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20 March 2010
Mates Helping Mates

The other night just as my wife and I were about to go to bed, the phone rang, it was one of the dids who has been attending meetings for many years. he wanted to come around, it was late, but I sensed from the tone of his voice that something wasn't right. I muffelled the phone with my hand and whispered to my wife who it was and that something wasn't right. Although she was as tired as I was she instantly nodded and said let him come.

He arrived looking stressed and tired. After pouring him a coffee he began to tell us that he had just spent many, many hours talking a guy out of suicide.The guys wife had left him weeks earlier and now he was coming to the realisation that she wasn't coming back. Not only that, but she was adament that he would not be seeing his two children 8 and 9 again. He was devastated.

My friend, a guy I had been helping for many years and who himself has and is continually denied court ordered access to his daughter for the past 6 years had spent many hours talking him out of taking his life. He was fed up, tired of the fighting, angry, gutted, depressed and suicidal. He had begun drinking earlier in the day and continued as my friend tried to console him, crying and eventually becoming abusive. My friend ignored the abuse, stayed with him and continued to try and stop him from drinking, but to no avail. Eventually he passed out on the couch, late in the night and my friend covered him with a blanket, made sure everything was ok, assured he will sleep till morning and left, leaving a note with the dids 1300 853 437 number and the time and address of the next dids meeting nearest to him.

"I will be there first thing in the morning Tony, before he wakes. Did I do the right thing Tony?" "More than enough mate," I assured him. "All you can do."

Myself and my wife spent some hours allowing my friend to debrief. He just wanted to know if he had done the right thing, and of course he had. He will be there in the morning, he will be a mate, a did, and that is all that is requided. He is not a professional, just a grass roots mate. Shame there weren't more around. He is just holding another blokes head above water until he reaches safe ground, that's all.

As my friend left, he said, "Thanks Tony." "For what?" I asked. "You did the same for me many years ago. Makes me proud of what I started, just mates helping mates."

Tony Miller

14 March 2010
What a day, what a week, what a year...

Warwick rang me today and asked me to write an article about yesterday, a meeting we had in State Parliament with some of the movers and shakers of the Fatherhood movement. Going along in the flow of how everything has been going for me of late, my computer decided to die the minute I turned it on. After an hour or so of rebooting, yelling, kicking it, praying to God, yelling at the kids, I remembered I have a laptop, not the newest technology but a laptop none the less.

So I quickly unhooked the internet from my computer and attached it to the laptop. Of course this lasted for about a minute and a half as I realised I couldn't send from my outlook account. God knows why because I don't. I can receive but not send. So I thought no worries I will go onto the internet and send from my server. What happens, their experiencing technical difficulties, of course they are. So no worries I decide to go to an old hotmail account I have. What happens all of a sudden, I cannot access anything. My laptop is connected to the internet but even Google it seems is experiencing difficulty. Of course, tell me about it.

All the time my beautiful wife keeps reminding me that time is running out and "You promised Warwick, you can't let him down, you also promised me you would spend time with me tonight". Finally we connect to the internet just after the bigfella and I exchange a few words.

I cannot resurrect my hotmail account, so after some more kicking the table and exchanging words with myself, I come up with the idea of sending from my wifes' account. And here it is. As I begin the phone rings and it's my 91 year old father. After speaking loudly and frustratingly to him on the phone my beautiful wife chastises me for the way I spoke to him and rightly so. Now Im writing, its 9:15pm.

The meeting I spoke about earlier was an extremely emotional one for me personally. You see I have had one hell of a year this year but I won't go into that tonight because what's more important is the fact that these leaders met, discussed and planned action to ensure:

  • That in the future dads will still be relevent;
  • That fathers and their children will be able to enjoy a relationship with each other;
  • That a presumption of 50/50 shared care be paramount in any future legislation;
  • That possible funding will be made available to ensure that these front line fighters of the movement will be able to represent those that seek their assistance.

