Pictured: Men of Moreland participants at their graduation with friends and family.
After the success of Casey’s Men of Doveton program, Active Moreland launched Men of Moreland with 21 participants taking part in the inaugural eight-week program.
Research shows that men in Moreland and the neighbouring northern suburbs of Melbourne are at risk of low physical and poor mental health, and may lack social networks to connect with. Family violence is a growing problem in the community, with the number of reported family violence incidents increasing by 94% between the 2009/10 and 2014/15 financial years, with 77% of these family violence incidents perpetrated by men.
Men of Moreland was designed to combat these issues through the promotion of physical and mental health, as well as social connectedness. The program aims to challenge traditional gender stereotypes through the exploration of topics such as nutrition, gambling, mental health and mindfulness, respectful relationships, gender equality and prevention of violence against women.
Every Monday evening, participants take part in some form of exercise facilitated by Active Moreland trainers and representatives from the Coburg Football Club, aiming to improve physical wellbeing. The second half of the session focuses on improving mental wellbeing through presentations, workshops and discussions led by community influencers, clubs and services, including Gamblers Help, HeadSpace Glenroy and Carlton Football Club.
One session saw Heath Black, a former AFL player, share his story with participants. Heath opened up about his struggles with alcohol addiction and mental health issues, and how football and his relationship with his father fed into his poor decision making.
At the beginning of the program, participants created a set of values and expectations, helping create a safe and supportive space where the men felt empowered to share openly and without judgement. This led to many participants feeling comfortable to open up and speak about how they related to Heath’s story.
Louisa Calwell, Active Moreland Community and Engagement Director, coordinates the Men of Moreland program and believes that the environment created by participants is vital to its success.
“The participants created a safe space in week one, which allowed for conversation to be supportive and free flowing in week two… Participants opened up and related to Heath’s experiences, both in themselves or friends and family members,” Louisa explained.
Men of Moreland came to an end on Monday 25 November, with 13 participants celebrating their successes and achievements at a graduation with friends and family. Looking back on the eight weeks, Louisa was inspired by the participants’ willingness to learn, be honest and step out of their comfort zone.
“I learnt a lot from them, and while many of the conversations we had weren’t easy, they were conversations that needed to happen and should happen a lot more.”
At the graduation two participants, Nathan and Blair, shared their stories of how the program impacted them. For Nathan, Men of Moreland helped him not only learn how to cook a nutritionally balanced meal and how to exercise, it also challenged his view of masculinity.
“The most profound change for me from Men of Moreland is how I would define masculinity... I now define masculinity as something that comes from within. For me it’s finding the confidence to be the man that I am, to love him and be the best version of that man. I owe it to Men of Moreland for helping me find him,” said Nathan.
Blair shared a similar story. After enduring financial hardship and experiencing health issues, Blair found himself in a downward spiral. But he slowly picked himself back up and decided to join Men of Moreland.
“This program taught me to not give up, to be a better man, to stand up and be a better leader in my family and the community. I am in a better mental space as a result of participating in Men of Moreland, and my fitness and health has improved,” said Blair.
“I honestly believe that this kind of initiative should be rolled out and run in every community across the country. There are many more men out there that would greatly benefit from the topics, lessons and storytelling that came out of the Men of Moreland nights.”
After the success of the first Men of Moreland program, Louisa and the Active Moreland team are excited to create more programs like this in the future.