30 December 2009
Today I had a phone call from Warwick Marsh simply saying he loved me. Now that may sound strange to those who don't know the man but to me it was just Warwick's way of saying thanks. I appreciated it. He asked me how my business was going and I have no doubt he had been praying for me. Again you have to know Warwick. He is a good man and never ceases to amaze me when it comes to promoting manhood, fatherhood, he is the king, he is real.
I had another call from a fellow did who runs meetings for us down in Sydney. Just a hi, how you going, this is what I'm doing, what about you. Nice, I liked that. This bloke has a huge following within the group he operates and so he should, another good man, who care's, who is real.
In the morning I rang Ed Debrowski from SPCA (Shared Parenting Council of Australia. One of the guys we both knew and who had previously attacked both of us was in the news for some wrongdoing overseas, but here was Ed, trying to help the bloke in whatever form he could, even though this very same man was trying to cook him previously.Tells you the sort of man Ed is, doesn't it. A big man with a big heart, who is real.
And here I was trying to tell Warwick how I was at a meeting this week with a bloke who has just entered the system about to go to court for orders so he can see his children and reality is, the chances of him seeing his little kids is silch (none) if his wife doesn't want it. He was astounded, ' but how can that be? ' he exclaimed. Court orders through the family court don't seem to be worth the paper they are written on, these days, I lamented. I really didn't want to tell him that, but that's reality. Warwick had rung earlier to say he was printing my story of Christmas 2009 and I was pleased that he had the guts to print it. Because the story needs to be told.
You know somedays I just don't want to get out of bed, because I know I am going to face the same problems that I did the day before and the day before that. It is only when I speak to giants like that of the Warwick Marshs of this world and the Ed Derowskis of this world that I realise just how minute my efforts are compared to these men. There are many others like them Barry Williams President of Lonefathers, Mathew and Jim from Lonefathers, Sue Price of Men's Rights Australia, Greg Milan, Ray Lenton, Charly Waldorf, Michael Woods, Prof John MacDonald, Paul Saurine, and many many more who could fill these pages. These are the men and women who enable me, because they are giants, to see further then I possibly could, simply because I stand on their shoulders.They are the heros
I just want to say thanks, to all of you, thanks for being there, thanks Warwick, because you are big on thanks and that reminds me of the goodness of the people you meet along the way, even when you are so concerned about getting to the destination that you forget about the people you meet along the way. Tomorrow is new years eve, perhaps with some luck and with some prayer our new year will bring about some fairness and equality finally to those that battle for fatherhood in this country.
Publish the story Warwick and perhaps Australia will wake to this travesty of fatherlessness that has engulfed our country... perhaps...
26 December 2009
While you eat the leftovers from Christmas Dinner... Share a thought, a prayer...
The past week has been a trying time with more and more calls, emails, mail, all seeking assistance, all hurting, all wanting some direction, all wanting someone just to talk to, someone to listen, someone to cry on their shoulder. What should be a wonderful caring family time, in our world, that of a dad in distress turns into a disaster that many would prefer to exit rather then experience.
I took a call from a bloke's ex wife up in the bush Queensland way. He was sitting outside the farmhouse with a shotgun threatening to blow his head off but also threatening to take her and the kids with him. He was sick, hurting, confused and desparate. Wanting to keep a marriage together that had failed. He really didn't want to hurt her or the kids, he just wanted to stop the pain. It took a couple of hours in talking him down, it took years of hurt and heartache to end like this. Today he is alive and so is his family. He may be in jail but he is alive.
I took another call from a very angry dad who had heard through a friend that his little girl had been bashed and in hospital. He was crying, "Tony I just want to speak with my little girl to see that she is alright". Someone had said as the hospital staff asked whether the father should be contacted 'no he is not interested'. The fact was that he had been fighting for years, just to keep in contact with his little girl. "This is the forth year I am not going to see my little girl for Christmas", he cried. Every year for the past 4 years this bloke pulls the presents out that he wrapped in previous years and places them under a tree hopeing, waiting for the day his little girl would turn up and open them. It's possibly never going to happen but I can't tell him that. He screams at me down the phone "The Government doesn't care about us Tony, don't I have any rights as a father, why can't I just see my little girl, why Tony, why? It's a joke, noone cares". I do I told him and the time will come, when your little girl will come looking for you. "It will be too late, I can't go on like this", he cried."Why should I wait, I have done nothing wrong".
I put in a report to my manager and committee
Received suicide call from xxxxxxx Monday night 21.11.09 approx 9pm Spoke to him for approx 2- 2.5 hours. Identified major risk. Fire arm in house. suicidal thoughts, anger issues, third party threat.
Contacted xxxxxxxx who also contacted xxxxx and talked for approx .5-1 hour.
Contacted neighbour to visit and accertain threat.
Bottom line he is alive today through our intervention.
Ongoing supervision required.
Received suicide call from xxxxxxxx 17.11.09 approx 10pm spoke with him for approx 2-3 hrs. Identified major risk. Armed and threatening wife and children plus suicide.
Contacted xxxxxxxxxxx Police.
xxxxxxx picked up and charged.
Bottom line he and family are alive through our intervention.
Police case now.
Below is a snapshot of just a few of the emails I have received over the past week. Is anyone listening? Does anyone care? I have to say, I had a lump in my throat as I sat down for Christmas dinner 2009 with my family, have I done enough? Have you done enough? Has our Government done enough? I guess time will tell. At least I know of a a few that will be alive today because of this group's intervention.
Deliberation is the work of many men, Action, of one alone... Charles de Gaulle 1890
My name is xxxxx, I'm almost 40 and divorced. I have a 5yr old girl,8yr old boy both living with their mum. I've also got a 16yr old boy of whom I've had sole custody of since about 13mths of age, after court his mother had absolutely nothing to do with him (I lost mates because i went for and got custody despite me having no "kid" experience and there being 5 other siblings and after that my luck ran out. I grew up without a dad or male role model, i was about 4yrs old when i was first shot at with a double barrel shotgun by my mothers boyfriend, sexually abused by two female relatives between the ages of 6-11 not a good upbringing.I don't have family or friends to help us out so we literally have nowhere to live. I've lost too many things and had to start ova to many times ova the years and i ain't doing it again i cant, i cant move, pay rent and arrears and start ova because of a centrelink stuff up. I've raised my son single handed, he thinks I'm a good dad but my other 2 don't because I'm not with them.I have depression, stress(where'd that come from?) and anxiety, i literally had a drug dealer hold a gun to my head. My mother and sister have been in town for several days and haven't even bothered to see us not even on Christmas day so we spent it alone as usual.Its not that i want to die, i just don't want to live any more i haven't had a holiday, a break, rest or anything for well ova 15years or help.Ive had enough of it, when i first got custody there were no baby change rooms, mothers rooms yes but men werent allowed in, I've tried to get help and cant and i just think me kids would be Betta off. i cant handle the stress and the loneliness anymore, in the past Ive tried to call life and guess what no-one answered that was depressing. I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO
I actually hate and was heart breaking to read 'stories - christmas eve 1999'. as this story is going to happy in days this yr.
