The Age

Sunday, 4 July 1999

Hero Father

The Sunday Age (Melbourne)

For the growing number of men in the Australian workforce who are fighting for the right to father - and the women who want them to succeed - Mr Fischer [Deputy Prime Minister] became an instant hero when he quit his job last week. Citing the heavy toll his travel as Trade Minister was taking on his young family, Mr Fischer stepped out of one of the country's most powerful and glamorous jobs.

On Friday, the Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, praised the resignation as "a wonderful demonstration of men taking equal responsibility for their families''. "I think we have seen a dramatic example this week of the growing recognition of so many men in our community that family and parental responsibilities are responsibilities that must be shared equally between men and women.''

For advocates of "family friendly'' workplaces, it was a significant step in a slowly unfolding battle for the acceptance of men's right to be able to work and parent as well.

Rex Finch, a founder of the new national fathers' rights lobby group Dads Unlimited, said most Australian men were still a long way from achieving the balance they wanted between family and work life. Men in corporate jobs were particularly conscious of a lack of balance.

"Fathers are aware they want to be present, but the pressures on those blokes are absurd. They are expected to put in the sort of commitment that years ago would have been considered workaholism,'' said Mr Finch, who is also the publisher of the best-selling books Raising Boys and Manhood by the author Steve Biddulph.

* To contact Dads Unlimited, call (02) 9211 3794 (Intl. 613 9211 3794)