D.A. Sears, Managing Editor - IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD(R)
I asked Mr. Miller to talk about the role models he had as he made the journey from childhood to manhood.
“I was an adopted child -- my mother dying at my birth and my father dying soon after in an accident. My three sisters went to one family and I to another. My father from this family showed me by his actions moral integrity. While a lot of what happened to me in childhood was not pleasant -- I am a survivor of child sexual abuse -- this man was the one constant in my life. He showed me compassion, empathy and faith. I was always in admiration of those that supported the underdog. My father was always giving a helping hand to someone in need. If he wasn't working for us, he was always helping someone worse off then himself. He taught that no matter what life served up to you there was always someone worse off then yourself. Later in life as I was traveling my own journey and fell into a hole I didn't think I could climb out of, I came across a book called ‘Manhood’ by Steve Biddulph and a light suddenly switched on. It gave me legs when I thought I had none and it gave me direction when I was lost in the wilderness. It sent me on the journey I am now on,” Mr. Miller responded.
The conversation moved to Dads In Distress, an organization founded by Mr. Miller. Why was it necessary to create this organization? What types of support services and resources does Dads In Distress provided to Australian Fathers?
“Dads In Distress, Inc (DIDs) is simply a dedicated support group of men whose immediate concern is to stem the present trend of male suicide due to the trauma of divorce or separation. In Australia we lose 5 males a day to suicide. Current statistics indicate many men will take their own lives in preference to facing family, friends and importantly their children with the failure of the relationship. We aim to prevent this incidence from occurring by showing the men and the community at large that someone cares,” Miller passionately explained. “Many of our meetings are held Sunday evenings in what we call the ‘empty time’ after dads have returned their children after weekend access. The first meeting story is on our website -- MEETINGS at http://www.dadsindistress.asn.au/meetings.html. From a small meeting on a veranda in Coffs Harbour five years ago, a group of dads in distress met. We didn't know what we were doing only that we couldn't find any help for our circumstances. We met in the 'empty time' on a Sunday night after we had returned our children after weekend access and faced the coming week or fortnight alone and without our children. It was in our grief over the loss of our families that we shared with each other our pain. We came together week after week and for those of us with thoughts of ending our lives, it gave us a reason to continue -- by sitting there on that veranda . . . telling our story to another dad in distress and listening to his -- without interruption, without advice giving, without someone rescuing and without judgment. Somehow we felt relieved. We felt we vented. We felt we weren't the only ones. We felt someone cared. Someone understood our pain. How can I commit suicide when I am keeping the guy sitting next to me alive? On our journey we soon developed our motto of there being three sides to every story, his, hers and the truth. And somewhere on the journey we come to that truth. It can be very painful for some men but hugely empowering. Night after night we saw the miracles take place. Of dads who were filled with anger, remorse, bitterness, depression, loneliness, helplessness and who were often suicidal suddenly turn a corner. Dads in Distress was born. Slowly, these dads formed friendships and trust and began networking amongst themselves and as their health both mentally and physically improved many began to mentor new dads as they came in. Many crawl as they feel their legs have been cut beneath them. They are bitter at a system that they feel has let them down. They feel powerless to effect any change in their circumstances. They are grieving over the loss of their families. They are grieving the loss of their children. Often they have court orders to obtain fortnightly access to maintain a relationship with their children. Often these court orders mean nothing and access is continually denied. Often they are continually engaging solicitors to fight through the courts to have this access re-established, only to end up on the merry-go-round and often they either run out of finances or walk away to then be labeled a ‘deadbeat dad.’ We don't denigrate women at our meetings. In fact we encourage men to look in the mirror to understand what part of the blame they own, if any. We simply guide men to become the cause of their future and not be the result of their past. We believe that storing up bitterness, grief, anger and revenge is like getting a glass of poison for your enemy and then drinking it yourself. Eventually it will eat you away. By the very nature of our sharing, we learn from each other how to handle the complexities of being a ‘Weekend Dad.’ We learn how to handle the depression. We learn how to handle the sorrow. We learn how to make contact work. Many believe they are better dads now than they ever were in the marriage. Many Dads In Distress now get together on weekends with their children and with other Dads In Distress and their children for barbecues and outings. It is part of what we encourage. It’s called community-based peer group support. And it works. Often we refer dads to specialists, if needed. Often we show them where and how they can gain specific help in the area of their need. Often we seek out and encourage those specialists to provide free or discounted services to these dads. Often we cannot find the services that are sadly needed. Often they are just not there. And this situation reminds of the words of the late President John F. Kennedy of the United States: ‘ . . . There are risks and costs to a programme of action, but they are far less than the long range risks and costs of comfortable inaction . . . .’.”
