The Australian Fatherhood Research Consortium held their annual Australian Fatherhood Research Symposium in May 2023. This Symposium is a collaboration of researchers, practitioners, and policy makers from across the nation.

Our wonderful friends at Uniting, Family Services Father Engagement Focus Team have prepared an overview of their reflections on key messages from the Fatherhood Symposium for their work with fathers and for ‘father inclusive practice’ to share so others can gain benefit from the symposium.

Click here to access a deep dive of the Fatherhood Symposium, and some fantastic insights into best practice when it comes to working with fathers in our sector!

Key messages identified by Uniting as important to advancing father-inclusive practices, improving engagement, and recognising the diverse roles fathers play within families and communities include:

  1. The role of men as fathers is rapidly changing, so that Dads are taking on more active and caring roles at all stages of child and adolescent development – which has an important impact on the lives of children and young people. The many insightful presentations underscored the evolving role of fathers in child and adolescent development. These revealed that traditional stereotypes and policies need to catch up with these changing roles, promoting father inclusivity and valuing their contributions.
  2. Cultural sensitivity and community collaboration that respects and leverages the strengths of fathers is needed so that fathers feel valued and empowered. Speakers stressed the significance of culture in father engagement, emphasising the pressing need for community-based programs that respect and leverage the strengths of fathers from diverse backgrounds. Collaboration with community leaders was highlighted for developing culturally sensitive interventions.
  3. Implementing effective communication strategies that resonate with fathers, empowers Dads in their parenting roles. Research highlighted the pivotal role of effective communication when engaging fathers. The Plus Paternal Project, for instance, focused on appropriate language and challenging gender stereotypes to ensure that fathers feel valued, included, and empowered in parenting.
  4. Acknowledging the long-term impact of fathering highlights the crucial role of Dads in shaping their children’s lives. Studies showcased the lasting impact of fathers on their children’s lives. Negative parenting experiences in childhood were linked to beliefs about fathering roles and even to current mental health issues. Positive models and bonding were found to be crucial.
  5. There is an urgent call for further research to address the research gap on father-focused interventions and programs. The Symposium revealed a scarcity of research in this field. More research is required to determine effective strategies for engaging fathers, especially in child protection, homelessness, and other critical areas. Collaboration and sharing knowledge among professionals are essential in this pursuit.

These messages collectively underscore the Symposium’s significance in advancing father-inclusive practices, improving engagement, and recognising the diverse roles fathers play within families and communities.

Please get in touch with Dr Mandy Charman, Senior Manager at OPEN at the Centre of Excellence Child and Family Welfare (, to express your interest in Father inclusive research, practice, and networking opportunities.

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