Learn about us
Tony Miller OAM
Founder 'Dads in Distress', Fathers Day 1999
We started out as Dads in Distress, on Father's Day 1999. Our founder was Tony Miller OAM. Back then, we operated one dads group that met periodically on a veranda in Coffs Harbour, NSW.
Tony kicked off the group after he could not find any support that he needed as a recently separated and highly distressed dad; in fact it led him to contemplate taking his own life more than once. Others heard about his work and they volunteered to set up their own local groups.
Over the years, mums too started to come to our groups for support, so we widened our work to include mum support and, in 2017, we rebranded to Parents Beyond Breakup. We continue to operate a front line support service called Dads in Distress (alongside one called Mums in Distress) but our focus is where the greater lack of national support continues to exist - that is with separated dads.
Two decades on and we've expanded our services to include a telephone helpline, LiveChat helpline, online forum and local 'one to one' mentors.
Our core ethos remains today as strongly as it did back in 1999, to provide support free and to utilise where possible only peer volunteers all of whom have been through it themselves. This makes all the difference when you're all out of money, and trust. Although we are in small part funded by government, we continue to operate on very limited funds and rely heavily on the generosity of the public, trusts and corporate donors.
- Pete Nicholls, Chief Executive Officer
- Tessa Colliver, EA to CEO & Charitable Secretary
- Alan Valja, Helpline Operator
- Tim Kay, Helpline Operator
- Ross Arriola, Chair of the Board
- Terry Valentine, Deputy Chair
- Terry Underwood, Treasurer
- Glen Poole, Board Member
- James Jackson, Board Member
- Campbell Lennox, Board Member
- Tony Miller OAM, Founder / Ambassador
- Over 100 dedicated volunteer peers
- Tirelessly, giving their precious time and energy to help others
- Mac Werner, Helpline Operator (d.2014)
- Jeff Lindsay, Helpline Operator (d.2017)
Our Family Values
One big family
- We are family centric, client focussed and cognisant of children’s needs
- We model the PBB behaviours; demonstrate camaraderie, warmth and we each help to develop others around us
- Our ethos is to facilitate peer to peer connection, support and care
Sleep well at night
- We are accountable, responsible, ethical, respectful, caring, compassionate and empathic
- We believe in equality and act in an egalitarian manner
Open heart, open mind
- Our nature is to be determined, driven, passionate, inclusive, sensitive
- We act urgently, influence and nurture whilst demonstrating humility
- We use emotional and social intelligence
If not us, who?
- We believe in empowering, growing and inspiring leaders
- We value talent, innovation and communication
- We make a dent in the universe and choose the road less travelled
- We are dependable, trustworthy experts
- We value teamwork, expertise and knowledge
- Playing by the rules is what makes us successful
Do more with less
- We are pragmatic, resourceful, frugal and proactive
- We see no barriers, accept all challenges and do not postpone
- Think different whilst keeping it simple
What's the link between separation and suicide?
- This is one of the most common questions we get asked. Despite many varied claims to the contrary, there is no definitive data set that we are aware of (trust us, we've looked really hard) that definitively outlines this link.
- However, we can legitimately extrapolate data from a 10 year study in Queensland, across the entire country, which gives us a good idea of the likely national picture. This suggests that 1 in 4 of all Australian suicides are linked to separation and that custodial difficulties specifically, account for around 100 suicides each year.
- This means that around 10-11 men will suicide each week due to separation and that around every 5 days, one dad will suicide due to custodial difficulties.
- By any reasonable standard, the stated numbers represent a significant number of suicides that are relatively and to a great extent, little known and little supported in preference to other demographics at risk in Australia.
Do you support both mums and dads, and what about same sex parents?
- Yes, we are gender inclusive.
- We operate dads groups/mentors for dads and mums groups/mentors that are for mums.
- We welcome both heterosexual and same sex parents.
- We really don’t care who you are as long as you’re a parent, or someone supporting a parent, in need of post separation support. We're also happy to have 'non parents' experiencing the trauma of difficult separation come along.
Can women come to the dads group / men come to the mums group?
- The dads groups are there for the dads and the mums groups are there for the mums.
- We need to be respectful that some dads might not feel able to open up in front of a women; likewise for the mums opening up in front of a man.
- To this end, its okay to come along as a member of the opposite sex but, be aware, we always ask the others present if they mind having a member of the opposite sex sit in.
- If you intend to come along and join a group of the opposite sex, you'll need to understand that you might be asked by the others not to join that group on that occasion, and that we always respect that.