I was curious about the State of Fatherhood in Australia. What are the most challenging aspects of parenting for Australian Fathers? Are there adequate support services and resources and adequate access to these support services and resources for Fathers in Australia?
“The State of Fatherhood is in disarray in Australia. Fathers, well many Dads In Distress feel demeaned, dismissed, forgotten, an endangered species, not needed, and not wanted --other then as a wallet to their former spouses. The most challenging aspects of parenting for Australian fathers is simply obtaining some reasonable form of contact or access to their children after divorce or separation. In this country as a divorced or separated father you are expected to just walk away from your children and be content with having every second weekend with them if you are lucky. In lots of cases, dads don't even have that. In lots of cases where there is a female child under six, overnight contact, unless sanctioned by the mother is virtually impossible. Dad is labeled a ‘pedophile’ just because he suddenly became divorced. When Dads In Distress started over five years ago, there was little support for Australian dads. There were groups around such as the Lone Fathers Association Australia who fought on the political side, but offered little in emotional support. Now that is not to dismiss the fact that they fought long and hard for over thirty years when ‘dad’ was a dirty word and that they have made an enormous contribution to the betterment of fathers in this country. Today there is a myriad of fathers groups across the country although most being into the political process. Dads In Distress although heavily involved in lobbying has, as its core business, suicide intervention. We are more interested in helping men navigate the future by understanding their past,” Miller observed. “As I see it today, we are a million miles in front of where we were five years ago. The Fatherhood issue is the top of the agenda certainly with this government. We have an opportunity to lead the world in Family Law with the present Government promising to introduce the biggest reforms in thirty years. Whether this happens on not we will have to wait and see, The Shared Parental Responsibility Bill 2005 is before Parliament and due to be debated in February or March of this year. It promises EQUAL time with both parents which is the main issue of concern. Obviously we would like to see ‘fifty-fifty’ as the norm and work back from there. It takes the punch out of the argument. At present, it's whoever has the children the most -- be it mum or dad -- they are rewarded financially. In effect, we are prostituting our own children. This has to stop. Part of the package is the Government roll out of the establishment of Family Relationship Centres across the country which is scheduled to begin later this year. The idea behind the centres is that it will be mandatory for separating and divorcing couples to attend these centres for mediation prior to entering the Family Courts. They may be ordered to undertake specific courses. Any move forward to possibly saving a marriage or, at the least, ending it in a nonadversarial way, has our support. The days of greedy lawyers making a fortune from the misfortune of divorcing couples is coming to an end. Last year, we had an inquiry into child custody arrangements which resulted in a Ministerial Task Force which I was involved as a reference group member. And as a result, a number of recommendations are before Parliament to reform the Child Support Agency. It’s all about bringing transparency and a fairness to the system that, at the moment, is just not there. We will again wait and see if we have been successful.
What can and should be done individually and collectively to assist Men in dealing with the challenges of being Men and Fathers in the Millennium? Where does this responsibility lie? Does this responsibility lie with government? Academic institutions? The judicial system? Religious institutions?
“It lies with everyone! We need to rejoice in Fatherhood not denigrate it. Men lay down their lives for family. They go to war to defend their families. Men die in defense of their families. Yet they are asked to just walk away in divorce or separation. How do we do that? We cannot!” Miller declared.
Men from all Walks of Life throughout our global village seem to have adopted an "I'm fired up! I'm not taking it anymore" attitude. What's going on with Men? What are they fired up about? And why?
“You want to know what’s going on with Men . . . why and what Men are fired up about . . . and why? You can find the answers on our website at STORIES at http://www.dadsindistress.asn.au/stories.html. And I can share with you a number of stories. For example:
A call comes in: ‘I'm a dad in distress, I live in Wagga, I'm having trouble getting to see my kids. I have court orders but my ex continues to deny me access, what do I do ? I don't have money for a lawyer. I miss my kids, I don't feel like going on, is there a dids group here or someone I can talk to...............’
