Boost paid leave to help kids thrive, say famous dads

As his own boss, Amar Singh is thankful for the flexibility he has had to be the best father to his two kids.

“There’s a certain time you need to connect with your child,” he told AAP.

“If you are always busy and working and you can’t have that serious connection, it can have a lasting impact on your relationship.

“It’s good for family values to have both parents there and with the flexibility to take care of the kids, be around them more, nourish them and create that bond.”

The trucking company owner and Australia’s Local Hero of 2023 knows how complicated it can be for other dads to care for a sick child or manage other duties by asking for their boss’s permission each time.

It’s why Mr Singh has joined forces with an alliance of famous dads, including comedian Hamish Blake and Red Wiggle Simon Pryce, to change the landscape for fathers to help their kids and partners thrive.

The Dads Action Plan for the Early Years calls for a national strategy to support fathers in taking an equal share of parenting, including 12 weeks of federally funded paid parental leave for fathers and non-birthing parents.

Blake, who hosts the podcast How Other Dads Dad, said the current generation of fathers wanted to be more engaged but did not always know where and how to get support.

“Something like this helps make that more possible for more dads and I reckon that’s a massive, long-term good thing for everyone involved,” he said.

The five-point action plan also makes the case for more affordable and accessible childhood education, better resources and support for fathers to be active and caring parents and a radical boost in the number of male early educators.

Pryce said he and his wife Lauren, a former Wiggles cast member, struggled to secure an early learning placement for their son Asher.

“We know how important access to quality early learning and care is to our son’s development and future (and) it’s also really important for Lauren and I to be able to continue our careers,” he said.

“Affordable access to early learning for all children is essential for every child and their parents in Australia.”

The action plan has the support of organisations including Playgroup Victoria and Dads Group, which has established 70 community groups for new fathers and their children.

It also marks a shift in the Minderoo Foundation’s Thrive by Five campaign, which seeks to reform the early childhood system.

“This is really about fathers raising their voice in what has been a campaign dominated by female voices,” campaign director Jay Weatherill said.

“If we’re really going to shift the dial for kids and for women in particular, there needs to be more equal parenting and (it) needs to start with a change in attitude and change in policies.”

Mr Weatherill believes a lot of men would like to be involved in their family but many of them feel constrained by the reactions of employers, colleagues or friends.

The Parenthood chief executive Georgie Dent said Australian fathers on average accessed less than 20 per cent of the parental leave dads took globally.

“This isn’t because dads here aren’t interested in taking the leave, it’s because our policy settings don’t encourage it,” she said.

The call for a major boost to parental leave comes as the Albanese government aims to increase the provision per family to 26 weeks by 2026.

The stepped changes, from 18 weeks in 2023, would double the leave reserved for non-birthing parents to four weeks and introduce concurrent leave.

About 180,000 families receive government-funded paid parental leave each year.


Luke Costin
(Australian Associated Press)


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