what I am saying GOD is that I miss you. I miss your friendship which I feel I may of damaged. I miss your input although I know you are still there. And I want to apologise for any past actions that may of hurt you. Leadership is a skill that hasn't come easy for me, but one no less I am trying to attain. When you start something on your own and consider you are out there all alone, it is not easy to adopt and trust others that may come along later to give you a hand. Every bloke that walks into our doors has had his trust issues blown out the window prior to, simply by the fact that he is now a dad in distress. I am no less. It's an issue that I still struggle with on a daily basis. One day if you are with me, I will get there once again. regards your friend Tonym

Tony Miller

24 April 2008

I have to say it was disappointing to say the least that our new Government kicks off with the 2020 summit last weekend and then excludes representation of any major Fatherhood group.Disappointing but not surprising. Fathers are being forced into redundancy or at least it seems that is how they are feeling. I never applied for the summit, maybe I should of. But for me it was just another talk-fest and to be honest I'm over them. When this Government announced the fast tracking of a national Men's Health Policy in its election run up I was excited and came out in full support. Where is it? What has happened? Nothing.

The Fatherhood Foundation is calling for an urgent National Fatherhood Summit and Dads in Distress Inc would support that fully. I would support that personally. Simply because I know personally what it is like to feel, as a man, as a father, that you are no longer relevant, that you are no longer needed. I see and hear from men all over the country and from overseas who feel the same way.

According to the ABS our suicide rate has dropped down from 5 a day to 4 a day. Unfortunately I still hear from far too many who have lost loved ones to suicide due to a relationship breakdown. The suicide rate still has a ratio of 4 to 1. That is 4 males to 1 female. There are approximately 28 MALE suicides each and every week in this country. The highest at risk group being 35-50 years. And dads going through divorce or separation. Figures are not complete. We all know there are many suicides that are reported as something else. Death by drowning, single vehicle accidents, death by misadventure etc etc. We all know that people are reluctant to admit suicide due to stigma, insurance etc. But the reality is we are still losing far too many men to suicide, at least 28 a WEEK.

Now, we need a Men's Health Policy. We need to start talking and then ACTIONING some strategies around what to do around men's health. And it's not just about 'visit your GP more often', it's not just about 'check your prostrate'. It's about Fatherlessness. It's about men feeling redundant in today's society. It's about, has this Government given up on men, on its fathers? It's about, has our society given up on its men, on its fathers? It's about do Fathers have any relevance in today's family? I am supposedly the leader of one the countries major Fatherhood organisations and I have gotta tell you, I don't know any more!!

It's about the call for a NATIONAL FATHERHOOD SUMMIT. This Government needs to wake up, because every week we wait another 28 MALES will die needlessly, how many children will be left behind without a dad or worst still how many will follow his lead. Believe me too many.

Tony Miller

27 March 2008

A few weeks ago I was attending a CSA public information night at a our Wollongong Dads in Distress venue. I was standing at the rear of the venue listening to the speakers when one of the participants approached me and said, "I can't handle this, I need to talk to somebody".

I immediately noticed tears welling in his eyes and gestured for him to follow me into an adjoining office. He was a big man and was obviously overwhelmed and distressed. He had good reason to be distressed, his life had basically fallen apart. His wife had left him and was overseas and he was caring for his little girl. Life had got on top of him as it often does for all of us, but in this man's case he felt it was crushing him. A loss of employment, an accident, money, divorce, debt resulting in depression, resulting in his failed attempt at suicide the night before he saw me.

After speaking with him for a while I realised quickly he needed more expertise then I could offer personally. I was lucky because I had in this group an MD and called him into advise. I had already called Phil, one of my men in with me and left him talking with this man while I grabbed the good doctor. To cut the story short the doctor assessed the situation and sent the guy off to hospital to be assessed. Phil drove him to the hospital and stayed with him while the doctor and I stayed with the other participants. All this happened during the CSA information night.

