AUSTRALIAN Men’s Shed Association (AMSA) is leading the way for men’s mental health, teaming up with the Black Dog Institute and introducing the ‘Shed Mates’ initiative to Men’s Sheds throughout Victoria and across the country.

For those unaware, a Men’s Shed is a community-based, non-profit, non-commercial organisation accessible to all men, and offers a safe, friendly and supportive environment where members can work on meaningful projects at their own pace in their own time in the company of others.

On the morning of July 14, members from Men’s Shed from across Gippsland came together at Ken’s Shed in Heyfield for the Australian Men’s Shed Association’ Shed Mates Muster’.

Ken’s Shed, taken at the Men’s Shed Muster. Photos: Zoe Askew

The smell of bacon sizzling on the barbecue paved the way to Heyfield Men’s Shed, tucked neatly behind the Heyfield Community Resource Centre.

Darren Scicluna, Victorian Men’s Shed Association’s regional coordinator, stood at the gates with a welcoming smile.

As visitors from all over moseyed on in, Mr Scicluna handed out blue fabric bags filled with pamphlets and goodies – even a free coffee card, a bonus for journalists who were yet to be caffeinated.

Heyfield Community Resource Centre Manager, Caroline Trevorrow, stood beside Mr Scicluna, handing out welcome packs, often darting off to assist with other matters of importance to keep the muster running smoothly.

Australian Men’s Shed Association’s event and volunteer coordinator Marty Leist was doing the rounds, connecting with those in attendance from the Victorian Men’s Shed community.

The first known Men’s Shed was established in South Australia 100 years ago, Mr Liest tells.

“Every week, a woman in South Australia would attend her local ladies group and one day noticed that her husband and all the other ladies’ husbands would sit in their cars, reading the newspaper while they waited.”

“Behind the community centre where the ladies group met, there was a shed full of stuff and one day, the woman asked her husband and all the other husbands if they could do some odd jobs in there, so off they went, and that is how the concept of the Men’s Shed started.”

Peter Vranek, Doug Davidson and Cliff Price from Stratford Men’s Shed at the Men’s Shed Muster, in Heyfield.

Despite a long history of Men’s Sheds across the country, it wasn’t until 2007 that the AMSA was formally established. The ASMA proved popular with hundreds of sheds joining the association, and now has more than 1200 Men’s Sheds across Australia on its books today.

Mr Leist has been the event and volunteer coordinator for the Australian Men’s Shed Association for over 10 years, and said he was excited to be in Gippsland for the promotion of the Shed Mates initiative.

“Shed Mates is about supporting the physical, mental and social health and wellbeing of Men’s Shed members,” he said.

“It offers training to help men identify when one of their members might not be okay and gives them the tools to reach out and help.

“Health, support and connection, that is what Shed Mates is all about.”

The Shed Mates Muster at Ken’s Shed in Heyfield was jammed-packed with activities, exhibits, entertainment, prizes and presentations.

In a special tribute to the unofficial ‘King of Heyfield’, the late Wellington Shire Councillor Malcolm Hole, VIP speaker and Wellington Shire Councillor Carmel Ripper started the event.

“I am so pleased to be here today,” Cr Ripper said.

“Men’s Sheds are so, so important.”

Graham Thomas and Paddy Boyce from Heyfield Vintage Machinery Group with ‘Bertie’. Photos: Zoe Askew

Next to take the stage, well microphone, was guest speaker Chris Callinan from Black Dog Institute.

Mr Callinan, a retired teacher of 42 years, has been a volunteer with the Black Dog Institute for seven months, travelling across Victoria addressing challenges and opportunities in mental health.

“I was the Head of Wellbeing at the last school I worked at, working closely alongside the two psychologists employed there too,” he said.

“Educating and making people aware of mental health challenges is so important, and I am so passionate about it.”

Mr Callinan has struggled with depression in the past, so for him, going to groups like the Men’s Shed in Heyfield to share his own experiences and offer support is very special.

“I absolutely love working with Black Dog Institute and sharing my lived experience,” he said.

“Just the other month, my 17-year-old daughter and my wife said to me that since I started, they have noticed I have got a spring in my step.”

Mr Callinan said seeing such an amazing supportive community at the Heyfield Men’s Shed was wonderful. He hoped he built understanding and improved the quality, relevance and knowledge translation around mental health.

Seamus Foley and David Young from Stratford Spoon Whittling Cult at the Men’s Shed Muster.

Parked outside Ken’s Shed was ‘Bettie’, a vintage car brought by Paddy Boyce and Graham Thomas from Heyfield Vintage Machinery Group.

Inside, David Young and Seamus Foley from Stratford Spoon Whittling Cult were hard at work, showcasing their unique talents as was the Gippsland and Toongabbie Woodcraft Group.

Maurice Gunnulson from Toongabbie even tried to convert a Gippsland Times writer into a woodworker before realising there was a reason they chose a profession with words, not wood.

Maurice Gunnulson from Toongabbie Woodcraft Group.

Mr Scicluna said the Men’s Shed Muster encompassed everything Men’s Shed was about.

“This right here is the epitome of Men’s Shed,” he said.

“People from all walks of life coming together.”