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Christchurch City Council Starts Major Fatherhood Initiative

The Christchurch City Council is organising New Zealand’s first forum on fatherhood to be held in Christchurch on the last weekend of March 1998.

It is trying to enrol the support of high profile persons in sports, media and politics. Sir Michael Hardie-Boyes, the Governor General, has already confirmed his attendance and is tipped to serve as the patron for the forum.

The forum is modelled after a similar event held in Sydney in September 97, which was attended by Councillor and mayoral candidate Gary Moore and the Council’s Child Advocate Lyn Campbell on behalf of Children’s Commissioner Laurie O’Reilly, who is terminally ill.

Keynote speakers on the Sydney forum were child psychologist Steve Biddulph and psychology professor Graeme Russell, both strong and renowned advocates of involved fathering and authors of several books in the area, who will possibly also attend the Christchurch forum.

The City Council, the Office of the Commissioner for Children and the 6A Trust, an organisation dealing with street kids, have vowed to give $5,000 each towards the project so far.

A Charitable Trust, named after Laurie O’Reilly’s “Fathers Who Care: Partners in Parenting” project, will be established to provide a structure to organise the forum and beyond.

A “trackcutter” meeting was held on November 97 where people, who tap into large networks, got together to offer their support. About a quarter of the attendants were women, among them Plunket’s Christchurch North area manager and Pat Penrose from the Early Childhood Development Unit.

The forum will address issues such as fathers in sport, neighbourhood fathering, structural obstacles to fathering, the image of fathers in the media, the concept of “corporate fathering” and women’s viewpoints.

At this stage there is no provision for special workshops or speakers on fathers as primary caregivers.

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