(identifying details may have been changed to protect privacy).
Founder Tony Miller filed this report in 2009 about a typical week around Christmas at DIDSS Head Office:
“The past week has been a trying time with more and more calls, emails, mail, all seeking assistance, all hurting, all wanting some direction, all wanting someone just to talk to, someone to listen, someone to cry on their shoulder. What should be a wonderful caring family time, in our world, that of a dad in distress turns into a disaster that many would prefer to exit rather than experience.
I took a call from a bloke's ex wife up in the bush Queensland way. He was sitting outside the farmhouse with a shotgun threatening to blow his head off but also threatening to take her and the kids with him. He was sick, hurting, confused and desperate. Wanting to keep a marriage together that had failed. He really didn't want to hurt her or the kids, he just wanted to stop the pain. It took a couple of hours in talking him down. It took years of hurt and heartache to end like this. Today he is alive and so is his family. He may be in jail but he is alive.
I took another call from a very angry dad who had heard through a friend that his little girl had been bashed and in hospital. He was crying, 'Tony I just want to speak with my little girl to see that she is alright', Someone had said as the hospital staff asked whether the father should be contacted; 'No he’s not interested'. The fact was that he had been fighting for years just to keep in contact with his little girl. 'This is the fourth year I am not going to see my little girl for Christmas', he cried. Every year for the past 4 years this bloke pulls the presents out that he wrapped in previous years and places them under a tree hoping, waiting for the day his little girl would turn up and open them. It's possibly never going to happen but I can’t tell him that. He screams at me down the phone 'The Government doesn't care about us Tony, don't I have any rights as a father? Why can't I just see my little girl, why Tony ,why? It’s a joke, no one cares’.
‘ I do’, I told him, ‘and the time will come, when your little girl will come looking for you.’
'It will be too late, I can’t go on like this’, he cried ‘Why should I wait, I have done nothing wrong'.
Two other calls came in that week, both after hours, both suicidal and homicidal, wanting to end the pain. Both are alive today. Is anyone else really listening to these guys? Does anyone care? I have to say, I had a lump in my throat as I sat down for Christmas dinner 2009 with my family; Have I done enough? Have you done enough? Has our Government done enough? I guess time will tell. At least I know of a few that will be alive today because of this group's intervention.”
“My name is Frank , I'm almost 40 and divorced. I have a 5yr old girl, 8yr old boy both living with their mum. I've also got a 16yr old boy of whom I've had sole custody of since about 13 months of age, after court his mother had absolutely nothing to do with him (I lost mates because I went for and got custody despite me having no ‘kid’ experience and there being 5 other siblings and after that my luck ran out. I grew up without a dad or male role model, I was about 4yrs old when I was first shot at with a double barrel shotgun by my mother’s boyfriend, from 6-11 years of age I was sexually abused by two female relatives; not a good up-bringing .I don't have family or friends to help us out so we literally have nowhere to live. I've lost too many things and had to start over too many times over the years and I ain't doing it again. I can’t. I can’t move, pay rent and arrears and start over because of a Centrelink stuff up. I've raised my son single handed. He thinks I'm a good dad but my other two don't because I'm not with them. I have depression, stress(where'd that come from?) and anxiety. I literally had a drug dealer hold a gun to my head. My mother and sister have been in town for several days and haven't even bothered to see us not even on Christmas day so we spent it alone as usual. It’s not that I want to die, I just don't want to live any more . I haven't had a holiday, a break, rest or anything for well over 15 years or help. I’ve had enough of it. When I first got custody there were no baby change rooms, mothers rooms – yes, but men weren’t allowed in. I've tried to get help and cant and I just think me kids would be better off without me. I can’t handle the stress and the loneliness anymore. In the past I’ve tried to call life, and guess what: no-one answered. That was depressing. I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO.”
A mum grieves for her son
“Like many men who have faced the separation of their family my son also is going through a rather torrid time trying to gain fair and equal access to his girl's, my husband and I also missing out on quality time with our grandchildren. Yes, I know of all the contact numbers, advice consultants etc etc, this does not seem to give the men any gain when they contact these groups, to the point both my son and myself have had it suggested to us to ‘just walk away’ because the mother in question will never stop until she has had her way, which is happening now.
But, my question is: Has anyone looked at the Human Rights Charter in relationship to Father's being denied access to their children - even those who pay CSA - those who want to be part of the children's lives - watch them grow. To me there appears to be a very good case under the Human Rights. Has it been considered to have a Class Action to the Court to look at the lack of human dignity with which the Family Court deals with Father's. I do not quite understand the lack of respect from the courts toward Father's or the expectation for them to have a Solicitor - my son being taken to task (in front of his ex-wife) for not having legal representation (how do they afford this when paying out so much, not just children, but just to live). Just thought I would ask the question."
"Xmas time for me has been a time of anguish and uncertainty. Since separating from my wife over 10 years ago I have been cut off from seeing my daughter. There was never any court involved nor was there any violence except the turmoil I have faced for many years trying to stay on top of my maintenance commitments which I have always paid in full without question. I have always worked hard to attain a good standard of living and want to share this with my kid whom I have not seen in over 10 years and who now is 12 years old."
I Never Stop Worrying
"Hi. Feeling very depressed as my kids are not being looked after in a basic caring manner…
The house is simply a shithole - a great mess; dishes, filthy floors covered in cat hairs, washing sprawled everywhere thick dust always over everything, rooms that you cannot walk through due to mountains of crap..I normally clean up when visiting my kids... even before we split up I would have to clean up after work or when the wife would go down to the city for a day or two, within 24hrs of her coming back the place would be trashed again.
