Developing an evidence base that clearly defines fatherhood that can assist in shaping government policy is the aim of a new network launched today by the University of Newcastle.
The Australian Fatherhood Research Network (AFRN) brings together senior researchers and policy advisors from across Australia to identify priorities for fatherhood research.
Network Convenor Dr Richard Fletcher from the University of Newcastle Family Action Centre said the role of fathers was central to a range of current policy considerations.
"The Productivity Commission inquiry into paid paternity and maternity leave, new child protection policies, the review of antenatal education and the proposed children's centres all have fathers as key players," Dr Fletcher said.
"Yet in many of those areas we either lack Australian research or we have research in a variety of areas with no overview to make it useful to policy development.
"The Australian Fatherhood Research Network will provide independent evidence-based advice on the role of fathers in the context of the important family policy issues being addressed by government."
The Network has been funded through a grant from the Australian Research Alliance of Children and Youth.
The AFRN Steering Group currently includes representatives from the University of Newcastle, the University of New South Wales, Curtin University of Technology, Family Relationship Services Australia and the Victorian Royal Children's Hospital.
Dr Fletcher said the priority research areas identified by AFRN were broad.
"We need to define clearly the notion of fatherhood and understand its relationship and differences to motherhood.
"We also have big gaps in our knowledge of Indigenous fathering and how cultural factors influence father-child relationships.
"Even basic survey questions on parenting used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics need to be reviewed because they are based on the mothers role and are assumed to be appropriate for fathers."
As part of the Network, the University of Newcastle web site will host a research listing of ongoing research into Australian fatherhood.
Four working groups within the AFRN will initially assess current understanding and knowledge-gaps about separated fathers, Indigenous fathers, fathers' roles in literacy development and in promoting breastfeeding.