Oral Presentation Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference 2016

The Aboriginal fathering project (#109)

Shawana Andrews 1 , David Gallant 1 , David Ellis 2 , Ron Briggs 3 , Alfie Bamblett 4
  1. University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  2. Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. Children's Protection Society, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  4. Indigenous Men’s Resource and Advisory Service, VACSAL, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

For more than two decades it has been widely reported that Australian Aboriginal communities have been significantly impacted upon by family violence. While there is a growing focus on programs that protect Aboriginal women and children from violence there has been little investigation into programs that work with Aboriginal men on issues of violence. There remains a dearth of knowledge within the literature about how Aboriginal men’s programs address the complex issues of fathering, family violence and abuse and what supports Aboriginal men require to effect positive behaviour change.

This presentation presents the findings from the ‘Aboriginal Fathering Project’, a collaboration between The University of Melbourne, SNAICC and a number of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organisations working in the family violence space. The research project is working toward creating positive parenting experiences for Aboriginal children by challenging and reframing the narrative about Aboriginal fathers in the context of family violence. To date the research has encompassed three stages of data collection including semi-structured yarning sessions with; program coordinators, Aboriginal men involved in programs, and with Aboriginal women who are survivors of family violence. A wide variety of programs were captured in the research including fathering programs, healing programs, men’s behaviour change programs, and general men’s groups.

Central themes emerging from the data include program development; the strength of culture as a vehicle to change; empowerment, ownership and opportunity; accountability and sustainability. This research is engaging with Aboriginal perspectives about the broader themes associated with men’s wellbeing and identity in the context of fathering and family violence and aims to build some foundational knowledge upon which men’s behaviour change models, programs and frameworks can be anchored.