I know this man not long time ago and he's an Australia. I have nothing to do with his marriage but his dadness after loss of custody is obviously has pushed him to the very end now. He planned to take his life on Xmas. His love to children is respectable but this system and his british families have little support to his situation.
He abandoned his families job car and has been wandring around Thailand and Asia since August till I bumped into him. I am very sad that I am not strong/powerful enough to help him out from this situation and he will soon be the new story in your website. I maybe the only person still talk to on MSN, he has cut himself off all the contacts back in Australia. I love him dearly and the loss of him is simply hard to take.
Like many men who have faced the separation of their family my son also is going though a rather torrid time trying to gain fair and equal access to his girl's, my husband and I also missing out on quality time with our grandchildren. Yes, I know of all the contact numbers, advice consultants etc etc, this does not seem to give the men any gain when the contact these groups, to the point both my son and myself have had it suggested to us to "just walk away" because the mother in question will never stop until she has had her way which is happening now.
But, my question is: Has anyone looked at the Human Rights Charter in relationship to Father's being denied access to their children - even those who pay CSA - those who want to be part of the children's lives - watch them grow. To me there appears to be a very good case under the Human Rights. Has it been considered to have a Class Action to the Court to look at the lack of human dignity with which the Family Court deals with Father's. I do not quiet understand the lack of respect from the courts toward Father's or the expectation for them to have a Solicitor - my son being taken to task (in front of his ex-wife) for not having legal representation (how do they afford this when paying out so much, not just children, but just to live).
Just thought I would ask the question.
Xmas time for me has been a time of anguish and uncertainty. Since separating from my wife over 10 years ago I have been cut off from seeing my daughter. There was never any court involved nor was there any violence except the turmoil I have faced for many years trying to stay on top of my maintenance commitments which I have always paid in full without question. I have always worked hard to attain a good standard of living and want to share this with my kid whom I have not seen in over 10 years and who now is 12 years old.
Feeling very depressed as my kids are not being looked after in a basic caring manner..
The house is simply a shithole a great mess, dishes, filthy floors covered in cat hairs,washing sprawled everywhere thick dust always over everything, rooms that you cannot walk through due to mountains of crap..I normally clean up when visiting my kids.. even before we split up I would have to clean up after work or when the wife would go down to the city for a day or two, within 24hrs of her coming back the place would be trashed again.
My 18yr old wont look for a job stays up late! playing video games. He has been out of school for 18mths now and not once worked anywhere. The mother wont encourage him at all,
My 14yr old girl is extremely over weight and now being home schooled by a mother who belittles anything my daughter cant remember or work out. This a huge worry for me and can not get two words in about this without being yelled down.
My 8yr old is on a razor edge in going same path as her older sister. She is trying hard to be healthy and active but is up against it as only get encouragement when I am present. She loves her sport but the mother too lazy to support her.
All above is due to a mother who is lazy as anyone I have ever heard about.
She screams NOT yells when we disagree with anything at all, Its instant but more important is she also directs these screaming attacks towards the kids for even the most minor situations.
I find myself threatening to call the so-called authorities in but just cant seem to be able to do this due to fears of losing my kids as a result.
I could go on and on with many examples of negatives...but for now I am just looking for some sort of strength to be able to act, i'm sure a better man would have already acted, I am so bloody confused and stressed My mind never stops being worried about my kids and there unhealthy life style being supported by a woman with no conscience at all.
I feel so restricted in acting, knowing as soon as I do these so-called authorities simply take the side of the woman without actually investigating.
Not sure where to turn or go but do know I can not continue like this much longer.
Just seen your TV commercial and thought well may as well write and see where it takes me/ or if can help my kids to a future that does not involve pure nasty laziness
hi my name is xxxxxx and i have split with my partner of 16 years and
have try to take my own life and its killing me that she will not let me
see my kids and well it hurts its been 4.5 months since i seen them if
you can help please do don't want to end up dead or in the mental
hospital again thanks
I visited your site today and read the "in Memory". That stirred the emotions of a former attempt I made in 2004. I am very fortunate that I received very good care and support from my family and medical people. I lost my job as a counselor because of it and the fact that I broke every rule in the book of the welfare agency I worked for just to keep a young man from self harm. To this day I do not know whether he is alive or has finally succeeded in taking his life. Today he would be 25. I also lost my marriage of 32 years. Having gone through the torment that can lead one to this type of despair, I can fully understand the psyche ache that these good men suffer and I also understand why they would want to take that final step. As a Catholic Christian I am a very strong believer that our God of understanding, love, compassion and forgiveness welcomes these sufferers into his kingdom with open arms. There is no damnation for them.To lose 5 men every day to suicide is 1825 too many each year. And now we are in the season where many of the Dads in Distress will be feeling very lonely and vulnerable. Who are they? Where are they? What do we do to avoid the tragedies that will befall some families this Christmas? This is tragic Tony and as you quite rightly say beached whales seem to be more important to society than Dads In Distress. Keep up your good work
21 December 2009
I have thought for the past month what will I write for Christmas this year, after all it has been one trying year.
I find myself on a saturday afternoon sitting in our office writing this, totally exhausted. It has been one hell of a week actually one hell of a year. Recently I opened a business here in Coffs Harbour, it has been slow to start with plenty of money going out and not a lot coming in. I was fortunate enough to be in a position to open it simply because a mate, a did, generously offered to stake me. He said he was just offering some payback as I had helped him in the past. Over the last few months I found a shop and again through the help of a few more dids, the job of fitting the shop out, painting it, cleaning it, we finally opened just a couple of weeks ago. It hasn't gone off with a bang, so goings have been tough as we started with very little capital and nothing really to back us up. but that's life and sometimes you just have to take a punt, have a go.
The sadness I have in this was simply because I didn't really want to open a shop but just found it neccessary in the current climate of limited funding for support groups such as ours.You see I now have a family to support and feed and I love them dearly and wish for them to not want of anything as any man would. And although I am doing it pretty tough at the moment I am absolutely over the moon that what I began has flourished without me even realising it. Just when I thought the last 10 years were in vain it occured to me that it was actually happening all around me. Mateship!!! Who was the bloke that out of nowhere said here is $10,000 Tony, go and have a go? Who was the bloke that worked after hours and painted the ceiling? Who was the bloke who scrubbed the floors, the kitchen etc? Who was the blokes who helped with fitout? Who was the bloke who climbed under my house and fixed a broken beam as the varanda was falling? Who was the bloke who debriefed me and kept me going, when I wanted to just give up? Dids, they were all dids, mates.
