MEN’S sheds work. That is the key finding of a formal study to be unveiled by beyondblue chairman Jeff Kennett at the Australian Men’s Shed Association Conference in Ballarat today.
Since the establishment of the Australian Men’s Shed Association in 2007 the number of Men’s Sheds across Australia has grown from about 150 to more than 1000.
While the detail of the beyondblue report is yet to be released, Australian Men’s Shed Association executive officer David Helmers yesterday revealed those workshops and meeting places that have been set up as a haven for men to meet, work and interact, provide measurable physical and mental benefits for their patrons.
Mr Helmers said he did not need to read a report to know that men’s sheds help men overcome isolation and loneliness: he sees the evidence every day. However the report would illustrate to others the important role the sheds play in their communities, and the value for governments in funding further sheds.
“The initial data is very encouraging. We always knew the benefits (of men’s sheds) because we se it but the beyondblue commissioned quantitative research to show it.
“The need has always been there. I don’t necessarily think things are getting worse but (the report) shows men’s sheds are a great way to deal with the isolation a lot of men feel when they stop work.
“Sheds are about preventative health. According to the World Health Organisation social isolation is a major health determinant. If you asked 100 people at men’s sheds what they would be doing if it weren’t for their shed, they might be at the pub drinking and smoking, or they might be alone, or they might not be here at all.”
Today’s conference at the Ballarat Lodge is the first biennial conference to be held outside a state capital city.
Given that most men’s sheds are outside the major metropolitan centres, Mr Helmers said Ballarat was an appropriate location for the 2013 conference.
“Our membership wanted for us to host it in a regional city,” he explained.
Prior to the two-day conference itself, a men’s shed “crawl” was held across the region, beginning with breakfast at the Ballarat East Community Shed, followed by morning tea at Buninyong, lunch at Winchelsea, afternoon tea at Norlane and dinner at Newcomb.
There will also be a men’s shed research and practice forum hosted today in conjunction with the University of Ballarat at the UB School of Education and Arts.
Attending yesterday’s men’s shed crawl was John Evoy, founder and chief executive officer of the Irish Men’s Sheds Association, who is another guest speaker at today’s conference.
Mr Evoy said the Irish men’s shed association sprung from his experience of men’s sheds in Australia.