Many dads would agree that navigating parenthood – particularly as their kids approach the teenage years – can be like walking a minefield. For dads from refugee backgrounds, this journey can be even more daunting because of the added trauma of displacement.
To help refugee dads to strengthen the father-child relationship, CatholicCare took 13 dads and their children away for a weekend at Phillip Island.
After running the successful African Dads and Kids Camps since 2008, this year CatholicCare expanded the program to include families from other countries.
“We have families from eight different cultures here this weekend,” said Denise Lacey, Manager of the Relationship Education Program. “We have families from Myanmar, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iran and Iraq; along with those from Eritrea, Ethiopia and South Sudan. One family had only arrived in Australia six months ago!”
Many dads shared a common experience of grief – for the loss of country, family and friends. They also shared a common ambition for the safety of their children. One dad explained how their journey of refuge meant a daily struggle to avoid danger and reach safety. Focussed only on survival, he was not able to think about being a dad. That is until now.
The weekend program included sessions that highlight the importance of positive communication and teamwork, while deepening the understanding of the culture differences between the dads and their kids. These sessions were complemented by fun activities that allow dads and kids quality time for bonding.
“We were thrilled that the bonding extended beyond the family units,” said Denise. “Of course the kids make new friends easily, but we were really pleased that the dads also connected really well.”
One dad who had been in Australia for only 12 months explained how he had few friends and often felt lonely in his new country. By the end of the camp he expressed heartfelt gratitude for the opportunity to spend quality time with his daughter and for the new friends he had made.
As the families journeyed home on the bus, strengthened by shared experiences and new connections, he said, “This is our Australia.”
Refugee Dads and Kids Weekend - Phillip Island 2017