This Christmas as I thank the Bigfella for being alive, I also thank him for awakening my passion and for showing me that I hadn't failed. You see I think I have spent the last 12 months in a doldrem. I honestly felt I had failed in my mission to find mateship, to see if it really existed. "This country was once famous for its mateship, but I think we have lost it somewhere", I have been quoted as saying in the past. Well I found it this Christmas. I found it in the blurry eyes of a did that was struggling and I was fortunate enough to be able to lighten his load. I found it in those around me who were doing the same work, giving a bloke a hand up who maybe struggling. I found it on my own doorstep with my wonderful wife who puts up with my inabilty to be a normal husband, father. I found it in the blokes out there running dids meetings on thin air. I found it in the little girl who thanked me for keeping her dad alive. I found it in the bloke who posted my shop on facebook and then all the people who have contacted me through that. And I found it yesterday when the Marshs sang me happy birthday over the phone.
So I guess what I am saying here is, mateship is alive and well in this country. We just need to look for it. To all of you who maybe struggling at this time with whatever load, be assured there is a mate out there who has an outsteched hand, offering support, offering to be a mate. And hey, the Bigfella upstairs is no doubt the best mate of all. So don't be frieghtened to ask for help, it's there, you only have to ask. And please if you are fortunate enough to have your children over this Christmas give some thought, maybe some prayer, to the poor bloke who maybe isn't able to see his kids over this time. It's a tough time for a lot of people and we all need mates.
To everyone who has written, emailed, phoned or bumped me on the road over the past year, I wish to say thank you, thank you for being a part of my life and allowing me to be part of yours.
Have a great Christmas and look up the Bigfella, the greatest mate of all.
10 December 2009
It never ceases to amaze me how two people who were once in love, or at least you would think they were and that is why they married, become mortal enemies after divorce or separation.
Picture this, a little boy in the lounge room of a house, dad has hold of him by his arms, mum has hold of him by the legs, they are screaming at each other and playing tug of war with his little body. Dad says "he is my son and he lives here". Mum says he is also my son and he is coming with me. Both are oblivious to the cries of the little boy or the pressure they are putting on his body nor are they aware of the cries of their little daughter who is absolutely horrified watching her little brother being torn apart. Her cries are for her brother, 'mum, dad please don't hurt my little brother'. Neither seem to hear her cries.
Sad isn't it. Makes you kinda sick thinking about it. Unfortunately it is a true story. Regardless of who is right and who is wrong in this scenerio, it doesn't really matter. A little boy is being torn apart by the very people he loves. Kids love mum and dad and want to spend as much time with both as is possible.It is that simple. We as adults tend to look at divorce through the eyes of an adult not as a child sees it. While we are so busy smashing crockery and screaming at each other we forget that there is a scared little child over in the corner watching and learning from our behavior.
The little boy in the above story has now begun to self harm. He has also become suicidal. Is there any wonder? I remember when my own son was around six years old and I was in the middle of the minefield we call divorce. I found him curled up in a ball on my bed one day on our access visit. He was crying and when I asked him why he told me, 'I just want to die'. He was six, I was gobsmacked and picked him up and cuddeling him I asked why. The bottom line was he was just fed up with all the twoing and throwing, the arguments etc that was going on with his mother and I. It was then I made the decision to cease and desist and endeavour to make this tragedy better then what it was. Not easy I might add but absolutely neccessary for the sake of our son.
I hear from many men and women who ask me how they can make this tragedy better for their children. I hear from many more who are too stuck in the fighting process to see clearly what it is doing to their children. It is very easy to get caught up in the process, courts, mediation, lawyers, child support agency and so on to not see past these things and concentrate on the feelings of the kids. Most of the battles I hear about tend to be around who owns what and who's going to get it. The only time the kids are mentioned are when the child support issue comes into play.
Here's a tip. if you are going through a similar scenerio take some time out. Go sit in a park or the beach or somewhere quiet and think about your children, think about what they may or may not like. Maybe you can make that happen, maybe you cannot. But at the least you can try and at the very least you can try and exclude your kids from the pain associated with constant bickering between your ex and yourself. Again not an easy task but an extremely important one for your kids. One day the pain will subside and your kids will be grateful that you are who you are. In reality it doesn't matter who the kids live with, but more the quality time they have with each, is more important.
So please think about the little bloke I have told you about in the above story. I will ask the Bigfella to keep an eye on him because he doesn't need to be going through this, he doesn't need to feel this way. Mum and dad are just a bit mixed up right now but they will come good and so will he. Perhaps you could send a message too and while you are at it, tell your own kids how much you love them regardless of what has happened. Before you know it they will be one of us, 'adults' and they will know what to do because 'we have taught them'. Scary isn't it?
13 November 2009
International Human's Day
It's 11.30pm Friday night and I'm exhausted, I've had one hell of a day, chasing my tail and here's Marshy leaving subtle messages like "Where's the story you promised me on International Men's Day". I can imagine him grinding his teeth right now thinking I let him down. After all he did say he wanted it Friday night and I still have twenty minutes. Sorry mate, but I'm a one finger typist and a tired one at that. I have computer problems amongst others and right now feel like a one legged man in an arse-kicking competition which brings me to the bones of this story.
International Men's Day! Well to be honest I don't know a lot about it although just recently I have been sent emails directing me to several web sites, all who claim to be the originator of the idea that we should celebrate men on a particular day internationally. I guess it's a good idea considering how men of late seem to be portrayed in the media in this country let alone internationally. As a mere male these days I hold my head in shame as I walk the streets of my town because of this constant barrage of negative male bashing tripe that makes it to media. So it will be nice to celebrate a day in which we can hold our head up and be proud of who we are. Mind you, let's face it guys, we have lots of boneheads on our side don't we? I mean we are not all violent men, yet we cannot and should not deny that there are some amongst us who are, just as there are women who are. There are lots of men who don't do the right thing just as there are women and lots that do.
To tell you the truth it wasn't really until Marshy rang me up and said, "Have a look at this clip my son did, and tell me what you think. Did it make you laugh?", he asked. It did I said and it did to several guys I showed it to in the office. And like his son portrayed in the clip I didn't really think it was that important to have an International Men's Day.
But hold on guys, I have it on record, by she who should be obeyed, that on International Men's Day I can slouch around the house! I don't have to do anything! I can lay on the couch and watch the TV between my toes, uninterrupted! I can scratch to my content wherever I want without chastisement and I can leave the toilet seat up all day. My favourite bourbon will be constantly filled and delivered in my hand with a beautiful smile and courtesy. And all this will only cost me......WHAT!! I thought it was International Men's Day!!
But seriously guys why shouldn't we celebrate our mere maleness just on one day. Go and crack a tinny, kick the dog, scratch where you want and leave the toilet seat up, just for the day. Think about those before you and those after you and what it is to be male. Hold your head up and be proud and remember to be kind to one another. What a load of cods wallop!
Truth is Marshy I'm having a lot of trouble writing this story because I really believe that instead of there needing an International Men's Day we should celebrate it everyday, just as we should an International Women's Day or perhaps we just call it "International Human's Day". After all, isn't that what we are? We all make mistakes, some of us win, some of us lose, some of us are kind, some of us are not, but we are all human and we should just celebrate the fact that we are who we are, gender really shouldn't even come into it.
