Men on the Line
A survey of telephone referral and counselling services for men
(mainly Australia and New Zealand)
Men's Help Line - Brisbane and Gold Coast
by Trevor Ozanne
Two years ago, four of us got together at a men's festival and discussed starting a men's centre in Brisbane. The first thing we needed to decide was what to do about the phone, because listing in the phone book was going to close within a week. So we got a phone number and called it Men's Help Line. The four at the meeting put in $200 each and we were up and running.
At that time there was no men's classification in the community service pages of the phone book. It took a long time to get a classification but there is one now. That was our first little victory.
We are currently taking 10 calls a day. We are not promoting the help line; callers have to find us in the phone book under Men. If we advertised, we wouldn't be able to cope with the demand.
One of our problems is getting volunteers to take calls during the day. One recent trainee is a self-employed painter who agreed to take calls during working hours. He thought he would have plenty of time to take calls on rainy days or in between jobs. He was shocked that on his first day he got four calls in the first hour. He had to come down his scaffold four times to answer his mobile phone!
The Men's Help Line is funded entirely by donations of time and money from the members plus the Queensland Men's Festival which has provided some funding for two years running. We have applied to both State and Commonwealth departments without success. Queensland Family and Community Services tell us, point blank, that men are not on the agenda. They know that what we are doing is worthwhile, and they support us in principle, but their structures just don't provide for funding men's services.
Breakdown of calls
Half our calls are about relationship breakdowns. Some are interested in the legal side - access to kids, child support; we refer them to organisations such as CAPAS (Children And Parents After Separation). We give some simple advice, like if you get a domestic violence order against you, you must appear in court even if you think it's ridiculous.
8% are men's movement calls - wanting to find a men's group, information about the men's festival and so on.
8% are calls from professionals, social workers, doctors, counsellors. One doctor rang and said "I've got this guy here who's been raped, he went to the rape crisis centre and was told they don't deal with men. Where can I refer him?"
Some callers are men who need some money, and we refer them to the appropriate agencies.
Men with children call looking for crisis accommodation - one guy's wife had threatened him with a knife and he had left the house with his child and needed somewhere to stay. There are men's hostels but they don't equate to women's shelters. They don't offer support or assistance, just a bed. The Department of Family Services operate 46 women's shelters in Queensland. Why can't we have just one for men as well?
Our counsellors are trained by psychologists. The course is 12 weeks, one 3 hour session per week. The men mainly learn listening skills. We also need to be aware of our own issues, so that when the calls come in, we don't allow them to press our buttons. We need to listen to them dispassionately. In cases of emergency, such as threatened suicide, we can call the police. I've had a man call who had just slashed his wrist, but the bleeding had stopped, and just wanted someone to listen to him. The guys are often amazed that they are actually listened to - they will often say "I've never ever said that to anyone before".
It's also really encouraging for them to know that the service exists; that someone cares about them.
Men's Help Line
PO Box 181 Ashgrove 4060
Helpline number: 07 3830 0055
by Gary Schliemann and Avigdor Zask
Mensline has developed out of the grass roots men's movement in the Northern Rivers area. It was proposed as a strategy to address the perceived gaps in specific men's services as well as our own unmet needs.
We feel that the collaborative, democratic way in which our group runs is the most important aspect of it. As we have progressed in our project and recruited new men to our group other spin-offs have also emerged. Worth mentioning at present are the anti-violence project, weekly open men's group, and a possible aboriginal project addressing domestic violence.
Social isolation is one of the biggest issues affecting men's health. We feel it is of utmost importance that our group is also a supportive community for its members. From its beginnings, Mensline has embraced people from different walks of life.
The idea for our self-help, volunteer-based phone counselling service for men was first raised in a diverse public meeting held in Lismore in May 1993. Establishing a phone counselling service was seen as a practical, accessible, low-cost means of addressing (rural) men's isolation and men's poor utilisation of health and welfare services. But the project was never just a disembodied idea. It was about our own lives.