A second call comes in: ‘Hi. My wife left me for another man about seven months ago. At the start she gave me access to my little daughter who is four. But over the time she has denied me access by making all sorts of excuses as to why I couldn't see my little girl. Now she says she wants to move on with her life and doesn't want me in the picture. I love my little girl and only want to continue to see her and be her father. It now seems her mother has chosen a new father. Am I supposed to just walk away and forget my little girl? I can't! I love her!. Can you help ? I live in north Queensland.’ A third call comes in: ‘I'm definitely a Dad In Distress. I'm, angry. I'm upset. I'm frustrated at a system that seems to forget fathers. We seem to be at the bottom level. I cannot afford to continue fighting through the courts when all my ex seems to do is breach orders time and again and gets a slap on the hand and then goes out and does it again. I have three kids who I adore, but I am ready to walk away. There is no justice in this country for fathers going through a divorce. Is there a group near here? I live in Albury Victoria.’ A fourth call comes in: ‘Hello, my name is Robert. I am having trouble seeing my two young children – three and two years old. It is causing great distress and I am having trouble sleeping which is affecting other areas of my life. I have seen a doctor and his answer was anti-depressants. Yes, I'm depressed, I miss my children. I just need someone to talk to. I have tried the Mensline and they were a help. But I feel the need to talk to someone who has been through what I'm feeling. I have heard of the great work your organization has been doing. Is there a group near here? I really feel I'm at the end of the road. I'm not suicidal yet, but it wouldn't take much to tip me. I need to talk. I live in Dubbo.’ A fifth call comes in: “Hi, are there any support groups like Dads In Distress in Townsville ? I am a mother in distress, with a family that is stretched to the limit. Our son aged thirty-five has suffered a marriage break up after nine years, has four children eighteen months, three, five and seven and has not been allowed back into his family home since his ex-wife admitted him to a clinic last October because he was suicidal. The wife and his ex-best mate, who was living in the house since his own marriage breakdown in May of last year -- you guessed it -- are now living in a de facto relationship, still in the family home. My family is in disarray and we don't know where to go. He is still emotionally very frail. His lawyer says he is wallowing in self pity. Where is there for us? His dad and the rest of us are all emotionally in crisis and financially strapped too. Is this something you can help with? A sixth call comes in: ‘Hi, I know your organization is for Dads In Distress and I am not sure exactly what you do, but I have been told that you reunite fathers with their children. I will be eighteen in six weeks time. My father and mother separated when I was five years old and I have had no contact with him since. My mother hid all his photos from me and won't give me his birthdate. I have now found out his details and would like to seek some closure. I have no relationship with my mother and was kicked out of the house when I was 13. My friends asked me what I wanted for my birthday and all I really want is closure. I just would like to know that he's out there somewhere and my brothers have had to grow up not even knowing who their father is. My youngest brother was only four weeks old when my mother left my father. Can you help?. A seventh call comes in: ‘Hi, it's Rob here. I just want to say thanks. You guys have changed my perspective. Since contacting you guys, the help you have given has enabled me to get on with my life. I now see my kids regularly and that just wouldn't have been possible without the combined knowledge and assistance you guys provided. I was one of those ready to drive off a cliff when I contacted you. I just want to thank you and I want to say thanks for my kids’.Dad is back and dad is staying.’ An eighth call comes in: ‘Good Day. I too was once a dad in distress where I thought the only way out was to throw a rope over the back tree and do myself in. If there was ever a rock bottom in my life it was the divorce, the family court, the solicitors that keep pounding me with demands but most of all the loss of my children. I have a complete understanding of the Family Court now as I have been there twenty-two times. The more I was knocked down, the more I got back up. Why I believe your organization seems to be focusing on the most needed area is that last time I was in the Family court awaiting my own matter to be heard, the acting solicitor for the children told of how the father committed suicide. Then I realized that no one there really cared, not one little bit. The court just kept moving through case by case, like it was nothing. I remember feeling like that. I want to help.’ These are just a minute example of the e-mails, phone calls and letters we receive each and every day from mums, dads and kids who desperately seek our help. Very shortly, our politicians will make some decisions that will affect nearly fifty percent of the population of this country. I have a question I would like to ask: How is it that our ex-wife's new partners have more access to our children than we as fathers do? I ask again: How is it that a new person can come on the scene who we know absolutely nothing about, but yet is given free access to our children and we, as fathers, must apply to the courts for permission to allow that same access. Let's face it, the system is just not working in its present form. We were asking for fifty-fifty. In reality all we really wanted was to be guaranteed the right to see our children for a substantial amount of time. We want the right to have involvement in our children's lives. Yes, shock and horror. Why shouldn't we have that right? It seems it is okay to father a child but then because someone falls out of love and ends a relationship, you then ask us to just walk away from fatherhood. What's the message you are sending fathers? What's the message you are sending our children? Every father going through this tragedy knows that even if he is lucky enough – and, yes it's pure luck or money, in most cases -- that he receives orders through the court to see his children for any decent length of time and that those orders in reality are not worth the paper they are written on, unless his ex-partner abides by them. We hear from more and more fathers who are making cash payments to their ex-partners in order to see their children. It's cheaper than a lawyer and at least you are guaranteed that you will see your children. We hear from fathers who have been reduced to supervised contact who now find that because the contact centre's are low on funding they have to wait yet again to see their children. Where does it end? I ask that every politician that is involved in this decision making process that tonight when you get home, if you have children, give them a special hug and kiss and then close your eyes and imagine them gone from your day to day life. Imagine you have no say in where they now live or with whom. Imagine that you have no say in where they are going to school or whom they associate with. Imagine that you are now relegated to every second weekend access to them, if you're lucky. Imagine that the access is conditional on the whim of an angry ex- wife and her new partner. Imagine it's Christmas and it's not your year and someone who you know absolutely nothing about is handing the presents out from under the tree to your children. Imagine it's your six-year old’s birthday and you get to spend a lousy two hours with him or her again, if you're lucky, after driving seven hours because they have relocated. Imagine night after night, going home to an empty house and sitting on the bed in the children's room looking at a picture of your little girl whom you haven't seen for three years. Imagine standing in a court room for the very first time, knowing as a father you have little chance of winning but somehow stirring up the courage to fight to see your children. Imagine what it's like to be now deemed as a violent person, a perpetrator, an abuser. Imagine you are now deemed mentally ill because you are suffering from separation grief. Imagine you now have the CSA climbing all over you for child support for the children you never see. Imagine waiting patiently for someone, anyone to help you, to understand how you feel let down as a father. Imagine waiting for a Government to come to its senses and make the decision that will allow you and your children to continue that father-son or father-daughter relationship. Just imagine. We don't have to imagine, we live it every day! Yes, it is what is in the best interest of the children and surely allowing them to continue the relationship with both mum and dad is in their best interest. Kids need both mum and dad in their day-to-day lives. They also need their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and so on from both sides. We are simply Dads In Distress asking for a fair go. We do not wish for our children to go through what we have. Just imagine that it is possible. We need a human law. A law that fits the way we live now. A way that reflects the differing versions of family that we have but that still generates love and kindness and compassion. A law that does not take away the happiness of the remaining years of our grandparents lives and allows them to continue to contribute to our society by helping us to raise our children. A law that lets mums be mothers and dads be fathers. Both nurturing, both loving their children, perhaps outwardly differently but inside with the same intensity and passion. Different but the same - an equality of difference.” Are men's health issues being aggressively and effectively resolved by the scientific and medical communities? Does adequate research and research funding exist for men's unique health issues? Are there adequate medical/health resources for men? Do men have adequate access to medical and health resources?
