Newell, S, Franks, A, Lloyd, D, Telford, G & Binge, C 2006, Koori Fathering Program: pilot phase evaluation report, prepared for Health Promotion Unit, North Coast Area Health Service, Lismore, NSW.
The Koori Fathering Program was developed in response to demand from local Aboriginal organisations and individuals to improve the health and wellbeing of their communities. Family functioning was a stated priority and specific requests were made for training around parenting skills and relationships. A literature review reinforced this felt need by highlighting how the quality of early childhood experiences, including parenting style, affects children’s social, cognitive, emotional and physical development and wellbeing and, consequently, their overall physical and mental wellbeing throughout their lives.
An extensive local mapping process found that, although many parenting programs were available, Aboriginal men were not accessing them. Informal community consultations indicated this was largely because Aboriginal fathers found the existing programs to be too female-oriented, not culturally-relevant, difficult to access and insensitive when classes were missed due to family or community crises.
Another extensive search found few parenting programs designed specifically for men and even less for Aboriginal men. Indeed, fathers had, generally, been identified as a group requiring further attention when developing parenting programs as they were not being easily accommodated within current early intervention and parent support programs and services. The literature review did, however, identify a number of issues and principles of importance when developing Aboriginal parenting programs, as well as some key elements of successful parenting programs.
The findings of these literature reviews, along with comprehensive feedback from a number of focus groups with local Aboriginal men, were used to develop the Koori Fathering Program – a 15-week course offering Aboriginal men and, indirectly, their partners and children, a new beginning by supporting them to: • develop more positive relationships with their children; • develop more positive relationships with their partners, or ex-partners; • improve their understanding of children’s development and needs; • understand and accept the responsibility of fatherhood; • improve their communication skills; • understand the importance of showing affection; and • learn and practise effective, positive discipline strategies.