You see, don't kid yourself that fathers of this country are considered relevent, because there is a force out there with the agenda of making sure we are not. Now you might think I am being alarmist, just pick up a newspaper or turn on a talk back show on the radio on any day and you will read or hear how fathers are portrayed in the media. But thankfully 'we', that means you, have some front line soldiers who continue to stand guard and are ready to fight on your behalf.

I looked around the room in Parliament House yesterday and witnessed the heartache, the sorrow, the I can't give up, I won't give up attitude of the fighters. But I also caught the passion in their eyes and in their hearts and that is something special, something you cannot take away from them. Everyone has their own issues or opinions but yesterday was about working together to ensure the heartache and sorrow we have all witnessed either personally, or for those we represent, does not continue. Bottom line, it was about our children.

Right here right now I just want to say thank you. Thank you to Ian Harris producer and his merry men who filmed the entire event for a doco he wants to make about fathers to expose the truth. I want to say thank you to Warwick Marsh who made this happen and who continues to make things happen for fathers of this country. I can honestly say without Warwick the movement wouldn't be. I want to say thank you to all the participants who put aside their differences to come together and open their hearts to each other. And I want to thank my Fiji family who prayed and fasted so that this day would be a success, and a success it was.

Individually we have a voice but together, we have a movement.

Tony Miller

ps: Warwick what happened in that room yesterday, touched my heart, it didn't need to happen but it did and I will be forever grateful, not just for what was done but the thought behind it...I love you mate, sometimes though I want to kill you and by the way I have Jimmy beside me now, I've just started talking to him, he understands as does the Bigfella.

pps: It's 10:15 the kids are asleep, my beautiful wife waits patiently for me to spend some time with her, I pray to the Bigfella that he sends some angels to hand deliver my email and make sure bigpond, hotmail or whoever else is working before I press send, please work.

19 February 2010
Friends, Buddies, Mates

I was going through some old emails and came across this one, a testimonial that best describes the wonderful men who have joined our organisation.This was wriitten in 2006. The guy is still with us, still volunteering his time. A total of seven years. Forget the comments about me, undeserved believe me. But the comments about the organisation are spot on. There are many out there like him. Blokes that put their hand up to look after another less fortunate then themselves.. true Lifesavers in every sense of the word. To all of you out there, thank you for being there when we needed you most.

To whom it may concern.

I have been involved with Dads in Distress for nearly 3 years in a voluntary capacity, as a facilitator/coordinator in Victoria. I have seen first hand how it has impacted our fathers in such a positive way the lives of over 60 men, separated, divorced, not seeing their children, lost, unsure, feeling useless and redundant.

I have witnessed the lives DIDS has saved on at least 6 occasions, men lost, empty, alone and of course suicidal. I have talked them down from taking their life, something I could never have done 8 years ago or even contemplated tackling.

I was once one of those men and went searching 7 years ago for someone to talk to, a group, a course. What I found was NOTHING! I found so much for women but not a thing for ME. I then saw Tony Miller from DIDS on a 'A Current Affair'. What a man, a true Aussie battler, a man willing to speak the truth, more importantly a man that knew what I was feeling what I needed. I wanted to be involved from that minute and have been since. DIDS provided me a place a safe place to share what I was feeling, I now knew I wasn't alone and Dids provided the focus I was lacking, Dids saved and redirected my life. Dids showed me I could do it and gave a father back to my two children.

Dids has enabled me to understand the nuances of life after Divorce, the impacts on myself, my children and this is DIDS focus. I could not be involved with a political organization, DIDS is not in that space! Dids provides support at the grass roots level, where it is needed most, and that is right in the hearts of those affected the most, the fathers that society and a failing system has failed by supporting these fathers at an EMOTIONAL level, was something I needed and DIDS provided that. DIDS works hard at BRINGING FATHERS BACK TO THEIR CHILDREN in a most positive way.

DIDS has enabled me to find my purpose in life, something I never thought of prior to separating. This purpose has lead me towards studying Counseling/Coaching helping other fathers and people in general, working in a community focused vocation and for others like those fathers, the mothers, most of all our future in our children the most precious of people.

