In a small room filled with laughter, the occasional tear, heartfelt discussions, and a shared understanding, gathers a group of men brought together by the bond of fatherhood. IMPACT Community Services' Dad's Group is providing a lifeline to fathers across the Bundaberg region. Every second Friday, the doors of IMPACT Community Services HQ open to offer a supportive environment for dads at every stage of their parenting journey.
Led by the compassionate and experienced Lenny Vaeagi, a Support Worker with IMPACT’s Family Mental Health Support team, the Dad's Group welcomes fathers from all walks of life - new dads, single fathers, partnered fathers, those facing challenging family situations, and those who have come out the other side of tough times. The group recognises the diverse experiences of fatherhood and aims to foster connections, build resilience, and provide a space for men to share their joys and struggles.
Lenny says, "We create a judgment-free zone where fathers can open up, share their experiences, and learn from one another. It's a unique opportunity to find solace, gain knowledge, and form meaningful connections."
Single father of four Aaron* has been an integral part of the Dad's Group since its inception. Aaron reflects on the significance of the group and the impact it has had on him and others, stating, "It's like building a picket fence. When you start, it seems like you're not making much progress, but bit by bit you get there. Everyone has feelings and doubts, but you can talk about anything. To have trust in the group is the whole point."
Aaron shares openly in the group’s sessions in the hope he will inspire other members to speak openly about their own situations. He believes in the importance of reciprocity, saying, "What you take in, you give back – it's okay to speak up if you need something. We're all there to share; it's all about give and take."
He said the group is leading the way in breaking multiple cycles and challenging beliefs around a wide range of issues, including gender roles and domestic violence, and helps fathers to instill values in their children.
"It's not just about getting help; it's about being a part of something," Aaron emphasises. "Isolation creates depression, so it's good to be involved. The main focus is being better for ourselves, which means being better for your kids and your family."
Through his participation in the Dad's Group, Aaron has not only found a network of friends who understand his challenges but has also gained confidence and a sense of acceptance. The group has become a lifeline for fathers seeking support, guidance, and a safe space to express their thoughts and emotions.
Aaron fondly recounts their shared experiences, saying, "We love getting together for fishing trips, playing pool, and enjoying meals as a group. It's about more than just support; it's about building friendships and enjoying life together. Isolation creates depression, so it’s good to be involved.”
He acknowledges that change can be difficult, but he encourages others to take the first step by attending the Group.
"Showing up is the first step towards making a change. It's about embracing the opportunity to connect with others who understand what you're going through."
Group Facilitator Lenny believes the Dad's Group stands as a testament to the power of community and shared experiences. He says that by providing a platform for fathers to come together, learn from one another, and grow as individuals, group makes a lasting impact on the lives of its members.
“As the Dad's Group continues to support one another, share their journeys, and engage in meaningful community initiatives, they embody the notion that fathers have the capacity to create a ripple effect of positivity, extending their impact far beyond their own lives,” he says.
And for Aaron, his journey with the Dad’s Group won’t be ending any time soon.
“It’s so good to be a part of a group that supports each other, we all want the best possible outcomes.”
To become a member of the IMPACT Dad's Group, individuals must be referred through other parenting programs offered by IMPACT Community Services. IMPACT offers a range of services covering mental health, training, employment, intensive family support, parenting and NDIS. For more information about our services please call us on 4153 4233.
*Name changed for privacy reasons.