Shedding the light on men: the Wollongong Men's Project
Men's sheds are community based organisations where men can enjoy each others company and where self-worth can be promoted. At the same time skills can be developed for both the individual and the community. For older men these sheds offers the opportunity to make new mates and to form a new retirement identity by offering many of the positive things that paid work offered them. They are seen as a positive approach to men's health and social needs and as a result many Australian State and Territory Health Services have funded and/or promoted them from a health promotion perspective. The Wollongong Men's Project has operated as a shed-based group program since October 2005. The aim of the project is to provide a group of retired and/or unemployed men from a multicultural background with opportunities for developing practical skills with a view to reducing their social isolation and increasing their self-esteem and sense of purpose. The project provides a shed space, resources, a community cultural arts worker and a multicultural health worker who work with the men on a range of skilled based activities. Methods and materials Evaluation was carried out using a Participatory Action Research (PAR) process together with a range of data collection tools. Results The evaluation has shown that the men have an increased sense of purpose and self confidence as a direct result of their involvement in the project. They have also broadened their social networks and have increased their skill levels. Conclusion The evaluation of the Wollongong Men's Project has provided some valuable lessons. All-male social support networks, without the usual self destructive or hazardous behaviours associated with male bonding rituals, are an important development in health promotion programs that can do the preventive work that the mental health system has largely abandoned.