School volunteering is no longer just the job of mums

Breakfast program helps kids reach for fruit

A before-school breakfast program at Cabramatta Public School is pointing children towards healthy eating options.

It started with a simple offer to use their business contacts to help kickstart some fundraising for their kids' fete.

But for a group of dads planning the schoolyard fair quickly became a much bigger proposition.

The four dads ended up as the all-male executive of the school's Parents & Friends committee at St Columba's Catholic Primary in Leichhardt. 

The P&F executive at St Columba's Leichhardt are all dads. From left, Anthony Rose, Gus Seebeck, Tim Nelson and Mark Peterie.
The P&F executive at St Columba's Leichhardt are all dads. From left, Anthony Rose, Gus Seebeck, Tim Nelson and Mark Peterie. Photo: Peter Rae

"A lot of mums have done the heavy lifting at the school for a long time but it was time for the dads to step up and help because mums are busy too and it is no excuse anymore to say that we are too busy," Gus Seebeck​, the St Columba's P&F president, said.

Mr Seebeck, who has a background in major events and sponsorship, said the fathers all had different skills to offer the parent body.

Their treasurer is Tim Nelson, the chief economist at AGL. Dr Nelson said he wanted to be a good role model for his children.

"Your kids will grow up to be who you are, not who you want them to be," Dr Nelson said.

"Historically, P&Fs have had a whole bunch of mums doing all the work but dads have an important role too and should be involved. I also think the school does so much for my kids so I really wanted to contribute."

Richard Fletcher, who leads the Fathers and Families Research Program at Newcastle University, said the involvement of fathers in schools was vital.


"We know from the research that if dads are involved in their children's education, their children will do better," Dr Fletcher said.

While they may be unique when it comes to parent bodies, the St Columba's dads are not alone in helping out at schools. 

Rachael Sowden​, a regional president of the P&C which represents public school parents and a consultant in raising parental engagement, said fathers were more involved in schools than ever before.

"There is no doubt that we are seeing dads doing a lot more to help out at schools, whether that be in the traditional ways like on the canteen or helping with reading or they may have a particular skill to offer that the school could really use," Dr Sowden said.

"I know at my school, for example, the working bee used to be 99 per cent mums and now it would easily be 80 per cent dads."

Dr Sowden said she had not heard of any all-male P&Cs in NSW public schools but fathers played a much bigger role in the committees.

"We would often see P&Cs now where it is 50/50 mums and dads."