- Historically, it's quite rare for a man to attend a mums group but women do occasionally attend a dads group – usually it's the dad's new partner, mother or other family member coming along for support.
What is your position on separated parenting and fathers?
- PBB has published a policy on this which can be viewed / downloaded from our news section here.
- In summary, we support 6 key policy a which are:
- PBB supports the principle of evidence-based policy and advocates for ongoing research into the needs of children separated from their parent(s)
- PBB supports the development of policies that support and enable father involvement in general, and in particular the ongoing involvement of separated parents in their children’s lives.
- PBB supports the development of men’s health policies that respond to the specific needs of separated fathers.
- PBB supports the development of suicide prevention policies that respond to the specific needs of separated fathers.
- PBB supports the development of policies to reduce all forms of violence and to evaluate and address the unintended consequences of existing policy on men and their children
- PBB supports a Royal Commission into the family law system in Australia.
Can children attend a support group?
- Sorry, no. Its not appropriate because of the subject matter being discussed and also because some attendee’s who are excluded from seeing their children might find it too difficult to cope with.
Who comes to the groups?
- Mostly, its mums or dads who are either unable to see their children at all, or those who have little or insufficient contact with their children and find that they are not coping well.
- Sometimes people come along before their children are born (i.e. male partners of pregnant females where they have separated pre-birth) and we also see the occasional person who is struggling with a separation even where there are no children involved.
- It's not unusual for new partners, grandparents or other family members to attend a group with a mum or dad.
What do most people get out of attending the groups or calling the helpline?
- Over the years, we have asked many thousands of our attendee’s what they most get out of our support; here are the most common answers.
- I am not alone in my situation
- Hearing others stories
- People properly listening to my story
- The only place I know that I'm not judged by others
- Being amongst my peers; sitting in a circle with others who’ve experienced the same thing
- Practical solutions that I can’t find elsewhere
- Group discussion, especially my being able to help others
- Commemorating the fallen – remembering those who’ve taken their lives
- Social interaction after or between group meetings
What happens at a group?
- The video on our dads in distress page outlines what happens at a DIDs (Dads in Distress) meeting ; its the same format for the MIDs (Mums in Distress) groups for mums.
What is your view of Intervention Orders? (AVO’s, IVO, DVO’s etc.)
- Intervention orders can play an important role in keeping people safe. For intervention orders to work, clearly we need a fair and effective system.
- Some people argue that the orders are pretty much always unfair and based on false allegations – that’s just wrong. Some people argue that the orders are pretty much never unfair and that false allegations never happen – that’s equally wrong. The fact is, some intervention orders are fair, and sometimes they are used falsely and unfairly.
- If we want a fair and effective system then, without doubt, we need to tackle the unfair use of intervention orders as a matter of urgency.
Do you operate online support groups?
- Long term, we are planing to launch a national online support group.
- For the time being, many of our weekly groups around Australia operate a complimentary private invite only local Facebook group to connect the participants of specifically that weekly meeting. These online support groups are not public, they are administered / overseen by trained facilitators and they can only be joined by speaking with a facilitator at your local meeting.
I’ve seen negative posts on your social media pages / groups
- Whilst we operate several pages and groups on social media (e.g. Facebook), all of these are properly overseen by trained facilitators – when we see negative comments we delete them and occasionally ban people who break our terms and conditions for using those facilities.
- Sadly, we are also aware that other groups and individuals that have nothing to do with us will occasionally use our name (or some close approximation) to create their own online groups but they are nothing to do with us.
- Our official pages / groups are only those listed on our home page and/or accessible via invite through our local group facilitators.
What are the key outcomes of PBB’s support work?
- Primarily, its keeping mum and dad around for the kids, so its suicide prevention.
- That said, we know from our own internal research that we also positively impact domestic violence. How? Because we work on helping parents transition from intact to non-intact families in the least traumatic way, always keeping the kids uppermost in their mind. We help provide parents the tools they need to best navigate highly emotional waters. That reduces conflict and the opportunity for things getting out of hand when people feel they have nowhere else left to go and no option but – in their agony – to harm either themselves or others.
- We reduce suicide and we reduce domestic violence. We believe the kids deserve this.
Is PBB a pro mens or pro womens rights organisation?
- No. Neither. We are a gender neutral/inclusive suicide prevention charity with a focus on separating parents.
- Our focus is on helping kids stay in their parents lives, and to do so safely, so you might say that we are ‘pro family’, in whatever shape that comes.
