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Thursday, 18 September 2003
Page: 20548

Mr SLIPPER (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) (9:52 AM) —At the outset, I would like to thank my colleague opposite for her courtesy. It was my pleasure recently to be involved in the annual Lifeline Sunshine Coast Doing Dads Proud celebration in my electorate. In fact, it is the largest Father's Day celebration in the country and some 8,000 to 10,000 people attended the celebration at Cotton Tree. The event held on Father's Day each year is a good opportunity to celebrate the role of fathers and, in particular, positive fathering in our community. A father's role in his child's life these days varies a great deal from family to family. There are part-time dads, foster dads, step-dads, new fathers and grandfathers who are the primary father figure in a child's life, but they all play a vital role in the upbringing of children. I do not agree with much the honourable member for Lilley says but what he did say, as Father's Day approached, was that fathers should give their children more of the best gift possible, and that is time.

As part of the celebrations, I was privileged to be present and to be able to make awards to the winners of an essay competition for Sunshine Coast children who had written essays explaining why their fathers were special to them. As a father of two, it was touching to hear the children read their essays and hear about why their dads were so important to them. The significant role fathers play in their children's lives was also highlighted last month when I met a delegation of five fathers from the Sunshine Coast who attended the Fatherhood Foundation's National Fathering Forum here at Parliament House. The forum looked at the role of fathers in our community, both historically and as the role has evolved in the 21st century. The forum also looked at fatherlessness—that is, the absence of an active, positive father influence on the lives of children—and the effects it has had in Western societies. A report to the forum said that in America, amongst families with dependent children, only 8.3 per cent of married couples were living below the poverty line compared with 47.1 per cent of households headed by females. Closer to home in Australia, the forum heard about a recent study of 500 divorcees with children aged between five and eight years which found that four in five divorced mothers were dependent on social security after their marriages dissolved.

Fathers have a very important role to play in the Fisher and Australian communities—a role strongly supported by the Howard government. Just one example of this support is the provision of close to $200,000 in funding in 2003-04 to Lifeline Sunshine Coast for a men and family relationship program. The funding through the Department of Family and Community Services is acknowledgment of the great work Lifeline Sunshine Coast does in providing vital support for men and their families in the area. The program, operating on the Sunshine Coast and in Gympie, provides relationship support for men experiencing difficulties in family based relationships. It offers information and emotional support, as well as personal development programs to help individuals maintain healthy relationships with partners, former partners and their children. Today, more than at any other time, the service Lifeline Sunshine Coast provides is of vital importance to help to ensure that men are involved with their families and provide what is an essential role model for their children. (Time expired)