“Do you know that we lose 5 males to suicide each and every day in this country? And we know that this figure is underreported because of stigma, insurance and so on. How many deaths by drowning, death by misadventure, single vehicle accidents and son are suicides? Do you know that if five whales beached themselves on any beach in this country there would be a scurry of media and utilities rolled out in order to save them? No expense would be spared. It would be broadcast all over the world. Yet five MALES ‘suiciding’, gets little attention. SAVE THE MALES NOT JUST THE WHALES,” Miller remarks in a voice that rises with indignation. “In Australia some women's refuges are funded at over $400,000 per year. That's one refuge in one town. And there are many. Yet, Dads In Distress, Inc is funded at $100,000 a year nationally. And we are it. The only national core faced fathers group in the country to be funded, other then the supposedly peak body, the Lone Fathers Association, which is funded around $25,000 per year. What can they do with that?! We are not saying women's refuges are not needed, as sadly they are. What we are saying is, where is the equality in that? Many Dads In Distress are suffering from depression. That can be used in court against you and can hinder your application to have access to or contact with your children. Doctors’ records can be subpoenaed for a court case. Dads are reluctant to seek medical advice because of this. Suicide intervention funds are channeled into youth suicide while the highest at risk group, males from 25 up are left high and dry. I have been screaming for years for Government to inject some substantial funding into research especially into suicide of males experiencing the trauma of divorce or separation to no avail. The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) here erected a fence around a major bridge on our state freeway at a cost of just under a million dollars to stop people ‘suiciding’ by jumping off. Do they really believe they saved one life? Do they really believe that someone who has made their mind up to end their life is going to take one look at the fence and say ‘Oh well, I won't do it now, they have fenced the bridge’?! Are we going to fence every damn bridge in the country?! How many lives could we have saved with a million dollars? Last year, Men's Health asked us to draw up a submission for a slice of the annual funding round. Our state, New South Wales had available $100,000, for the state. With the myriad of men's groups now surfacing and the prospect of getting possibly $500, I declined. I told them it was an insult. Some time ago I wrote to fifteen Members of Parliament asking them for $1000 each, as I needed $15,000 to run a suicide intervention training conference amongst forty of our volunteers. I asked what does it take to save a man’s life? Just a $1000 would train a volunteer in your electorate who in turn will save many. We do it everyday. You know, I received one reply: a check for fifty dollars from one MP. That's what our elected MPs think a man’s life is worth – fifty dollars! I still have the check. I didn't cash it. I will frame it one day and hang it on my wall. In answer to your questions: NO!”
An article I wrote in 2004 says it all, a portion of which I will read here:
‘You wonder why. We have been telling you for five years now and still you don't listen. Take away the person you thought was you're soul mate for life. Take away you're trust in people.Take away any dignity you may have. Take away you're self esteem. Take away most of what you have worked for all those years. Take away any incentive to rebuild and move on. Take away the right to see your children. Take away the right for you're children to see you. Take away you're children. Take away your fatherhood. Take away you're life. Dads in distress Inc. is calling on the Federal and State Government to deliver some substantial funding into men's health and stop throwing peanuts and expecting us to be monkeys. We have an epidemic of male suicide. We have billions of dollars being spent on women's programs, need I mention the millions spent on the domestic violence campaign alone. And rightly so. Yet next to nothing is spent on Men's programs. .And I am not talking about the deficit male model programs teaching dads to be better dads. You are inferring before you start that these men are less, now that they are divorced or separated. I am here to tell you that just because you are a divorced or separated dad doesn't mean you have suddenly become, less a dad. When you try and run programs like Interrelates Managing Anger Now with the acronym MAN. What are you telling us? Imagine if we had started an anger management program for women with the acronym WOMAN, we would be hung out to dry. Thank goodness they have seen the light....... Men are angry because you have taken their children away. Men are angry because they are back and forth through the courts in order to find a judge who will assure them that they can continue a relationship with their children. Men are angry because our children have been stolen, and we want them back. There is nothing wrong with anger, violence is the problem. Anger is an emotion that gets you to your feet. To fight against an injustice and rightly so. We need research and we need money for that research. The New South Wales Health 2004-2005 Men's Health Funding Round was a total of $100,000. That's one hundred thousand dollars. That's for the whole STATE. For Men's Health. What are we going to do with that ? By the time that's divided up, you can forget any worthwhile long term viable project. It's seeding and it's not even enoughfor that. When a Women's refuge is funded at over $400,000 and that's one -- in one town. Now I am not denying, that sadly they are needed. What I am saying here, is we have an unacceptable male suicide rate and we are putting bandaids on a great gaping wound. How much is it costing now? How much does it cost for the attempted suicides? What's the cost in doctors, nurses, hospitals, ambulance etc because I can tell you there are far more attempted then successful. Thank God. . . . This is not about funding organisations that are working with men. It's about funding the people who are already at the coalface. We are calling on the Federal and State Government to urgently fund research into why this country has such an appalling male suicide rate....the crisis with men's health in this country today; the connection with the loss of fatherhood to suicide; the loss of productivity in the workplace due to separation grief; and the link between suicide and separation grief and so on.’
