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Men's Sheds

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Most men have learned from our culture that they don’t talk about feelings and emotions. Unlike women, most men are reluctant to talk about their emotions and that means that they usually don’t ask for help. Perhaps as a result, many men are less healthy than women, they drink more, take more risks and they suffer more from isolation, loneliness and depression. Physical or mental illness, retrenchment or relationship breakdown are just some of the problems that men find it hard to deal with on their own. But barriers are slowly being broken down and that's why I cannot speak highly enough of the work Men's Sheds do in the community and their work to promote social inclusion. These days the modern Men’s Shed is an updated version of the shed in the backyard that has long been a part of Australian culture and they are springing up all over the place. There are an estimated 185 Men's Sheds operating in New South Wales and 400 nationally, representing approximately 30,000 men. When one takes into account how family members lives' are touched by Men's Sheds, the contribution they make to our society is truly amazing. The sheds do a remarkable job in providing men with a place to go to blow off steam, talk to others about health issues and basically get active and participate in the community. There are a significant number of Men's Sheds in my electorate and I have visited every one of them in Dubbo, Narromine, Parkes, Forbes, Trundle, Tullamore, Peak Hill and Yeoval. Primarily Men's Sheds are for older and retired men in rural, regional and metropolitan areas. I have seen firsthand the absolutely wonderful work that the men involved in these sheds are doing in bringing their communities together. If you looked inside a Men's Shed you might see a number of men restoring furniture, fixing up old computers or lawnmowers or perhaps restoring bicycles. There may be some men trying their hand at metalwork, cooking or wood turning. At some Men's Sheds you might see a few young men working with the older men learning new skills and learning something about life from the men they work with. You will see tea-bags, coffee cups and a comfortable area where men can sit and talk. Sometimes men just get together to play a game of cards. Men's Sheds are wonderful places where men can do the proactive thing of asking each other "Are you okay? Can I assist?". What makes the Men's Shed movement successful is that they are developed and managed by the community and are not reliant on government for funding or financial support. At the beginning of this year I joined Mark Coulton, the member for Parkes, at the expo held at Dubbo where we heard about the tonnes of innovative ideas and diversity of projects in the Men's Sheds, and the way they are being publicised. Dubbo Men's Shed has a wonderful program to support the kids at the skate park next door. The Men's Shed members conduct repairs on the kids' skateboards and BMX bikes that get a bit of a rough time at the skate park. That is a wonderful initiative because it bridges the gap that sometimes exists in our community between youth and men from an older generation. These men are often leaders in our community and can provide words of wisdom. The program provides a substantial foot in the door of building relationships between the generations. I've learnt a lot about the great work that Men's Sheds do through talking with other Members of Parliament such as Senator Williams who is the patron of a Men's Shed at Inverell. He said that he recently invited Kamahl to perform at the Inverell Men's Shed; it was such a significant event and the money that was raised so extraordinary that they have now been able to add to the infrastructure within that Men's Shed. At one Men's Shed in the Blue Mountains they are encouraging local women to get involved and they are helping to build on and expand its opportunities. I applaud these sorts of initiatives. The profile of Men's Sheds is growing astronomically, as it should be, and that's because they make such a significant contribution to our community.


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