John Sturmer and Andy Winton-Brown with the mobile men’s van in Mullumbimby.
John Sturmer and Andy Winton-Brown with the mobile men’s van in Mullumbimby.

Van offers place for men to talk

Every second Thursday from 8.30am until 2pm, volunteers like Andy Winton-Brown and John Sturmer park their mobile men’s van in Dalley Street, Mullumbimby, near the Burringbar Street corner, put on the kettle and wait.


“We are here as a support for people who want someone to talk to, whether it’s a quick five-minute chat or an hour-and-a- half,” Mr Winton-Brown said.


“It’s a well-known fact that men don’t like to talk about their issues, and what we’re providing here is an opportunity for men to offload, to come here and have a conversation that might lead to a change in life.”


Mr Winton-Brown said that while the volunteers ‘manning’ the van were not psychologists, they had all been trained to listen and offer good advice and refer people to support groups, training or counselling.


“And actually, we used to be called a men’s shed but we don’t really call ourselves that so much anymore because our focus is on healthy relationships and on families,” he said.


“In fact, around a quarter to a third of people who come and speak to the volunteers at the mobile van are women.”


All conversations with the volunteers are anonymous and confidential.


“We don’t judge anybody,” Mr Winton-Brown said.


The mobile van visits Byron Bay on alternate Thursdays and parks outside the courthouse.


The van is run by the Northern NSW Men & Family Centre, based in Lismore.


 The centre offers a range of programs and services, including individual counselling, programs for men concerned about their abusive behaviour, programs for dads, self-esteem groups and support groups for women.


Contact 6622 6116 or Men’s Line Australia on 1300 789 978.


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