Stories of deadly dads: How Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers keep strong

Emerging Minds, Aboriginal Art Designs and DIMS, Australia, September 2022

Resource Summary

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this resource may contain audio or names of people who have passed away.

Download printable Stories of deadly dads resource

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers play a vital role in supporting their children’s wellbeing. Yet current service provision excludes many people from this village network.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers are frequently overlooked. There are many ways in which practitioners and organisations can include and provide opportunities for fathers to voice their hopes for their children in their conversations including:

  • by being curious about cultural differences in parenting and asking questions that will draw out what is important for fathers’ hopes and dreams for their children
  • continuous cultural self-reflection in practice, understanding and placing their cultural views and beliefs in context
  • seeking guidance from local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men’s group or colleagues who may support their knowledge and practice.

This series of six short stories from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers is intended to provide learning opportunities for individual reflections or team discussions – quick sessions that can be held in a meeting or lunch break. Each session includes a short 5- to 10-minute film with different learning objectives and reflective questions.

These sessions are aimed at practitioners and services who support First Nations families, including men and their children, helping them start conversations and promote reflective practices. You may also consider using these videos in your practice or group work with fathers, as these stories have been given by men, to support men and will resonate for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers. Each session will take approximately 30 minutes for individuals to complete and one hour for teams, depending on the discussion generated.

Who is this resource for?

This resource will benefit practitioners in mainstream health, education and social and community services who work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

Developed for community-based delivery, these lunchtime session packages can be supported through the following additional resources for reference or clarification:

Deadly dads: Harley Hall

Culture is a big part of our living, it’s something that no matter what we go through in life, it is something that will hold us strong.

- Harley Hall

Download the printable Deadly dads: Harley Hall resource

In this short film you will hear from Harley Hall, a Ngarrindjeri-Kokatha father, as he speaks about what’s important for him and his children.

Harley will describe some of the struggles he has had to navigate, being an Aboriginal man in a western system.

Harley will describe what it is like to have to fight for his rights, the stereotypes that he faces, and the legacy of intergenerational trauma and how this has impacted his parenting. He will also talk of his struggles to maintain hope in a society that gives no value to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.

Yet you will also hear a story of resilience, strength, love and hope, and about the protective factors that he seeks to build for his children so they can grow strong in culture and identity.

Learning objectives

  • Social justice and the legacy of colonisation are foundational knowledge requirements when supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.
  • Extended family kinship and networks are protective factors for fathers and children.

Watch Harley’s story:

Consider the following questions individually or in a group.

  • How might you hear about resistance to injustice in your conversations with fathers? Is there space for these conversations?
  • Did you notice how often Harley speaks of being proud? Why do you think pride is so important for fathers who experience injustice?
  • Harley spoke about wanting to be present and there for his children. In your interactions with mothers, do you consider fathers? What questions may you ask to include dads in the conversation?
  • If Harley came to you seeking support, what are some of the strategies he could utilise? There are many strengths that Harley mentions in his story – note down a few.

Related resources

Articles by Thomas Mayor from The Guardian:

Deadly dads: Jack Buckskin

In our culture, your home and the Land you stand on is the most central thing that any of us have.

- Jack Buckskin

Download printable Deadly dads: Jack Buckskin resource

In this video you will hear Jack talk about his hopes and challenges in parenting his three children.

Jack speaks of his children being central to his world and will describe the cultural factors that have supported him on his parenting journey.

Language and cultural revitalisation are pivotal protective factors for Jack.

In the midst of an urban community, Jack has developed a network of connections including to extended kinship, Country and cultural practices.

Learning objectives

  • Language, connection to Country and cultural identity are important considerations in the support provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers.
  • Parenting practices can look different in different cultures.

Watch Jack’s story:

Consider the following questions individually or in a group.

  • Jack spoke about his challenge as a parent of helping his children navigate their feelings and emotions. How might you support Jack to explore this challenge and find ways he may be able to feel confident to navigate these emotions?
  • Extended kinship connections are important to Jack – this is seen as he talks of his uncle. What questions might you ask Jack to bring these relationships into your conversations and support strategies?
  • What are the ways Jack has managed to build cultural identity for his children? List down the protective factors Jack speaks about.
  • Jack spoke about his parenting practice of building autonomy and resilience for his children. Is this different to non-Aboriginal parenting? How would you hear about these different cultural practices in parenting?

Related resources

Deadly dads: Lou Turner

The Aboriginal experience is about connection. To me, it’s understanding what the disconnection was, to reframe and position an experience of reconnection and connection for myself and my family, and that’s understanding the stories.

- Lou Turner

Download printable Deadly dads: Lou Turner resource

In this story you will hear Lou Turner speak of his experiences as a descendant of the stolen generations and the legacy of trauma that comes with that.

Lou also describes the impact the media has on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and fathers, and how the base of strength is challenged and devalued among everything else that was taken from Aboriginal men.

He also speaks about the changes to, and challenges of, unclear, undefined roles responsibilities and obligations Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men now face, walking in two different worlds: one of traditional Aboriginal cultural values, ways of living and existing; and one of contemporary Australia.