But mind you, these are just the thoughts of a mere male.
That's the best I can do Marshy. I'm already 50 minutes past the deadline its 10 to 1am. Probably not the story you were looking for but one just the same. Take care and I will think of you on this day and the passion you have for helping men not only in this country but internationally. I will call it "International Warwick Marsh Day" and I will crack a tinny on your behalf. Your boys must be very proud of you Warwick, you lead by example and you of them no doubt. I love the clip, congratulations to your son.
International Mens Day... for real men
"Love is like a mustard seed, planted by God and watered by man"...................they just left the 'hu' off, they were only human.
05 September 2009
Fathers Day 2009.
To all the dads out there reading this today I would like to tell you what Fathers Day today means to me.
I have been rushing around this past week, juggling three jobs, trying to make ends meet, you know what its like, paying bills, putting bread on the table, school fees, clothing, petrol, doctors, dentists, child support. On top of this I happen to have a job that requires me to try and help men battle through a system that many feel unfair and if left to themselves, feel totally lost and unable to function in the way they should.
Today Fathers Day 2009 we at Dids Coffs Harbour are putting on a free Family Fun Day for Kids and their dads. Its a free breakfast with games, clowns, fire engine and all the thrills to make it a special day for kids to take dad out for the morning. Putting it together has consumed a lot of my time.
I have now remarried and have two new children who now call me dad. I haven't given them a lot of time of late because of much of the above. Anyway I arrived home late from my third job the other night and my little girl had left a drawing on her blackboard. It read "Dad is King", I love my dad. My new son and daughter also wrote a little note on the back of two of my business cards, saying, "I love you dad" and left them for me as normally they are sound asleep when I get home and also when I leave.
It kinda hit me later in the night as I lay in bed, just what I had been missing all week. You see I don't know about you but I seem to get so consumed just by trying to make ends meet, just by trying to stay alive that I miss the very reason of why I am doing it in the first place. I made that mistake before a long time ago and to be honest I don't wish to make it again. I talk to a lot of dads and many are just like me, being consumed by the day to day grind, called life, that they miss the very reason for life itself.
So I guess what I am trying to say here guys is even just for today, slow down if you can and enjoy what you have, as there are many, far too many, who wont have the opportunity to have their children today. But regardless of whether you do or don't, please remember that in your children's eye's "Dad is King" and they love their dad. You don't need to be mister perfect, you don't have to get it right all the time, you don't have to be a millionaire, you just have to "DAD". If it means just for the sake of your kids, put away the hurt, the arguments, the past and be receptive, just that, open your hearts and your ears.
And please understand I personally would have to be the worst example going of a dad, I miss birthdays, I forget dates, I'm always late, I listen but don't hear, I am not as understanding as I should or could be, I'm lousy at ball games, I'm hopeless on playstation, I can't fix bikes, I get cranky, I can't tune the TV or video machine in, I don't understand their homework, I can be uncool, etc,etc, etc
But Guess What? Today I'm dad and today "Dad is King" and I love my kids ... Many are older, adults, but they are still my kids and I love them just the same.
For those of you who are unfortunate enough not to have their kids with them today for whatever reason, my thoughts and prayers go out to you. We will light a candle in our meeting room here in Coffs Harbour and in our hearts for you and your children, don't give up, your kids love you, believe me ... The day will come ... And if you are reading this today, maybe you can light a candle in your house or your heart, to guide those who are lost back together again soon ...
21 August 2009
'REVEALED Australia's Suicide Epidemic' - Headline read in the Sydney morning Herald today 21st August
Australia has dangerously miscalculated its suicide statistics- by as much as 30 per cent in NSW and Queensland - leaving a silent and growing epidemic of mounting deaths.
The figures are in stark contrast to years of backslapping by state and
federal governments, congratulating themselves for reducing suicide rates
from a peak of 2,700 in 1997.
The Herald can reveal the suicide toll is as high now as it was in the
1990s - if not higher - with experts predicting a further rise as the
impact of rising unemployment and other economic factors bite.
The dangerous combination of government under-investment, shutting families
out of hospital and police processes, a lack of training and a general
community malaise about how to prevent suicide means so many are falling
through the cracks.
John Mendoza, an adjunct associate professor at the University of Sydney
faculty of medicine, said the real rate of suicide was about 2,500-2,700.
"With this economic downturn we can expect that to increase by around 10
per cent, so we are looking at approximately 3,000 people each year," he
said. "None of this takes into account suicides by way of single vehicle
accidents - these are the only aspect of road accident deaths rising as a
percentage of total deaths."
These figures indicate a major health problem and are much higher than the
Bureau of Statistics count of 1,800 suicide deaths a year, said Professor
Mendoza, who is chairman of the Federal Government's National Advisory
Council on Mental Health.
"It is a hidden epidemic and yet the Federal Government only invests $1 per
person per year on suicide prevention."
The director of health and vital statistics at the Australian Bureau of
Statistics, Tara Pritchard, confirmed the bureau would release updated
figures in March to correct the undercounting.
"What that revision of ABS data will show us is that really we have gone
nowhere in terms of overall reductions from the peaks in suicide rates in
the early 1990s, and we have certainly gone nowhere among reducing suicide
in indigenous populations. They remain four times higher overall,"
Professor Mendoza said.
Governments had done little more than the bare minimum to prevent deaths,
said Dawn O'Neil, chief executive officer of Lifeline.
"Once we got confirmation the rates were not coming down. The Government
didn't want to know, politically they wanted to believe that the suicide
rates were falling."
What have been saying for years? Read the post here in my diary from 20th June this year and what the Rev Eric Trazise had to say at the
Fatherhood Foundations Men and Father's Summit in Parliament House regards suicide reporting.
Congratulations to Prof Mendoza and Dawn O'Neil for exposing what we all knew working at the coalface as the truth.
At least we all now know what the Government considers as our worth ..... $1 per person per year.
01 August 2009
Do you ever run through your memories as if you are watching a movie on television without the ads or a new DVD? I do, often. It amazes me that our memories wont fail us especially the ones where maybe you have not behaved as you should. I mean I can forget where I put the keys or my glasses on a regular basis, but yet I can recall something as clear as a bell that happened many years ago, especially a scene where I wish there wasn't.
I often think it is the 'Bigfella' reminding me of my faults and giving me the chance to redeem myself in some way. It normally happens just when I am sailing through life thinking everything is ok and I'm doing fine. Then whoop! there is a replay of years gone by when I haven't been the person that maybe I should of been. Just an instant, a flash, of some scene that happened in my life many years ago or maybe even just yesterday and I am the star player. Sometimes wishing I wasn't.
What do you do when that happens? Well for me I feel embarrassed and wish I hadn't been that person who behaved or acted in that way. I guess we all feel like that sometimes, trying to rewind the tape and either erase that scene completely or at least rewrite the script. But life is not like that and you are as a result of your past actions. The beautiful thing is that you are now making another movie and you are the star and you can write whatever script you like, it's totally up to you. You can get it right this time or you can bugger it up, it is up to you.