The line started operating in August 1994. Our human resources were stretched pretty thin and our first publicity drive was not launched until October 1994, after two months of operation. With television cameras at the ready, press photographers on hand, and our Mayor and police representatives preparing to honour us in a ceremony at the Lismore Family Support Service, gravel began to crack and clatter on the roof and windows. A bus-load of children and parents waved banners and chanted jibes that our hard-earned Mensline was a homosexual front organisation. Unfortunately, we were caught in the middle of someone else's political struggle in the neighbourhood centre we were operating from, although we had nothing to do with it.
Though amusing now, it was a bit much at the time. We did, however, get quite a few calls without any further promotion. Sometimes any publicity is good publicity...
The association of Mensline with homosexuality certainly highlighted the threat to all men not to stray very far from the traditional acceptable male gender role and the risk of being excluded as a "faggot" or a "poofter". Homophobia functions as a bulwark of the status quo that anyone committed to men's issues will have to face. This fear and the perception of men's services as addressing only gay men can also prevent many other men from utilising such services.
Overcoming this barrier was achieved by welcoming and encouraging men from all walks of life to be part of Mensline.
So far, 35 men have graduated our courses. We feel that the positive effect of men decreasing their isolation by joining our ranks and gaining interpersonal skills as well as a sense of belonging to a supportive men's community should not go unnoticed. Neither should the effect these positive changes had on families and friends of participants who now view men's issues in a much more positive light. These aspects of awareness raising are important factors contributing to the wide positive appeal of our service. They create a more supportive environment for men to approach ours and other services.
The local press has responded very positively, depicting the broad range of backgrounds and lifestyles our graduates represent.
Mensline 7pm to 11pm every night:
(066) 222 240
PO Box 1220 Lismore NSW 2480
SMERI - Sunshine Coast, Queensland
Suncoast Male Emotions Resource Initiative (SMERI) has been operating a men's help line since 1992. SMERI is a male support organisation that believes in gender equality. The help line is staffed by male counsellors and is available 7 days a week. They also offer a newsletter, training courses, workshops, counselling, video evenings, seminars, domestic violence programs and support for men appearing in court.
SMERI help line -
Phone: (074) 437 534
Sydney Men's Phone Line
by Graham North
The Sydney Men's Phone Line was conceived at the 1994 Sydney Men's Festival. The organising collective of the Men's Line comprises 8 people, men and women, with a strong interest in menswork. There is also a group of 25 volunteers including people who will man the phones.
We have spent the last year doing groundwork and are now ready to launch a pilot programme of the Men's Line.
During this first "pilot" year, the service will provide information and referral, not counselling.
We have a telephone diverter which will redirect calls to our central number to the volunteer who is rostered on at any given time. We hope that the service will be live answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
We have four resource researchers who have been building our database of services which callers might be referred to. We will print out the database each month and distribute it to our volunteers.
Relationship breakup seems to be the biggest area of need. After breakup men are often lost and don't know what to do. We also expect a lot of calls about family law issues, fathering questions, sexual assault, and any other areas such as health. There are a number of services available to men, but most men are not aware of them. We want to make sure that what services are available are properly utilised. We are also sure that the number of men coming forward for help are only the tip of the iceberg.
We will be working with the existing agencies. Many services don't go beyond responding to the immediate crisis. Men can get emergency accommodation, but those services don't provide the sort of emotional support and counselling that many of their clients need.
We're hoping to help those agencies that don't have counselling services for men, by providing referral over the phone.
The service is scheduled to start operation on 1st August 1996.
Want to help?
The Sydney Men's Line is seeking donations of money or equipment. They are also keen to secure government funding or corporate sponsorship.
For information contact Graham North on (02)-558-9096
The referral service will be fully operational from Jan1 1997. Until then, it will be operating on a pilot basis and may not always be available.
Sydney Men's Phone Line:
(02) 9979 9909
Child Support Action Group (CSAG), Adelaide
by Stephen Beaty
The CSAG's major function is emotional support for parents.
