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Men’s Centre North Shore weekly meetings end after 15 years

Filed under: Gender Politics,General — JohnPotter @ 5:49 pm Sun 15th July 2012

I received a call from Jim Bagnal at the end of last week, informing me that Men’s Centre North Shore is no longer able to continue running support meetings on Monday nights. As far as I know, any official funding ran out years ago, and expenses have been met by individual supporters for some time.

Jim says he will continue to pay the phone bill (@ commercial rates from Telecom!) and assist callers on an individual basis. For many years there were just two community support organisations listed in the Auckland phone book under “Men” – Men’s Centre North Shore and Mensline. The Mensline service was shut down several years ago because of lack of funding.

Auckland men better hope Jim lives to a ripe old age!

As the then secretary of Men’s Centre North Shore, I was involved in setting up the North Shore men’s support meetings in 1997, and I helped run them until 2004. Over the years we invited Family Court lawyers, representatives from IRD Child Support, psychologists and other experts to share their knowledge.

Although we tried to promote the meetings as offering mostly “information”, we were all well aware that many of the men attending needed emotional support more than they ever had in their lives. I’ve regularly seen seemingly “hard” men burst into tears when they share their pain about the broken parental bond. Many spoke of suicidal thoughts, and it has always worried me to think of the men who do not get any kind of support.

Those of us who attended regularly built up a very clear picture of how the Family Court was routinely and deliberately depriving NZ children of contact with an excellent, devoted father; and their entire paternal family as well in most cases.

Within a few years the numbers of men attending had swelled to over 40 per night on occasion, so we began to set up meetings in other areas, and discussing how we could best support men’s support groups in other parts of New Zealand.

By spending many boring hours filling out forms and making applications, I managed to get enough funding for the organisation to employ a part-time worker. With proper promotion and a rapidly increasing number of supporters; the future looked bright.

Then the whispering campaign started, and next thing you know one of the regular meeting attendees came one Monday night waving Deborah Coddington’s Paedophile Index in the air and saying: “what’s all this about the Men’s Centre supporting paedophiles?”

It turned out her latest version listed me (because of my Centrepoint convictions), but bizarrely, most of the entry seemed to be about Men’s Centre. At that point it became pretty clear to me that I was a liability to the organisation, so I resigned my position and stopped regular meeting attendances.

Of course the campaign didn’t stop. Perhaps I should just walk out into the snow…

I’m actually impressed that the meetings have continued for so long, and I thank all of you who have made the effort to assist your fellow men over the years.

21 Responses to “Men’s Centre North Shore weekly meetings end after 15 years”

  1. Allan Harvey says:

    Hi John and Others,
    Thanks to Jim for his long standing service on Monday evenings. He is a very true servant of men and their children.
    Allan
    PS no need to wander out in the snow. Porridge eaten, time done, redemption earnt. End of story.
    If only corrections could have such perfect results in other cases we would have empty pookies.
    Kia Kaha.

  2. Gwaihir says:

    Don’t do that please John. They will have won. I to have experienced a campaign by these deluded creatures. The attack like an inquisition, not questions or discussion but statements or abuse. I’m very sorry to say a female member of this board, so sugar sweet nice until she realised she couldn’t manipulate me!

    We do see how desperate they are when they resort to attacks of this nature.

    I believe your father earnestly believed what he (And you) achieved was right. There are two sayings, “The deeds of a good man die with him” and the exhortation “Never speak ill of the dead”

    John I don’t see your (or your fathers) wrongs. I see the the good, the achievements that you and your wife are perpetuating.

    Stick with it John, I don’t believe a word those Banshees utter. I wonder if they can even approach your good.

  3. It’s hard to imagine that this type of group isn’t bog standard around the country given the good they do to guys in a crisis. Best wishes to all those that gave their time and energy to the project over the years. It’s the stuff you put on people’s tomb stones.

    And as for walking out into the snow John, only if it is to go for a toboggan ride.

