This project has been operating since 2006 with the aim of providing a place where men can socialise, build self esteem, learn new skills and contribute back into the community. There has been considerable local demand for this service as men can often suffer a range of emotional and physical health problems particularly when they leave the workforce. Originally targeting men from culturally diverse backgrounds, the program has expanded to include men who experience mental or social issues such as family breakdown, homelessness or chronic unemployment
The health of men has recently received a big boost with the release in June 2010 of Australia's first National Male Health Policy. While Australians enjoy a high health status and a long life expectancy compared to most other countries, there have been some worrying signs that over the past couple of decades Australian men have not been doing so well.
High rates of heart disease, cancer (especially lung and prostate), suicide, transport accidents and liver disease are some of the most common causes of death for men. Particular male groups in our society also suffer worse health and these include Aboriginal and migrant men as well as men from rural areas. Unfortunately, the rates of death from preventable causes such as heart disease and skin cancer are twice as high in men than in women which reinforces the need for men to monitor their health and undertake prevention, early detection and treatment.
Problems such as isolation, loneliness and depression are looming as major issues for many men in the community. Men's sheds can play a significant and practical role in addressing these issues. As well as saws and hammers, a men's shed can provide men with a sense of community, mateship and purpose.
During their working lives many men do not develop extensive social networks and hence can find themselves lost, looking for somewhere productive to spend some time. Men's sheds can provide a positive environment to meet and enjoy some social time and build things - a simple but effective solution.
Healthy Cities Illawarra has been providing support services to local men through its "Building Healthy Men" Project which operates from a shed in Coniston. With funding from the Federal Department for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) and also the NSW Government Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health network(ISLHD), this project has engaged older men from a range of cultural backgrounds. The groups work on practical skills such as woodworking, metal work and art and they also provide their skills to work on community projects. The groups have proven extremely successful and an evaluation by the University of Wollongong has found a range of important health and well-being outcomes for the participants including reduced medical care, reduced smoking, increased sense of belonging and purpose, and improved links to support services.
The Coniston Men's Shed operates at the the rear of the ITeC building at No 5 Miller Street Coniston in the mornings from Tuesday through to Friday. For more information please contact the Men's Shed coordinator Brian Pember on 02 4283 8111 on Tuesday or Thursday mornings.