- Ultimately, PBB is a grass roots support charity; we are not a political movement, nor are we an activist organisation or a lobby group. That sets us apart from many in the parental separation field; it might help to think of us as the politically neutral Red Cross of separating parents.
- The largest demographic that come to us for support are men/fathers so we are recognised as a leader in the field of supporting men/fathers in Australia and across the developed world.
Why did the original name change from Dads in Distress to Parents Beyond Breakup?
- We’re proud of our history which started as ‘Dads in Distress’ in 1999 by our founder, Tony Miller OAM.
- When mums started asking to come to the meetings we launched a ‘Mums in Distress’ service.
- In 2016 we rebranded to Parents Beyond Breakup to better reflect the gender neutrality / inclusivity of our work with both mums and dads.
- We continue to retain the names ‘Dads in Distress’ and ‘Mums in Distress’ as specific front line support services of the newly named parent charity.
How is PBB funded?
- At this time, Parents Beyond Breakup is primarily funded by the federal government through the Community and Parenting Support Services funding through the DSS.
- This is to allow delivery of frontline services that are free of charge to those most needing it.
- However, this is usually insufficient so we also rely on public donation (for which we have tax deductible status).
- In 2017 we commenced a strategy of diversifying our funding into the corporate sector. This is to minimise tax payer contribution but also to enable a more rapid and flexible expansion of services in line with increasing client demand.
Do you offer value for money?
- We are one of the most cost efficient charities in Australia today.
- In fact, we operate services at approximately half the cost of other non-government organisations in our sector, and make each dollar go as far as possible.
- A key behavioural value, and a component of our core strategy is to ‘do more with less‘. We believe this is responsible and necessary if we are to support as many people as possible. We’re in the game of saving lives, and we never forget it.
Is it true that you are funded by the CSP (Child Support Program)?
- No. Although we do occasionally still hear this myth being thrown about, it has never actually been true.
- For a few years we were paid by the DSS to conduct some case study research on behalf of the Child Support Program to see how well they were servicing the needs of separated parents; parents who by the nature of our work we are in touch with daily. The work led to positive changes for parents of which we’re proud.
Why don’t you get involved in protests and activism?
- PBB is a suicide prevention charity, not an activist organisation.
- We provide informed insights to government and to other interested bodies to support systemic change where it is factually warranted and when it is requested.
- We get approached a few times a year by various governmental bodies and we’re always happy to help them see the issues and challenges that separating parents face.
- Bottom line, we’re world beating leaders in the ‘keeping mum and dad around’ game, which comes from keeping a laser sharp focus on what we do best.
You’ve changed the original welcome message / format of the groups?
- This is one for long term attendee's. No, we haven’t.
- The welcome message is the same as ever and the format remains as it always has been.
- We’re proud of the great history and have no plans to change how we operate anytime soon.
How do we know that PBB is using funds and/or operating wisely?
- We are a constituted not for profit organisation with charitable status.
- We have financial members who get to vote in their choice of board, and the board in turn oversee decisions made by PBB leadership.
- The board meet once a month to review performance, make key decisions and ensure that operations align with overall objectives and agreed plans.
- The key thing is a properly established constitution, external auditing, member vote and regular oversight.
- Each year we hold an AGM and we answer to our members and subsequently issue a public annual report.
What is ‘Situational Distress’ and how does it link to suicide?
- Suicide prevention traditionally tends to treat the phenomena as a ‘mental health’ issue. Undoubtedly, mental health is a factor. Naturally, this means that medical intervention automatically tends to follow; read therapy and medication as the most common interventions.
- However, there is a growing body of evidence, academic and otherwise (PBB included) demonstrating that males in particular often become suicidal due to external non medical reasons. They respond to external ‘situational distress’ such as separation, custodial matters, debt, loss of employment or home.
- If that external ‘situational distress’ is managed well, then the option of suicide tends to come off the table. i.e. Men in particular can and will suicide as a ‘logical option’ when no better alternative seems to exist. PBB therefore addresses the ‘situational distress’ that parents experience during separation by helping them to cope and to manage their situation; this removes the feelings of helplessness and isolation that most commonly plague those facing overwhelming challenge.
- To get a sense of how important it is to understand this approach, in 2016 quality assurance work indicated that PBB was able to avert over 350 suicides in that year alone. This is world class performance in suicide prevention, and something of which we are very proud. Medicalised approaches to 'mental health' tend not to perform as well, comparatively.
How do I start a group near me or otherwise provide help for separating mums / dads?
- You know you’re a superstar, right? That aside, complete the volunteer form and we'll get in touch.