Pictured: The participants of the Men of Doveton program after one of their weekly sessions.
In the south eastern suburbs of Melbourne, men are helping change their community through the first ever Men of Doveton program.
Partnering with Doveton College, the 12-week free program has been designed to promote better mental and physical health amongst men in the community – championing positive change and creating social connection.
In these suburbs, many men are experiencing social isolation in their communities at increasing levels. High rates of alcohol abuse, smoking, obesity, as well as the pressures of housing affordability and cost of living are all compounding the problem – putting community mental health and wellbeing at risk.
The area also records the highest number of police reports for men’s violence against women anywhere in the state.
Positive male role models are desperately needed, as well as education and understanding of mental health and healthy masculinity. This is where the YMCA has recently stepped in.
“Over each of the sessions in the Men of Doveton program we cover healthy eating, physical activity and mental health,” explains Tori Norris, Community Engagement Coordinator in the YMCA Casey region.
“Through presentations, workshops, activities and other experiences, we are aiming to give men the support and guidance they need to live healthier, happier lives, which will hopefully start to influence other men in the community.”
Of the 15 participants in this first ever program, 12 signed up solely to create new friends.
“Issues around social connection for men in the south east is just not being addressed. We know that healthy relationships are key in creating safer communities for families, and these men have shown real courage in signing up to this program,” says Tori.
Melbourne Football Club have seen the power a program like this can have in the community, and have jumped on board as a partner. They have been facilitating sports nights, and giving away merchandise and signed footballs to participants.
Only a few weeks in, the program has seen some really positive outcomes.
“A ripple effect of change is starting to happen,” says Tori.
“We are starting to build trust with these men, and they are seeing the benefits of the program already.”
The program MC and YMCA staff member, Mo Mudaliar, has been providing extraordinary leadership to the group, creating a fellowship amongst the participants. It’s through this work that these bonds are starting to happen – and will no doubt start to spread beyond the program.
A second Men of Doveton program has already been locked in for the second half of 2018, and as long as funding continues, there will be more in 2019 and 2020 as well.
“We’re already looking at creating a Women of Doveton program down the line!” says Tori.
Stay tuned for some of the program’s amazing stories later in the year!