August 13, 2007 12:00am
ONE third of separated fathers have little or no contact with their kids.
And almost a quarter of Australian children - more than a million kids - have a natural parent who does not live with them, the latest ABS family characteristics snapshot shows.
The 2006 census also shows one parent-families - which are overwhelmingly headed by women - now make up 15 per cent of all families.
The lack of contact is despite a determined effort on behalf of separated dads to play a more hands-on role.
According to the latest Child Support Agency figures, more than 21 per cent of parents applying for child support are now men looking after their kids as primary carer.
This is up from just 7.5 per cent a decade ago.
But experts have long argued part-time and supporting fathers need more help with their parenting role.
In a groundbreaking new program, YMCA Victoria, Relationships Australia, Mensline and the Life Is Foundation is launching DadsLink to help fathers.
DadsLink will bring fathers together to receive counselling, attend camps and just hang out.
"We know many fathers have an enormously important role to play in their children's lives," YMCA Victoria chief executive Peter Burns said.
"But we also know that many more fathers are struggling and wanting to learn more about how they can be a better dad, whatever their circumstances".
Relationships Australia spokesman Tony Gee said positive parenting after separation "brings a whole set of challenges". These include managing relationships with spouses and changing relationships with their children, he said.
Divorced dad Ross Clennett, 41, of East Bentleigh knows just how hard parenting can be after a relationship breakdown.
His children were just two and four when he separated from his former wife Michelle.
"It's a pretty difficult process particularly as the kids were so young," he said.
He sees his children Nicola, now 6, and Guy, 8, six nights a fortnight. And he has a six-week-old son, James, with new wife Michelle Tickle.
"I am a better dad now because I am more involved now than I was before - I was determined to make it work after the separation," he said.
"Because I don't have the kids all the time when I do I am very conscious of being with them and doing things with them."
- See www.victoria.ymca.org.au for more information on DadsLink, or to nominate someone for YMCA Community Father of the Year.
See www.csa.gov.au for other programs for separated dads.
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