At the closing of the information night I asked everyone if they could just stay seated for a minute and I related the story of what had transpired during the night and the reality that it is still happening everyday everywhere. We saved a life tonight I told them. This man had come to what he thought was a dids meeting because he was going to make his second attempt tonight. We saved a life. Thank God. I asked the participants to share a minutes silence and maybe think about this guy, maybe send a prayer, send some positive energy, whatever you can do.

Afterwards the Good Doctor and myself visited the hospital, my dids man was still with him, he was being assessed, spoke to the crew at the hospital and then the three of us left. As we were walking out the door we noticed a woman and a child sitting nervously in the waiting room. Phil approached them and asked if they were connected with the guy we left in side and they were. He knelt down and spoke softly to the little girl and explained that dad was ok and all will be well. She was crying, so was he. Outside he looked at me and the Doctor and said "you know my little girl is around the same age", tears were welling in his eyes. We decided to go up and have a coffee the three of us before I drove back to Coffs Harbour. We felt Phil needed a debrief.

It was very late and some would say probably stupid to commence a drive that late but that is the time when I debrief, that's the time I talk to my partner (upstairs). That's the time when He hears from my mouth my successes, my failures, my apologies, my thanks. Driving back I thought a lot about what transpired that night. A lot about those two lifesavers and what they had done and a lot about that little girl. You see as I walked past her in the waiting room I caught her eye and she knew me and I knew her, she knew dad would be ok and I knew, so would she. Now is the time I wish to honour my men. Phil and Doctor Jim are the heroes of this story. They are the ones like many others who commit their hearts to helping others. They are the heroes who just work quietly in the background no one ever hears about. No one ever thanks them.

The guy they helped that night got back in the game. He received some job offers, he went onto medication, life got a little easier. We don't hear from him anymore, he doesn't come to meetings and we possibly wont hear from him again. But we did our job. We did what we could. A little girl sitting in a hospital waiting room, understood her dad was coming home that night and she in turn touched the heart of Phil who had a little girl waiting at home for him. In turn Phil and Doctor Jim touched my heart by allowing me to catch a glimpse of theirs. I am honoured to have them in this organisation. I am honoured to have them as mates. I am honoured that the Big Fella allows me the opportunity to tell you their stories.

Tony Miller

24 February 2008

My next door neighbour is a lady of perhaps late 60's. I don't know her that well. She keeps to herself and I certainly keep to myself. She doesn't have many visitors, nor do I. But the other day something happened, something nice, something beautiful. Occasionally we touch each others lives without even knowing it. And sometimes it doesn't hurt to let these people know that they have. It moved me to write her a note which is below. I left it on her doorstep this morning.

Dear Joy

I just wanted to write you a note to say thank you. Yesterday, Saturday morning I was sitting out on my veranda feeling pretty sorry for myself. It was then I heard you next door playing the piano.

Things of late, my work, my personal life have not been going as well as I would have liked. I have had lots of decisions to make, many I wish I had not to. Also a friend, one of my men, had suicided a couple of days before Christmas. And, well you know how life seems to catch up with you. Sometimes you just want to throw the towel in and give up.

And you see Joy, being an every second weekend dad, I had my son for the first half of the Christmas holidays and he was due to go back Saturday afternoon. And so here I was sitting on my veranda Saturday morning, thinking about my aloneness, my lot, myself, when I heard your beautiful playing of the piano. By the time you had finished playing a few melodies which I knew but couldn't name, I had tears rolling down my face. Not tears of sadness but of thankfulness.

You see Joy the sound of your beautiful playing made me realise the beautiful things that were around me. As I sat listening to you and watched the birds collecting seed, the bees looking for nectar, the flowers, the sun, the shadows, life. And the fact that how fortunate I was that I had this lovely lady right next door who could play the piano so beautifully. The reality was I was blessed, I just didn't know it. After all, I woke up this morning, that was a blessing all on its own. I had my beautiful son asleep inside and even though it was our last day together I had the rest of the day with him and I would see him again God willing in a month.

