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Hands on: Tristan Winner participated in one of the first Deadly Dads workshops before the arrival of baby Tombi. The program aims to empower and educate Aboriginal fathers and fathers-to-be. Picture: Simone De Peak.A HUNTER-based parenting program is using one-day workshops to educate and empower Aboriginal fathers-to-be in a bid to improve the health outcomes of the next generation.
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The Deadly Dads program beganafter survey results showedlower rates of breastfeeding among Aboriginal womenatdischarge from hospital, and that Aboriginal children hadhigher rates of avoidable hospitalisations.

Program facilitator Paul Douglas, one of only three male breastfeeding mentors in ,said Deadly Dads was still in the pilot stage, but they had so far shared practical parenting advice and information with 70 to 80 men.

“The word ‘deadly’ doesn’t mean lethal in this context. We’re not teaching them to kill people,” Mr Douglas laughed. “In the Aboriginal community, we use ‘deadly’ as another word for good.

“There is nothing out there like this course. We try to give useful tips, and teach the fundamentals about what being a father is all about…How to be actively involvedand supportive day-to-day.”

Mr Douglas said the program empowered men to take ownership of parenting issues, andtouched on health, safety and nutrition for both the mother during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as well as the baby.

“We go into all of those key indicators that are recommended to help close some of the health gaps,” he said.

“Who would have ever thought that a group of men would be sitting around talking about breastfeeding?

“But it’s not just women’s business. It benefits the children, and when the blokes get involved, and they understand better, they can better support their partners.

“Likewith breastfeeding, there is the soreness, the stress that can come with it if the baby doesn’t latch on. If the husband knows too, they can help them out and support them through the tough times.”

Tristan Winner, of The Hill, said while nothing could ever fully prepare a person for parenthood, after participating in the Deadly Dads program, he felt a lot more confident ahead of the arrival of his son, Tombi, almost eight months ago.

“Theantenatal classes had a lot of practical stuff in them as well, but it was probably more geared towards the mums,” he said.

“I walked in to this and it was just blokes. We had a good laugh and a good time. It got a bit deep at times, but I walked out feeling a lot more ready than I had been. It was just one day session, designed for us.”

He would like to see the program continue and expand to other regions.

Mr Winner said he and his wife, Joan, were referred to the program through Birra Li, theAboriginal Maternal and Child Health Services.

Birra Lican be contacted on4016 4900.

“I think blokes need a reason to sit down and have a yarn about this stuff. No one really talks about whatthose first few weeks and months are like, it made me feel a bit more ready,” he said.

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