  4. Vman says:

    I am very sad to learn these meetings have ended. I haven’t been for several years because I found it depressing to listen to a seemingly endless stram of good loving fathers being shut out of children’s lives by the family court process for no good reason.
    So now the men have no support group at all. NZ is a barbaric place to be a father.

  5. Gwaihir says:

    I think Joh Dutchie has the best Idea!

  6. realkiwi says:

    I think the only regular support group for
    information and support for fathers is on
    Wednesday evenings – 7-9 pm 83 Church St,
    Onehunga Community Centre, near library,
    Fathers Mauri Ora Circle, a safe place
    to strengthen our father stuff…

  7. Gwaihir says:

    To me, who runs it, and is it truly supportive of men? Croups that have agendas, or support only parts of the community are becoming all to common! Real names please!

  8. Paul says:

    Father & Child Trust

  9. Gwaihir says:

    Thanks speaks loudly for their support. Paul. With your name there support and integrity is assured.

  10. Allan Harvey says:

    There are active Union of Fathers branches in Hamilton, Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay and Wellington Area. We have other members scattered around New Zealand but RealKiwi is right Father and Child Trust seems to be the last group douing the good work in the Auckland area. Keep up the good work Brendon and others!! Kia Kaha.
    allan@uof.org.nz

  11. Kelvin says:

    Allan

    I thought UoF in Hamilton had folded a very very long time ago and that Fraser and Maggie who ran it set up a new organisation called Parenting Through Separation, or something like that? Is UoF Hamilton up and running again?

  12. JohnPotter says:

    The Fathers Mauri Ora Circle run by the Father & Child Trust in Auckland is mostly focused on supporting fathers who currently have children in their care.

    If you don’t have access at all, your best bet is probably to leave a message for Jim Bagnal on (09) 415 0049

  13. Allan Harvey says:

    #11 You are correct about Hamilton Kelvin but they still use the label UoF in phone book etc and we have friendly links and share cases and asistance etc so it seemed easier to say that than get into excessive detail here. Hawkes Bay also have a new label as well. Maggie and Fraser are no longer active in Hamilton.

  14. realkiwi says:

    Hi does anybody know if Paul Catton is still around?
    I tried an old 271 phone number but it now fails,
    does he still have a refuge option for dads?

  15. Gwaihir says:

    He has shifted. Try Murray Bacon, he may know.

  16. MurrayBacon says:

    Paul Catton is living in Manukau City. He is working on upgrading his house and taking care of his children.

    He has offered refuge accommodation in the past, but most of the takers were exactly that, wanting support at zero cost and often leaving further costs, damage and bills for Paul to take care of. It was pretty thankless work, alas. I guess in this sense most men in these situations are fairly similar or worse than most of the women in Women’s Refuge. The big difference being that once was generously Government funded and the rest were not. This differential in social support tends to make it easy for familycaught to not take indigent fathers seriously as parents, irrespective of their relative parenting skills.

    Jim Bagnall is to be thanked for the large amount of time and large amount of money that he has put into supporting men, many of whom had noone else they could turn to, who would listen, let alone help them. Although they were asked if they would help to defray costs, very few ever did in any way. Few were prepared to later support others, with time or money. Jim seemed to prefer to offer support on his own.

    Regards, MurrayBacon.

  17. Gwaihir says:

    I support Murray Bacon and Jim Bagnall. Less known is Jim Bailey, the latter two giving totally of themselves to the detriment of their health. May all be well with the 3 of you! It seems Auckland has lost its leaders!

  18. Train Driver says:

    I like to think the reason for the Centre or Men’s North Shore are closing their doors is because the Family Courts have finally reralised the importance of Fathers in their Childrens lives and are now actively ensuring that Fathers by making Judgements for Fathers to get a fair deal and are seeing their Children often.

    Interesting to note that there are so many Fathers groups out there? I know that it will be great to have different groups around Auckland but with the numbers dropping for some reason and I like to think it is what I have mentioned above, maybe the groups needs to converge back to one again so there are bigger numbers attending to justify the meetings?

