January 22nd, 2024




Monday 22 January – An alliance of advocates, researchers and prominent fathers are today launching a five-point action plan to help kids thrive in the first five years of life, and support dads to take a more active role in their lives.

The Dads Alliance includes Red Wiggle Simon Pryce, comedian Hamish Blake, Bluey voice actor David McCormack, Australian of the Year Local Hero Amar Singh, and 12 organisations including the Fathering Project, Dad’s Group and Playgroup Victoria.

The Dads’ Action Plan for the Early Years calls on the federal, state and territory governments to make high-quality early childhood education more affordable and accessible, increase parental leave for fathers and non-birthing parents, and provide more education and support to fathers to be active and caring parents.

The Dads Alliance is part of the Minderoo Foundation’s Thrive By Five campaign, which has mobilised more than 100,000 parents, educators and experts to call for reform of the early childhood development system.

Minderoo Foundation’s Jay Weatherill, himself a father of two, said it was important for dads to speak up on the issue.

“For too long access to childcare and kindergarten has been seen mostly as a women’s issue, but this does not reflect the reality of modern families.

“Dads know that early childhood education is good for their kids – they want them to have the opportunities it provides for their social, cognitive and emotional development, and the lifelong benefits that come with that.

“On top of that, modern dads want to take a more active and engaged role in parenting but government and employer policies and services have not caught up with that change.

“So I am really pleased to see these fellow dads coming forward today to call on politicians to do everything they can to make sure children are set up to thrive.”

The Action Plan calls for twelve weeks of federally-funded paid parental leave for fathers and non-birthing parents, that does not detract from the mother’s parental leave entitlements and is economically viable, so that families choose to “use it” rather than “lose it”.

It calls on governments to do more to attract men to the train and work as early childhood educators, noting children benefit from engaging with caring and sensitive men, and male early years educators can play a huge role in modelling healthy relationships.

Currently, only 2 per cent of workers in the sector are men. Lifting wages and improving conditions would attract a more diverse workforce, as well as helping to address the burnout and high turnover educators currently face.

The Action Plan also calls for a national strategy to support fathers to take an equal share of parenting, including a major education campaign for businesses and families.

Lastly, it calls for investment in tailored perinatal education and parenting support for fathers during the first five years of their child’s life.

Quotes attributable to Dads Alliance members:

Simon Pryce, cast member of The Wiggles

As a dad to a three-year old, I think it’s so important that men are encouraged to be present and engaged in their kids’ lives in those early years and beyond. We know how important access to quality early learning and care is to our son Asher’s development and future. It’s also really important for Lauren and I to be able to continue our careers. We had a challenging experience trying to secure early learning access – and if that’s our experience we know that it would be even more difficult for so many other parents who live in remote areas, or who face other hurdles. As a Dad, I endorse the Thrive By Five Action Plan because I know that affordable access to early learning for all children is essential for every child, and their parents, in Australia.

Lachlan Gillespie, cast member of The Wiggles

In The Wiggles, our line of work is all about bringing joy to children, educating them, and helping with their development. That’s what we do at work – but as Wiggles Dads we know that being engaged, caring parents who share the load with our partners and prioritise reading, play and really connecting with our young kids is not only good for them, but is good for our own mental health, the well-being of our co-parents, and for healthy families.

Anthony Field, cast member of The Wiggles

Murray and I were some of the first men in Australia to become qualified early learning educators. That’s informed everything we’ve done with The Wiggles, and our passion is to make sure every child has everything they need – at home and in having access to quality early learning and care – so that they can thrive today and into their futures. I’d love to see more men in early learning and care as it’s so important for kids to see positive male role models.

Hamish Blake, comedian and TV presenter and 2023 Father of the Year

Becoming a dad can be a pretty overwhelming time for a lot of guys, and in my experience this generation of dads really want to be more engaged, but perhaps don’t always know where and how to get support. Something like this helps make that more possible for more dads, and I reckon that’s a massive long term Good Thing for everyone involved.

David McCormack, Bluey voice actor and musician

I am a dad both in my real life and my Bluey life, voicing the character Bandit Heeler, also known as Bluey and Bingo’s dad. So as a double dad, I am really proud to get behind the campaign for affordable, accessible, high-quality early childhood education, because I know how important it is for children and families.

