On Saturday, 13th of September, 2014 at around lunch time, two sleep-deprived & nervous, but also excited & hopeful, men made their way into Melbourne’s historic Young & Jackson Hotel, ordered a pint of Guinness each, found a table in the quietest corner of the back bar, and sat down to wait.
These two men were myself (Tom Voltz) and Adrian Johnson, co-founders of Men’s Rights Sydney, and we were there to take part in the first regional gathering of MHRAs to take place under the banner of our newly launched national umbrella group, Men’s Rights Australia.
We were sleep-deprived because we had been up doing research for a future project until 1:30am the night before & had to get up at 4:30am to catch the first flight from Sydney to Melbourne, we are nervous because we weren’t sure how many, if any, would show up, and hopeful because if things went well it would really knock Men’s Rights Activism in Australia up a notch, spice weasel style – BAM!
One by one, over the next hour, a series of men with unfamiliar faces, but familiar names &/or voices, approached the table, introduced themselves, and sat down to chat. People who went by names like Nemo, Karma MGTOW, Jim Muldoon, Bane666au, and a bunch of others, they all started to arrive and, with each arrival, our nervousness dissipated and our excitement grew. We even attempted to get James Huff to join the party via Skype but the complications inherent with mobile Wi-Fi hotspots meant that we only managed to achieve that for about 3/4 of a second before it crashed in a heap. Sorry James, we tried!
We started the meeting with a brief round of introductions and a short explanation from myself about what the broad goals of the meeting were & why we had gone to the trouble & expense of setting it all up, but this formal beginning didn’t last long. In almost no time at all we had all clustered into groups of 2 to 6 and were all yammering away like we had all known each other for years. It was incredible how well everyone seemed to get on & how naturally & easily the conversations started.
When we first conceived of this meeting way back in March, we had no idea whether or not anyone would be interested in a meeting like this so we scoured as many men’s rights blogs, forums, web sites, & friends of friends as we could, in an attempt to find as many people as possible who may be interested in coming.
Over the course of a few months, to our surprise, we found a total of 23 people that we either knew, or strongly suspected, lived in or near Melbourne, much more than we had initially reckoned on. After contacting this 23, 17 replied, 16 expressed interest, and 13 said they were definitely coming. We had a couple of no-shows & one person who had originally declined change his mind so, in the end, we had an even dozen attendees. Given how few MHRAs exist in Melbourne & how difficult it is to get people to leave the cocoon of their Internet-connected homes and come out for anything these days, we reckon that’s not too shabby.
One of the primary reasons for this meeting was to attempt to suggest & assist any interested parties in setting up a regional men’s rights group in Melbourne that would operate both independently, in their local area, and under the umbrella of Men’s Rights Australia for national issues, much in the same vein as Men’s Rights Sydney currently operates. Also on the agenda was discussion about the way the Men’s Rights Australia umbrella group would operate, possible methods of taking formal political action on behalf of men & boys in Australia, & discussion of a formal list of guidelines, best practice, and good strategies & tactics, to use when conducting activism under the name of Men’s Rights Australia.
I am happy to be able to say that all of this, and more, was achieved and that we hope to be able to announce the launch of Men’s Rights Melbourne in the near future. However, despite the practical work we accomplished, the most gratifying part for us was simply having an opportunity to meet face to face with a group of activists that we had previously only known online & get to know them in person. The time & expense involved in an operation like this was not insignificant but, both myself and Adrian agree that we took away at least as much as we put into it, so we consider it time & money well spent.
The day ended pleasantly enough with a few of us stragglers & hangers on, still madly yammering away at each other, retiring to a nearby Chinese restaurant for dinner before saying our final farewells. Adrian & I, completely exhausted after a 15 hour day on only 3 hours sleep, then made the slow trek back to our hotel, intent on falling straight into our beds, only to find that we were so buzzed by the meeting’s success that sleep eluded us. A thorough post mortem, a couple of James Bond movies, & a pizza soon solved that little problem though. Thank god for late check outs.
All in all it was a huge success. We achieved everything we had aimed to achieve and had a great time in the process. However this is not the end, far from it. In fact it’s just the beginning. We intend to repeat this process all over Australia, eventually setting up a group in each capital city that will operate independently locally and & nationally, under the combined banner of Men’s Rights Australia. It’s an ambitious goal but we are determined to achieve it.
Finally, we want to say a huge thanks to all of you who made the effort to show up and take part in this meetup, and especially to those of you who have volunteered to set up & run Men’s Rights Melbourne. Without you, none of this would have been a success. We look forward to keeping in touch with you all on a regular basis &, with any luck, working with you on behalf of Australian men & boys, for a long time to come.