I have spoken to a few dads this week who simply didn't get it right the first time around. It doesn't mean all is lost, just that a new beginning is starting with the realisation that maybe the way they have behaved or acted in the past wasn't the way they should of or the way they would act now. The movie is just beginning for them, the 'Bigfella' has revealed to them where they went wrong the first or second or third time around and now is graciously handing them another role, one in which they can shine in their performance and leave a lasting memory, a good memory.
We all make mistakes in life, the trick is learning from those mistakes and endeavouring not to make them again, but sometimes we do, again and again. What I like about the 'Bigfella' is, He gives us that opportunity to get it right again and again. So go out there and start filming, don't worry about the last flop, you have another chance to get it right and hey, don't worry if you don't get the role perfect, just keep trying because eventually you will. It's your life and your the star and the best thing is the 'Bigfella' is your director and you can ask His advice along the way. He is a good director and hey we all need direction...
20 June 2009
In last minute news the Dads in Distress organisation has been saved by Federal Government funding after an extension to our existing funding for a further twelve months was granted. We are extremely grateful to those who took the time out to write and express their support and to Government for seeing the value in our work. We would also call on Government to fund the life saving work of the LFAA Lone Fathers Association Australia and that of the SPCA Shared Parenting Council Australia both who's work has no doubt saved the lives of many Australians and is an invaluable resource to those struggling with separation and divorce.
I have just returned from the Fatherhood Foundations Men and Fathers Health Summit in Parliament House Canberra. The event brought together a lot of the leaders in the Fatherhood movement together with the politicians of this country. Many spoke with wisdom and compassion from the front lines, the grassroots organisations if you like. I spoke of the fact that we had been coming down to Canberra for ten years now and for ten years we have been telling our politicians that the suicide rate, especially that of males is too high. That in fact it is higher then the road toll. And I asked, "What are we doing about that?"
The suicide rate for males stands at 5 a day. That is 35 a week! And as Rev Eric Trazise said in his speech.
Thank you, it's Eric Trezise, Pastor Eric Trezise, Suicide Safety Network, and I want to raise this point. In more recent years, the Attorney General's Department has changed the way we define the law in respect to suicide. We do not hold regular and necessary inquests into all suicides. A suicide means that someone is dead. In any other area of law, a person was dead, there would be an inquest to determine how that death occurred. An inquest is not required any more for suicides. A violent death, and nothing is done about it to bring it to the point of law where a decision, a final decision can be made on what happened to that person.
It's made on the basis of probabilities. The balance of probabilities. Who's probabilities, and on what evidence? We don't have that. Do you realise that the figures in suicide are under-recorded annually to a shocking degree. The Australian Bureau of Statistics have said that they believe the suicide is under-recorded in metropolitan and rural, regional areas by up to 10% to 15%. They have said in the remote districts of Australia it is under recorded as high as 35%. We've known that on the Central Coast for over 13, 14 years, where we held an inquest into every death that occurred. But now, today, the figures on suicide are going down, the figures on unrecorded suicides are still high and it's not being dealt with. There has to be a change made by the Attorney General's Department to look very seriously at how we determine those deaths more efficiently, more correctly, and look at what is occurring. There is no funding. The funding is dropping off all the time because the suicide rate is going down. The suicide rate is not down, the suicide rate is high, and we have to step in now and say why is that so? Why is the government not looking at that and changing law so we get more honest recording?
The morning I left for Canberra I found out about a suicide that happened just up the road. On returning I discovered more. You see a young man had walked out in front of a semi-trailer travelling down the highway. He had just broken up with his girlfriend. Now he leaves family and friends grieving and wondering why. He was just 16 years old. Why did he feel that the only answer for a lost love was to die? Sad isn't it, but it happens at a rate of 5 a day and a big proportion of that 5 are dads in some form of distress or men or boys going through relationship trauma. It wasn't reported as such as the media normally instructs against, for copycat or other reasons. Now please understand, I am no expert but I am one who comes face to face with the tragedy of suicide every day. I was there myself once, so where some of my children. Hence why I started Dads in Distress. Let's face it, whatever is in place now, whatever the intervention plans or the media blackout, it is just not working. And we need it to work.
Now what is the answer? Listen to people like the Rev Eric Trazise for one. I am just a voice who is trying to raise the public and politicians awareness to the issue as are others. We want to engage with the experts in the field and maybe just maybe we can add to their research and ultimately we can come up with a solution that works. We need the Government to commit as much resources as they do to the national road toll, we are talking the same numbers ladies and gentlemen. On the cover of the delegates pack is a picture of a family, mum, dad and two children. I held it up at the summit and asked that they look at the photo and understand that really the photos should have been whited out. As mum was vanishing, as the children were vanishing and to be honest so was dad. We need to take action. We need to do it sooner rather then later.
35 male suicides are week!!!!!! and we know it is higher then that. For our children's sake, talk to us, engage with us, commit some resources as you would if 35 soldiers were dieing overseas a week or if 35 whales beached themselves on Bondi Beach. And maybe next time I come home from Canberra there won't be a blood stain on the highway from some young boy who didn't understand that help was out there and that it's ok to get it...
12 June 2009
The Senate Select Committee on Men's Health has released their report and recommendations. Sadly the establishment of an Office for the Status of Men and their Families was rejected, disappointing to say the least. What was needed was some vision into the future coordination of men's health issues nationally and across all government departments as Micheal Woods senior lecturer UWS wrote below.
Thank God for people like Micheal Woods, Professor John Macdonald and those who work out of MHIRC, (Men's Health Information and Research Centre) who over the years that I have been doing this work offer an invaluable service across the community which is no doubt under-funded as we all seem to be.
I really don't know what to write other then from the heart and the reality is that men don't see the Government as being supportive to the issues that they face. It seems programs are funded by gender rather then looking at the need of both. Men seem to be at risk of exclusion when it comes to funding appropriate programs that work for men. Sadly we are all in the same boat at the moment awaiting a Government to lead the way and show us they really care about Men's Health in this country.
I will be attending with my local member Mr Luke Hartsyker MP, the Fatherhood Foundation, Men's Health Summit in Parliament House Canberra on the 17th June. As most of the coal face Men's and Father's organisations will be there and perhaps we can make sense out of the Senate Select Committee's recommendations and catch a glimpse of what is going on through the smoke and mirrors that seem to of accended over the movement of recent times. Many politicians will be there and maybe they can shed light on where we are heading. I sure hope it is better then where we have been, at least for my children's sake, I don't want them to experience what I have or what you have.
While some of the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Men's Health are welcome, overall these are limited and focus largely on a narrow range of biological problems.
1. Much of what requires action to improve the health of men and boys (fathering, boys' education, workplace concerns, social isolation etc) is not in the province of the Department of Health. An effective response to male health issues requires a coordinating body that can liaise across government departments. For women, the Office for the Status of Women is able to fulfil such a valuable role. For men and boys, there is only a recommendation (No. 2) that all government departments consider effects of legislation and policies on both men and women. Without a body that has some oversight for males this is unlikely to lead to any more than lip service from already pressured departments.