Apart from social groups such as Parents Without Partners, there has in the past been no organisation which can offer this type of support. After the stresses of a marriage breakup, loss of children, property settlement and resultant financial hardships, most parents suffer from feelings of isolation, desperation and worthlessness. These feelings turn to anger in most cases due to the belief that the Family Court and the Child Support Agency have dealt with them in an unfair and biased manner, especially in the areas of child custody, child support assessment and property settlements.
These stresses could conceivably lead to unpleasant and possibly violent outcomes. The CSAG is determined to help prevent such outcomes and to this end operates a 24 hour voluntary support and counselling telephone service. The aim of the service is to provide parents with help to accept and to resolve their problems and to try and rebuild their lives.
The type of calls vary from emotional support required immediately, to an informal enquiry about the consequences of separation and divorce. About half the calls are from women, mainly wives non-cutodial fathers.
The initial call is received by the support line volunteer who may refer the caller to other CSAG members who can answer specific questions about Family Court, Child Support Agency, Legal Aid, Mediation and Conciliation services, regional support groups, marriage guidance counselling, police, domestic violence, Mens Resource Centre, and so on.
Since its inception in late 1991, the support line has received approx 8000 calls, and currently runs at approx 110 calls per month.
Child Support Action Group:
Phone (08) 341 1225
Adelaide Men's Contact and Resource Centre
by Peter Curran
We are an incorporated body and have been going for 12 years. We have an office in the city, a small library, a phone and answering machine, a computer and some volunteers. Funding is difficult but the government has paid the rent over the last couple of years.
A database of about 200 organisations and people who can help men backs our phone work. We keep in touch with the main ones and establish a personal contact. We do not claim to be a counselling service - we refer callers to the appropriate services. We access the help that is out there and identify gaps in it, such as legal help for those who cannot afford lawyers, or free personal counselling.
We have been publishing our newsletter Male Exchange since 1984.
We run men's support groups. We have established a network of these across Adelaide and beyond. We are a contact point for men's groups around Australia. We run camps, seminars, and courses on violence, identity and other issues for boys in schools. We are listed under "Men" in the phone book and so become a place where the media can get comments and do interviews.
Many of the calls are from men who ring up to tell us that it is great that there is a centre for men. They also drop in for a chat. It costs us about $2000 a year to do all this. On average we get about 12 calls a day.
Adelaide Men's Resources:
(08) 223 1110
Men's Health Service - Tasmania
The Men's Health Service runs programs to address a range of men's health issues including anger and stress management, nutrition, male specific illness, confidence building activities for men, alcohol, drugs, and lifestyle issues. Fourteen 10-week group programs have been completed since 1990. A men's health manual has been produced which summarises this program.
The Men's Health Service is the "umbrella" body for all men's health activities in Tasmania. It is part of the Tasmanian Department of Community and Health Services.
Tasmanian Men's Health Service:
Contact Paul Williams:
(002) 724 959
Men's Confraternity Inc - Perth, Western Australia
Provides a 7 days a week help line for men seeking help with family law related issues. They are not a general counselling service.
Their orientation is towards "men's rights" and traditional family values. They define "the family" as "one heterosexual man legally married to one heterosexual woman".
Meetings are held every Monday night at the Georgist Hall, 10 Broome St., South Perth.
Men's Confraternity, Perth:
+61 08 9470 1734 Fax: +61 08 9470 6824
Men's Health and Wellbeing Association - Western Australia
While it does not specifically offer telephone counselling or referral, the Association is a men's resource which can offer referral or other advice on issues such as men's health, boys' education, family law, and the men's movement generally. It is a useful contact point for referral for male-friendly personal counselling, or to make contact with a men's group.
The Association also holds frequent workshops and courses for men, and advises governments and their agencies on developing appropriate men's health policies and services.
Members pay $25 ($15 concession) a year and receive a regular newletter which includes a calendar of events.
W.A. Men's Health and Wellbeing Association:.
(09) 242 9218
or Rod Mitchell, President, on
(09) 279 7381
Men's Referral Service - Victoria
The Men's Referral Service provides anonymous and confidential counselling, information and referral for men who use violence or abuse in the home.
