“Be a father and allow men to be fathers, because it’s an opportunity. It’s our right. To parent our children, to feel that love, to make that contribution. Parenting is not just about women, it’s about men too. Society will be better off if we as men are given that opportunity.”
They were the words which prompted a round of applause and a couple of fistpumps for Dr Vijay Roach- Obstetrician, Chairman of the Gidget Foundation and father, at this week’s ‘Aussie Dads Uncensored’ Event.
In a partnership between Parents At Work and Men’s Health Magazine, the community ‘Dads Talk’ brought together 140 Dads in a nation-first conversation about parental leave equality. The event featured Johan Bävman’s Aussie Dads photography exhibition; intimately capturing Australian fathers on parental leave.
Johan Lundström (President, Swedish Australian Chamber of Commerce) and Professor Richard Fletcher (Family Action Centre, University Of Newcastle) discussed the stark differences between the Swedish and Australian approaches to parental leave. Johan said “in Sweden, dads are supported. It’s a society that is supportive financially and very accepting of sharing the joy [of caring]”. Richard reflected on Australia’s will to replicate these values, saying “you don’t have to just stand by the mum anymore”.
Parents At Work CEO, Emma Walsh, hosted a panel-discussion with 4 fathers- Tom Williams, Adam MacDougall, Alex Laguna and Dr Vijay Roach.
Alex Laguna, of betterdads.com, said “For men, our challenges are not an open discussion at the moment”. The conversations generated at this event facilitated exactly this. The attendees saw 4 high-profile, busy, corporate men, get up there and vulnerably share their stories. As dads.
Each panelist openly shared reflections on the challenging moments of fatherhood- when you’re sleep-deprived and running on coffee, when your kids copy your not-so-impressive qualities (Adam MacDougall got a relatable laugh from the crowd after explaining him swearing at the footy and the next day finding his daughter swearing at Peppa Pig), and when you doubt yourself as a parent. But they also shared the beautiful moments. “The joy you feel when you hold your baby, when you see your child succeed”, said Vijay Roach.
Adam MacDougall (ex-professional rugby league player) and Tom Williams (host of The Daily Edition) spoke openly about how hard it can be for men to have the conversation with their employer about the support they need without putting their career in jeopardy. They gave the advice that “the conversation needs to be initiated right from the start”.
The reality is that in Australia, we have one of the least generous Paid Parental Leave systems in the world. We have a long way to go. Less than 5% of employees taking primary carer’s leave are men. The Government Dad and Partner Pay scheme is also extremely under-utilised with just 1 in 3 father’s taking it up. Policy change is crucial at this time- both on a Government and Employer level.
But as Emma Walsh neatly concluded;
“It isn’t just about policy change, it’s about an underground movement from all of us, having these conversations. So the next time you meet a dad who is expecting a baby- ask them WHEN are they taking parental leave. Not IF. When.”
The aim of this event, and the Aussie Dads Exhibition, was to provide a platform for conversation about parental leave equality, and it did exactly that. We hope this conversation continues to expand- among fathers, in families and in communities.
Media coverage on the event:
- Men’s Health – “For Men, Having Your First Baby Is Your Single Greatest Moment Of Adjustment”
- Men’s Health – ‘Aussie Dads Uncensored’ Is Tackling The Complicated Business Of Fatherhood