2. Recommendation 6 is the only one that considers boys - and it suggests that we will address their complex and myriad health issues by simply encouraging them to take greater responsibility for their own health. Powerful determinants of boys' health, such as school experience, are neglected. Yet boys have been found in numerous reports to be disengaged from schooling - and research shows years of schooling correlates with not just quality of life, but years of life. The lower completion rates of schooling by boys may have been acceptable in the 1990s, when we still believed that there would be many unskilled and semiskilled jobs for early male school leavers. But the nature of work has changed, and many more boys will spend their adolescence disengaged from mainstream society, and grow to be under-employed men, with the resultant health and social costs to be borne by the next generation.
3. The third world health of Aboriginal men in remote areas is to be addressed through better trauma treatment (Recommendation 7), yet no mention of addressing the causes of their disastrous health - or even the causes of the high levels of trauma - is contained in the recommendations.
4. While the media release accompanying the Report noted the Committee's concern with high rates of male suicide, no attempts to recognize & encourage promising interventions outside of the mental health system were included. If the mental health system alone had the ability to address this problem, suicide rates would have dropped substantially long before now.
To conclude on a positive note - one welcome recommendation (8) is to simplify access to grants by community groups that enable them to address some of the health issues faced by men. Given such groups will be needed over coming years to deal with the many factors that the Report has overlooked, this is perhaps the main gain from the Report.
Micheal Woods, Senior Lecturer, University of Western Sydney
The health of Australian men is important. Men take on a myriad of responsibilities, as fathers, grandfathers, brothers, sons, husbands and partners and workers. Many men work long hours in difficult circumstances, often commuting long distances to support their families. Despite many improvements in some men's health - non-Indigenous Australian men's life expectancy is amongst the highest in the world - not all men in Australia have benefited equally. We need a new approach to improving the health and wellbeing of all men in Australia, especially those with the highest risk of poor health. By improving the health of all Australian men we will improve the health of the whole community.
Prof John Macdonald, AMHF President
19 May 2009
The email below says it all, a little girl understands her dad was in trouble and also understands that he received some help and then took the time to say thanks to us for helping him. The little girl is just 12 years old, she understands the value of her father, she wants him around for a long time to come. And so do we and through this group he will be.
Its a pity that someone in Government doesn't see this or understand the true value of the work we do. But I guess that is just the case as I cannot report any favourable funding for our group at this stage. However dids will continue to survive for little girls like Levi and her father Phil, simply because it has to. While there seems to be a concerted effort by a few to overturn the good work in delivering dad back to their kids we believe that Australian society will eventually come to its senses and ensure that the relationship between dads and their kids is just as important as the relationship between mums and their kids.
In a week that has had its fair share of lows, Levi's email clearly showed me why we do what we do. I cried when I read it because I guess it showed me the value of our work and brought home to me where I was when I started this group, hurting, powerless, confused, angry, gutted, depressed and yes suicidal. I was "insain" as she puts it. And what were my children thinking? No doubt along the lines of Levi's email.
Many of the men who walk in to our groups are wounded similarly and are struggling with life. Thanks to a bunch of dedicated guys "mates" I was to survive and so have many after me.These guys are your local accountant, butcher, panel beater, plumber, the bloke over the back fence, who struggle with life's challenges and occasionally need a hand getting through, nothing wrong with that.
I spoke at a Lions club meeting recently, unfortunately on the day they had returned from a funeral of one of their members who had suicided. At the end of my talk they asked me what they could do to help. I told them that no doubt my organisation would like me to ask you for a donation to keep us going but I am not going to, instead I ask you to look over your back fence and see how your neighbour is doing. Offer him a hand up if its needed, start one by one with an outstretched hand. That is more important then funding. Mateship, being there for someone in need. An act of kindness, an act of compassion is more important then all the funding in the world.
So I wish to thank Levi for her act of kindness in sending me her email and for reminding all of us that no matter how great the pain we are experiencing, so to are our children hurting. We must continue to battle the scourge of fatherlessness in our society. We must all remember the Levis of this world and we should all remember to stick our head over the back fence occaisionally and see that our neighbour is doing ok.
Sent: Wednesday, May 13, 2009 6:23 PM
hi my name is levi, my dad phillip went to your meetings last year every wednesday and still dose,
i would just like to say thank you very much to the bottom of my heart because my dad was in a very hard time @ the stage and i thought that he was gonna kill him self and now thanx to you my dad is still here with me and that means the world to me. thanx to u my dad is now sain in stead of being insain and you may not know it but you have kept me sain cause if dad died then i don't know what i'll do with out him.
and dids i think is the best life saver there can be in the world cause i can only imagine how many mens lifes that you have save.
p.s my dad goes to the 1 in an area in newcastle.
once again thank you very very much
sincerely yours Levi
From: Tony Miller Founder
Thanks Levi I am very pleased we were able to help your dad and a lot of other dads out there. He must be very proud to have a daughter like you. You take care of yourself and thanks for writing to me and telling me about your dad. He has many friends out there who now care for him and I know he loves you very much. Regards Tonym
Sent: Thursday, May 14, 2009 5:51 PM
hi it is me levi i sent dids an e-mail and my dad phill called me and i told him what i did and he said that the group in newcastle was shutting down and i asked dad if i can get the teachers from my skool to sign the paper thingy and miss moody sorry but the government said that they cant do any thing bout it and i was just wondering what the group is gonna do bout it?
byebye hope to hear from u soon
From: Tony Miller Founder
Hi again Levi don't worry the group will continue even if the Government doesn't help because we all believe in what we do and we have lots of good dads who love their kids and support their mates. Your dad is very lucky to have a daughter who cares as much as you. regards Tonym
09 April 2009
yesterday I attended the Senate Select Committee on Men's Health public hearing. I was early and heard the end of the Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation excellent submission presented by Warwick Marsh, Dr Tim O'Neil and Mr Ron Brookman. At the end of their submission they made an impassioned plea to the senators to see to it ongoing funding for the Dads in Distress organisation continues. I was very humbled by what they shared on our behalf.
I made my verbal submission but to be honest I wish I had said more. We talked about divorced and separated men, we talked about how their health suffers, we talked about them missing their children and how that feels, we talked about the judicial systems failure at ensuring a relationship continues with the father and his children after a divorce or separation. We talked about the lack of funding for men's organisations in general and we talked about male suicide. I came back to Coffs Harbour the same day and thought a lot about the days proceedings, about what had been said and about what had not. I wanted to tell them more of the debilitating and gutting consequence of not seeing your children, of the spiralling costs of litigation, of the depressive feeling of not being able to provide enough for these poor dads who love their children.
