New horizons for Southern Men’s Gathering

Chiropractor and occupational therapist Ben Buttfield was in his 20s when he woke up from a young adulthood desire to be approved by others.

From martial arts to nightclub security and into the arms of organised crime bosses, Dr Buttfield had shaped a harsh world view of masculinity until his instincts pushed him towards deeper self-exploration, and into the arms of a local men’s group.

“I thought, ‘this is what I was really looking for. Healthy, self-aware, literate men who support one another’,” recalls Dr Buttfield.

That was eight years ago. He is now fully immersed in men’s work and is preparing to run the first Southern Men’s Gathering in Adelaide, one hour’s south, at Yankalilla, a popular beach holiday destination.

Dr Buttfield does not want to get too far into the detail of what the 8-10 November weekend – themed ‘Share the Journey’ – will entail as discovery is part of the agenda. Self-discovery and open sharing between 30-plus blokes in a safe environment.

“It’s for us to create the environment where men feel safe to share elements of their journey,” explains Dr Buttfield. “To celebrate their victories but also their struggles in a safe way, and to talk from the heart. It’s counter to conventional masculinity where men are taught to be self-sufficient and where asking for help is shameful.

“Men at these gatherings feel a sense of community, and love and deep friendship.”

Dr Buttfield has modelled the Southern Men’s Gathering off Tasmen’s annual camping event where  men are invited to ‘take time out from the normal day to day.’

“I went to my first Tasmen back in 2012,” says Dr Buttfield. “I was keen to recreate the awesome community that I’ve experienced. I went back last year and did some facilitation with them. They’re awesome. They’ve provided some mentoring and financial support, so we’ve got six Tasmen guys who are coming for the November gathering.

“Faciliators will work with the guys in big groups and split off into smaller groups to work through stuff.”

Men have the option of camping at Yankalilla or sleeping in dorm-style accommodation. Ben is also part of a 50-strong Southern Men’s Group, and one of its members – a café owner – is volunteering his time to cater for the Southern Men’s Gathering.

He hopes this event becomes an annual occurrence and contributes to further developing a 'men’s-group culture' in South Australia.

“We want to create a community, not just for the annual event, but smaller events throughout the year. We want to grow a community of men who can actually talk to one another and don’t rely on alcohol and football as a way of getting together."

The Southern Men’s Gathering 2019 begins at 4pm-6pm on November 8 and finishes the following Sunday at 4pm.

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