Newcastle University introduces DADEE program to promote gender equity and improve health.

POSITIVE PLAY: PWCS employees Tony Murphy, Brad Belcher, Geoff Crook have been part of the Dadee program, led by Professor Phil Morgan, pictured back right with PWCS chief executive Hennie Du Plooy. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
POSITIVE PLAY: PWCS employees Tony Murphy, Brad Belcher, Geoff Crook have been part of the Dadee program, led by Professor Phil Morgan, pictured back right with PWCS chief executive Hennie Du Plooy. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

STUDENT teachers at the University of Newcastle will learn about the “profound” impact fathers can have on their daughter’s development now the pioneering DADEE program has been added to the curriculum.

The Dads and Daughters Exercising and Empowered (DADEE) program was developed to engage fathers as positive lifestyle role models to improve the confidence, fundamental sport skills and social-emotional wellbeing of their daughters.

Since the research project launched in January 2015, the program has recruited more than 270 fathers and 350 daughters to address some of the major problems facing young girls, such as body image concerns and self esteem, through fun, practical sessions involving sport skills, rough and tumble play and health-related fitness games.

“Most of the interventions or programs that have targeted girls in the past have had a minimal impact, so this was the very first program where we attempted to bring fathers and daughters together to address those issues, and we saw significant improvements that were sustained,” lead investigator Professor Philip Morgan said.

He said introducing DADEE as a university course, during which students train as accredited facilitators, would offer insight into the program’s wider community impact.

Newcastle University’s Dean of Education, John Fischetti, wanted to introduce the course after recognising DADEE’s potential to promote gender equity and improve children’s health and general wellbeing.

“The results were so impressive in the first phases for fathers and daughters and the families, that our dean said every student teacher should understand the principles of this program,” Professor Morgan said.

“This next phase is about looking at the broader community impact and that’s really interesting – not just for the girls and their fathers, but to see how it impacts on their life trajectories.

“It will move the lens from the family to the wider community.”

Professor Morgan said it would be interesting to see how the program changed the attitudes of fathers and daughters in their schools and workplaces, and he hoped experiencing the program motivated future teachers to change some of the policy and practices in schools that were currently limiting, particularly for girls.

On Tuesday, Port Waratah Coal Services announced a three-year extension to its partnership with the program, which began as a collaboration between the university, Hunter Medical Research Institute and the Hunter Children’s Research Foundation.

The DADEE course will run annually at the University of Newcastle.