One look at the average age of our farmers and the problems they have with droughts and other agricultural adversities and you quickly see the real needs that a men's shed can address.
Ageing farmers are becoming an increasing problem as they move through the transition to retirement. The drought has only accentuated the problems faced by the men on the land.
A men's shed can assist farmers, farm workers and other men who provide goods and services to farmers, with many support services as well as a vehicle for them to contribute to the community.
There is a lot happening emotionally out there in people's lives, which we feel hasn't come to the surface yet. There's a lot of pressure on men, in the agricultural and related industries.
Men's sheds address the loneliness faced by those retiring along with displaced farmers and farm workers. Issues are often compounded following the loss of a partner. We know that men are not good at getting things off their chest and men on the land are no different. Men are men, no matter where they are and they all seem to suffer from similar issues.
Community service and involvement starts with providing a meeting place for men; a place for fellowship, learning and an opportunity to develop their hobbies and interests that they never had time for, back on the farm.
From a farmer's perspective, their role in society now is basically undefined, just as it is with a lot of males in society, particularly younger males. Increasingly we find they no longer know what their role is, once they leave the farming environment. The traditional farm shed, or workshop with the big workbench, the fridge, the toys (also called tools and equipment), was a nice place to go, to be alone and to recharge batteries.
The ideal situation is to get farmers interested and involved in their local men's shed, before they retire and quite a few have expressed this to us. This will make their transition much easier, even though the involvement may be as little as dropping in for a yarn when they come to town, or linking in with the health initiatives of the men's shed.
Some farmers are also resisting, or prolonging the handing over of their farms to the next generation, or selling out, simply because they feel that they will have nothing meaningful to keep them occupied. In the meantime the farms deteriorate and the families become dysfunctional.
Today in mainstream society, many men go through a number of distinct career changes. This helps to equip them to better handle the retirement transition, whereas farmers do not have the benefit of these career changes.
Then there are the male retirees who were employed on the farms, and in farm support businesses, whose only link with "mateship" was through their association with the farm, and once this stops the isolation, loneliness and depression tend to eventuate.