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18 September 2011

The song 'One' U2 playing on the laptop, heat is spiralling off the roof, steam vapour filling the room, heat, heat, Australian summer in a Coffs Harbour Caravan Park. Trucks roaring down the highway, kid's whinging, "I'm bored, I'm bored! What's for dinner? I'm hungry."

Life goes on. 4am start in the morning. Only 4 hours work tomorrow. Worry, how am I going to pay the bills? OAM medals sit in the suitcase of my car as is the letter from the Queen. Strange when you achieve so much yet lose so much along the way. I specialised in men's journeys through life now I specialise in cleaning men's and women's toilets.

I smoke too much, I want to drink but can't afford to. I like to think but can't afford to. Life seems so tough but at least I'm walking, it must be tougher for those that cannot. I reroll the buts from my ashtray; cigarettes are too costly to waste and over 40 years of addiction too hard to go without.

I spent time with my 16 year old son yesterday. A day out teaching him to drive, he pays for the petrol, he buys lunch, I'm broke, he says it's ok.

"I only waste it anyway", he says.

"I'm buying memories", he says.

I die inside on hearing him. What is happening to me? My son has to BUY memories from me?

I check my emails constantly awaiting a ray of hope as if by some miracle help will come, some instant fix. It won't of course; I have to fight my way out of this. I will fight my way out of this.

Trucks keep roaring down the highway, heat dissipates into night air; coolness arrives as if GOD has hosed down the roof. The sweat from my brow decreases with each bated breath and each puff of my cigarette.

I think of the phone call the other day from a guy called Don who says he is a documentary maker who wants to make a documentary about my life. My life, I laugh out loud. I find it hard to even look in a mirror these days as in the past. I thought I was able to deal with this stuff. I thought I had completed the journey. Only now at 55 do I realise the journey has just begun. The big question is am I up for it? Can I continue or do I just give up? I have met so many who have given up. They shrivel within their own memories swallowed by the darkness. They live an existence haunted by their past, afraid of their future, unable to move forward, unable to move backward.

Only time will tell. I pray the "JABEZ" prayer. I try and recall all the advice I gave men over the years searching for a glimmer of hope for myself. Something I have missed, something I failed to learn myself. Must be something I missed. There has to be.

For tomorrow I get up at 3am and start cleaning toilets at 4am. When I finish I try and get a job delivering phone books at 20 cents a book. I guess I am lucky I can do that when many struggle on Centrelink benefits. Tomorrow the sun will shine down. Tomorrow if GOD grants me the grace to wake up, another day begins on my journey. I wish to complete this journey called life leaving something behind for my children, something to say who I was and not a memory they had to buy.

Trucks keep roaring down the highway but the roars seem softer as if the night and darkness seem to swallow the noise and I keep searching my memories for the answer to my questions. Sleep will be restless as usual, tomorrows another day.

'Sometimes you can't make it on your own' the words sing out from my laptop playing U2. I realise I am writing this on a laptop given to me by a friend, the same who has bailed me out before and there are others who have also been there over this journey, bailing me out, helping me, whether it be on the end of a phone line or putting their hand in a wallet to help out a mate. The journey I started way back in '99 was to discover if mateship was still alive in this country. I discovered it is, alive and well.

There is no doubt there are sharks in the dark. But if you stay in the light you can only pray you will avoid them. Again I think of the least known name in the Bible, JABEZ and I am grateful I discovered him and grateful of the mates I have discovered along the way.

Tony Miller OAM

11 September 2011

I guess we all end up betrayed somewhere along this journey we call life.

It hits you at the core of your being, I don't know if anything kicks the human psyche with more hurt.

Over the years in the work I have done I have met many who felt betrayal. It is like a poison dart that enters the blood stream and eventually rots the body. Those that cannot expel the poison eventually die or end up living a life that is in effect the living dead. Hurt and confusion surround you like a cold mist pervading your entire self and trust seems to vanish within.

Earlier tonight I walked past the office I once called my own. I remember fighting for it, I remember nearly dying for it, I remember the rejoice amongst disenfranchised fathers when we won it and I remember the feeling of betrayal when I closed the door and walked away. When you cannot speak openly without fear of losing your funding than what is the use of a grassroots organisation.

I can easily imagine how my good friend Ken Ticehurst MP felt when he lost his seat in the Central Coast to the embattled Craig Thomson MP. Ken was a good man who fought hard for his electorate and no doubt was devastated when he lost it. I can only imagine how Ken felt as he closed the office door and walked away, Betrayal.

Life sometimes deals you a card you wish wasn't in the deck to start with. Often you just have to keep playing to stay in the game or throw your hand in. I am one that keeps saying pass, awaiting a better hand to be dealt. I don't honestly know if a better hand will eventually surface but I like to think so, I like to kid myself, I like to live in hope.

That is tough when you are constantly living on the edge, when you are constantly depending on a Government that seems to favour rewarding families financially if they live separately rather than keeping struggling families together. While there is a financial incentive for families to separate rather than stay together, well what hope have we got, Betrayal.

That is tough when our Government decides that fair legislation is watered down to the extent that will exclude our children's right to have a meaningful relationship with their fathers and once again increase the rate of fatherless children in this country by making it easier for separated mothers to exclude fathers from their children's lives, Betrayal.