Learning objectives

  • The significant impact colonisation and the legacy of the stolen generations has had on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and their roles as parents.
  • How Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men challenge dominant negative stereotypes and assumptions daily through resilience, strength, and integrity.

Watch Lou’s story:

Consider the following questions individually or in a group.

  • Lou talks about the violence and trauma that was inflicted on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the resulting disempowerment. How would you hear about your local Communities; how might you find out about this history?
  • The impact of oppression and disempowerment can at times present as frustration, anger, and hopelessness. How could you give value to and make space in your conversations for these experiences?
  • Lou talks about a clear, rightful place for men, which sat in harmony with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. How may you understand this historical place for men, and give value to the contemporary place in which men now find themselves?

Related resources

Deadly dads: Daniel Giles

We have a big focus on independence; it’s about teaching our children young to be able to do a lot of things for themselves and that’s because we’re not always going to be there, they have to be comfortable with doing a lot of these things themselves.

- Daniel Giles

Download printable Deadly dads: Daniel Giles resource

Daniel will speak in this short story about the cultural differences in parenting for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

He will share the important roles and obligations fathers have in the transfer of cultural practices to their children.

Supporting children to live in two worlds involves teaching them about:

  • their role as an individual in the broader context of community; and
  • the roles and responsibilities each contributor has within the context of community, including the care and compassion that is central to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of ‘being, knowing and doing’.

Learning objectives

  • The ongoing role and responsibility Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers have in the transfer of cultural knowledge to their children.
  • Being curious in your conversations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers. Parenting may look different when supporting an unfamiliar culture, so it’s important to make space in your practice to understand the differences.

Watch Daniel’s story:

Consider the following questions individually or in a group.

  • Daniel speaks about his support network of brothers and men. How might you hear about this network in your practice? If a father is isolated, who could you contact in your local area to support him to build his network? Is there an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men’s group local to where you practice?
  • Daniel talks about the obligation of care and compassion to his broader community. Do you make space to hear about such values in your engagements? How could you consider these obligations in your strategies and goal setting plans with fathers?

Related resources

Deadly dads: Steven Torres-Carne

My job is to care, look after protect and provide for them, and just be a good strong role model and show them that I love them and care for them, and that there’s good things in life for them.

- Steven Torres-Carne

Download printable Deadly dads: Steven Torres-Carne resource

In this story you will hear Steven talk about his work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men’s groups and the important function that collective therapeutic models have in supporting wellbeing. He will speak of the isolation and conditioning of men to be strong and how over time he has learned strategies to keep himself well. This includes Indigenous mindfulness and physical activities, as well as the support and connections that he and other men share in together.

Learning objectives

  • Self-care and taking time for yourself to heal provide fathers with a solid foundation on which to care for their children.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men have a shared experience of the impacts of colonisation, which can be supported through support networks and collective healing models.
  • Strategies that may support other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men’s wellbeing.

Watch Steven’s story:

Consider the following questions individually or in a group.

  • In his story, Steven talks about the practices that have supported his healing journey. When you are supporting First Nations fathers, how could you create the opportunity or space to hear about the practices or strategies that keep fathers strong?
  • Are you aware of this shared experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men; and how could you hear, see, or understand, more about this history? Where could you find these stories?

Related resources

Wayapa Wuurrk, in the language of the Maara and GunaiKurnai Peoples respectively, means ‘connect to the earth’ in the English language. Wayapa Wuurrk uses Indigenous thinking about our relationship with the environment and concepts of ancient earth mindfulness to encourage new perspectives on wellness.

Dadirri (da-did-ee), from the Ngan’gikurunggurr and Ngen’giwumirri languages of the Aboriginal peoples of the Daly River region (Northern Territory, Australia), and has a similar meaning to the English word ‘contemplation’, and is described as the practice of ‘inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness’.

Deadly dads: Bill Wilson

Being a dad for me is easily the most important job I’ve done, or will ever do.

- Bill Wilson

Download printable Deadly dads: Bill Wilson resource

In this story you will hear from Bill Wilson, who will speak about his parenting, and how important it was for him as a father to role model respect for women and respect in relationships for his children.

He will talk about his journey to better understand what a good dad looks like and how the love and investment in his children was pivotal for him as a father.

He will also talk about the value of selflessness in the broader context of cultural obligations and protocols and how that shapes the father he has become.

Learning objectives

  • The foundation of healthy relationships for children are built upon the role modelling of respect for women by men and fathers.
  • Intergenerational trauma and the experience you have of parenting as a child does not define you as a parent.
  • Dads play a vital role in bringing up Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children strong and connected to culture.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers have strong cultural obligations in the broader context of children, family and community.

Watch Bill’s story:

Consider the following questions individually or in a group.

  • Have you considered cultural obligations in your practice? How could you hear about this from fathers? How may you give value to this commitment to care for children, family and community?
  • Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers like Bill, may be seeking support on answers to ‘what does a good dad look like?’ How would you gain a deeper understanding of this within a cultural context, knowing after listening to Bill, that there are specific obligations and protocols for men? Are you the right person to support this? Who may you connect with to support you in helping fathers?

Related resources

Up Next: Deadly dads: Harley Hall

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