This post features 2 separate articles. One is by The Age newspaper. The other is by Father’s Day Council (Victoria).
Eritrean refugee, Wonthaggi father of seven wins Victorian Father of the Year
In the ornate heart of Melbourne Town Hall’s venerable council chambers two men with very, very different lives met on Monday to talk about fatherhood.
One was Lord Mayor Robert Doyle; public figure, former state politician, one-man Melbourne cheer squad and a father to three adult children (two with babies of their own) and one-year-old son Henry with his wife, Emma Page Campbell.
“I can only be their guide, I can’t watch them all the time.”
The other was Abubeker Mohamed; an Eritrean refugee, father of seven, proud Wonthaggi resident, halal abattoir worker and this year’s Victorian Father of the Year.
And, despite their polar life experiences, both spoke about what they believed was the most important thing a father could give his children: time.
On Sunday, the City of Melbourne marked its 180th birthday, but its Lord Mayor did not attend the city’s celebrations. Why not? Because this Lord Mayor is a dad, says Cr Doyle.
“It might sound funny but…I won’t do anything official on Sundays. Sunday is a day to spend with Emma and Henry.
“Important things might come along, but what could be more important than being with them?”
His adult children tell Cr Doyle that in his first family he was good dad, then bad dad during his time as opposition leader, then good dad again.
Politics got in the way – he rose early, returned home late and sometimes didn’t see his kids for days.
Second time around, Cr Doyle told the gathering, he doesn’t want to miss the little things. Henry’s new words (this week it is “hedgehog”), and quiet time together.
“I hope Henry will be able to say in 18 years, you were just plain good dad,” Cr Doyle told those gathered for the award, which is hosted by the Father’s Day Council of Victoria and YMCA Victoria.
Abubeker Mohamed also puts time with his seven children – aged between two and 12 – above all else.
With a 5am start at his job as a halal meat worker at the Tabro abattoir in Wonthaggi, he can finish early enough to pick them up from school.
He was nominated for the award of Victorian Father of the Year by his 12-year-old daughter Nusayba, who wrote: “My father is someone I can look up to and inspires me to do good things. He stands up for me and supports me.”
Mohamed fled his home in Eritrea during the civil war as a 16-year-old and came to Australia in 1996 as a refugee via Sudan and Egypt.
He remembers his own father, a farmer in Eritrea, as a man who gave up everything for his children, even offering himself to armed militia when they came to take his children.
With his wife, Suad Derar, Mohamed’s young family moved – initially reluctantly – to Wonthaggi for employment, and found themselves the only African family in the South Gippsland coastal town, the first Muslims many residents had ever met.
But the seaside community was a welcoming one.
Their neighbours erected ladders over the back fence so their children could easily play together, and locals say they often see Mohamed with his children on day trips to the beach, at basketball games, or bike riding.
It is easy to father a child, he says, but much, much harder to raise them, to give them security, happiness and a chance at a good education.
Parents face many worries today – he talked about drug and alcohol abuse and suicide – but the most important thing was to ensure your children had a strong and supportive network of friends around them, he said. “I can only be their guide, I can’t watch them all the time.”
Mohamed was first nominated locally for Father of the Year for his commitment to being active in his children’s lives, and encouraging them to swim at an early age, with time by the beach a big part of life in Wonthaggi.
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Father’s Day Council of Victoria
The Father’s Day Council of Victoria has announced Abubeker Mohamed as Victoria’s Father of the Year 2015
The ceremony was held in the chambers of Melbourne Town Hall, attended by Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, Father’s Day Council Chair Don Parsons, YMCA Victoria Chair Anthea Hancocks, YMCA Victoria CEO and Deputy Chair of the Victorian Father’s Day Council Peter Burns, as well as Abubeker’s family and friends.
Abubeker migrated to Australia in 1996 from the African country of Eritrea, moving to Wonthaggi a decade later to raise his family. He and his wife Suad have seven children, aged between two and thirteen years old.
Abubeker first came to the attention of the Father’s Day Council through their centre’s local YMCA Community Father of the Year.
He is a loving dad who has put his family first, ensuring they have the best educational opportunities and access to swimming and water safety lessons.
In her nomination, 12 year old daughter Nusayba wrote, “My father is someone I can look up to and inspires me to do good things. He stands up for me and supports me.”
In his acceptance speech, Abubeker thanked YMCA staff at Bass Coast Aquatic and Leisure Centre, as well as his family and friends.
“It is not just an honour for me, but for my whole family. I am so humbled… I never thought I’d receive this,” he said. “I would like to thank my daughter Nusayba for nominating me, and to the Bass Coast YMCA for their wonderful service to the community.”
Presenting the award was Lord Mayor Robert Doyle who recognised how important dads and father figures are in the Victorian community.
“The essence of being a good dad is time,” said the Lord Mayor. “Just sharing time together is so important. We’ve had winners of all sorts over the years, and the link between them has been they’re just good dads.”
In 1910, the YMCA founded Father’s Day and we have continued to support and celebrate the important role they play in the community.