People amazed at man's occupation

NICCI MCDOUGALL
Last updated 05:00 03/05/2014
Plunket Southland's Liam O’Sullivan
NICOLE JOHNSTONE/Fairfax NZ
JAW DROPPING: Plunket Southland community services leader Liam O’Sullivan is understood to be the first male Plunket employee in Invercargill.

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Some people are shocked when Liam O'Sullivan tells them what he does for a living.

Understood to be Invercargill's first paid male Plunket employee in its 104-year history, O'Sullivan said he loved his job, but others expressed amazement when he told them.

A fortnight ago some meat workers at a pub asked what he did for a living and when he told them, their mouths dropped.

"What? A male in Plunket?" they said, "But then they said that's really, really cool."

A Plunket Invercargill staff member said O'Sullivan, a former Australian, was Plunket Invercargill's first paid male employee since its doors opened in May 1910.

There had been male volunteers in the past.

O'Sullivan took the job in November after moving from Australia to be closer to his 14-month-old daughter.

Plunket provides free support services for the development, health and wellbeing of children under five in New Zealand.

O'Sullivan's job includes working with different Plunket branches across the region to assist staff and volunteers with parenting courses, play groups and coffee groups for families and children.

When he arrived he felt a little worried about how he was going to cope in a female-dominated organisation. But he hasn't regretted a minute of it, he said.

It had been nurturing and supportive. In fact, the Plunket staff had become like his Southland family, he said.

The job had opened his eyes to what mothers went through and the fact there was no parenting rule book, he said.

The organisation took a holistic approach to raising healthy children and it was a well-respected organisation, he said.

"There's nothing like it in the world."

Five months into his new role, O'Sullivan is starting a dads group with the aim of getting dads together to support each other and share "dad stuff".

There weren't many places where men could go to discuss parenting issues, he said.

New dads could listen to what other dads had been experiencing. A range of topics could be discussed from supporting the mother to the first five years of a child's life.

The group would be beneficial to both O'Sullivan and the dads that went along.

"Many times it feels like I don't know what I'm doing as a first-time dad. But with support and other dads to talk to it makes things a lot easier."

Two get togethers would be held twice a month at the Invercargill Plunket Rooms on Kelvin St. The first begins on May 13 at 6pm. Another group has also been organised in West Otago.

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