The Shedder – November 2017
This month we were very privileged to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Australian Men’s Shed Association at an event hosted by our Patron, His Excellency General Sir Peter Cosgrove at Admiralty House.
The afternoon tea was an opportunity for us to mark an incredible ten years, acknowledging the input of individuals, communities, organisations and governments into creating a thriving Men’s Shed movement. Whilst we could never get all contributors in a room together, we were pleased to have about 20 Men’s Sheds, 12 corporate partners, 10 health organisations and AMSA Board and staff members represented across our gathering of 80 guests.
When the Australian Men’s Shed Association was founded ten years ago, it was no vision of grandeur or expectations to develop the Men’s Shed movement into what it is today. Nor was there any ambition of taking this concept international.
One of the great elements of the Men’s Shed movement is that not one person is responsible for this great initiative, but it was a number of people and Men’s Sheds who contributed and it has morphed into what it is today through these numerous contributors.
In reflection of this, I consider myself to have been very privileged to have been here from the beginning of AMSA, when it was just a concept and long before the organisation was government funded. I have been fortunate enough to see the “Men’s Shed” grow from a relatively unknown concept to where we are now with a Men’s Shed in nearly every town and Men’s Sheds as an iconic part of Australian culture.
I’ve seen it grow from a handful of Men’s Sheds to thousands spread around the world. Most importantly, I’ve seen the impact it has had on the lives of the men within the sheds.
AMSA was established to be a unified organisation providing a centralised system of support to Men’s Sheds, and the original (as well as current) funding agreements are based on this principle.
At the Manly conference in 2007 most Men’s Sheds in operation, or even in conceptual stages of development, all desired to have a full time paid coordinator. But this was seen as completely unrealistic and unnecessary. Through early communications between Men’s Sheds it became obvious that each paid coordinator was duplicating processes.
The AMSA founders and key contributors at the time, who were all either early shedders or those working as Men’s Shed coordinators, witnessed wasteful use of resources through duplication. So this is where AMSA focused on the concept of learning from experiences and developing best practice guides for Men’s Sheds.
The first formal meeting of the AMSA Working Committee was held in November 2008, where the foundations of AMSA’s aims were established; with a primary focus on start-up support to communities interested in establishing a Men’s Shed facility (as well as ongoing support) and on securing ongoing funding to establish the organisation to a self-sustainable and self-managed level.
Throughout 2008 to 2010 AMSA operated on funding that was provided from the FaCSHIA through Catholic Care Newcastle for the ‘Lake Macquarie Shed Project” (later known as the Windale Men’s Shed) that was amended to include the development of AMSA.
Through this period, a basic structure for AMSA was developed with a major focus on the provision of support as determined in the 2008 working document. This was being maintained by one employee with the support of some of the resources available at Catholic Care Newcastle and Uniting Care North Sydney, as well as that if the individuals who formed the working committee: Gary Green (VIC), Neil Wakeman (VIC), Ted Donnelly (NSW), Stuart Holmes (NSW), Ruth van Herk (NSW), John Waters (TAS), Keith Bettany (SA) and Bill Johnstone (WA). Graeme Curnow (QLD) joined the committee in 2009.
The original submission presented to the Australian Department of Health in July 2009 was based on a centralised system of service provision. And on 7 May 2010, three years of hard work paid off when then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd launched the National Male Health Policy at Whittlsea Men’s Shed (VIC) and announced funding for the Australian Men’s Shed Association.
Testimony to the success of AMSA, for the next three years we witnessed an extraordinary growth in the development of Men’s Sheds. Reflecting on what has been an amazing journey and equally amazing success over the past ten years, raises the question of how we measure success. We have had extensive evaluations conducted on AMSA to inform the Australia Government on how well we are doing in relation to our funding agreement.
We’ve also seen extensive research conducted on Men’s Sheds, the men within them and their communities. One to note, beyondblue commissioned a comprehensive research program that provided the evidence of Men’s Sheds improving the health and wellbeing of men.
But of most importance—in reality Men’s Sheds save lives, it’s that simple. Men’s Sheds give purpose to men who are seeking it, and give back to the community at the same time.
If we were to tell a collective story from men within sheds, there would be over 100,000 stories of life changing and tragic events that never eventuated at all because of a simple collective idea—the Men’s Shed.
So where to from here?
For AMSA, keeping pace with the growth of the movement has been a challenge. But we have risen to the task with enthusiasm to achieve our goals of promoting positive male health outcomes through providing places where men can contribute to their communities, and have a sense of belonging and meaningful purpose.
With the number of sheds subsiding in recent years, AMSA’s focus moves towards the sustainability of the movement and the facilitation of better health and wellbeing outcomes for men.
We will continue to develop new partnerships and funding opportunities, through which we are able to provide members with access to an ever increasing amount of resources and programs for the benefit of the shed, and shed members.
In addition to these sources of support, our core funding from the Federal Department of Health places AMSA and our Men’s Sheds on a firm footing for the future.
Our direction for the years ahead is as diverse as it is ambitious. With health and wellbeing as well as sustainability being key priorities for us, we will see Men’s Sheds continue well into the future.