That is tough when a loving father can have his name removed from the birth certificate of his child and replaced by a non-biological lesbian mother based on social policy grounds effectively denying our fathers the right to even be fathers, Betrayal.

Maybe it is time we all took the bridge just as that lone father frustrated with the betrayal of family law, recently did by exclaiming "You have my children, I have your bridge." We are all frustrated and fed up with being betrayed by a system, betrayed by a government, betrayed by lawyers, betrayed by service providers, who show us that in 2011 nothing has changed. Being a father today isn't worth the paper it is written on ie; the birth certificate.

Tony Miller OAM

The viewpoints expressed above are the viewpoints of Tony Miller OAM and not those of any organisation or person referred to past or present.

07 August 2011
A sudden rush of blood to the head reverberates around the room as the sound waves are released from my CD player into the smoky air.

Pressure, yes pressure, that is what is killing the men in this country. As the economic woes of the world engulf this wonderful country, our Government strives to protect our way of life by taxing us in every possible way in order that they can ensure our way of life. What way of life is it?

Unfortunately only few can keep sustaining it. For most house or land prices will stay out of reach for their entire lives. Some will reach the pinnacle of home ownership only to have it snatched from them when they encounter hard times and guaranteed, they will, encounter hard times.

How many of us are struggling to hold down jobs, how many are struggling to put bread on the table, keep a roof over the family's head, clothes, schooling, never ending, just keeping alive. How many are locked in dreary jobs simply because they have to eat, rather than unlocking their potential and fulfilling their dreams.

How many have locked themselves away from the world to live with their pain, their disappointments, their loss of fatherhood, their tragic loss of fatherhood. Is it only me who sees these men stumbling around in the dark? Given up for ghost, this is my lot in life now, empty, void, forgotten?

As I walk into the local soup kitchen I look around and see familiar faces. Faces that once walked into my office, desperately seeking help. We avoid eye contact, any knowledge of past acquaintance. They may wonder why I am here as much as I wonder why they are.

I see the same men waiting in line at the Department of Housing; I see them the same night sitting outside the rooms we are given at the local motel we have been graciously given for three nights before we are turfed out on the street. "Do you want to go on the list", a generous Department of housing Officer asks? "Twelve years." "I will be dead", was my only reply.

I see the same faces cautiously looking from the cabins in the caravan park I now call home. Ripped up, spat out and put on the woodpile by a system that has absolutely no compunction for fathers, full of regrets, mistrust and bitterness.

I see the same faces in Centrelink searching for a job, the ones who are lucky enough to have a job I see at the Post office paying their child support, I see them standing outside the family law court having their ass torched one last time. I see them in some quiet corner of the mall, sitting there with eyes full of tears and regret.

Is there ever any end to this? Homelessness in this country is at epidemic levels as is male suicide as is divorce. Is there any wonder when a Government rewards separating couples financially rather than rewarding the family unit to stay together, the four issues are connected.

There are many factors in divorce and no one should have to put up with violence or abuse but let's get real, the arguments normally start with financials before emotionalism, sadly. Now the emotion, the financials, the will to have either is all gone, it just gets down to survival and unfortunately males are not so good at surviving on their own.

What happened with the senate inquiry into suicide???????????

Tony Miller OAM

28 May 2011
All men are dreamers

It seems some things never change or when they do many resist it. For years the Fatherhood movement has fought tooth and nail to ensure our children had the right to a fair and equitable system when it came to divorce or separation of their parents. And they won some ground, hard fought, but worth the effort in ensuring a continued relationship with both parents.

Many Fathers were lost in that battle, for while it raged many were either already too far down the line engaged in court battles or battles that were already fought and lost. Many never saw their children again or were subjected to so little contact with their children that their relationship with them withered and died. Many Fathers sadly took their own lives unable to come to terms with the grief or ongoing conflict that unfortunately continues especially around custody issues with their children.

While the movement always ensured in their submissions that children should be protected from any endangerment from abuse or violence from any party and that should be paramount in any legislation. Any decent father or mother would not condone violence or abuse in any form. Unfortunately there is a minority both male and female where this is not the case. But I repeat, this is a minority not the majority.

All fathers ever wanted, was to ensure that their children could continue a relationship with each parent after divorce or separation and that our Government incorporate this in legislation to protect that right. This was done by our previous Government. Now it seems there are moves afoot to change that hard fought for legislation, water it down and once again put decent fathers at length from their children. It is time again to stand up for our children and demand a fair and equitable system that protects our children and enshrines in law their right to a decent relationship with both parents.

In the words of Woodrow Wilson the 28th President of the United States:
"We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of spring or in a red fire of a long winters evening. Some of us let this great dream die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till, they bring them into the sunshine and light which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true".

There are still those of us out there who dream that our children were not denied us, that our children were not denied their grandparents, that all this pain and anguish would go away and maybe just maybe our children could live as they should, understanding that they are loved and cherished regardless of divorce or separation and have a relationship with all their family.

In the words of the man who abseiled over the Harbour Bridge in Sydney recently:
"You have my children I have your bridge!"

I understood his pain, we all did, it was really a message to his children.

You have our children, we have our votes...

Tony Miller OAM

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