I have contributed my own funding to the cause when and where needed to keep DIDS alive in and around my area, canvassing all supporting bodies, speaking to the people that matter informing them and pushing DIDS existence so that DIDs can grow. This costs an individual a substantial amount not just in time but also money. DIDS is unfunded please as a DID myself fund the group so that it can save more lives but most importantly fund DIDs so it can return emotionally intelligent fathers back to their children. For Dids is a leveling and positive experience for all those that attend.

I assure you if it were not for DIDS I doubt my children would have a father.
DIDS Saves Lives directly and indirectly.
Thankyou Tony for keeping DIDS alive

If you feel as though you too would like to help, email me at tmiller@tony-miller.org and tell me about yourself. Dids is currently seeking 'buddies' in each town across the country. Someone who is willing to answer a phone, discuss, advise or refer others less fortunate that may need help or may just need a mate, a 'buddy' who they can call on, maybe even over a cup of coffee, that is up to you. No meetings to attend, it's just about being a friend. Want to volunteer to be a friend of DIDS? I would love to see hundreds across the country, in every town, wouldn't that be something? It was friends, mates like the bloke above that actually kept me alive when things were grim, he doesn't know that, but maybe now he does, thanks Col and thanks again to all of you.

What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies....... Aristotle 384BC

The only way to have a friend is to be one...... Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803

So long as we are loved by others I should say we are almost indispensable; and no man is useless while he has a friend..... Robert Louis Stevenson 1850

You can always tell a real friend: when you've made a fool of yourself he doesn't feel you've done a permanent job..... Laurence J Peter 1918

Your Friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you........Elbert Hubbard 1856

12 February 2010
I am lucky

Anyone who does not know how to make the most of his luck has no right to complain if it passes him by......Miquel de Cervantes 1547

Below is a letter from a client explaining to me HIS story, HIS life, HIS journey. I have changed some details so as to keep anon but nothing else. His story is like that of a lot of dads I come into contact with. Blokes who just try to keep things going, don't bring attention to themselves, do what's best for their children and suffer in silence. But the beautiful thing about his letter was his realisation that although things were tough he could still see and be grateful for what he has and at every turn he turns adversity into luck. I guess there is a lesson in there for all of us.

I am currently in the process of writing a book about Dads in Distress and about my life and those I have been fortunate or unfortunate to have met along the way. I am seeking short stories about fatherhood post divorce similar in length to the one below (please no longer) to include in a chapter or chapters. Please email me at tmiller@tony-miller.org and please include your name and contact details.

I am one of the lucky ones but the pain is no less real. It's like having a toothache. It doesn't matter if the other bloke is worse off; the pain of my toothache is still a reality for me.

7 years ago, my partner and I separated - she had found her soul mate... hmmm thought I was her soul mate... well definitely wasn't her 'sole' mate! My son Jonson was 3 yo and we had moved from Sydney to Perth. Isn't it ironic that my Mum also left me and moved overseas when I was 3 yo - I've done lots of painful work in this area.

I returned to Sydney without Jonson. I was depressed, pain and fell into the arms of substance dependency (pot), lots of alcohol and gambling (again lots of painful work in this area)

I was lucky, they moved back from WA - another man, another relationship. I was in heaven, I got to see Jonson often but my ex was and is a nomad! She needed to move back to WA BUT I got to have Jonson full time for 6 months. I moved heaven and earth (work etc etc) to make sure I was there for him.

Then bang, he was out of my life and back in Perth. A couple of years of having him over for school holidays and rearranging my work so that I can fly via Perth - yes, I was lucky.

I was earning enough to finally move them back to Sydney (hey another bloke). Cost me all I had $20K. They lived up the central coast but at least I could see Jonson every weekend and I had him every weekend - poor car packed it in after a while!!

This lasted for 6 months and they moved (gave me 2 days warning) to Cairns. It's been 4 years since then. I fly Jonson down every school holidays.

Last year I moved to Coffs as Jonson turned 10. His Mum was finding things hard with a developing adolescent and wanted his Dad to be near him. She wanted a sign of faith so I moved to Coffs. At Christmas, she told me that all bets are off. Happily, next month, they move into a place they bought at Taree.