  19. MurrayBacon says:

    I have not been active in Men’s Centre now for about 4 years, so my comments may be very dated.

    Men’s Centre was a stronger organisation when there was an attendance of say 10 – 20 men, who were not coming because of their own immediate crisis. From these people it was possible to draw a committee and gain successful teamwork. In those years, there was also some funding from gambling providers and some bank’s charities. This was used to pay for the hire of the Community Centre and pay for the telephone line, computer etc. In the days before I joined, it even paid a meagre part time wage for a support person. This funding dried up about 10 years ago, when there appeared to be a strong push on charities to fund women’s issues or community issues, but definitely not men’s issues.

    These was a lot of debate within Men’s Centre whether we could be considered men’s only, or whether men’s included women, where not incompatible with men’s issues. This debate was fairly divisive unfortunately, although this issue was relatively minor in practical terms, as the number of women who showed up was fairly small and the issues raised were rarely anti-men anyway. Nonetheless, these debates seemed to fracture what support we could get, despite our efforts to keep debate constructively focussed. It seemed to me that the men who argued vehemently for a more separatist approach were talkers and were not forthcoming with hours of support anyway.

    I suspect that the dropoff in ongoing support was partly due to many men having much less free dollars in their pockets. This affected having money for travel to Men’s Centre and also this money was needed for supporting their own living costs and costs of access. This certainly was an issue for me.

    Also most men, when their own crisis passed, just wanted to get away from being reminded of their own hard, black times. Very few ever came back later, to offer ongoing support.

    While most man will take support and not return to later give back, an organisation can only rely on the very few for support. Many men want to be a hero and succeed their way and don’t cooperate and share information and lessons learned. This dynamic has been a huge barrier to building an ongoing, sustainable Men’s Centre. (Similar problems seem to have been a problem for many other men’s groups in NZ, in particular those tackling the harshest problems that men can face.

    So Traindriver, although the familycaught$ appears to have slightly softened it’s prejudice’s against men taking any care of children and for women’s need for financial support irrespective of the facts, the biggest reason for the decline of Men’s Centre has been that so few men are willing (or able?) to contribute their time and carry the associated costs, such as petrol.

    Although there are quite a few men’s groups around, I am not aware that many of them help men in their darkest crises? Even if they amalgamated as you suggest, the total number of men offering support is still very small, thus unable to address the amount of suffering going on, even if they did cooperate with each other.

    In my opinion, most men want to focus on success and the positive. This is a nicer way to live and more comfortable. It is easy to suggest that other people just have to get a job and pull themselves together, I did!

    However, if you speak to people who help the most disadvantaged, you will find that mental health issues loom large, with childhood neglect playing a quiet but hugely destructive role. (This is true for women, but even more so for men.) While we bury these issues, we obscure the path to recovery and deny a significant section of our society a sensible option of achieving their potential. Also, many of the people who seem to have OK lives, are actually quiet timebombs where their own buried problems might one day come back and bite them – when they least expect it. It is much safer to face our demons and lay them to rest.

    Many of the socially most creative people in our society, have fought these types of problems during their lives.

    It isn’t very sexy to offer help to men.

    In these leaner times, we must develop support organisations, that can deliver a degree of help, at a lower cost to the support people. The internet offers lots of scope to make this possible.

    Cheers, MurrayBacon.

  20. Allan Harvey says:

    That is well said Murray.
    The few who have persisted and continued to support other men are rare individuals. Many are well supported by their families and children at a significant costs to their own family life as well.
    In Union of Fathers women have been the rock to our continuity. We are very clear we are a parental support group.
    Much of the work we do has become more difficult with mental health factors being more significant in our work today than I remember from 10 years ago.
    Allan@uof.org.nz

  21. MurrayBacon says:

    Dear Allan, I think that with time we have gained a better understanding. I don’t think that the actual problems have changed significantly. The biggest change, in my ungentlemanly opinion, it appears to me that there is more skill around for punching without leaving visible bruises. MurrayBacon – axe murderer.

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