Ahead of Men's Health Week (13-19 June), nbn has launched a unique collaboration with the Australian Men's Shed Association to highlight how access to fast broadband can help men build supportive friendships and better connect with friends and family.
Facilitating a connection between two groups of men in Maitland, New South Wales and Ballarat, Victoria, the nbn Connected Sheds initiative will see them come together in a series of -Shed Sessions' run via HD video conferencing to plan the build of a gazebo designed to benefit a local community.
Guided by expert builder and The Block foreman, Keith Schleiger, the -Shed Sessions' will allow the men to learn from each other's construction and design expertise, while also enabling them to build friendships and to discover new ways to communicate.
The initiative follows findings of research commissioned by nbn* which revealed almost half (48 per cent) of male grandparents aged 55 and older believe using the internet has assisted them to feel more connected to their friends and family. It also showed more than one in five men in the same group (22 per cent) agree that using the internet has helped them build friendships and overcome feelings of loneliness.
Professional builder and resident foreman on The Block, Keith Schleiger said: 'I've seen first-hand that men don't like to talk about their feelings, but that just makes it even more important to tackle it head-on. As tough as I may seem on TV, I'm definitely a bit of a softie and sometimes the only way to deal with a problem is to talk about it with a mate. The nbn™ Connected Sheds initiative is a great example of how access to fast internet can give men the chance to reach out to other communities and connect with a much larger network of people and resources, no matter where they live or where they come from."
Director of the Men's Health team at the University of Western Sydney, Professor John Macdonald said: 'Connecting the Men's Sheds to the nbn™ network has shown how men from all walks of life can come together to expand their respective networks in a positive and safe environment to learn from each other, form new friendships and contribute to the wider community. It's initiatives such as this one, which highlight the importance of encouraging all Australian men to reach out to each other for support and companionship."
For more information about the Australian Men's Shed Association visit their website.
Question: Can you talk us through the new unique collaboration with the Australian Men's Shed Association and nbn?
Keith Schleiger: This partnership is all about connecting two groups of men in Ballarat East and Maitland via the nbn to show how access to fast broadband can help bring people closer together and combat feelings of isolation. Given we've just had Men's Health Week, it's a timely reminder that we need to get better at looking after our health and talking to one another.
Question: How are you supervising a virtual partnership between two men's sheds in Maitland, NSW and Ballarat (Shed Sessions)?
Keith Schleiger: I'm assisting the -shed sessions' where both the men from the Maitland and Ballarat East sheds connect on Skype facilitated via the nbn network to design, plan and talk through the project build. We've just recently finalised the design of the structure we're going to be building for a community in Victoria and we're kicking off the build which I can't wait to see happen.
Question: What are you enjoying most about Shed Sessions?
Keith Schleiger: It's been inspiring connecting with these men in rural New South Wales and Victoria and hearing about their stories and what drives them to participate in the Men's Sheds. Being able to have these weekly sessions to discuss the build when I'm on the go is also a bonus, I can chat with the men from home or when I'm on site at The Block. We've got a great group of men committed to this project, we've got expert builders, metal workers, carpenters, all with experience that we're able to tap into to make this build something special.
Question: What advice do you have for men who feel isolated?
Keith Schleiger: It's easy to forget about yourself when you're busy with work or looking after your family, so I always try to take time out to do something I enjoy like playing golf. Having a hobby is a great way to socialise and take time out to have a chat about anything that's concerning you rather than keeping quiet. Community initiatives like the Men's Sheds are also a good way to get your hands dirty and work on building projects with a great bunch of blokes.
Something else that can help men combat feelings of loneliness or isolation is technology, and it's easier than you think. Fast internet means you can connect any time, anywhere which is great if you're away from your mates or family. Booking time in for a chat with a mate is always a good way to reset.
Continuing the learning curve is also a big one, we often forget our brain needs fuelling but with access to fast internet you can easily pick up a new skill or attend an online classrooms. Once you get going, the options are endless.
Question: And, how can women support their men to talk about their feelings?
Keith Schleiger: A simple way to support each other is to set aside ten minutes before you go to bed and check in on how you're feeling and work together to resolve any challenges that lie ahead. As tough as I may seem on TV, I'm definitely a bit of a softie and sometimes the only way to deal with a problem is to talk about it. When you're juggling so many things at once it can be hard to find the time to talk about the important stuff, so booking in this time and sticking to it can make a world of difference.
Question: How have you used fast broadband to better connect with family and friends?
Keith Schleiger: Long nights can sometimes mean missing out on bedtime with my two young daughters; a quick Skype call to my wife is an easy way to check in on them when I'm on a building site. Technology is slowly becoming second nature to a lot of young people, so it's definitely something that I'll be carrying on as they get older.
Having fast broadband at home is also a fantastic way to connect with our friends and family who live inter-state, it means we're able catch up on things through video calling.
Question: What message do you hope to spread this Men's Health Week?
Keith Schleiger: I've seen first-hand that men don't like to talk about their feelings, but that just makes it even more important to tackle it head-on. The nbn™ Connected Sheds initiative is a great example of how access to fast internet can give men the chance to reach out to other communities and connect with a much larger network of people and resources, no matter where they live or where they come from. I hope this initiative encourages blokes out there feeling a little own to pick up the phone, connect with a friend or family member or take action to better their health.
Interview by Brooke Hunter