Photo: The men have built and painted a new space that will house the art and craft they create. (ABC News: Georgia Hitch) 

Clan rivalry in the remote Northern Territory community of Wadeye has historically been the source of violence and riots, but a new men’s shed is helping break down some of those tensions with great success.

The idea for the shed came from a number of men in the community, including William Pambuk, who saw the success and value of the local women’s centre, set up in the 1980s.

“We sort of set it up and said, look, let’s get the thing going for young men, so they can do art and craft, making clap sticks, spears and whatever,” he said.

“They can also put it altogether and sell it in a market in Darwin or down south somewhere.”

Mr Pambuk said it was also set up to try and keep young men busy and reduce the number of men who ended up offending and going to prison.

“If there’s a little bit of problem in the house or in camps they can say, look, I’m going to the men’s shed to sit down and relax,” he said.

Men at the shed are able to learn and try their hand at a number of activities, from carpentry to gardening.

They have even designed and built a new gallery area within the shed to house their works.

As well as keeping men busy and away from the judicial system, the shed is helping the community on another level.

Clan rivalry is an issue that has earned Wadeye a reputation for violence, after a number of riots between different family groups over the past decade.

“We had problems of each clan group hardly talking to each other, but in a men’s shed, boys from each different clan groups all joined up here,” said Timothy Dumoo, who was born and raised in Wadeye.

“[It is] good and teaching each other how to paint and all this and that.”

Mr Pambuk said it was great to see all the different men getting along.

“They be friends and they laughter and then make men happier and working together with whatever stuff they are doing,” he said.

Bringing the clinic to the men

It is not just community relationships and men’s mental health the shed is helping improve, thanks to a new program from the local health clinic.

“Men don’t usually go to men’s health check in the clinic, but we have a men’s shed now, the nurses can come down, let the men have the health check here at the men’s shed,” Mr Pambuk said.

John Paterson from the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory said the shed was an excellent opportunity to bring services to men they usually avoid.

“I’m one. I’ll be open and frank that I’m frightened to go to the doctors because you might just get that bad report where they tell you that something’s wrong and you have to go for a major operation,” he said.

“I think we’ll see a real shift in attitude and behaviour here, particularly if the local clinic out there can provide regular visits to the men’s shed and offer that service for them.”

Mr Paterson said the success of the shed in a community like Wadeye proved it was a useful model for other communities.

“I’d encourage the Northern Territory Government to seriously consider these men’s sheds in more Aboriginal communities throughout the Northern Territory,” he said.

“They’re good venue, they seem to be a place where men feel comfortable to go and share there and from their attending there are other spin-offs for the greater community.”

This piece by  Georgia Hitch was first seen on ‘ABC News‘, 6 July 2018.


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