My 18yr old won’t look for a job and stays up late playing video games. He has been out of school for 18mths now and not once worked anywhere. The mother won’t encourage him at all. My 14yr old girl is extremely over weight and now being home schooled by a mother who belittles her if she can’t remember or work out. This a huge worry for me and cannot get two words in about this without being yelled down. My 8yr old is on a razor edge in going same path as her older sister. She is trying hard to be healthy and active but is up against it as only get encouragement when I am present. She loves her sport but the mother is too lazy to support her.
All above is due to a mother who is lazy as anyone I have ever heard about.She screams NOT yells when we disagree with anything at all, Its instant but more important is she also directs these screaming attacks towards the kids for even the most minor situations.
I find myself threatening to call the so-called authorities in but just can’t seem to be able to do this due to fears of losing my kids as a result.
I could go on and on with many examples of negatives...but for now I am just looking for some sort of strength to be able to act. I'm sure a better man would have already acted. I am so bloody confused and stressed. My mind never stops being worried about my kids and their unhealthy life style being supported by a woman with no conscience at all.
I feel so restricted in acting, knowing as soon as I do these so-called authorities simply take the side of the woman without actually investigating.
Not sure where to turn or go but do know I cannot continue like this much longer.
Just seen your TV commercial and thought well may as well write and see where it takes me/ or if can help my kids to a future that does not involve pure nasty laziness."
A Cry for Help
“Hi, my name is Paul and I have split with my partner of 16 years and have tried to take my own life. It’s killing me that she will not let me see my kids and well it hurts. It’s been 4.5 months since I saw them. If you can help please do. I don't want to end up dead or in the mental hospital again. Thanks.”
Save the Males
"I visited your site today and read the “in Memory”. That stirred the emotions of a former attempt I made in 2004. I am very fortunate that I received very good care and support from my family and medical people. I lost my job as a counsellor because of it and the fact that I broke every rule in the book of the welfare agency I worked for just to keep a young man from self harm.
To this day I do not know whether he is alive or has finally succeeded in taking his life. Today he would be 25.
I also lost my marriage of 32 years. Having gone through the torment that can lead one to this type of despair, I can fully understand the psyche ache that these good men suffer and I also understand why they would want to take that final step.
As a Catholic Christian I am a very strong believer that our God of understanding, love, compassion and forgiveness welcomes these sufferers into his Kingdom with open arms. There is no damnation for them.
To lose 5 men every day to suicide is 1825 too many each year. And now we are in the season where many of the Dads in Distress will be feeling very lonely and vulnerable.
Who are they? Where are they? What do we do to avoid the tragedies that will befall some families this Christmas? This is tragic Tony and as you quite rightly say beached whales seem to be more important to society than Dads in Distress. Keep up your good work."
I have Court Orders! But I HAVE Court Orders!
“I'm a dad in distress, I live in Wagga, I'm having trouble getting to see my kids. I have court orders but my ex continues to deny me access, what do I do ? I don't have money for a lawyer. I miss my kids, I don't feel like going on, is there a dids group here or someone I can talk to? “
Am I Just Supposed to Walk Away?
“My wife left me for another man about 7 months ago. At the start she gave me access to my little daughter who is four. But over the time she has denied me access by making all sorts of excuses as to why I couldn't see my little girl. Now she says she wants to move on with her life and doesn't want me in the picture. I love my little girl and only want to continue to see her and be her father. It now seems her mother has chosen a new father. Am I supposed to just walk away and forget my little girl. I can't, I love her. Can you help? I live in North Queensland.“
“I'm definitely a dad in distress, I'm, angry, I'm upset, I'm frustrated at a system that seems to forget father's. We seem to be at the bottom level. I cannot afford to continue fighting through the courts when all my ex seems to do is breach orders time and again and gets a slap on the hand and then goes out and does it again. I have three kids who I adore but I am ready to walk away. There is no justice in this country for fathers going through a divorce. Is there a group near here? I live in Albury.”
Wouldn’t You Be Depressed?
“Hello my name is Robert, I am having trouble seeing my two young children 3 & 2 years old, It is causing great distress and I am having trouble sleeping which is affecting other areas of my life. I have seen a doctor who has prescribed anti-depressants. Of course I’m depressed - I miss my children! I just need someone to talk to. I have tried Mensline and they were a help. But I feel the need to talk to someone who has been through what I'm feeling. I have heard of the great work your organisation has been doing. Is there a group near here? I really feel I'm at the end of the road. I'm not suicidal yet, but it wouldn't take much to tip me. I need to talk. I live in Dubbo.”
18 and Needing Closure
“Hi, I know your organisation is for dads in distress and I am not sure exactly what you do but I have been told that you reunite fathers with their children. I am 18 in 6 weeks time. My father and mother separated when I was 5 years old and I have had no contact with him since. My mother hid all his photos from me and won't give me his birthdate. I have now found out his details and would like to seek some closure. I have no relationship with my mother and was kicked out of home when I was 13. My friends asked me what I wanted for my birthday and all I really want is closure. I just would like to know that he's out there somewhere and my brothers have had to grow up not even knowing who there father is. My youngest brother was only 4 weeks old when my mother left my father. Can you help?”
Business as Usual
“G’day, I too was once a dad in distress where I thought the only way out was to throw a rope over the back tree and do myself in. If there was ever a rock bottom in my life it was the divorce, the family court, solicitors that keep pounding me with demands but most of all the loss of my children. I have a complete understanding of the Family Court now as I have been there 22 times. The more I was knocked down the more I got back up. Why I believe your organisation seems to be focussing on the most needed area is that last time I was in the Family Court awaiting my own matter to be heard, the acting solicitor for the children told of how the father committed suicide.Then I realised that no one there really cared, not one little bit. The court just kept moving through case by case, like it was nothing...”