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Dad stays on track

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When Jordan Hammond first learned his partner was pregnant, the then 20-year-old felt scared and pressured by the role of fatherhood.

“We didn’t know what to do – being so young, we were still partying and finding out she was pregnant woke us both up,” he told Newcastle Weekly.

“We were both scared to tell our parents and I felt a lot of pressure being the dad and needing to find full-time work.”

Mr Hammond initially turned to Stayin’ on Track, a project that focused on the experiences of young Aboriginal fathers in Moree, Tamworth and Newcastle.

It was the brainchild of the University of Newcastle’s Family Action Centre associate professor Richard Fletcher.

His team worked alongside the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, local Aboriginal communities, and the university’s Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health to develop a website for young Aboriginal dads.

A pivotal component of the project involved the participants sharing their stories, with filmed interviews available online for other fathers to access.

Stayin’ On Track is a spin-off of an SMS4Dads program, in which users are sent text messages with tips, information and links to other services to help fathers understand and connect with their baby and support their partner.

Mr Hammond said the initiatives had been beneficial as he shifted into fatherhood.

“I found it a little bit tough being so young and those messages and phone calls really helped a lot,” he said. “I felt more relief when I spoke about what I was going through.”

While he struggled initially, the Rutherford resident is now the proud father of four girls – Jaylea, Kallie, Zarlia, and Layla-Rae.

With the nation set to celebrate another Father’s Day this Sunday 1 September, Mr Hammond said becoming a dad had “grounded” him.

“I don’t know where I’d be if I wasn’t a dad,” he said. “I was all over the place before; you definitely have your ups and downs during the day – you get stressed because they don’t listen and all that sort of stuff.

“But, just the love really – it doesn’t matter how down you are; your kids always find a way to make you smile and happy.”

Visit stayinontrack.com or sms4dads.com for more information on either project.

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