Come for a Dads Chat

Tony Vallance (front) leads the recent in person Dads Chat event. Picture: SUPPLIED

By Callum Ludwig

An opportunity for local men with young children in their lives is coming up.

Tony Vallance from Building Better Brains is hosting an free online ‘Dads Chat’ for dads, grandfathers, stepdads or male carers of children aged up to eight years old on Monday 22 July.

Mr Vallance said it is being run through a partnership with both the Maroondah and Yarra Ranges Council and that the first session for Maroondah on Monday 24 Apirl had 30 participants in person.

“The fact that we got 30 guys with bums on seats on a school night like that, I was just so impressed by, very, very proud of all of them for coming along,” he said.

“We had a few things that we talked about, a lot of real talk, a lot of laughter, and maybe even a couple of little tears there as well and just shared a lot of the challenges of being a dad nowadays.”

Mr Vallance and his wife Sian run Building Better Brains, an allied health company based in Croydon and a venture he began after retraining as a counsellor and clinical play therapist during Covid. Prior, Mr Vallance had been a high school teacher in both Queensland and Victoria for 15 years.

Mr Vallance said what he has found over the years, both in working as a teacher and now the last three years as a therapist, is that there’s a real loneliness out there.

“The data reflects that in terms of increasing anxiety levels, screen addiction, alcoholism, these kind of challenges that we face and so what I find is that for dads, so many of them just feel so completely isolated,” he said.

“We’ve never had less friends than we have now in society, and particularly being a father and juggling work and family and so on, and trying to pay bills in such a bloody economic pressure cooker environment that it is now with the cost of living crisis, it’s very challenging and very lonely, isolating and frustrating,”

“The overall common thing that I really noticed amongst the guys was that we were just desperate as a group to talk and share and look after each other.”

During the ‘Dads Chat’ session, participants will have the chance to look into ways to play, communicate or connect with their young child, discuss and explore what parenting styles each other uses and what works for them, learn how to respond to their child’s needs and connect with other father figures.

Mr Vallance said the real magic was in the conversations that happened between dads.

“When a guy was sharing the challenges with his young daughter, other ones with slightly older daughters, there were other guys coming in and saying ‘Hey, mate, that’s totally okay, we had the same thing and by about nine months or so that changed’ and hearing guys support guys in that environment and speak vulnerably about their challenges and their frustrations and share their victories, it was absolute magic,” he said.

“So much so that just over half of them, when we finished at 9 o’clock on that Monday night, hung around until nearly 10 o’clock.”

Feedback supplied by 16 of the participants themselves said they all found the session highly relevant and found different aspects of the session helpful including regulation strategies, dealing with kids’ anger and outbursts, building and strengthening connections with their child and the opportunity to connect with other parents and know that there are other dads facing the same issues.

Mr Vallance said he hopes that after it, we can create a community where guys can have a voice, can learn a bit to share and listen and to realise that they’re part of a much bigger community.

“There’s so many things that we do as part of our training that these guys absorbed, even things like just crouching down on a level with your child and even being slightly lower, so as to present, someone who’s there and who’s listening to them,” he said.

“The plan I have for the program is to train up male mentors to take those skills and teach them themselves through the program and then have breakaway sessions at the end, where we reflect and I talk about what training techniques I use, different things, voice modulation techniques or sequencing of information,”

“This has to be something that is a movement, it has to be something where I can support and train guys to go out there and do it in their communities.”

Building Better Brains also took out the Business of the Year award at the 2023 Maroondah Business Excellence Awards.

To book a place, visit