Ch.9 Men’s Health & Wellbeing Association

The emergence of Men’s Health and Wellbeing Association onto the Queensland landscape was to provide a significant impact on the unfoldment of the men’s activity, including the Men’s Help Line, in that State.


The genesis of MHWA is to be found in Perth when, in 1992, Wes Carter, along with Jonathan Kester and Rod Mitchell, set up the Men’s Health and Wellbeing Association (WA) Inc to raise the profile of men’s health and to obtain some funding to this end. The new association was to develop services that will enhance men’s lives, reduce illness, accidents and premature death in men, provide educational and support services as well as looking at men’s relationships as fathers, husbands, grandfathers, brothers and sons.

In 1995 he took the concept to the 4th Australian & New Zealand Men’s Leadership Gathering (ANZMLG) where it was picked up by men from other States with a view of prospectively forming a national body.

The MHWA would be a national organisation with offices in every state. It would have a national voice and a national fundraising lobby. The main thrust of MHWA would be “to do something about” …

…relationships, violence and anger management, youth development, suicide prevention, rites of passage and ageing, special needs of different cultural groups, lifestyle and health issues, sexuality, mentors, fathering, improving family life, recovery from sexual abuse, personal meaning and life mission.

This would be achieved by

…. establishing and supporting men’s group networks in health and wellbeing, lobbying for appropriate men’s health services and building a new sense of community amongst men. (which would ultimately involve families).

In his role as MHWA(Q) President, Peter Rohan wrote in the Winter 1999 edition of Mentor:

About a year ago it was decided by the ANZMLG in Sydney to fund the Federation of Men’s Health and Wellbeing Association as a National Body incorporated in Canberra. This has now been achieved. An inter-state wide network has been set up on email and for the first time men are able to tune into many of the different areas that make up what is loosely called the Men’s Movement. This is a great step forward as we can now co-ordinate our approach to individual state governments on a similar basis which gives any submissions much more power. There is some way to go in this process but it is a very exciting development for all those interested in the Men’s Movement.

A few dedicated individuals have now given us the framework within which great plans for real change can be made.

In Queensland

The opportunity to have a national voice and a national fundraising lobby greatly excited the men of MHL who had invested heavily in volunteer time, resources and finances in providing their unique service in support of the broader men’s movement.

Various issues got in the way of a national body with the outcome of individual State MHWA organisations were set up in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, and Queensland. It was Ross Thompson who took up the cudgel to create the Queensland body – Men’s Health and Wellbeing Association (Qld) (MHWA(Q)).

On the local front, Arthur Bricknell, a roster organiser for MHL, organised a MHL fund raising men’s gathering called Brisbane Men’s Festival at Mt Glorious (site of original 1992 festival) in late February 1998. Ross Thompson and another man who, together, comprised the entire complement of Men’s Health and Wellbeing Association Qld (MHWA(Q)) were amongst the attendees. At an ensuing discussion it was mooted (by one or both of Peter Rohan and Ross Thompson) that MHWA(Q) was a far more encompassing name than MHL and that MHL could fit comfortably under this much broader umbrella. In effect MHWAQ would provide the structure & profile while MHL would provide the membership – termed by some as a reverse take-over.

In order to explore the matter further the six-hour “think tank” held at Macquarie House in early March 1998 heard broad ranging discussion about the current situation of MHL and its prospective future over the next 5 years.

Feedback from various sources indicated that MHL was a unique service and an eminent model of what men can do to assist each other. However, some men did not feel able or willing to be on a telephone answering service. As a consequence, there was a perceived need for MHL to widen its appeal, to get more professional support and assistance from mainstream men.

One way to do this was to combine with another organisation to throw the net wider. Thus, the Men’s Health and Wellbeing Association presented as a readily available option.

After much discussion, the unanimous conclusion was that it would make good sense for MHL to come under the general banner of MHWA. MHL would continue to run as a cell unit of MHWA(Q) with similar management, whilst new and increased membership would be drawn to the activities of MHWA. The organisation could be more inclusive and offer many more options in which new members could participate. It was envisaged that use of the word “health” in the name would enhance public appeal and enhance Government support.

