A playgroup for dads

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Fathers love their children. They always have. But the public perception of dads as a “provider” rather than a “nurturer” is deeply ingrained in society.

But the tide is turning, and programs like the Warrnambool City Council’s new playgroup for dads are giving fathers and father figures the chance to play with their children and connect with other dads, while helping to change the previously narrow definition of fatherhood.

Dion Barker attends with his son Finlay, and says that the group has had major benefits for both father and son.

“The stereotypical dad works the nine to five, maybe plays sport or does something on the weekend,” he said. 

“If you’re not that way inclined, or your circumstances are different, finding opportunities to interact with other dads becomes a challenge.

“Most playgroups are attended by mothers… you don’t necessarily get the chance very often to interact with other fathers.

“Something like this is more aligned with being open and being able to talk to people, it’s been really good to talk to other dads and talk to Sona (the group facilitator) too and talk about the other services that the Council offers. 

“That’s been really helpful for me.

“Finlay is just over one and a half now and it’s a time where he is very interactive and wants to play with other kids.

“So it’s really good for the kids to have that time with other kids and also other toys, and different books and different activities.”

Group facilitator Sona Tuakalau said that group allowed men to play with their children in a relaxed environment while allowing them to open up about the highs and lows of being a parent.

“I think it’s important in any community to have a lot of different options for different people to feel welcomed and that they’re a part of something,” he said.

“We had playgroups at Council that had dads turning up and wondering if there was a space for them to come and be social with other dads and have an opportunity to bond with their children.

“Not only are there a lot of things in common so you can start building friendships, you can start building a rapport and you can feel open to share different things. 

“There’s more in common with other dads and it’s kind of a shared experience.”

The Warrnambool Playgroup for Dads meets on Tuesdays at 10am at the Beamish St kindergarten.

To find out more and to join, contact the Children’s Services Centre on 5559 4747 or childandfamily@warrnambool.vic.gov.au.