Finding purpose and connection at the Mt Druitt Men’s Shed

Men’s Shed in Mt Druitt, established as a suicide prevention program for the Aboriginal community in 2004, has released a collection of stories from the mouths of those who attend the Shed, and “make it possible for the broader community, including those who have capacity to do something about it, to listen.”

Affirming the views of pioneer psychologist Alfred Adler, when a person can highlight their personal agency, social connections and positive outcomes when reflecting on even painful events from the past, “it helps them heal and find satisfaction in the midst of life’s unexpected twists and turns.”

 “For people from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island background, this process has greater poignancy, as storytelling – or yarning – is an integral cultural practice,” say the authors.

 In Our Words: Stories from the Shed Mount Druitt was released on November 20 in partnership with Western Sydney University Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre (MHIRC) and is a collection of interviews compiled by author Chris Panagiotaros with the people, staff and supporters behind the organisation.

 “The stories provide insights into the lives of the people who are connected to The Shed and tell us about both the needs of our community and the response of The Shed to meet that need,” said MHIRC director, Professor John Macdonald.

Panagiotaros said his favourite question to ask was, ‘How has The Shed impacted you personally?’

“The Shed showed me how effective services are run, but more notably, it showed me the importance of communities, family, and culture. There was more than one conversation that finished with watery eyes,” he notes in the prelude to the document.

A selection from the stories:

Buddy: "From The Shed I learnt not to give up. It’s just all positive stuff. They know who is serious here and who’s not serious. If they see someone here who is serious, they will work with them and try their hardest."

Charles: "You have the opportunity to sit and unpack. So, people can just share their day, tell stories, have a yarn; get that validation, get that dopamine fix. But, it’s also an opportunity to delve deeper as well."

Koen: "I’ve seen The Shed create change in a range of different ways. Say for example, walking into an office and sitting down and getting case managed or a bit of a counsel. The shed will come in and give you a bit more insight into the real-life things. If people are struggling in areas – it changes from them thinking about it to how to get out of it. It changes a lot of people’s perspectives and views but more importantly, it gives them the right path

Harry: "I think there are a lot of – particularly – Aboriginal men that come who are probably falling through gaps for a whole lot of reasons (housing, poor mental health issues). Here, I believe, it’s one of the emphases of supporting dads here. There is engagement here. The dads or otherwise men wouldn’t engage with anybody – possibly. Once you engage them and listen to their stories, you get the feeling that there is some sort of purpose in their life."

Jarrah: "I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for The Shed. When my kid and partner left, The Shed gave me a will to live again."

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