My research interest in men’s learning and wellbeing and its link to men’s sheds in community settings came out of a series of research projects undertaken in Victoria, Australia since 2002 for the Adult, Community and Further Education (ACFE) Board. Men’s Sheds in Australia: Learning through community contexts (2007) was an NCVER (National Centre for Vocational Education Research) funded national study of informal learning through community-based men’s sheds in Australia. That research included surveys and interviews in 25 men’s sheds across five Australian States.
The wider suite of research on equity in community-based contexts since the late 1990s helped inform and encourage ongoing Australian & international research into men’s learning and wellbeing in community contexts. Since 2013 Barry Golding has set out to document the history, development, diversity and evidence base about community Men’s Sheds culminating in the October 2015 launch of the book The Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men.
Barry Golding and other researchers working in this field, including Dr Annette Foley (and Dr Mike Brown to 2010), acknowledge the generous cooperation of volunteers as informants in our research, as well as the pioneering research work in this field by many other individuals and organizations.
Much of our research in the past decade has focused on men’s learning and wellbeing, including informal learning through men’s sheds in community settings.
Researchers who are interested in this field should be aware that there are active peak body Men’s Sheds associations in Australia (and all Australian states), The Republic of Ireland, the UK, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and New Zealand. The Irish, NZ and UK associations are linked via the Australian Men’s Shed Association (AMSA)-managed web site http://www.mensshed.org/home/.aspx . The AMSA site lists all 950+ community men’s sheds in Australia and other useful community shed-related information including forthcoming events and conferences, back copies of AMSA newsletters, Australian state Men’s Shed association contacts and links to shed-based peak organisations elsewhere in the world including New Zealand, Ireland, the UK and Canada. David Helmers firstname.lastname@example.org is the 2016 AMSA Executive Officer. Community shed-based organisations can check, update and supply their organisation details on the free, community-based shed web site www.mensshed.org. AMSA membership is open to all sheds. Based on experiences of many shed start-ups, an AMSA-supported manual is available on How to start up a men’s shed in your area, see http://www.mensshed.org/shed-manual/.aspx . Also see Men’s Shed Online, launched in Dec 2010. http://www.theshedonline.org.au/about as an Australian initiative with beyondblue.
The first National (Australian) Men’s Shed Conference was in 2005 in Lakes Entrance, Victoria; the second in Manly (Sydney, New South Wales) in 2007 and the third in Hobart, Tasmania in August 2009. The 2011 AMSA Conference was held in Brisbane, Queensland on 21-23 August. The 2013 national conference was in Ballarat, Victoria in late October. The 2015 AMSA Conference was in Newcastle, Australia 17-20 October 2015. The 2017 AMSA conference is in Perth, Western Australia.
By May 2015 there were 1,416 Men’s Sheds open globally: 933 across all states and territories of Australia, 57 in New Zealand, 273 across the Island of Ireland (including 16 in Northern Ireland) , with 148 others elsewhere in the UK (including England, Scotland and Wales and five in Canada. At the 2011 Australian Conference a decision was made to set up an International Federation of Men’s Sheds Association. The 2013 meeting of this Association was held in Ballarat in October 2013. The 2015 AMSA Conference in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia included the Australian launch of The Men’s Shed Movement book.
In 2008/9 the Victorian State government in Australia announced government grants through the Department of Planning and Community Development for many new men’s sheds in Victoria: the first government in the world to provide specific support (A$4 million over four years) directly to community-based men’s sheds. The Victorian Governor, Professor David de Kretzer is the Victorian Men’s Sheds Association Patron. The Australian Men’s Health Policy Strategy has identified men’s sheds as an important community health innovation, and Adult Learning Australia regards them as an important national innovation in informal learning for men. During 2010 the Australian Government provided four years of funding (A$3.3 million) through the Department of Health and Ageing for the national coordination of sheds through the Australian Men’s Sheds Association. The first 20 men’s sheds received federal funding in Feb 2011. This support via AMSA was renewed in September 2015 for a further three years.
The first major national research report Men’s sheds in Australia: learning through community contexts, (2007, NCVER) and the ‘Supporting documents’ are available free for download www.ncver.edu.au/publications/1780.html). While the emphasis in this community shed-based research has mainly been on the informal learning function of sheds, it provided a carefully researched snapshot (to 2007) of the range of men who participate, for what sorts of reasons and what they are getting out of it. The demonstrable outcomes include health, happiness and wellbeing as well as informal learning.. This early research report has been useful to shed-based organizations, governments and auspice organizations that plan, mentor, and support men’s sheds in community contexts. Barry Golding’s aim since 2009 has been to progressively extend some of the research and findings to other organisations, communities and nations where learning and wellbeing are recognised as a problem for some men, particularly for men not in paid work, and where the wellbeing value of informal, community-based lifelong and lifewide learning is sometimes not recognised or valued. In Ireland the research by Dr Lucia Carragher included the many Irish Men’s sheds.
Comprehensive Australian research Men’s Sheds in Australia: Effects on Physical Health and Well-Being commissioned by beyondblue, authored by Paul Flood and Sharon Blair from Ultrafeedback, released in Nov 2013 includes a Men’s Shed in Australia_Final Report 201113, Men’s Shed in Australia_Final Executive Report 201113 and Men’s Sheds in Australia_ Final Appendices 201113.