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