Day One – Hornsby
Wednesday night, day one, we launched MT23 in Hornsby with 7 men. This group has taken a long time to come together and we feel it will turn into a strong Table. I had a really nice chicken breast with veggies along with some wonderful listening and sharing. Maybe you know a man in this region who could join them, I recommend the chicken.
Day Two – Face Licking and Canberra
On Thursday, I was woken up at 5.30am by David’s new puppy Finley licking my face. This set the tone for the day. He then went on to steal one of my shoes, then each sock, then we had a wrestle over ownership of my towel and then my PJs. A beautiful start to the morning.
We were on the road at 6am for a 10am meeting in Canberra with Dr. Michael Gardner who is Greg Hunt’s Senior Policy Advisor for Mental Health. Despite his need for a quick meeting we managed to get 50 minutes with him. The short story is that he gave us some great advice about how we could get support from the Department of Health. We left with our tails wagging. He also encouraged us to pitch to Hon. David Coleman who is Asst. Minister to the PM for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.
We then left Greg Hunt’s office and ambled around Parliament House and thought we would have a look at one of the Chambers until a security guard asked us what we were doing as we had “escorted passes” and nobody was escorting us. We left the building with tails between our legs, but avoided a collar pulling scenario.
We walked down the hill and met with Kate Murray who is our contact at the National Mental Health Commission. Kate and the NMHC are keen on what we are doing. Whoop whoop, another big lick. The NMHC are keen to get us on video to promote us through their channels; great publicity. We felt like show dogs.
We then trotted back up the hill to meet with Andrew Leigh MP who is Assistant Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Shadow Minister for Charities. We had 15 minutes. The end result is that we are on the radar with him and he will promote us in his Canberra electorate, see below.
At 4.30 we met 4 men from Canberra at a great little wine bar www.tilleys.com.au, a lovely funky art deco space. If you are ever in Canberra go and have a look. This was an unusual gathering of men for us, as all of them are deeply experienced in men’s work. They got it straight away, all we had to do was guide them through our process. MT24 was launched. Woof woof what a day, we retired two very tired old dogs.
Day Three – The Perpetual Men of the Village.
On Friday morning we headed down to Wagga (aka Tail Wagga Wagga) and met with a wonderfully engaging Victoria who is one of the community development officers there. She really showed us our first steps of what we can do in a large regional centre and she pointed us toward what she calls “The Perpetual Men of The Village” (great name for a band). These are what we call serial volunteers, the men who continually throw the ball, in doggie terms.
Then we headed down to Albury for a 3pm meeting with the local state MP Justin Clancy. We drove through the most amazing downpour. We had 30 minutes with Justin and he, as everybody does, really liked what we are doing and will support us within his electorate and write to Bronnie Taylor who is NSW Health Minister. More tail wagging from us. Justin is in fact an ex veterinarian; we avoided the thermometer.
Then on to Corowa to meet the Amaranth Foundation leaders Julianne Whyte, and Dave Harrison. We could have ended up in the kennel for the night with no accommodation planned, but eventually they put us up in free accommodation in an empty motel the Foundation had recently taken management of. It had a Bates Motel feel about it, 10 rooms spread end to end, David in room 1, me in room 10. Anyway, we joined a group of men who meet on the platform of the disused train station in Corowa every Friday night. We returned to the Bates Motel just as a huge electrical storm and another deluge hit; we didn’t see Norman. Barked at the moon a little. The following Wednesday night a new Men’s Table in Corowa had their first meeting!
Day Four – Who’s a good boy!
We hit the road early Saturday after a big bowl of breakfast, no dogs breakfast to be seen! We took it in turns to hang out of the passenger window, tongues flapping in the wind, for 6 1/2 hours on the way home.
A great road trip for the mobile kitchen; it’s a dog’s life!