Happy Father’s Day. Hope and pray you have a good one.
Recently I received a call at the Dads4Kids office. It was most unusual.
Junior Stowers was the caller’s name and he was phoning from inside a detention centre. Having performed concerts in 20 gaols across Australia (where nobody has a mobile phone) this really did my head in. However, I found that Immigration Detention Centres have a different set of rules and detainees are allowed that privilege.
Junior had received a six-month prison sentence and so with his parole added his permanent resident visa in Australia had been revoked. He was due to be deported back to his homeland at any tick of the clock. Unfortunately, the clock had been ticking for two and a half years. Three years inside razor wire is a long time.
So rather than sit around moping and feeling sorry for himself Junior decided to do something for someone else. He wanted to raise money for charity and having grown up fatherless himself, he decided to make that charity Dads4Kids. This also did my head in. How can someone inside the Villawood Detention Centre raise money for a charity? If he did so, how would he get that money to that charity?
Junior even spoke of Walkathons for Dads4Kids and getting people on the outside to sponsor someone on the inside. If a prisoner walked a mile for Dads4Kids, the said sponsor would donate a minimum of $10 to Dads4Kids. Every $10 raised would help turn the tide of fatherlessness in our nation. He was passionate and his passion was formed by his experience. The majority of prisoners in the Australian prison system are fatherless and dislocated, whether in their heart, family or both.
Inmates well know the pain of growing up without a father. According to the Texas Department of Correction, 85 per cent of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes, 20 times the national average. According to the US Department of Justice (1988) 70 per cent of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes, which is 9 times the average. According to the research journal, Justice and Behavior Vol 14, page 403-26, 80 per cent of rapists come from fatherless homes – nine times the average.
I once shared these statistics with a governor of a prison in Western Sydney and he said, “Try 100 per cent, Warwick! I have yet to meet a prisoner in my gaol who was not fatherless or had a major problem with his father. “With all my experience working in gaols and rehabs over the last 30 years, I would agree with the Sydney Gaol Superintendent. The official statistics on fatherlessness in the gaol population are conservative and understated.
So I will let Junior tell his story:
My name is Junior Stowers, I was born in Samoa, second eldest of five siblings at the time. I grew up around domestic violence, I often witnessed my father come home drunk and beat my mother, myself and my siblings. I had a close and supportive relationship with mum and my sisters. From the age of seven, I was sexually assaulted by my dad’s friend, I never told anyone. In 1995 when I was just nine years old, I was adopted by an aunt I had never met before and she moved me to New Zealand.
I had very little self-worth, I was angry and confused. I started getting into fights at school, I joined football as a way to vent and physically hurt myself and others. I got used to the beatings at home, I began drinking alcohol to numb the pain and try to escape, this led to many suicide attempts.
In 2005 I arrived in Australia, with hopes and dreams of starting my life over. I got a job and started working. I quickly realised things were not going to be as easy as I had thought and hoped. I struggled to make friends, I struggled to trust people, I lacked so much self-confidence due to all the destructive abuse inflicted on me in my younger years. I was lost and hurt, I started to isolate myself, I became manipulative, angry and confused.
In 2008 my first son Roman was born; I love my son very much and I love being a dad to him. Even though my relationship with his mum was on and off for a few years, we later broke up as I didn’t feel I could fix my problems and I didn’t want them to suffer because of me. I continued to see my son when I could. I tried to do counselling, but it was an uphill battle to try to address the past.
In 2011 I moved away to Newcastle, there I met my current partner, Renay. In 2014 we had our first son Isaiah, followed by my youngest son Zion, born in June 2016. In July that same year I was sent to prison for six months. After my release in January 2017, I was brought to Villawood Detention Centre where I have currently been detained for the last two and a half years. It has been difficult to be absent from my children’s and partner’s lives at such a pivotal time. I have already missed so many things, I do not want to continue to miss out on more. I am remorseful and very sorry for my past actions and I am determined to never repeat such behaviour again.
I now want to be a light to everyone who’s made the same bad choices, especially to my Australian Pacific Island people who are dealing with the same issues. I want to prevent more fathers leaving their children behind. I also organised the collection of plastic bottles every week, donating the money to the ‘Dads4Kids’ charity, to support dads to care for their kids.
I want the opportunity to be able to protect and teach my children, I want to instil my faith in them. I want to be their encourager, role model and best friend. I never want them to experience the loneliness I grew up with. I want to be here to attend their first day at school, birthdays, Christmas and all special and significant moments in their lives. I really wish to be present at all their milestones and not be separated by different continents.
I hope the change in me is truly evident and I am given the opportunity to prove to the Government of Australia, as well as my family, that I am now the person I have been fighting all my life to be.
Last Thursday I attended Junior’s Tribunal/Court Hearing as a character witness because I believe the change in Junior is truly evident.
I would greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers for Junior Stowers, a young father of three. He needs a second chance – don’t we all?
While you are enjoying your special day, shoot up a prayer for fathers on the inside and single fathers on the outside who can’t see their kids this father’s day.
Once again – have a Happy Father’s Day!
Remember we all need second chances and so do our children.
Warwick Marsh is the founder of the Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation and has worked as a musician and creative communicator/TV producer. He is editor in chief of the weekly Dads4Kids email newsletter and in 2001 received a Centenary Medal.
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