A good yarn is key to a man's health

Dr Mick Adams wins Local Men's Health Hero award

Latest in Health
HEALTH HERO: Uncle Mick Adams has won a men's health award after over 30 years in the mental health sector.

HEALTH HERO: Uncle Mick Adams has won a men's health award after over 30 years in the mental health sector.


Mick Adams believes having a good yarn can create a tighter knit community.


MICK Adams has been encouraging men to have a yarn in order to create more tightly knit communities for more than 30 years.

The 73-year-old, who is currently based in Perth, has won a National Men's Health Award for his work to improve men's health.

A Senior Research Fellow at Edith Cowan University, Dr Adams received the Local Men's Health Hero Award.

Making the most of opportunities

Mick's journey started in 1976 when he was told about an opportunity with the South Australian Institute of Technology's Aboriginal Task Force.

"I didn't have a lot of education and my spelling wasn't so crash hot, but I went to the interview, got the opportunity and after two years, I came out with an associate diploma," he said.

"After that I started looking at ways to improve myself. Studying became an option."

He went on to complete a degree in social work, which eventually led to him earning his PhD at Curtin University.

Focusing on men's health

Mick, who is known as Uncle Mick to most, began focusing on men's health after talking to some Indigenous women in Mortadella while working in mental health.

"I found out a lot of men were committing suicide in a number of different ways," he said.

"I wanted to give men a more positive attitude in life - not only about respecting themselves, but respecting their families as well."

He soon extended his focus from men's health to men's health and wellbeing.

His work focused on issues including suicide, domestic violence, sexual and reproductive health and giving young Indigenous men a sense of self worth.

Companionship, not leadership

He said a key part of his approach was adopting a conversational, informal tone, or just "having a yarn".

If you go out there and just ask straight out questions, they sort of go back into their shell and don't want to talk about what's on their mind," he said.

"If you just talk to them you can find out what areas they need support in."

Mick said the approach was all about trying to encourage men to speak up by letting them know others were going through the same issues.

He pointed out the Northern Territory intervention as an example of the wrong approach, saying it left a lot of men feeling degraded.

"We talk about leadership, but men need more companionship," he said.

Another obstacle was the self-esteem of young Indigenous men - considered men according to their own culture, but still considered boys by wider society.

Signs of success and funding shortfalls

Mick said the No More anti domestic violence campaign was a sign strategies of collaboration were encouraging Indigenous men to speak out about systemic problems.

"Men feel more comfortable about addressing those issues. Men want to work with women and women want to work with men."

Mick said his focus was not solely on Indigenous men and he often spoke with men outside the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

He said men's health issues were still largely under-funded and the success of grass roots campaigns were a testament to the strength of communities.