Women’s Health Goulburn North East hosted an innovative forum, Men & Masculinity in Wangaratta on the 21st June 2018.  We interviewed Rachael Mackay who had the inspiration for this forum.

How many attended and what were some of the key organisations/industries represented?

We had over 100 people attend with representatives from health organisations, men’s workers, counsellors, police and CFA, high school teachers and students, department of education, and many interested community members participated.

How was the day received by those present?

The feedback was incredible! Overwhelmingly positive and many have stated they want more events and conversations like this. Everyone was blown away by the different perspectives of the speakers and the key message was that men can engage in conversations about their needs, men do want to talk- just create the space and – just ask them.

What were the key discussions of the day – was there anything that provoked particularly passionate discussion?

The key discussions focused on broadening the range of expected behaviours for men and not underestimating men’ s emotional intelligence. Shame was also a key discussion as men are shamed in a myriad of ways at a young age for crying and expressing healthy emotions and we as a society need  to enable men to express their emotions in healthy and constructive ways.

‘Shaming men and boys doesn’t work. Everybody wants to be good. No person is born wanting to hurt someone they love. Something has gone wrong. We have to resonate with that’ Dr Michael Salter.

Men were also interested in how men engage and be active in the safety of women.

With the amount of global conversation happening at the moment around masculinity, what do you feel were the most positive things that came out of the day?

We know that the day changed some peoples view of what it means to create inclusive organisations and communities to include men and boys who don’t necessarily fit into the masculine stereotype. That young men are often teaching their fathers to say ’I love you’.

There was much discussion about role modelling. What boys see and hear from their fathers was extremely important in how boys grow up to be able to communicate to their partners and children. Young high school students were in the room and they have already planned what they will be doing next to continue the discussion!

Suicide and depression were identified as the most pressing issues for men and boys, therefore there was acknowledgement that responses to men which include an understanding of trauma was critical to men reaching out for support. The activity we all did with Tom Ball highlighted the need for everyone to communicate at a deeper level, not just hello, how are you? Most found it difficult to talk about themselves for more than 30 seconds and the listeners found it difficult to stop, and listen. An anecdote about new fathers was an eye opener – new mothers have up to 10 new friends when they attend new mothers groups, however there are no new fathers groups, so men often feel isolated from their friends when children come along.

Terms like Toxic Masculinity, I’m not really sure what we can do with that. I’m interested in why violence is so appealing to some men. And why some men and boys seem to hold it so closely. Only when we can understand that, can we eliminate violence’ Dr Michael Salter

What was the impetus behind the organisation of this event?

As a women’s health organisation we are interested in gender equity and there is a misconception that this is all about women – gender equity is also about men. The often harmful restrictions placed on men’s ability to engage as fathers, and as people with extensive emotions limit men from seeking support when they need it. These restrictions mean that men think it is ‘weak’ to feel strong emotions like sadness and grief and certainly ‘weak’ to express them or seek support.

At the end of the day, women’s health and men’s health and wellbeing are inextricably linked. We felt it was time this conversation was started and what better way than engaging four Australian experts with different perspectives?! Tom Bell, Steve O’Malley, Jason Ball and Dr Michael Salter were incredibly inspiring. Participants walked away with new perspectives and were challenged to make changes in their families, their communities and their organisations to be inclusive, to communicate with care and to be the best role models we can be for our boys and girls.

The videos of the presentations will be available soon.


Mensline Australia –  National 24/7 service for men going through relationship issues 1300 789 978

Men’s Referral Service – Telephone counselling, information and referrals for men in Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania. 1300 766 491

Lifeline – Provides all Australians experiencing personal crisis with access to 24 hour crisis support. 131114

Switchboard – Anonymous, free telephone counselling, information and referrals for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex communities of Victoria and Tasmania. 3 pm – 12 am, 7 days a week. 1800 184 527

Suicide Call-back service  24/7  professional counselling to people who are affected by suicide (thinking of it, and those affected by it) Vic and Tas 1300 659 467


Local Services:

Primary Care Connect – Shepparton P 03 5823 32 00

Gateway Health – Wangaratta 03 5723 2000, Wodonga 02 6022 8888, Myrtleford 03 5731 3500

Nexus Primary Health – Broadford, Kinglake, Wallan, Seymour 1300 773 352