Men’s Shed organisations and Indigenous Communities in Australia: Effectively engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men to participate in Men’s Groups/Sheds Report uri icon


  • Executive Summary The Research Team met with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men to explore the drivers of men’s participation in Men’s Groups and Sheds across Australia. We had the privilege of yarning with many Indigenous Community Leaders and Leaders of Men’s Sheds (with significant Indigenous membership), and many men from Groups and Sheds in the country. As we moved from group to group, we came to the realisation we were not just dealing with one Group or Shed but rather with each Group or Shed and their respective communities. Our original aim was to meet with 18 Groups and/or Sheds but the opportunities that came our way took us beyond the scope of the original plan and overall we met with 26 Groups/Sheds. In carrying out the research project, we collaborated with the Australian Men’s Shed Association (AMSA), Mensheds Australia (MSA) and a number of Government Departments and community organisations. It became apparent that AMSA and MSA do not have an affiliation and therefore our main strategy, given time constraints, was to work with each separately. At the time of this study, we were carrying out an evaluation of AMSA and interaction was regular. However, with MSA, we did not have the same level of contact. We met one of the Directors of MSA in August and he provided us with direct contact to the CEO of MSA. We began communications and eventually met with the CEO in October. Separately, we discussed the key Men’s Shed issues with AMSA and MSA. At the outset we intended to work with AMSA and MSA together to identify 5 Sheds to conduct further research. Our strategy became more fluid and we organised to hold three Men’s Group/Shed Gatherings in Sydney, Cairns and Broken Hill and visits to Groups and Sheds in Tasmania, Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia to validate the models derived from these gatherings. In doing this we worked with 15 Groups and Sheds. Ricky Welsh from the Mt Druitt Men’s Shed chaired each of the events. Through the process of the gatherings the men identified the social issues associated with their health and well-being. We made a list of the main issues from each of the gatherings and collated them later as a list of social determinants of men’s health and well-being. We found that the social determinants of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men’s Health are interconnected. We present these in a circle (Appendix A) due to the fact one cannot be given precedence over another; they illuminate issues associated with trauma, homelessness, health and well-being, employment, finance, culture, education, legal matters and addictions. Men’s Groups and Sheds provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men with safe places to go and therefore provide the opportunity to deliver an holistic health approach. We present the approach through a proposed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men’s Health and Well-being Framework (Appendix B) headed up by the Department of Health and Ageing. The framework incorporates a National Co-ordinator, State Co-ordinators and Regional Co-ordinators to service the Groups and Sheds and their men members. Men’s Groups and Sheds represent safe places where men can meet, share stories and enhance their health and well-being. To improve men’s health and well-being it is critical that the Groups and Sheds are involved in capacity building. Capacity building develops and strengthens relationships with various services, such as Centrelink, to help men secure Centrelink payments. In sum, our contribution is the development of a set of Social Determinants of Men’s Health and Well-being (refer to Appendix A) and an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men’s Health and Well-being Framework (refer to Appendix B). Note: We recommend AMSA and MSA develop new management policies based on the Social Determinants of Men’s Health and Well-being, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men’s Health and Well-being Framework to increase the participation of members in the Sheds. The timeframe for this project was six months. Throughout the duration of this project we have developed relationships with Group/Shed Leaders/Co-ordinators and members of their communities. In doing so, we have exceeded the number of Groups and Sheds we originally planned to visit. We have committed to providing these Groups and Sheds with ongoing consultation. Many of the Groups/Sheds told us they do not have the supporting documentation to help them secure funding. We have developed a draft Business and Action Plan (Appendix C), and draft Policies (Appendix D) to support the Groups and Sheds. This is one way to make a concrete improvement. We have forwarded these documents to AMSA and MSA to disseminate to any Groups/Sheds with Indigenous participation and have indicated our willingness to work with AMSA and MSA. We have also suggested AMSA may decide to consider disseminating the documents to non-Indigenous Sheds. We propose that the Social Determinants of Men’s Health model and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men’s Health Framework model are forwarded to AMSA and MSA upon the approval of the Commonwealth of Australia as represented by the Department of Health and Ageing. Outcomes of the project: Based on the findings of all three phases of the project we devised a sustainable business model to guide the effective management of Indigenous Groups/Sheds whilst integrating access to healthcare services, skill development opportunities and access to employment services. Our business model comprises the following: 1. Social Determinants of Men’s Health (Appendix A) 2. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men’s Health Framework (Appendix B) 3. Business and Action Plan Template (Appendix C) 4. Draft Business Policies (Appendix D) We have also provided comprehensive recommendations to AMSA, MSA, and the Commonwealth Government. We are prepared to actively engage in working with certain Indigenous Groups on the implementation of the sustainable business model. We have provided AMSA and MSA with the Business and Action Plan, and Draft Business Policies and have asked them to disseminate these documents to Indigenous Groups and Sheds. We are committed to continue working with AMSA and MSA dependent upon their needs. Recommendations: To maximise the opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men through their participation in Groups and Sheds we recommend the following: 1. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men’s Health Framework is given every consideration and embraced by key stakeholders. 2. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men’s health and well-being to be considered in consultation with representatives of Indigenous communities. 3. Appoint more Healthcare workers to visit Indigenous Groups and Sheds. Ensure more effective co-ordination and working with communities. Train more Indigenous healthcare workers and provide innovative approaches to reach more people. 4. The Australian Men’s Shed Association and Mensheds Australia establish a more effective relationship and collaborate in the best interests of Shed Members throughout Australia. This includes working together with the Government and non-government organisations. 5. Require Indigenous representation with AMSA to ensure Indigenous men are on the Board and involved in management decision-making. 6. National, state and regional co-ordinators are appointed to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men’s Groups and Sheds. 7. Capacity building is a priority to ensure Groups and Sheds can better serve Indigenous men. 8. Sustainable management practices are developed, implemented and evaluated for Groups and Sheds to become self-supporting. 9. Networking opportunities, are organised by Regional and State Co-ordinators to ensure the men members of Men’s Groups and Sheds have the opportunity to learn from each other. 10. Reconciliation is promoted in and through the Groups and Sheds, and during events such as National Reconciliation Week 27th May to the 3rd June. 11. A Marketing Strategy is developed in consultation with Welsh and other Indigenous representatives to promote men’s participation in Groups and Sheds. 12. A pilot study of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men’s Health and Well-being Framework outlined in this document be undertaken within one State or Territory, and a comprehensive evaluation of this pilot be conducted. 13. The Research Team is involved in future feasibility studies, in consultation with Ricky Welsh and other Indigenous representatives, to determine regions throughout Australia. A detailed proposal will be provided upon request. 14. The Research Team is involved in disseminating the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Men’s Health Framework in consultation with Welsh and other Indigenous representatives. The research team has established strong relationships with many Groups and Sheds and seeks to continue working with them. 15. Conduct a longitudinal study to determine the impact of Men’s Groups and Sheds on Indigenous men’s health in twelve months time. 16. The research team continues to work with AMSA and MSA on networking opportunities and management strategies for the Groups and Sheds. 17. Given that MSA is a project-based organisation and provides tangible outcomes for Indigenous communities we recommend that the Government consider providing funding to the organisation. Funding would enable MSA to expand their activities/projects within Indigenous communities. 18. Conduct a content analysis of various State Strategic Plans that have already been written – e.g. National Male Health Policy Supporting Document, NSW Aboriginal Men's Health Strategic Plan. The various Federal and State Government Policies need to be integrated into a comprehensive, co-ordinated National Indigenous Men’s Health Policy.

publication date

  • 2013