Also, an article written by Carol Nader entitled, Teen Suicides Fall But Men A Worry, which was published on December 16, 2004 demonstrates my point. The article can viewed at the following link:http://www.theage.com.au/news/National/Teen-suicides-fall-but-men-a-worry/2004/12/15/1102787143900.html.”
I asked Mr. Miller if a gender war existed and if so how does it affect male-female relationships and parenting?
“Yes I think there is, sadly,’ he stated. “There seems to be one law for males and another for females. Recently Qantas and New Zealand Airways announced their policy of not allowing males to sit next to unaccompanied children on their flights. You will be asked to swap places with a female passenger. It appears its ok for women but not for men. We are the danger. You see it in commercials all the time where the male is denigrated and if you swapped the male figure for a female you would be hung out to dry. Again an article I wrote that was published on February 5, 2005 entitled, Are We In The Middle Of A Gender War’ says it all. I will read a portion of it here:
‘We have a multitude of agencies and organizations now bidding for theAttorney General's new Family Relationship Centres. I trust that the Attorney General looks deeply at the organizations that may be chosen to operate these centres. The bias against males must stop. The sexist deficit male model programs must stop. If you don't believe that this is going on, an example: Shellharbour City Council invites professionals in Community Services,Health and Education to a MAKING MEN MATTER FORUM sounds great, until you turn the page and read the blurb by project worker Beth Moon which saysContact email@example.com As the Project worker my role will be to: Among other things I quote ‘'Ask men in the community what they need to be a better partner, parent and community member'. Who says they are not already, Beth ????? And further I quote: ‘'I have a commitment to making men better partners, parents and community members'. Again, who says their not already, Beth. Just because a father may of separated or divorced, why are they suddenly less. Because mum or dad has decided to end the relationship for whatever reason, why is it that suddenly dad is the lesser component. Why is itsuddenly necessary for him to be trained to be a better partner, a betterparent or a better community member? Is it possible that mum may have endedthe relationship? Is it possible and dare I say that mum may be the one thatneeds the help. Because there has been a separation or divorce has eitherpartner suddenly become less a parent, less a partner, less a communitymember? For the sake of it, let's just replace the word men with the word women,just for the sake of it. Dad In Distress Inc ask women in the community what they need to be a better partner, parent and community member. Dads in Distress Inc. has a commitment to making women better partners,> parents and community members. What does that sound like? Sexist? Hurtful? Degrading? Diminishing? How long do you think we would be in business? And that's just replacing one word. This is just one small example of the type of programs that are being offered up to fathers around the country. Deficit Male Model. We will train you how to be a better father. We will train you how to control your anger. By the way we will do this while you are being denied the right to have a relationship with your children. By the way, statistics prove that the majority of divorces are instigated by the female of the species. No suchprogram that we know of for women exists. It seems it's only father's strangely enough who need this training after divorce or separation. Thousands of dollars of taxpayers money are poured into organizations who run these Deficit Male Model programs. What do father's need after divorce or separation? Simple. They need to be able to continue the relationship with their children on a fair and equitable basis. They need support both physically and mentally in dealing with the trauma associated with separation grief. They need guidance and advice as to their rights as a separated or divorced male. They need to know that these rights will be upheld in the Family Law Court of Australia. They need positive programs that enforce and empower fatherhood not fatherlessness. They need to know that this help is there for them and that it's okay to get it’.”
I noted that Dads In Distress recently announced the creation of "Mums In Distress". I wanted to know why? And what is Mums In Distress' mission?