Joel Balyliss, #IndigenousDads advocate

Present and engaged fathers are incredibly important to our children’s development. For 60,000 years First Nations fathers have been storytellers in our communities, alongside Mothers, Aunties and Grandmothers. To strengthen First Nations fathers’ connection to their children’s development there is a need to access affordable, culturally responsive early learning, paid parental leave and education and support for new fathers – helping us to better share the parenting load as we raise strong First Nations children who will continue to tell our stories.

David Mundy, former Fremantle football star and Manager of Advocacy, Gender and Equality at Minderoo Foundation

Dads play an irreplaceable role in their children’s lives and it is important that we support them to be more engaged parents. I know from my personal experience just how much both children and dads can benefit from having more opportunities to bond and spend quality time with each other. However, our current policies do not encourage dads to play a more active role in their children’s lives and we must change this.

Tom MacDonald, Melbourne football star and Ambassador for The Fathering Project

Through my experience raising two toddlers, I’ve learnt the importance of an early and quality connection with your baby, for my child’s health, but also my own. The Fathering Project resources, and father mentors around me, have shown me how to create an amazing connection with my children and the benefit that brings to our whole family. I’m pleased to support this initiative for better policy, to give all fathers more time and guidance connecting early with their child and delivering accessible early learning care for all Aussie kids.

Amar Singh, 2023 Australian of the Year Local Hero

Fathers play an important role in a family unit, they can be role models for their kids and have a more fruitful relationship with their partners as well. Engaged and supportive fathers make such an important difference in a child’s life. That is why I am joining this campaign to call for more affordable and accessible early childhood education, 12 weeks paid paternity leave, and more support and encouragement for men to play an active and positive role in children’s lives.

Georgie Dent, CEO of The Parenthood

Dads in Australia take less than 20 per cent of the parental leave dads take globally. This isn’t because Dads here aren’t interested in taking the leave. It’s because our policy settings don’t encourage it. An equitable paid parental leave policy is a game-changer for mums, dads and children. It gives parents the ability to truly share the care.

Martyn Mills-Bayne, Coordinator, MENtor Program for Males in Early Childhood Education, University of South Australia, and representative of the Australian Association for Men in Early Childhood

Just as the roles and responsibilities of fatherhood are shifting, so too are the outdated and stereotyped views about male participation in the early childhood and education workforce. A national strategy to supercharge recruitment and retention of high-quality male educators will help create a more diverse workforce and further support the learning and wellbeing of young children.

Kati Gapaillard, CEO of The Fathering Project

We support the clear synergy this plan brings with our work, as we advocate for equitable parenting roles, tailored perinatal education, shared parental leave, and enhanced access to early learning. This initiative aligns with our commitment to nurturing strong father-child relationships. Encouraging male participation in early learning environments not only benefits children but also fosters inclusive parenting practices.

Danny Schwarz, CEO, Playgroup Victoria

Playgroup Victoria is proud to partner with Thrive by Five and supports the Dads Action Plan for the Early Years. Access to and participation in Playgroup provides opportunities for dads to be dads together and engage with their children and other families. Playgroup gives dads and their children space to be in and create the moments that can be filed in our ‘remember
when’, catalogue of stories to tell.

Michael Day, Family and Caring Executive Sponsor at KPMG

KPMG Australia proudly supports Minderoo Foundation’s Thrive by Five Dads Action Plan. We recognise the importance of fathers and father figures taking on greater family and caring responsibilities, and by providing them with appropriate tools and support, they can contribute to happier, healthier futures for children, enabling them to reach their full potential.

Ghassan Noujaim, Head Multicultural Child and Family Program, SSI

Nearly half of the Australian population has at least one parent born overseas. Multicultural families often rely heavily on the maternal role for care and nurturing especially in the early years. It is vital that the large percentage of Aussie fathers who are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are supported by having easy access to in-language culturally appropriate resources that equip them with the skills to nurture their children as they grow and develop.

Thomas Docking, CEO of Dad’s Group

This Action Plan for fathers has the capability to scale and replicate the amazing pioneering work that many leaders and organisations have done to support, equip and empower fathers and families in the perinatal period and early years. Increased investment into tailored perinatal education and parenting support for fathers will enable us to break the cycles of intergenerational disadvantage and build stronger foundations for our children.

Media contact: Iona Salter (Essential Media), 0413 185 634