Blokes 6B bonfire gatherings providing social connection for farmers
A portrait of farming life and the mental health challenges experienced by blokes in regional Western Australia featured on the ABC’s current affairs show, 7.30pm on Tuesday.
The segment, produced by film maker Chris Lewis, visits 70 farmers who gathered around a bonfire in the middle of a paddock near Mullewa, five hours north of Perth, to have a beer, a barbecue and a check-in.
The 6B’s - blokes, barbecue, bonfire, beers, bonding and bullshit – was organised by farmer Bradley Millsteed, who said most blokes enjoy sitting around a fire with their mates.
“We're all more connected than ever before via phones and the like but we're actually all starting to maybe lose the art of being able to talk to each other and express thoughts or tell people how we are,” he said.
One of the farmers who took part, Phil Rumble, said usually spent 15 to 18 hours a day in a tractor, “with my own thoughts.”
“Daily duties of the job can be anywhere from spreading, seeding, spraying, harvesting, fencing and a lot of the time you spend it on your own,”
Owen Catto from the Regional Men’s Health Initiative - who 'act as a bridge of support and education to regional men, communities and health services'- reiterated the fact that 3 out of 4 suicides are males and 3 out of 4 cardiovascular issues are ‘about blokes’.
A scene from the 7.30 report on ABC.
“Blokes talking through groups and feeling safe and connected is the way we're going to empower individuals and communities to just talk about it and say, "Mate, that's alright. You're not the only one'." - Owen Catto, RMHI
The 6Bs has been running since 2017, when Brad Millsteed invited his Twitter contacts to burn off wood in a paddock and make it a social event. As explained on the group’s website:
B is for Blokes - We need to better connect with the fact that it’s great being a bloke.
BBQ is a great cooking apparatus, a place where blokes also like to hang out.
Bonfire is something enjoyed by all blokes, which makes it a perfect venue.
Beers are a good lubricant to start some conversations between blokes.
Bonding is something many men can forget to do in the busyness of life.
Bullshit is a natural outcome to an evening combining the 5B’s and to keep everyone laughing.
Anyone can run a 6B bonfire gathering, and the unsponsored not-for-profit has a range of 6B merchandise for sale; campfire pannikin mugs, 6B shorts (in five sizes), beanies and broad brimmed hats.
“There isn’t anything polished or “white coat” about it, just normal blokes trying to encourage others to connect with other blokes to share the load, and not to allow that top paddock to get too overstocked to the point it starts to blow away,” states the website.
Farmer Rod Messina told the ABC said he hadn’t seen his neighbours for two or three years. “There was other guys from 50ks away I that I might have seen once in 10 years,” he said.
“So it definitely drew people from everywhere and people who you didn't expect to be there were there and they felt comfortable coming and they were there to be able to catch up with mates.”
Added Millsteed: “We need to remove that stigma that there is nothing wrong with getting help. As the saying goes, it's okay to not be okay but what's not okay is to do nothing about it.”
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