On the way home I decided to call into one of our clients, our mates, to see how he was going. I have written about Johnny* before. He was the guy who spent three years almost four in a contact centre visiting his little girl once a fortnight sometimes once a month for a few hours supervised. The contact centre always claimed he shouldn't be there, he was a good dad, it was just the way things go. He was the guy who I come across many times sitting on a bench in the town centre crying, because he had seen his little girl walking with her mother and he had to hide, because apparently she was afraid of him, or so the mother claimed. If he saw her walking down the street he would hide behind a tree or walk the other way, catching hidden glimpses of the little girl he loved. "I'm her father, I cannot believe I have to do this. I can't believe she is scared of me. I don't want to scare her, I love her", he would often cry.
Johnny lives alone on an isolated property with his daughters pets whom he lovingly cares for, awaiting the day of his daughters return. The house is like a shrine to his daughter, as old photos of various stages of his daughters life adorn every conceivable space on the walls of his cabin. In conversation it doesn't seem to matter what you talk about, it eventually comes back to his daughter. How much he misses her, what she was like when last he saw her, how much he loves her, how he cannot understand the laws of this land that keep a loving dad away from his child, how the system is against him and inevitably he recites over and over that he will never give up fighting for her.
Unfortunately Johnny has been back to court many times without success. In fact I was with him the last time when his daughter sent him a letter hand delivered by her mothers solicitor stating that she no longer wants any contact with him, that he scares her and she just wanted to be left alone. I convinced Johnny to walk away that time and he did, but now he is attempting contact once again.
I couldn't help but think of the good senators whom I addressed earlier in the day when I explained that powers that be would like to see all divorced and separated men put into the basket of a mental health issue. I made particular note of the reality that just because you become a separated or divorced male doesn't mean you have a mental health issue, it just means that one party or the other fell out of love, it happens, it's called life. It may eventually lead to a mental health condition, but the continual refusal of one party to another of seeing their children causes 'separation grief', it's not a mental health issue it's simply a case of missing your kids. But now sitting here and listening to Johnny I wished I could of had him next to me when addressing the Senate Select Committee.
I am sure though they would think he was a sick man. Yes Johnny has become obsessive in his thoughts. You see the last time he saw his little girl was 2006! She has grown up now to an extent, she has just turned 12. It's been a total of 7 years that he has been denied contact. Seven Years. I remember speaking with the contact centre years ago about Johnny, when they told me he was too intense when he saw his little girl. I told them wouldn't you be if you only saw your child for a couple of hours a fortnight or month? Wouldn't you be storing up all that love and pouring it out in the lousy couple of hours you have with your child? They agreed. My thoughts snap back into reality when Johnny thrusts half a dozen photos of himself and his little girl into my hand, "See that", he exclaims, "Does my little girl look scared of me?". The photos were all of Johnny with his little girl hugging him closely. She was smiling and so was he, something I hadn't seen on his face for as long as I've known him. They were old and tattered and as I handed them back to him agreeing he carefully put them back in his wallet no doubt awaiting the next time he needed to remind himself that once his daughter did love him.
"Johnny, many fathers would of given up by now, they would of just walked away faced with what you have, what keeps you going?", I asked. "I love her of course", he shouted back at me. I just want her to know that". "I understand I said and I am sure she will one day". "Yeah, well I don't want to wait until she is 20 to find out, I want my little girl back", he started to cry. After talking with him for some time and trying to swing the subject around without success, I eventually had to go. As I put my empty coffee cup on his table, I realised even the cup had a photo of his little girl on it. I stood up and opened the door about to leave and took one more glance at the tattered photos on the walls. Here was once a happy life, tattered photos of his little girl, of her riding the horse that roamed freely on his property, of her feeding the chickens, of her playing with friends, of her cuddling dad. Yes she did look happy then, she didn't look scared then. Dad looked happy too.
As I was leaving Johnny came up to the car door, thrust his hand in and shook mine, "Thanks Tony, if it wasn't for dids I wouldn't be here", he said as tears were running down his face. "I mean that mate, you blokes have kept me going". I thanked him and offered him the usual. "Just keep praying mate and I will send some up as well, it will work out", I said as I drove out of his driveway. I kept watching him in my rear vision mirror as I drove up the lonely road wondering to myself if we had a really helped him. Yes he was alive and that is something in itself but we failed in not ensuring a fathers contact with his beloved child. Well the system failed them, both of them, and they will suffer in some degree for the rest of their lives, both of them, that's really what happens.
Driving home I realised once again just how important this Senate Inquiry on Men's Health is. I wished I had a camera stuck on my shoulder as I visit many like Johnny, to record and show the good senators the results of divorce or separation and legislation that has no teeth when it comes to ensuring a father and his children continue a meaningful relationship post divorce or separation. And I realised just how important a job it was for these senators to really take in the issues of men's health in this country after all, it has been brushed aside for so many years.
Over the years I have known Johnny he has shown nothing but absolute love for his little girl and in fact has put his life on hold awaiting her return.
Reality is Johnny may never see his little girl again, the odds are against it. He will continue fighting, we will continue to keep him alive, he won't give up, nor will we, but reality is, it is highly unlikely he will see that little girl again. But I don't have the heart to tell him that...........Do you????????
You can read about what has been submitted to the Senate Select Committee on Men's Health by clicking on the link below:
*Names have been changed to protect the anonymity of our clients.
06 March 2009
Yesterday I attended a round table discussion into Men's Health organised by Warwick Marsh of the Fatherhood Foundation. Senator Cory Bernardi attended and heard from a number of Men's Organisation Leaders their thoughts and views. Professor John MacDonald UWS and the new Men's Health Ambassador, expressed himself as always with great passion for the plight of men in this country. It was good to see and hear men with kindness and compassion in their hearts.
I gave my brief and wish list verbally to the senator as we all did. Towards the end I put forward the following analogy of Men's Health in Australia today, my thoughts only.
Senator, my analogy of Men's health today is, visualise a man who has tried to hang himself. He is dangling from a rope, struggling to breathe, gasping for air. He doesn't really want to die, just doesn't know what to do anymore. And here we are, holding him up, trying desperately to hang onto his kicking legs in order to keep him alive and able to breathe, while we wait for help to arrive, anybody, somebody, to help us.
And I also told him of a call I received the night before the meeting and of a little girl called Sara, who after we had helped her dad who was in a dire place, survive, asked, "well you ask the senator to help my dad". I had told her earlier that I was going to Sydney to speak with the senator and a lot of other very important men about how we are going to help lots of daddys who are struggling like her dad. Sara was 10 years old ...
This is my analogy of men's health in this country today. Presently there is a senate inquiry into men's health in this country. Submissions close on the 13th of this month. If you feel you can add something of value to men's health in Australia please do not hesitate to put a submission in with your ideas. It can be just a paragraph or a page or more, but it is important. You may think no one is listening and they cannot if you don't speak. So speak and tell them what it is you want to see. If not for yourself then do it for your children.
The Dads in Distress organisation will close by the end of June unless someone comes to our rescue. There will need to be someone else holding the men up, keeping them alive, while we await the decision makers. Sad times we live in ...
