The first Men’s Table began in 2011 with twelve men who have met once a month for dinner ever since. The Men’s Table creates a unique environment for men to share openly about their lives, their challenges, their highs, and lows with a group of men who they learn to trust and respect.
Groups of adult men meet monthly to share a simple meal and talk about the issues that are impacting on their lives and wellbeing. Each group is locally initiated and organised by its members with support and networking provided through a central office (The Kitchen). Leadership is shared between members in a mutual-help model. The Men’s Table creates a uniquely safe environment for men to share openly about their lives and challenges with a group of men who they learn to trust and respect.
The approach creates a sense of belonging, community, peer support and camaraderie that is lacking for many men. Belonging to a Men's Table contributes to mental, emotional, and social wellbeing whilst being a powerful support to individual members negotiating life challenges. It is a preventive strategy, promoting the health and wellbeing of members throughout their life journey. The Men’s Table is a restorative practice. Whilst contributing to strengthening the relationships men have with other men, it also strengthens social connection and a sense of community It is acts to heal relationships men have with their own identity as a man and with other men. The stereotype of masculinity perpetuated in Australian culture is of a ‘real man’ who does not show emotion or vulnerability, does not reach out for help, and instead maintains a superficial level of connection and sharing with other men. The Men’s Table is helping to break this stereotype by offering a safe place for men to explore and practice alternative versions of masculinity with other men, ones in which men can share their feelings, be open and vulnerable.
NED supported this group with a small grant and mentoring throughout the project. Their intention was to further develop Co-Hosts (men in the community who take the initiative to call a new Table in and then facilitate in the first few months) through the creation of a program curriculum, and digital and video tools to complement and replicate what was already in practice. Mentoring proved to be a critical element in the project with adjustments being made as the project leaders learned and evolved their practice. Ultimately their approach was documented in a Model of Care which now acts as a guide when new Tables are formed. Evaluation and follow up has demonstrated that this was an extraordinarily successful and effective project.