I am lucky. But the loss of sharing Jonson's life, the grief and the never-ceasing march of time (guess around 13-15, he'll do the boy thing and won't want to spend all his spare time with me) is an ever present reality. The toothache never gets duller despite what they say.

What did work? The work I did on myself, the self-exploration, the counselling and the forgiveness. No not the one for the ex, but the forgiveness that I was finally able to give myself - for the part that I played in what happened. After all nothing happens in my reality without my part in it.

I was lucky, my ex and I from the beginning was able to get to a place of honesty. Yeah, we could go on about legal stuff about not moving interstate yardy yardy yar but would it have been useful and for who. The courts never got involved, yes the $ I was shelling out could be seen as paying for my rights but hey... I have my health, I have a new and very understanding partner, I have a 3 yo son Micheal and I do meaningful work - I AM LUCKY...

Here it is - an abridged version - you know I have never actually written this stuff down.

PS - Substance abuse nil, alcohol abuse nil (but love a drink), gambling (social as opposed to full on lone dull the pain stuff).

PPS - Don't worry - if I come to a support group - I am mindful of others and won't be banging on about how lucky I am!!!

05 February 2010
But then again it's 2010

The front page of "The Daily Telegraph" today Friday 5th February carries a story about a small dog who was mauled by a rottweiler. There is a huge photo of this poor dog covering the front page. Then as you read through the paper and come to page 31 amongst the adverts for valentines day and a story about a break in at Paris Hilton's home there is a story and a small photo of a two year old boy chained to a lamp post while his father an unlicenced rickshaw driver takes fares because he cannot afford childcare in Beijing. The boys disabled mother collects rubbish at the roadside. The family live in one room of 3m by 2m. The father said he secured his son with a padlock around his ankle after his sister Ling 4 was "stolen' from them last month. Child snatching is rife in China, where strict laws limit the size of families. 'My wife cannot take care of him and I have to work to support my family' he said. 'I chain him to a pole when I have a fare. I don't even have a picture of my daughter to use for a missing- person poster. I cannot lose my son as well.'

While I understand the emotion for this small dog and the reasons behind it, you see the family the dog belonged to are the poor children whose parents drowned recently while trying to rescue their children from the surf. And no doubt the dog has offered the children some form of comfort during this tragic event. But the story covers front page and even page 2 as we read of the operation the poor dog has gone through. Now I understand that the above story I am referring to is in way off China but have we become so desensitised by these tragedies that we relegate them to the back pages between the adverts for tomatoes from coles, apples from woolworths or the wine from liquorland. Maybe that's how society feels today, no big deal, nothing to be concerned about.

As sad as the story behind the little dog is, I felt sickened of the plight of that two year old boy chained to a pole whose life seems less important then a vet's report, but then again it's 2010.

Lets read on, page 15 of the same paper amongst the ads for tomatoes, carries the terrible story of a mother who drowned her two young children in a bath and tells of the fathers devotion to his now deceaced sons. Page 30 carries a small story of a couple who have been arrested for keeping their small daughter locked in a wardrobe for more then a year and page 32 amongst the ads for liquor is a story of a father who killed himself and his baby son after leaving dozens of desparate messages to the boys mother on Facebook.

I guess what all this is telling me is, we are not looking after the family unit, here in this country or overseas. We just accept that people grow up, get married, have famililes and then its basically "your on your own from there'. You survive or you don't. Plenty do, why can't you? Going by the number of emails, phone calls and walk ins I see, families aren't doing so well. They need help, they need direction and they need understanding and they need supporting, and also in a lot of cases what they really needed was some education prior to committing to a long term relationship, some of us still call marriage.

Governments everywhere need to address the basic issues of food shelter and education, but what is Government? It is us, society, we elected them, in most cases, and we are the ones to say enough is enough. Maybe they can't say that in China but we can from here. We need to look after the family unit, we need to ensure they survive, we need to become a more loving, concerning, caring, sensitive society. Is that possible? But then again it's only 2010.

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