06 February 2009
Just before Christmas there was a media release put out by Crisis support Services "MENSLINE" that went fairly unnoticed. The headline ran.....
DADS SUICIDE RISK SKYROCKETS WHEN SEPARATED FROM THEIR CHILDREN.
In the release it was stated that Mensline Australia has uncovered men living without their children are five times more likely to have attempted suicide, as compared to fathers who are living with their children. That is 5 times more likely.....
Highlighted in an analysis of the 60,000 callers who ring Mensline Australia each year, fathers living alone are also twice as likely to have experienced a serious mental health concern.
Dr Nick Foster of Mensline Australia explains many separated fathers are devastated by the inability to see or live with their children. "Men are awash with pain, anger and frustration when they call our counsellors. we receive at least two suicide-related calls every day. Sadly, we receive many more calls from men whose only glimmer of hope is the possibility of one day, being able to spend more time with their kids", said Dr Foster.
We all know on this website how that feels don't we. It is a shame that the Mensline Press release prior to Christmas wasn't given more exposure then it had. Our 1300 crisis line also receives those calls. Many are referred to us from other agencies unable to cope and looking for someone who may have the answer for their clients.
The recent bagging and tarring of all fathers with the same brush on Facebook and the calling for capital punishment to be reinstated for the father of Darcey Freeman, who was thrown from Melbourne's West Gate Bridge does little but incite hate instead of compassion or understanding of what went wrong here. While obviously not condoning what happened, Mensline's statement above reiterates the need that is out there.
Suicide in this country especially male suicide is at epidemic levels. Suicide is suicide it matters little be it male or female, it is still a tragedy. All agencies including ours need help to cope. With the economic crisis, families are only going to come under more pressure. And while the Family Law Court looks the other way when it comes to enforcing its own orders in custody disputes the outlook is glum. And while the government announces a Men's Health Policy nothing seems to be forthcoming in strengthening those services that have been doing the work for years.
Dads in Distress will close its doors come June if nothing is forthcoming. Our current funding ends in June. Maybe others can look the other way and believe that all will be ok and the problem will just go away. Who will be the last man standing?
Dads in Distress 1300 853437
Mensline 1300 789978
21 January 2009
Last weekend was my fathers 90th birthday, my son came up from Sydney with my daughter. He is 34 now but in conversation more like an 18 year old. The H monkey is still firmly attached to his back. Although my father told me later that my son had come over, gave both he and mum a hug and whispered in their ears "I've nearly beat it nan and pop, I've nearly beat it".
He didn't look as though he had "beat it". He is a stick figure, gaunt and lifeless.The only realisation that he is alive is the constant twitching of his body. He finds it hard to sit still and the constant pouring of beer down his throat was a queue that he was self medicating, trying to keep a lid on it, until the next hit.
We talked but not much, just general things. I didn't want to bring up the big H issue, so never mentioned it. My eyes had already revealed that he had a taste that day. Maybe it was something else I told myself, maybe it wasn't. Regardless the main thing was He was there! He made the effort and it was an extraordinary effort. He held his anger in which I know and have witnessed is bottled inside this thin, gaunt looking shadow of his former self. I was proud of him.
I was once one of those dads peering through the wire fence surrounding his sons school, I was spotted and asked to move on. I explained who I was and that I just wanted to catch a glimpse of my little boy who I hadn't seen for many years. I was taken to the principles office and after explaining the circumstances was told that I was listed to have no contact. It was many years ago but I remember it as yesterday.
After breaking down in front of him, the principle took pity on me and let me peer through the blinds of his office. He had to point him out to me because I his father couldn't recognise my own son. I left quietly, humbly thanking him for his kindness and in tears.
My boy grew up not knowing his dad and now I am still peering through the fence unable to break through, only now it's not wire, it's heroin addiction.
During the mandatory speeches my father got up and made his speech at the end. He spoke of many years ago and of a couple who were very good friends he had known. He spoke of them with much love and continued his story, as it turned out he said the woman gave birth to a son and not long after she died from the complications of child birth and then not long after that the child's father also died in a car accident, leaving the child an orphan. That child we adopted, his name is Tony and he is sitting right there he said pointing to me.
I was already emotional but even more so now. Earlier I had been asked if I wanted to make a speech, I declined, I was too emotional I rationalised. On the long drive back home the next day I regretted that decision. I had written a speech in my head if given the opportunity, before I went down to the party. Now I had blown it, although as I thought about the words I would cry, so I doubt that I would of been able to say what I wanted to say without being a bit of a mess. Yet maybe I should of anyway.
Anyway I have decided to write it here for all to read and send my dad a copy. Here it is........
Most of you here know what I do for a living. I am the founder of a group called Dads in Distress and what we do is simply help blokes who are struggling with life keep alive. It's often called suicide intervention although I call it mateship.
Just the other night prior to coming here I received a call from a bloke who was doing it tough. In fact I received a number of calls from him leading into the early hours of the morning. This bloke had decided life was too tough and that it was time to call it a day. Over the hours I eventually was able to talk this bloke down. Thank goodness I had been given an opportunity to intervene. Towards the end of our last call and with this bloke feeling in a better place he asked me how do I do what I do. I thought about that question for a minute and then answered him this, in which right now I would like to address to my father who is sitting just over there.
Well mate you see I was lucky enough to be given a good start in life and it was all due to one man, my dad. There were 4 major things my dad taught me.
My dad has his heart filled with all those things. I have witnessed him in action, he has shown empathy and love and compassion to many who can attest to that. But the biggest thing he gave me was Faith. Faith in God, Faith in others, Faith in myself and Faith that no matter what I do, he will always be there, and he always has. Just as I am for you, I told him and just as you need to be for your children.
He sobbed a little and thanked me profusely then hung up with a "Thanks Mate".
After I hung up, I thought about you again dad and how lucky in life that I had you as my dad and I wanted to tell you this story and say simply "Thanks Mate"............. And to let you know that because of what you gave me and I am able to pass to others, you have saved many lives ........ including mine. I love you mate ...........
As I drove back to Coffs Harbour the next day I thought a lot about the previous days events, about my dad, about my son, about all my kids and about my life. Being a father especially a non-custodial father is a tough call and often you don't get the opportunity to pass on life lessons, instead they seem passed to you. I pulled into the driveway at home greeted by two little smiling faces, cuddles and a "Hi Dad", "Luv YOU Dad", That hasn't happened to me in a long time and feels pretty strange, but I guess that's another story ..............
The Rev.David B. Smith wrote in his recent poignant article about the overdose of his daughter-The Pain of non-custodial fatherhood-
"Being a father doesn't necessarily mean sitting alongside my girl in the same boat, doing all the rowing, but it does mean being somewhere in an adjoining boat, ready to dive in if I am needed.
Being a non-custodial father, I can't be in the same boat. My time with my girl is a series of stolen moments-moments that seem to have been growing shorter and less intimate over the last few years, as she makes her transition towards adulthood."
How right he is ..............