HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [5.45 pm]: I rise to make some comments about what is happening with the men’s sheds movement at the moment, particularly the uncertainty being faced by Men’s Sheds of WA, which is the peak body in Western Australia that oversees what is happening with the men’s sheds. The concerns are that they seem to be falling through the cracks in the issuing of funding. At the moment it is guaranteed only until the end of the year, which will be a problem.
I am quite sure that I do not need to go into detail with members about the men’s shed movement. A lot of members will have visited men’s sheds within their own regions and possibly have been invited to openings of them within their regions. They are well established on the landscape, particularly around health and mental health. I do not think I need to go into the detail of why it is really important that we make sure that they are supported. But we need to remember, of course, that men’s sheds are community-based, non-profit and non-commercial. As a result, they are quite dependent on ensuring that they are supported by government in their very important work. Currently, there are about 170 men’s sheds across the state, of which 120 are in regional areas and play a very important role. They have more members than the Rotary Club and the Freemasons combined. I have been particularly keen to see that some of the projects they are doing actively support government priorities as well. I am thinking about, for example, the men’s shed that is working with Karnet Prison Farm, and another has been set up in partnership with BHP specifically for fly in, fly out workers. Other sheds have been set up to assist people specifically with disabilities, and other groups that need support.
But when I recently met with the chairperson and the executive director of Men’s Sheds of WA, they spoke to me about some of the concerns they have about what will happen with its funding. That organisation is responsible for resourcing the establishment, development and operations of men’s sheds in WA. It helps to support the sustainability of those men’s sheds, helps with the lines of communication between the men’s sheds, and puts forward representation of the interests of men, their sheds and the positive outcomes for stakeholders in WA. Essentially, it is supporting a very important governance framework to ensure that the on-the-ground sheds are able to focus on their good works. Somewhat incredibly, despite the fact that it is so well recognised that the work it is doing is very important, it would appear that it is heading towards a funding crisis precisely because it does not fit into any neat government silos because the breadth of the work men’s sheds undertake covers so many areas. In fact, at the moment Men’s Sheds of WA has estimated that the benefits that men’s sheds are providing on the ground fits within the remit of nine different government agencies. Previous service agreements were passed from department to department between 2011 and 2015. The then Western Australian Men’s Sheds Association was funded by the health department alone, and after that it was funded by the Department of Local Government, which matched the Department of Health funding of $75 000 per year. Yet again, we are talking about, in the scheme of things, a really small amount of dollars for really maximum output for the community. But as of June last year, Men’s Sheds of WA became another victim of the Department of Health’s funding cuts for inexplicably no longer meeting the department’s strategic direction, so its only state government funding source is now from the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries. That funding is guaranteed only until December 2018. Ironically, the broad and far-reaching scope of the work that Men’s Sheds WA is doing in community building and engaging men from priority groups, such as people with disability and men in prisons, and promoting health and mental health, to name a few, may indeed be exactly what is threatening its funding future. Effectively, it is being bounced from department to department and nobody is taking on this organisation to make sure that it continues.
One agency needs to take the lead on supporting Men’s Sheds WA and provide some certainty so that the organisation can plan ahead. It needs to retain its staff, but it is being stymied by insecure funding. Men’sShedsWA is of the opinion that the department that is probably best placed to help it is the Department of Health. It thinks Health should be the lead agency because its role in promoting men’s health and wellbeing is well established at its core. In 2010, the National Male Health Policy identified men’s sheds as the most innovative development in men’s health and that is why both the commonwealth and state Departments of Health should provide financial support to Men’s Sheds WA. From my perspective as a suicide prevention advocate, I cannot speak highly enough of men’s sheds in this regard.
Men’s Sheds WA has gone through extensive business planning processes. It has the track record and the capacity. I have no doubt that everyone here understands how important it is that the men’s sheds movement is able to thrive, so we need to get this resolved. We need to make sure that a single department is happy to put up its hand to say that it will make sure that this paltry but really essential amount of money is funded. Please do not penalise the men’s sheds movement because of its own success, because it is very broad and important. We have only four months left on the existing contract and there is no time to waste. I hope this government can sort this out and provide a firm commitment to this organisation.