• Andy with his daughters (L-R) Rhiannah, Savannah, Maleeyah in yellow & Tiahna. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
OPINION: One man in Broome is raising four daughters as a single father. Happy Fathers Day!
By
Nevanka McKeon

30 Aug 2019 - 3:57 PM  UPDATED 30 Aug 2019 - 4:20 PM

This is a dedication to my family and a special salute to all the fathers in our community who often get an unfairly bad wrap, like the racist cartoon depicting an Aboriginal man holding a beer can, with his son standing in front of him and unable to remember his son's name.

As a proud black sister, that cartoon really pissed me off as it couldn’t be further from the truth.

In my family, I have two deadly brothers who have and are still bringing up their daughters as single Dads.

My brother Andy is one such father who definitely is not an absent father. Actually it’s the complete opposite, his situation is something you don’t hear too often.

You see, Andy is a single Dad and a single Dad of not just one girl, but four girl’s. Yep, FOUR girls!

When Andy and his partner split, just before his youngest daughter Maleeyah’s first birthday, he couldn’t image that he would become a single Dad of four daughter’s all under the age of eight.

The girls are now 12, 10, 8 and 5 years old. Andy is definitely out-numbered in his family, even all the family pets are females. Not sure if he thought that one through properly, did he?

It’s funny when I hear my brother comment about how noisy and talkative girls are. Sorry my brother, this is only just the beginning, wait until you have teenagers! Actually he soon will, when Savannah turns 13 in a week’s time! And god help him when the time comes and he has a household full of girls hitting puberty! I swear I’m not laughing or have an amused smirk on my face at the thought of this!

As his sister, what really makes me so proud of Andy is how he stepped up as the primary carer of the girls. He has worked so hard to keep all his daughter’s together under the one roof and to provide them with the best life he possibly can.

I remember in the early days my brother found it really hard to get into public housing. Instead of putting his hands up, saying this is all too hard and giving up the care of his girls, Andy and the girl’s lived in a caravan park until he could find appropriate and affordable housing.

He did that so he could keep his family together.

What also makes me proud of my brother Andy is the effort he has gone to, to make a living, to provide for his daughter’s and ensure that they don’t miss out on extra-curricular activities or going on holidays together.

In 2017, Andy created his own gardening business so he could earn extra money for the family but also so he could fit it around school hours, to have the flexibility to attend school events. As his youngest wasn’t yet in full time school, Maleeyah soon became his number one helper!

Andy’s hard work also paid off last year when he was able to take the family for a holiday to Perth, so they could see and do whatever activities they wanted to.

I know it’s not always easy for Andy. He doesn’t get a break very often or have time to himself. But I just want him to know how proud I am of him and to be his sister.

 

I know Mum made you promise before she passed away to never go backwards, to keep moving forward in life and you know what, Boof, aka Andy, you are doing an amazing job. Mum would be so proud of you too.

With Father’s Day only just days away, I can’t help but pause for a moment to think about my own Dad, Dave who is still a very smart and hard-working man too. Now in his 60’s, Dad still works six days a week.

Always the stricter parent, he worked hard to provide for his family and we were always his priority in life. 

We grew up in a household that was of mixed race; Dad, a white man from the Central Coast of New South Wales, with an Irish, Catholic background. My Mum Veronica, a caring, smart, proud and culturally strong Aboriginal woman whose mob are Nyul Nyul, Kija and Nyikina, she grew up in Broome and Beagle community.

Dad and Mum provided my brothers, my sister Karla and I with a loving and stable home. There was always a lot of love, discipline, rules to be followed and an emphasis on us kids getting a good education.  

I have many good memories of growing up with my family but there’s one childhood favourite memory and tradition that I’m most grateful for, and it’s a simple one too!

Each night, as a family, we would sit at the dinner table and eat together, yarn, discuss and debate the big issues of the day. Dad was very strict about us having to eat all of our vegetables, even peas (yuk, I still hate peas to this day!) and we couldn’t leave the dinner table until we had finished it all!

For us, thanks to Mum and her family, going out bush, out to country and going out camping, hunting for goannas and bush turkeys, finding bush foods, going fishing, collecting cockles was ‘our norm’. I didn’t realise until I got older that not everyone was as lucky as we were to have this opportunity, to experience this!

Fast forward to years later and I’m proud to say that this tradition still continues within our family and has been handed down to my brothers and my sister’s children.

I think as kids, us four McKeon kids were very lucky to have both of our parents together, growing us up in the one household, right up until we were adults.

Compared to our childhood, my siblings are doing parenting as single parents.

For most of their parenting life, all three of my siblings have been single parents, taking on the role of both Mum and Dad to their children. They didn’t plan it that way, and not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just how it turned out.

I don’t think they could’ve done it as single parents, if it wasn’t for having the childhood we had.  

But it also takes a lot of love, dedication, strength and determination to bring up their children on their own.

I know I am biased when I say this, but each of my brothers and sister are bloody amazing parents. I’m constantly in awe of how they put their children needs first, always making them a priority, ahead of their own needs.

 

Andy, I hope you get that sleep in you most want for Father’s Day and I hope the girls make you breakfast and listen to you and not argue too much with each other.

I also wish my other brother Davo an enjoyable Father’s Day too. You’ve been an incredible single Dad to Lalee and now you have a new baby, our family’s first baby boy, to enjoy this Father’s Day.

To my sister Karla who is mother and father to your daughter Taezha-Rose, you should be proud of yourself too for being an amazing parent.

I also want to remember all of those other parents who are getting ready to celebrate or take time out on Sunday for Father’s Day across this country of ours.

I also want to recognise that there are some parents who have the dual role of Mum and Dad.

And there are others who would do anything to see their child or children, or their own parent this Father’s Day.

Then there are others who will spend their first Father’s Day without their child or children ,like my friend Nathan or others like my friends Khai and Eli who face this Father’s Day without their Dad. 

I wish each of you a Happy Father’s Day but I also send love and strength to those of who may find this Sunday somewhat sadder than usual. I hope as time goes by, it will get that little bit easier.

 

Nevanka McKeon is an independent filmmaker who has recently been selected for Screen Australia's Indigenous Producers Program.  She is also a freelance journalist and writer of the Nyul Nyul, Kija and Nyikina nations of Western Australia.