I am a member of a local Men’s Shed. The Men’s Shed idea is an Australian concept that has become popular in all States and even overseas. The first Men’s Shed was established in Goolwa, South Australia in 1993. The idea originated to improve the health and wellbeing of members and now more than 50,000 men attend over 1200 Australian Sheds.
In case some readers are concerned at what might seem a story about a sexist organisation, let me say from the outset that there are some sheds in locations where there are female members and these sheds are often referred to as ‘Community Sheds’. Having female members is purely a local decision. However, there are specific reasons why it is important for men that such an organisation needs to exist.
The Australian Men’s Shed Association (AMSA) is the national service provider supporting the Men’s, Women’s and Community Sheds and is recognised as one of Australia’s largest male-based community development organisations. It was established in 2007 and was founded on the principle of sharing information between sheds and those communities wishing to establish and operate a Men’s Shed. It acts as a support and central hub for information exchange.
I think most will agree men can be complicated individuals. More so, the men who have been raised and grown up during a period when the male in the family had far different expectations placed on him than what we see today.
From a young age, todays older male Aussie was given lessons on how to be ‘a man’. These started by being told big boys don’t cry. In those years, society had set views on manhood. You didn’t reach out to others when you felt vulnerable, nor did you seek help. You had to be in charge and you would use force, if necessary, to get your own way.
As these generations grew, considerable peer pressure ensured any intimate or open close relationships between males was frowned on by men. Blokes had mates they drank with or played sport with, but rarely formed any long-term friendship relationships. The results caused today’s older male to have experienced emotional periods where anger, bullying and violence came to the surface.
As a consequence, I have found many men are reluctant to talk about their emotions and that means that they usually don’t ask for help. I believe this has led to some men silently suffering from loneliness and depression. Becoming a member of a Men’s Shed provides a safe and friendly environment which can be very supportive in maintaining men’s mental health
The shed, at which I am a member, is a place where local men meet, work and share life experiences and most importantly – talk. We have a brochure we give to prospective members that contains the following information. “Men’s sheds are fast being recognised as vital, viable places to provide relaxed, happy creative spaces for men of all ages to enjoy. They provide activity, identity and meaning for vast numbers of retired, active, creative, enthusiastic men”.
As a member, I am able to choose from many work, hobby and community support related activities and under professional guidance get to learn about and use the equipment in the workshop. We have a separate area for meetings, relaxing, chatting or getting involved in arts, crafts and computer activities. We also have a small kitchen where one of our members prepares simple, but tasty lunches.
Spending time with your mates at a men’s shed is an important way to introduce change, giving men the freedom to become more vocal, empathetic and compassionate.
Men’s sheds are good for men’s health and I can highly recommend readers might seriously consider joining one at a location near where you live.
I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.