Endalldv Director Sharon Fowler and ABF Founder Leith Erikson with volunteers Adrian Batterham, Aleshia Spencer, Michael Jose and Marc Lorbach. Photo: Peter Stoop

Dads who are in distress as they navigate child access disputes and the family courts now have access to a new support network in the Hunter.

The Australian Brotherhood of Fathers (ABF) and End All Domestic Violence (Endalldv) has launched a Newcastle Dads Support Group amid Men’s Health Week (15 to 21 June).

Founder of ABF, Leith Erikson, said the group had been created because Newcastle was a hotspot for its 1800Father (1800 328437) support line.

“For us, with the 1800Father phone support service we provide, Newcastle is a hot spot, we get a lot of enquiries from the Hunter New England Region and that’s been from the very beginning of us talking about reforms and family law and support for men in the community,” he said.

“So, when there was an opportunity to come here, we jumped at it.

“It was a no-brainer for us to come down and set up and we’ll, ideally, roll out more services here and try and be as positive and proactive as we can in the community.”

The ABF is a lobby group of Australian fathers from all walks of life that seek reforms to social policy in government and the courts to protect the rights of fathers and their families.

Mr Erikson added that the group was about giving fathers support and highlighting mechanisms they could use to help them through the family court system. 

“There’s a rocky road through but once you get through the other side and emotions calm, things tend to smooth out,” he said.

Another campaign, Endalldv, empowers communities to take ownership of family and domestic violence while providing tools and services to make that change a reality.

For group member and volunteer Adrian Batterham, the inaugural meeting this week gave him the opportunity to share his story and connect with other dads.

The Newcastle Dads Support Group, which launched during Men’s Health Week, will run for 10 weeks. Photo: Peter Stoop

As a victim of domestic violence and a custody battle, he hopes the group will lead to other fathers reaching out for help.

“It was great, I almost broke out into tears a couple of times,” he said.

“It was pretty emotional, there was a lot of emotion in it, but Leith did a good job of bringing it back so we were happy when we left.”

He added that the group is helping to fill a hole in the system. 

“There is bugger all men’s groups out there for blokes to get support,” he said.

“Don’t do it alone, don’t deal with the anxiety on your own because it festers, it can make good men bad, it breaks good men.

“The amount of anxiety you get from [a situation like mine] is phenomenal, sometimes it just gets too much.”

Another member and volunteer, Marc Lorbach, echoed Adrian’s thoughts.

“It was really good, it was a good chance for everyone to open up in a group setting, it was a safe place and we all came there with shared experiences, which gives us all that bond,” he said.

In 2009, Marc was faced with a legal battle that would span years just to earn the right to see his kids after his marriage broke down.

He added that a support group like this would have been incredibly helpful during his relationship and family breakdown.

The group is open to any dad in distress. It meets every Tuesday from 5.45pm to 7.30pm at 846 Hunter Street, Newcastle West.

For more information or to join the group, call ABF on 1800 328 437, Endalldv on 1300 901 786 or visit their Facebook pages. 

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