You made me reach for the Good Book which I hadn't done for a while and you made me start thanking the Big Fella for all the good that I did have in my life, including a piano playing neighbour. So this note is simply to say thanks Joy, thanks and please keep playing.

Your grateful neighbour Tony

A week ago I sent the story above to the Fatherhood Foundation, not really understanding why I had even written it. Then just the other day the Big Fella, as usual, decided it was time to send me another life lesson. He is good at that. The lesson came in the words of a great man, Walt Disney.

Walt Disney was reported to have said that there are three kinds of people in the world. There are well-poisoners who discourage others, stomp on their creativity, and tell them what they can't do. There are lawn-mowers, people who have good intentions but are self-absorbed, who mow their own lawns but never help others. And there are life-enhancers. This last category contains people who reach out to enrich the lives of others, who lift them up and inspire them.

I guess I had become a bit of a lawn-mower, maybe even a well-poisoner. I had become so caught up in my own stuff I hadn't thought to stop and look around at what was happening to those around me. I had become a bit battle weary, a bit cynical towards others. Joy was a life-enhancer even though she didn't know it. I was trying to be, by writing her a little note even though I didn't realise it at the time.

We all play a part in this. It's our duty to try and become life-enhancers, misery takes no holidays and we see plenty of that in this game. The key is to look at our fellow man and see if in some small way we can enhance his or hers life. We have a choice, be a well-poisoner, a lawn-mower or a life-enhancer. I wanna be a life enhancer, I know its going to take time and loads of practice but that's where I want to be. And I guess that is where the Big fella was pointing me... And You?

Tony Miller

10 January 2008

Suicide hurts everyone, noone escapes the pain, below is a mothers journey.
(names and places have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved)

Hi Tony,

haven't been near your site for quite some time, my thoughts were DIDS is 'men's business' so leave the blokes alone!!! stop snooping and mind your own business 'women's business' lol...

Today, after receiving the DIDS newsletter I went into your diary and sadly read the news about Erich and it brought back to me (as it does) the deepness of sorrow and total despair forced upon families and I believe in particular us mothers.

You know the client base we work with down here at the Community Centre, people come here to access support for a particular immediate need or crisis. I am over whelmed the volume of mothers, sisters, daughters ect... just through conversation or a cuppa have revealed to me the loss of sons, husbands, partners, brothers, uncles, grandfather ect... through suicide. The mothers anguish is indescribable, the Burdon is hellish and you carry it around 24/7, mostly covered up by the issues you face from day to day.

In May 2007, my son's best mate and the one who found my boy in 2004 hung himself in the very same spot and this time it was his mother who found him. There I was again!!!! and there it was again for Johns family. I always felt a secret guilt for Michael hanging himself in their family home (maybe it's a mothers thing not sure). They were so good to my son and treated him the same as they did their own and I felt so guilty. Sitting in the lounge talking to Jenny and knowing what was ahead was just so hard... Jenny turned to me and said I am so angry with John, he knew the grief and suffering that Michael's death caused but he has still gone ahead and done it... I am so sorry!!, she was feeling guilty that her son has caused more grief on me and mine.

I was talking to a male client some time in late 2004, he told me he came very close to suicide one night, as we spoke and he said he had rang a 1800 number or similar and got an answering machine, he hung up the phone and with a last desperate cry he rang his mum. She had spoken the words to show him a light at the end of the tunnel. I saw a picture of him in the local paper a few weeks ago and he looked so well and healthy - he had won some local sporting event... and had a grin from ear to ear, a far cry from the broken man I saw here at the Centre. My thoughts turned to his mother and I remember thinking GOOD ON YOU MUM...

You know Tony........ men's business is women's business especially when depression creeps in regardless of who did what... since my son's death I have gone through a very dirty marriage split and become more and more astonished by my ex's tactics and determination to total me...

