For most men, The Men’s Shed is more than just a place to come and do projects. Its also a free chat room in reality.
The modern Men’s Shed is an updated version of the shed in the backyard that has long been a part of Australian culture. Men’s Sheds are found in many cities and towns around Australia and continue to spring up internationally.
Not all Men’s Sheds are the same – if you looked inside you might see a number of men making furniture, perhaps restoring bicycles for a local school, making Mynah bird traps, fixing lawn mowers or making a cubby house for Camp Quality to raffle.
You might also see a few young men working with the older men obtaining new skills and learning something about ife from the men with whom they work. In the free chat room you might see local elders making traditional weapons or designing arts and crafts. You will see tea-bags, coffee cups and a comfortable area where men can sit and talk. You will probably also see an area where men can learn to cook for themselves or how to contact their families by computer.
So what is so special about the ‘Men’s Shed’?
Most men have learned from our culture that they don’t talk about feelings and emotions many do not take an interest in their own health and well-being. Unlike women, most men are reluctant to talk about their emotions and that means that they usually don’t ask for help.
Probably because of this, many men are less healthy than women, drink more, take more risks and suffer more from isolation, loneliness and depression. Relationship breakdown, retrenchment or early retirement from a job, loss of children following divorce, physical or mental illness are just some problems that men may find difficult to deal with on their own.
Good health is based on many factors including feeling good about yourself, being productive, contributing to your community, connecting with friends and maintaining an active body and mind.
Becoming a member of a Men’s Shed provides a safe and busy environment where men can find many of these things in an atmosphere of old-fashioned mate-ship. And, importantly, there is no pressure. Men can just come and have a yarn and a cuppa if that is all they’re looking for.
Members of Men’s Sheds come from all walks of life – the bond that unites them is that they are men with time on their hands and would like something meaningful to do with that time.
A good Men’s Shed has a Management Committee that has developed a safe and happy environment where men are welcome to work on community projects, specific Men’s Shed projects or a project of their choice in their own time and where the only ‘must’ is to observe safe working practices….all in a spirit of mate-ship.
The Men’s Shed movement has now become one of the most powerful tools in addressing health and well being and helping men to once again become valued and productive members of our community.
The members seem to be proud to be part of the Men’s Shed. They contribute to the shed in various ways, including donating machinery or making woodwork products to sell, with the proceeds going back into the Shed. They also actively helped in the running of the Shed.
The rates of social and economic inequality facing Australians with disability compared to their fellow citizens, are among the highest in the world (Price Waterhouse Coopers, 2011).
The concept of ‘social inclusion’ therefore holds promise, at the level of policy and practice, for creating a more inclusive and equal society.
Participants in the Shed are living socially included lives in a number of different ways: through involvement in mainstream work or education; living in their own homes in the community; involvement in mainstream community activities and through relationships, friendships and connections.
The Shed was seen by the men as a vital and expanding place, which is largely due to the input of many of the participants of the Shed. They said they were happy to promote the Shed to others. This level of participation suggests a sense of belonging and connection to the Shed. Coming to the shed makes me feel part of some-thing, of the community, of a community of men. That’s it. It is also a place for them to exchange knowledge and skills.
All members meet new people through the Shed and enjoy the male companionship and camaraderie of the Shed.
Men’s Sheds support men’s participation in activities they ﬁnd enjoyable and meaningful and provide them with a sense of purpose and sense of worth. Men’s Sheds enable them to engage socially with other men and develop positive social relationships, to contribute to their sense of belonging to, and connection with,‘community’.
Participating in Men’sheds also supports their autonomy and supports them to be more actively engaged in life generally. Not all Men’s Sheds will necessarily be health promoting. Some elements that support Men’s Sheds to be health promoting include being inclusive, providing a male friendly space and recognizing the intrinsic health beneﬁts of Men’s Sheds.
Inclusiveness and accessibility refers to structures that allow full participation in all aspects of these activities and provides meaningful opportunities to become involved. This would include the decision-making process related to the Shed. Inclusiveness also extends to seeing the Men’s Shed as part of the wider community and there are endless possibilities to how a Men’s Shed can link and contribute to these.
Creating a place in which men feel comfortable would include having a reasonably well-equipped workshop and the Shed being run in relatively unstructured and informal ways. It is when men feel comfortable that the Shed becomes more that a place to do things but also a place of belonging, friendships and purpose.
Finally a Men’s Shed should not to be used as a vehicle for traditional, individualistic health education activity but for valued for the intrinsic health beneﬁts.
At The Shed its is found;
1. The value of social inclusion;
- Social inclusion gives them a sense of belonging and placed great value on having choice and control in their lives
- Being socially included creates opportunities for further social inclusion. For example, a move to their own home enabled participants to get involved in mainstream community groups.
- Being socially included helps participants to make positive change for other people with intellectual disabilities
2. Enablers of social inclusion;
- Focusing on the unique individual and not the disability enabled social inclusion
- Participants’ self -advocacy skills and leadership qualities helps them to achieve this level of social inclusion• Inclusive environments that were physically accessible, welcoming, open to change, and which valued diversity contributed to participants’ sense of belonging and participation and in their community
- Good support was a key enabler of social inclusion
3. Supporter activities and qualities;
- Good support is based on a common sense of humanity, reciprocal relationships and shared interests
- Inclusion is enhanced by supporters who helped to adapt external environments, advocated for support, identified community resources and opportunities
- Working with a supporter to identify goals, strengths and interests is identified as a good starting point.
More recently attention has focused on the variation in health status that exists between men. Studies have highlighted that men who are under-employed, unemployed or employed in manual (blue collar) occupations have a signiﬁcantly poorer health status compared with men employed in white collar occupations and in roles as managers, professional sand administrators.
The differences in health status between men from varying socioeconomic status reﬂect what has been termed by the World Health Organization as the‘social gradient in health’. Poor economic and social circumstances predispose people to higher risks of illness and premature death at each stage of life.
Men related doing quality work with experiencing a sense of accomplishment and pride. There is a tremendous sense of pride when you do a project well and it works, it is a good thing. “I can look around my house and say,‘I made that, and made this’, most of the things in my house” says Joe.
There is a free chat room in every Shed throughout Australia. The Men’s Shed is set up not to include those who are other wise socially isolated. Both small and large Sheds offer a work space to create projects for the men.. At the same time a bond emerges amongst the participants. Many local Council offer funding to The Men’s Shed to encourage the ongoing service provided for its members. Visitors are welcome and encouraged. If you wish to start a Shed in your area you can contact at www.mensshed.org.