In order to formalise the above arrangements a Special General Meeting was held on April 2 1998. After lengthy discussion it was decided by majority vote that the organisations would amalgamate under the banner of Men’s Health & Wellbeing Assoc. (Qld) Inc. The Gold Coast members reserved judgement on this decision and were invited to join when they are ready. Peter Rohan became President of the amalgamated entity and Ross Thompson becoming Vice President with John Lucas joining the committee.

Men’s Health and Wellbeing Association (Queensland) – MHWA(Q)

Mentor was launched in November 1998 as the Men’s Health and Wellbeing Association Newsletter with Tony Verner as its editor.

With the new format and structure in place there were changes to come. President of the new entity, Peter Rohan, wrote in Mentor of November 1998 (first edition) in a letter from the President:

Changes in membership and new policy emphasis within the organisation will invariably test established values.

As expressed in Mentor of November 1998 the new structure sees itself as follows:

MHWA(Q) organises men’s festivals, Father’s Day gatherings. It is developing a network of men’s support groups operating in various suburbs and communities throughout Queensland. Training of men’s group facilitators is now being offered.

MHWA(Q) Open nights are held in Brisbane once every 2 weeks. On Gold Coast weekly on Tuesdays.

At the next AGM, in August 1999, Peter Rohan stood down as President and was succeeded by Ross Thompson. Chris Johnson, Hilton Barr and Gary Simpson became committee members. It became apparent that Ross had little interest in the telephone service with a result of considerable divisiveness within the network. It was always Ross’ view that MHWA(Q) was established to align with Steve Biddulph’s ideas expressed in his book Manhood. Thus, men’s gatherings and men’s groups were to be the focus for the Association.

The aims of the Association were expressed in Mentor of November 1998:

The Men’s Health and Wellbeing Association aims to promote the health and wellbeing needs of Queensland men and boys. It seeks to make men aware that it is possible to enhance the quality of their lives and people around them, for the betterment of the whole society. The Association supports and encourages men and boys at difficult times in their lives to choose appropriate options for meeting the challenges they face in today’s rapidly changing society.

In its desire to develop men’s support groups, a program of Men’s Group Facilitator Trainings was implemented. Three of Brisbane’s most dynamic and insightful counsellors, John Lucas, John Falcon and John Saunders have organised a training course for facilitators of men’s groups. This was a 50-hour course to be held in the first half of the next year (1999) at a cost of $250.

The success of this work is evidenced with a listing in Mentor of Winter 1999 of 18 men’s groups metropolitan and suburban groups from Beaudesert in the south to Caboolture in the north. These included the auspice of 3 new Journeyman groups in Balmoral, Brackenridge and Springwood.

Upon receipt of a funding grant of $15000 from the Gaming Machine Community Benefit Fund of Queensland, Tony Verner engaged in October 1998 as a research consultant to report on analysis of the requirement for services specifically targeted towards men, to develop further a network of men’s support groups, and establish a panel of professionals highly skilled and motivated in providing counselling and related services to men.

In the following years, MHWA(Q) made great contributions to furthering the cause of the men’s movement in South East Queensland:

  • Continued to organise the Manhood gathering with proceeds to support MHL
  • Held a Fathers Day picnic at Orleigh Park, Hill End in 1998 with about 80 attendees. Professor Bob Montgomery from Bond University spoke on “It’s Good Being a Dad”.
  • Sponsored the Boys To Men Conference and Expo at Surfers Paradise for 3 days in August 1999 with a variety of key note speakers including Steve Biddulph, Steve Widders, Bradley Foxlewin and Graeme Russell
  • Developed and implemented the Common Ground program with first group commencing in April 2001
  • Took the Manshine gathering in 2004 under its umbrella when the event organisers faced major difficulties
  • Hosted the 13th ANZMLG in October 2005 at Ewen Maddock Dam. This turned out to be the last ANZMLG.
  • Rebranded the Association to Mens Wellbeing in 2010 under the Presidency of David Greenwood
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