Recently I had to put it all aside, he had a traumatic incident at his work 'Underground' and afterwards depression started to sneak in. Most of his friends, family and the dog up the road had heard enough of his woes from our split and did not want to involve themselves this time round. He rang me and told me he was so down and needed support but could not even go to the DIDS here because it was at the Centre... my first thought was COOL suffer... payback time... but I made it my business to help him regardless of the crap because I was not going to leave a door open to the risk of suicide regardless how near or far away it was.

This email looks like it has turned into this is my life but I just wanted to get the point across that we have to take our eyes off ourselves and off the other person (even the pain of past events) and understand an enemy is on the attack and somebody is hurting. I just don't want to see other mothers travel this road that I and many many other mothers have been forced to travel.

Guys think of your mum no matter how old you are.

06 January 2008

Unfortunately just a few days before Christmas Day I received a call from one of our men that one of our own had committed suicide. His name was Erich, he was just 44 years of age. I posted the following message out to all our men on the team.

Christmas 2007

With great sadness I inform you of the suicide of one of our own. Erich Schultz. Erich was a founding member of the Dads in Distress group in Newcastle. Erich's death brings home the reality of just how fragile the situation is in which we deal on a daily basis. You never know who the guy is sitting next to you in the meeting, you never know what he feels unless he shares it with you. Erich knew what it was all about. He had all our numbers, he chose a different path. Erich's last act was of kindness in helping to move a new dad in distress to a new address. He attended the Newcastle Dids Christmas party a couple of nights before.

He leaves behind 2 beautiful boys, family and a bunch of mates who loved him. Please keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

I attended Erich's funeral a few days ago. I hugged his mum, I wept with his family and I wept again with his mates who came together for a special dids meeting in Newcastle that evening. We normally have an empty chair at our meetings to remind us of those that didn't make it. On this occasion I made it Erich's chair and I placed it in the middle of the circle of around 30 blokes who attended. I told the gathering that there he is, sitting right there on that chair in front of them and asked everyone who felt they could, to share with Erich how they feel, tell him how you feel. As the rock was passed Erich's brother addressed him first then I.

I gotta tell you Erich, I am pissed off with you. I mean I love you mate, but this is the most stupid thing you have done. What good has it done Erich? You left behind a loving family in grief, a bunch of mates and more importantly 2 little boys who are now fatherless. I spoke some more to him in between tears and passed the rock to the guy next to me and so it went around the circle only stopping between each dids sharing of his grief to Erich.

There we were around 30 men all in tears, all in grief, all at a loss to explain. As I told the men as the rock eventually came back to me, Erich was no hero, I am not about to martyr him, love him yes, miss him yes, but what he did was bloody stupid, now is the time as you get up to leave, just touch the chair and leave your grief there with Erich. It's over. Get rid of it, lest it eats you away like a cancer. So we did and we left it with Erich.

Driving back to Coffs Harbour I had Erich join me in the passenger seat and I have to say I gave him a mouthful. I cried and I am sure he was crying with me. There were times when I had to pull over because I couldn't see with the bloody tears in my eyes. There were times when I doubted the value of the work we do at Dads in Distress. Was it enough? I thought. I asked Erich. All I could see was that unique smile of his and him shaking his head slowly. Why Erich? Why...

There are no reasons, you can only imagine you think you know. Erich wasn't the first and no doubt won't be the last. You can blame yourself, a system, a series of events or a momentary loss of judgement. The reality is, the Male of the species worldwide needs some help, needs some support. Male suicide across the world is rampant. Help is out there for women and so there should be, but little or none is there for men. No, we have to be strong, we have to grin and bear it. Big boys don't cry. Well it's BS. We can spend millions of dollars focussing falsely on deficit advertising all men as perpetrators or abusers but bugger all on any positive research into why our male suicide rate is so high. Guess What? You are killing us!

The answer is simple, Stop spending millions advertising us as all being perpetrators and abusers (domestic violence is non gender specific) and stop fencing bridges and start using the money for some real research into what's happening to our men!

To Erich's Family I was honoured to meet you all, I share your grief, please be assured you will all be in our thoughts, hearts and prayers.

Tony Miller

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