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Chapman Valley Menshed bringing the Shinema to rural Western Australia

Ralf E. Mulks’ dream as a filmmaker living in the Western Australian Midwest, was to convert a rusty Toyota Coaster bus into a “drive-in” cinema. Reminiscent of the 1940s’ “Travelling Talkies”, the cinema bus travels to rural communities for evenings of entertainment, in a bid to reduce social isolation.

The Shinema (shed plus cinema) bus project has been a year in the making, with Ralf and his fellow Chapman Valley Menshed members spending their Saturdays converting the Coaster into a vibrant portable cinema which premiered in Mullewa on November 23, and has since travelled to Waggrakine and White Peak.

The Men’s Shed have been running Shinema in rural towns for three years with a traditional cinema screen, but they needed to make some significant changes to expand into more communities.

“Normally we have a 6x3m screen with a lot of infrastructure. It’s tedious, you need six people to set it up and multiple cars to transport it,” Mr Mulks said.

“We wanted to bring the show to more rural communities which meant a cheaper, more portable solution. That is the beauty of the bus.

“Now the screen pulls directly off the roof rack, all our equipment fits inside, and the whole show runs off a generator. It doesn’t get more portable than that.”

Men’s Sheds originated from the knowledge that men are less likely to ask for help when needed, which can lead to isolation and mental health disorders. They provide an environment where men can connect with friends new and old.

The Chapman Valley Menshed hope the Shinema bus would bring this ethos out of the shed and into the community, ultimately reducing social isolation.

“We want it to be like the circus coming into town, a spectacle that brings in the community and builds it up,” Mr Mulks said.

“It’s not just a show, it’s live entertainment, food fundraisers, kids’ activities… it gets people off their devices and talking face to face.”

With the decrease in rural populations, there has been a corresponding decrease in local facilities. For example, with the closing down of the Chapman Valley pub, there weren’t as many opportunities for local men to build networks.

“You don’t get this kind of entertainment out here anymore. In our town, you can’t just pop over the road and see a show,” Mr Mulks said.

“You have to travel 30 to 40 kilometres to do anything and you have to travel back at night. This is why we want to take this event to more and more rural towns.”

The conversion itself has also worked wonders for building confidence and connection amongst the Chapman Valley crew invested in the project.

“This has been an incredible program for the men working on it. We have discovered many hidden talents in our community, panel beaters, spray painters… everyone is really proud to be involved,” Mr Mulks said.

The Shinema bus project is part of the Midwest Suicide Prevention Trial, which aims to improve the mental health of men in the region.

Activities within the Midwest Trial have been informed by the Alliance Against Depression Framework (AAD), a community-based approach to tackling depression and suicide.

AAD is recognised as the world’s best practice for the care of people with depression and in the prevention of suicidal acts, with the initial implementation in Nuremberg resulting in a 24% reduction of suicidal acts within a two-year period.

Anyone can build an Alliance, and it starts with a small number of people wanting to improve the mental health and well-being of their community. To support those in Western Australia that want to build their own local Alliance, an AAD Coordination Centre has been established. To learn more about the AAD and how you can be involved, visit Primary Health Exchange or contact the AAD Coordination Centre on: Phone: (08) 6278 7948 | Email:

The Pilot Project: Shinema bus on tour from on Vimeo.