Darlington Men’s Group, Western Australia

The Darlington Men’s Group was founded in 2004. The purpose is to provide a forum where men can share their stories and through sharing and listening to different perspectives and other’s journeys learn to meet the challenges in their lives. From time to time special activities are conducted including presentations and activities on different aspects of personal growth.

The group follows the protocols of the Annual Men’s Gathering. The key rules are active listening, non-judgement, telling our stories from the “I” perspective, no philosophising and no advice.

Meeting times

The Group meets on Tuesday nights 7.30pm to 9.30 pm.

Meeting place

The group usually meets in The Cottage in Darlington. It is a place away from distractions, has a sense of enclosure and has cooking and toilet facilities. Many members feel the Cottage has a peaceful energy enabling men to quickly feel comfortable.

Regular contact

The group keeps connected through a weekly e-mail which may include some points from the previous meeting and what is coming up. A mailing list is circulated so that members can maintain individual personal contacts.

Open Group

The group is open to new members at all times.

Attendance

Attendance is voluntary and men come when they are available and feel called to come.

There are over 30 men who maintain contact with the group and 20 who attend regularly. Usual meeting numbers are 8 to 12.

Cost

There is no cost for attendance but members are invited to make small contribution, which is put towards charitable purposes, mostly recently in support of the Nowanup property for Noongar reconnection with land.

Facilitation

One man usually facilitates the meeting. A number of the men in the group have the skills and experience to lead the group and leadership is normally rotated.

Topics and themes

Topics and themes are sometimes used to guide direction but themes often emerge within meetings.

Meeting structure

The meetings usually have five components:

  1. Casual welcome. Many men hug each other on arrival but some find this uncomfortable and this is respected. Many men bring nibbles and time is taken to share food and make coffee and tea. The refreshments are made available on a coffee table in the centre of the room and men sit in chairs and couches in a rough circle.

    On occasion a more formal meal may be shared.

  1. Introductions. Each man is asked to share a little of themselves, in turn around the circle but only if there are new members or guests.

  1. Meditation. We usually start the formal part of the evening with a quite meditation time of around 15 minutes. Sometimes this is a guided meditation from a CD but often one of the men will lead the meditation. Members feel this component a high priority as it enables them to settle into the space after their days’ activities.

  1. A Reading. On some occasions a member may bring a reading or a poem to share, something that has inspired them during the week. This sometimes creates an informal theme for the evening.

  1. The Check in – sharing with Talking Stick. We have a carved duck, a la Michael Leunig cartoons, for a talking stick. The duck is quite a character! We use the protocols used by the Annual Men’s Gathering WA.

    There is no obligation to speak, there is no order of speaking and men speak when the feel called to do so. There is no formal time set. On occasions one of the men may ask a question of the speaker when they have completed. The right questions can be helpful in encouraging the speaker to explore at greater depth.

    We ask that men share how they are feeling as part of their sharing. Sometimes we use the words glad, sad, mad, fear and shame borrowed from the Mankind Project to describe our feelings.

  1. Completion. At around 9.30pm the meeting is closed in a formal sense but many men then stay on to talk amongst themselves. On occasion the facilitator may ask men to express how they are feeling as a way of checking out of the meeting.

Special events

From time to time special events are organised on the suggestion of one of the members. Activities have included:

  • Leap of Faith at an outdoor education camp managed by one of the members

  • DVD’s from NLP

  • DVD by Eckhart Tolle

  • Playback theatre

  • Dance

  • Art

  • Working bees to assist members

  • Theatre events

  • Camping with family