Paul Billing (right), co-facilitator of Mullum MATES, and fellow volunteer Andy Winton-Brown talk to a steady stream of men seeking all kinds of information and advice at the Mobile Men’s Shed outside the courthouse.
Paul Billing (right), co-facilitator of Mullum MATES, and fellow volunteer Andy Winton-Brown talk to a steady stream of men seeking all kinds of information and advice at the Mobile Men’s Shed outside the courthouse.

Mullum MATES helps men tell stories

Paul Billing worked in the building industry for 30 years, and although he threw himself into the ‘work hard, drink hard, come back tomorrow and do it all again’ scenario, deep down he knew there was something terribly wrong.
Realising it was not OK was the first step, deciding to do something about it the next, but Paul was determined to find a way to change his life.
As he began on the journey of change, he saw that he would like to help other men turn their lives around as well, so he trained in both drug and alcohol counselling, and as a facilitator with the Lismore Men and Family Centre.
These days Paul is a volunteer on the Mobile Men’s Shed, outside the courthouse in Mullumbimby on Thursday and Byron Bay on Friday, a place that can sometimes be the spot where a man first realises that something has to change.
“You hear some quite touching stories,” said Paul, “where men know they need to do something but don’t know what.”
When a courthouse official pointed out that there was nothing in Mullumbimby for men, he saw an opportunity to help make a difference, and with co-facilitator Brad Green, he recently started up the men’s support group MATES in Mullumbimby.
The idea of Mullum MATES (Men And Their Excellent Stories) is to provide a safe place for men to come and talk things over and share their stories, something that Paul feels is lacking in the lives of so many men.
“There is this idea that a man should be able to work all his problems out,” he said, “and not reach out.”
MATES is a group that meets weekly, where the emphasis is on talking, listening and sharing, with a strict confidentiality clause built in, and any man is welcome.
Participants sit in a circle, with the invitation to share what is going on for them, and there is always the ‘pass’ option for anyone who just feels like listening.
“Some men have been sitting on stuff for a very long time,” said Paul, “and it’s amazing how one man’s story will open up another to share his.”
Paul feels strongly that it is in the sharing and the listening that healing begins, and that “the real healing for men is with other men”.
Mullum MATES meets every Tuesday evening from 6.30pm to 9pm.
Phone 66226116 for details of venue.

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