It is operated by trained male volunteers. It provides a central point of contact for men who are making the first moves towards taking responsibility for their violent or abusive behaviour, but do not know where to go for help.
There is a belief that violent men will not seek out help, even if it is available. However experience in Victoria has proved this wrong - just six advertisements placed in the Sun newspaper four years ago resulted in 500 men calling to seek help.
Men are referred to group programs and there are also ongoing support and discussion groups. Three out of four men entering these voluntary groups complete the programme, which is much higher than the average elsewhere.
There are even men's houses where men can live for up to 9 months while resolving their violence problem.
The service is run by the Victorian Network for the Prevention of Male Family Violence Inc., and as such their promotion is aimed only at violent men. However the trained male counsellors may well be able to help men who are in relationships with violent women, or with other problems.
Men's Referral Service: (03) 9428 2899 or 1800 065 973
For information about the service, call the coordinator on
(03) 9428 7264
Mensline - Auckland, New Zealand
This men's telephone counselling service is operated by Lifeline and has been running for about a year. We currently receive about 5 calls a day, although we will soon be listed in the 'phone book and expect that with the aid of this and other publicity the volume of calls will increase considerably. There are presently 20 trained counsellors on our roster.
We believe that we as men haven't been looking after ourselves very well. That means everyone is affected: all the people we come into contact with. In the 1990s, in an atmosphere of change and possibility, we have the chance to live energetic, balanced lives and step outside the imprisonment of provider, protector and controller. Relationships are always the core of our lives; Mensline offers men the chance to repair and improve their quality of their relating and create a positive world.
What's in it for us?
Putting ourselves "on the line" for callers brings us face to face with our issues and our growth as men. And it makes us active participants in one of the biggest explorations of the age. Who, and how, are we? How do we want to be? Mensline is an example of men taking responsibility for their condition and creating possibilities for change.
Working it out ourselves
Mensline is not about telling anyone how to live their lives. We all have our own ideas of course, but our number one priority is to support each other and that includes you, in making our own choices. We value diversity. We value positive solutions from within our male experience.
If you share our vision and you think you have some concern and time to offer, you may wish to join our community of men. Your skills may not be in counselling. There are many ways of helping. High quality training is given to counsellors so we can maintain our professional reputation. You can make enquiries by calling (Auckland) 522-2808.
Mensline Auckland counselling:
522-2500 5.30pm to 11pm nightly.
Men's HOTLINE, USA
Men's HOTLINE is the only crisis line for men and fathers in the USA. It is supervised by the Men's Health Network, Washington, D.C.
The Hotline is listed around the nation as a crisis line for men and fathers, either as Men's HOTLINE or Fathers' HOTLINE. Callers are referred to local, state, or national assistance programs that can help them solve their problems.
Men need a comfortable place to start the journey toward a healthy solution to their problems, a place that they feel is receptive to their needs and will suggest sympathetic resources to assist them with finding remedies to those issues that are causing stress in their lives. The HOTLINE was established to give men that start.
The HOTLINE receives calls from men who are concerned about domestic, work or health problems and need assistance solving those problems. Frequently, calls are from men who are unemployed and might need help with housing and meals while looking for another job. Most of these men have families to support and are having difficulty dealing with feelings of inadequacy and a perception that they have failed their loved ones.
Many callers are seeking ways to mend their marriages or re-establish a relationship with their children. Still others live with a violent spouse and are concerned about possible danger to their children.
Approximately 1/3 of the phone calls received by the HOTLINE are from women who are concerned about the physical or mental well-being of a loved one or a friend. Some are calling for themselves and are searching for information about child abuse, health, or other issues and believe that the HOTLINE might have some answers.
A surprising number of phone calls are from grandparents who are concerned about their grandchildren or are calling about health issues.
The Men's/Fathers' HOTLINE is located at:
512-472-3237 - 472-DADS
807 Brazos, Suite 315 - Austin, TX 78701
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