Research projects

Mibbinbah: Indigenous men’s sheds/spaces pilot project

Principal researchers

Mr Jack Bulman, Mr Rick Hayes

Institution

Mibbinbah

Funding

$120,000

Project completion year

2009

Project brief

The aim of the Indigenous Men, Health and Indigenous Men’s Spaces program was to develop an understanding of what makes Indigenous men’s spaces safe and healthy places and how this might benefit families and communities. The men’s spaces pilot project, which was part of this program, evaluated existing Indigenous men’s spaces in seven locations across Australia, using local Indigenous men employed as project associates and using participatory action research methods.

Forty-four Indigenous men attended beyondblue depression awareness training and took the resources for use in their respective communities.

Key findings

Developing and strengthening the capacity of Indigenous communities is an important first step in raising awareness of depression and anxiety. This can be achieved in a number of ways.

  • Up-skilling local Indigenous men – providing training in leadership, depression awareness, community communication and media, computer skills, and other relevant skills – which provides a mechanism to support Indigenous men to become skilled leaders within their community.
  • Supporting and encouraging local Indigenous men to develop linkages between Indigenous men’s groups and community organisations.
  • Maintaining and strengthening the Mibbinbah network of Indigenous men – this infrastructure provides a mechanism to deliver training to Indigenous men and strengthen networks between them.
  • Supporting champions, mentors and CEOs and directors of Indigenous organisations to support and encourage local Indigenous men to become leaders within their community, and to act as positive role models.
  • Normalising depression and anxiety, decreasing the associated stigma and encouraging Indigenous men to seek help.
  • Providing an opportunity for yarning – this is a key component of developing a safe space for Indigenous men and allowing and encouraging men to speak about depression and anxiety.

A key outcome of the project was the development of the Mibbinbah network, which includes Indigenous men who have been trained and supported by Mibbinbah and who are self-identified leaders within their community. These leaders are supporting Indigenous men’s groups, promoting awareness of depression and anxiety, and encouraging Indigenous men to seek help.

The development of a mentoring program has been an essential component of the success of the Men’s Spaces project, as it is a way of developing the capacity of Indigenous communities. The mentoring program involves project associates and their peers being regularly contacted by Mibbinbah and supported to address issues of local concern. The project associates are, in turn, available as mentors to a range of local Indigenous men’s groups. The training sessions provided an opportunity for the network to meet, share experiences, and learn from each other.

Implications for policy, practice and further research

Mibbinbah has now been established as an independent not-for-profit organisation that will position itself as the national peak Indigenous men’s organisation. One of the key objectives of Mibbinbah is the development and support of a larger network of men working in the field and transferring knowledge about chronic conditions and social and emotional well-being. This model has the endorsement of a wide variety of leaders in the field of Indigenous men’s health and well-being, and is based on the mentoring program established in the men’s spaces pilot project.

There are opportunities to modify the delivery and content of the beyondblue depression awareness training to be more applicable and tailored to Indigenous men.

Networks are important in developing trust and building the capacity of Indigenous men and are also invaluable to men experiencing depression, anxiety or chronic health conditions. A recommendation from this project is that beyondblue and Mibbinbah partner to continue to strengthen and expand the Mibbinbah network.

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