“Dads In Distress instigated Mums In Distress simply because of the thousands and thousands of contacts from mums who were experiencing trauma similar to dads going through divorce or separation. The difference here was, that although the women's movement is well catered for and most certainly well funded, there was a gap in the services offered. Many women who find themselves in second marriages where either themselves or their new partners were in a previous relationship, found there was little or no support for the complexities that they now face such as Dads struggling to maintain access to his children from a previous marriage, dealing with the financial strain of supporting two families, depression, child support, blended families etc. Many mums felt isolated from the women's movement as lepers in a leper colony. No one wanted to know lest they catch it --something dads going through divorce or separation have felt for years. Many mums had contacted me personally and had said they felt shunned from other women because of their circumstance. Many mums were shocked when seeking help through women's refuges when they were advised to take out AVO's or make accusations of abuse before they would be offered help or support, even though they knew these to be false. Now I will just pull up here and state that wee need women's refuges, sadly. All men are not angels and there are those that should never had married in the first place as there are mums in the same category. Many mums to their credit would not buy into taking out AVOs or making accusations of abuse and found themselves excluded from any support. Many now find it difficult to talk to friends or family regarding the difficulties they now faced in their new relationships. Many just needed to talk. Empathy and understanding is what they were seeking. And Mums In Distress was born. The mission of Mums In Distress is simply based on the same principles as Dads In Distress. Look at our aims and simply replace the word men with women. It's about providing a safe place for women to express how they feel, without judgment. At our first meeting, we had a young lady in her twenties who had not had contact with her father since age four. She had only ever heard one side of the story. She knew his name, date of birth, last occupation and last known address, now over twenty years old. After an emotional sharing of her life to date and hearing of her need for closure, Dads In Distress went into action. Within two days we had traced the father -- we have a network of friends from all walks of life willing to help where they can. They have now been reunited and have a lot of lost years to catch up on and I guess, some painful, some maybe not so. They will journey together now. We will be there in the background should they need more support. In simply stating why we started Mums In Distress it is my humble opinion that if we could somehow get mums talking in the same way as we do in Dads In Distress, in other words it’s not about HIM, it’s about YOU. Understanding that there is pain on both sides of the fence. HE HURTS . . . SHE HURTS. But most of all THE KIDS HURT. It's about coming to the understanding that regardless of your thoughts towards your ex-partner, it’s about the kids. Stop using them to hurt him or her. It's about discovering who you really are and maybe why YOU have made the choices YOU have in life. It's about asking the question: ‘What part of the blame do you own, if any? No one is going to offer you expert advice -- not in the context of the meeting. No one is going to judge you. YOU will become your judge. You will learn to share your pain and come to an understanding through hearing others’ stories that your story is not alone and that may be just maybe YOU can make a difference to the person sitting next to you. It's called co-counsellng in a sense and it works. My ultimate goal is to get mums and dads talking. We see many who are still in the relationship and who seek our help before things go belly up. Gee, if we can save a marriage, then isn't that what it’s all about? One day I would like to see mixed groups -- male and female -- experiencing and understanding that there is pain on both sides of the fence. There are no winners -- especially our kids. There is a book and a course originating I believe from Boulder, Colorado -- Rebuilding, When Your Relationship Ends by Dr Bruce Fisher. It’s a brilliant book and a brilliant course. We have run it in the past and have seen miracles take place. I would like to see it happen en masse,” Mr. Miller explained.
So, what’s next for Tony Miller?
“Firstly and foremost our ultimate goal is to wind up operations. To no longer exist. To go back to just being dads. But sadly at present we are still needed. My personal passion is to see ‘KIDs’ established -- Kids In Distress -- within our education system. KIDs would be a mentoring group with older kids who have been through a divorced scenario mentoring younger kids who are struggling and may need someone to talk to regarding their problems. It would run along similar lines to a Dads In Distress meeting. Every second kid in our school system is struggling with the trauma of divorce or separation. We just want to give them a safe place to get rid of the burdens that may be holding them back. ‘Relationships’ also needs to be taught in schools, so by the time they leave school, they will have some idea of how to cope. And last but not least, I am writing a book. Not a self-help book, although you may find help within it, but a book about my journey with Dads In Distress Inc. I would like to add a footnote. I have just opened my mail this morning and received a letter from the National Australia Day Council writing to inform and congratulate me for being nominated for the Australian of the Year Awards 2006. I was unaware I had been nominated. I didn't make it to the finals but I am humbled to even be considered. As a divorced father of five, well you can see, we have come a long way in recognizing that Divorced Dads are still productive members of society. Rejoice in Fatherhood!” says Miller thoughtfully.
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