When a ‘wishlist’ to the Dept of Health & Ageing generated a phone reply in 2 days with a request for a full submission within the week for a $47,000
grant, Celia Wallace, Manager, Mallacoota District Health and Support Service Inc (MDHSS), jumped to it and was happy to change her suggested
project title of ‘Happiness is a Men’s Shed’ to the ‘Men’s Health Shed Project’! The grant money had to be spent by June 30 – the shed is now up, final
landscaping underway, a management committee installed and the official opening coming up on October 21st!
MDHSS is concerned that many men within the community are lonely, have almost no social life, lack support, and suffer stereotyping. The support
these men receive comes mainly from other family members, which sometimes places unsustainable pressures on families. Many of these men are
largely unaware of the services they could access in the community in general and in the health system in particular.
The Mallacoota Men’s Shed aims to:
– Provide a safe physical and emotional environment that offers opportunities for creativity, productivity and learning with other men
– Provide socialisation for men
– Provide a productive outlet for the technical skills of retired and older unemployed men
– Provide a place to support, educate and train men
– Provide a shared space where men can work independently on their own projects and or work jointly on community projects
– Maintain and enhance the level of independence and health of participants
– Provide a sense of purpose and belonging
– Provide a place to find out about health and community services (e.g. through noticeboard / leaflet rack / ‘pitstop’ visits from health professionals)
– Foster positive transition to retirement – support the re-socialisation of men from the workplace to retirement
– Assist in breaking down stereotypes and change attitudes to ageing
– Improve the mental wellbeing and physical health of men
– Strengthen rural networks and activities to promote social connectedness, personal and skill development opportunities.
Celia’s ‘winning points’ were:
(i) a MDHSS survey showing 66% of males in the Mallacoota Disctrict are over 51 with 64.9% on a health or pension card
(ii) contemporary social health research indicating socially isolated people die at two to three times the rate of people with a network of social
relationships and sources of emotional support – a feeling of ‘connectedness’ improves health and reduces the cost burden on the community.
On the ground support came from several areas, ‘in kind’ support from Dept Sustainability & Environment, allowing MDHSS to build on the crown land
that they manage, and East Gippsland Shire – roadside clearing and mulching of trees; waiving $500-600 building permit and re-directing a drain. Local
design consultant Vern Darby drew the plan but then in his own time assisted Celia as project coordinator / sounding board. The Mallacoota Lions,
Mallacoota P12 College, Mallacoota RSL, local businesses, local volunteers (up to 85 years old!) and Green Corps have all contributed and the Orbost
Men’s Shed has also been involved.
There has been a good financial outcome despite a blowout with the slab! As the land had a greater fall than first thought, extra strength in the form of
more steel reinforcement was needed for the slab. The cost went from $9,000 to $18,000 but, on the positive side, the federal government included
GST in the grant taking this up to $51,000. The biggest buzz was seeing the structure actually materialise, Celia says. The project came in $8,000 over
budget but Celia / MDHSS had allowed $10,000 to cover contingencies – so well done Mallacoota!
Celia kicked-started the project with a period of local promotion then presented a power point outline to about 20 interested men, of various ages. Now,
there is a steering committee drawn from the men involved, aged from 40-70 years, who are responsible for the shed’s day to day operations.
Overheads – power, rates and water costs – will be met by MDHSS who will also take on the ultimate legal and financial accountability. The men will
build their own benches and apply for grants for future projects. There was a trip down to Orbost to inspect a successful Men’s Shed at close quarters
and Mallacoota’s version has started evolving. Celia believes there may even be room for some females at some times!
The only negative comment has come from a 19 year old girl not understanding why all this was being done for the men – Celia said she explained that
there are already many health services for women. This is just a thumbnail sketch of a great community project. For more info contact Celia Wallace
on 51580243 or email – email@example.com.