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Celebrating Mates Day: Building Connections and Support for Aussie Men

Mates Day was celebrated by the Australian Men’s Health Forum on May 8, 2023 with a special showcase of various projects bringing men together in vastly different environments.

These ranged from intimate dinners (The Men’s Table), one-on-one conversations with a male mentor (Mentoring Men), getting outdoors (Inner Man Adventures), regular group exercise (SOLiD Men), walking together (Penrith’s Men's Walk and Talk), joining a book club (Tough Guys Book Club) and growing men's connection to community over a free beer and burger (Barstool Brothers).

In between, AMHF CEO Glen Poole conducted an interactive session on How to Help a Mate Doing It Tough, and speakers from Relationships Australia and Play Australia outlined the merits of their respective community projects that were bringing more people together at a local level (Neighbours Every Day, 1000 Play Streets)

As Tough Guy Book Club founder Shay Leighton stated in his afternoon talk, many men joining groups were lonely, and many felt alienated and lacked the opportunity to make new connections and to help others do the same.

“The more a person interacts with their community, the greater the outcome for health and happiness,” said Shay. “Men are social animals. You can’t tough your way out of loneliness.”

With 80 groups or ‘chapters’ now operating in Australia (and plans to take the program into schools), the TGBC is having a significant impact on members.

33.7% reported feeling happier since joining the Club. 67% said they felt more connected/less socially isolated. 50.4% reported having more friends.  

David Pointon, co-founder of The Men’s Table (with Ben Hughes) said men’s tables were borne out of a need for a different sort of conversation between men, one that went beyond the banter. Formed in 2011, 125 tables around Australia and approximately 1300 men meet once a month in a private room at a public location to share the highs and lows of how they are really feeling.

As with Mentoring Men, Men’s Tables are tapping into the zeitgeist whereby prominent figures are opening up about their struggles, and recalibrating concepts of masculinity, which erroneously perpetuate the myth that men don’t talk. Mentoring Men’s service is built on the simple premise of matching men who need a little bit of help with men who can give a little bit of help.

The guiding principle of Wayne Krueger’s Inner Man Adventures is that therapy and connection doesn’t have to happen in a four-walled room. His outback weekends in hardy 4WD vehicles is a winner for outdoorsy blokes, and the more things that go wrong on these trips the better. Getting bogged, fixing a puncture, building a fire … no one is ALONE, activities build trust and lead to heartfelt conversations about what is really going on for each man.


SOLiD Men started in March 2017, and comprises a weekly 5.45 am fitness challenge, which are peer led. The group espouses Christian values and, while messages of encouragement and accountability are taken from scripture, SOLiD men is not aligned to any religious group per se. Participants are given tools and group support to strengthen their physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health, and are encouraged to rate their on-going health with  a score from 1-5.

Billy Beggs  from Penrith Men’s Walk and Talk shared how his enterprise started four years ago to support a mate who was struggling after the death by suicide of a family member. The idea of taking a regular walk with the man grew to become a community activity. Now hundreds of men walk together each week in Penrith, and many have had training in mental health first aid, facilitated by the group. “Our tagline is, ‘where no man walks alone,’” explained Billy.

“Men are teamed with someone to walk with. It encourages people to offload in a smaller group. They don’t want to go to a psychologist, they find it easier to come here.”

Noted Glen Poole: “Shoulder to shoulder doesn’t end at shoulder to shoulder, it extends to heart to heart.”

Daniel Chin said Barstool Brothers was run out of a local burger shop in Wollongong, My Boy Elroy, inviting anyone to come down for a free burger, fries and beer.

It was a winning formula. There are now 1500 members, attending events that go beyond the barstool. “There’s a split between guys who are after support, and guys who are there to give support.”

Men's Health Connected is a free online series, discussing topics on men's health including suicide prevention, men's social connection and how important physical activity is to men's health. The Mateship series continues on Wednesday, May 10 (Mateship on the Move) and May 11, (Mateship in Older Men).

Register here. 


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