Health, it’s a topic, a trend and even a hashtag. Type it into Instagram and you’ll get sweaty selfies, at home workouts and you can’t forget the foodie photos. Scroll along through the photos there’s a lady endorsing some new active wear with a discount code attached. Don’t forget the huge bodybuilders guzzling down on their protein shakes and pre-workout. You see it in the news about the falsified lens women are portrayed through in social media – it’s the same with men. Some work such long days that the last thing they’d want to do is slip on a pair of runners and go for a jog at night. The cooler temperatures in the winter don’t help either. There’s dinner to worry about too while the closest supermarket has traffic backed up out to the highway. Take away is easy. A burger and chips will always satisfy any craving.
When it comes to our mob too, we’ve already got the odds stacked against us. Brothers don’t get the time to get together much, and when they do, health often isn’t on the agenda. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men struggle to find the time to put their health first. There are many factors that influence this, however, if only there were a place where men could be welcomed, no matter their fitness level, to train, connect and be empowered as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men – #HisTribe. A healthy lifestyle challenge, fitness and empowerment program ran by the Healthy Lifestyle Team at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, led by me, a young twenty-one year old Aboriginal man from Darwin.
Not only did I grow over the program, each week I saw a core group of men transform and take control of their lives – no matter how small these changes may have been. With community and interstate guest speakers sharing their stories each week, every man was able to take something away on their journeys towards a healthier lifestyle. And after our guest speakers had presented, seeing the Djarmbies (brothers) get together to smash out a group workout was where an energy was created – where 25 men, of all ages, would stick out the 12 weeks together. Men supporting and encouraging each other in one room. The collective exhales as medicine balls were tossed down the room. A push of encouragement to kick through into a stride to make the next beep in the beep test. And after our energy levels had diminished, huddled with hands out around each other to cheer DJARMBIES at the top of our lungs. This was #HisTribe. Each week you’d return to the committed brothers by your side – ready to power through this session with you.
#HisTribe was more than a program that focused on leading men to healthier lives. For many it was an opportunity to connect and meet new people within our welcoming community – even I felt welcomed, not being from Victoria originally. A connection through our culture, as we wrote our own piece of history together, one week at a time. Soon #HisTribe grew beyond Wednesday nights where we came together to watch the footy, cheer on our PT trainer Shaun in his TKO win and blitz up the hills for Parkrun on a Saturday morning. Together we could get over any hurdle. It was a common theme throughout the sessions – if a brother boy was struggling or behind, together we’d support, encourage and for those brave enough, bust out the final reps alongside him.
My life has been forever changed by this program. You soon realise why programs like #HisTribe (and its predecessor #HerTribe) aren’t the norm in our communities. As said earlier the stats are already against our mob, so to run a program where men congregated together to better their health, it reiterated that together our mob thrives. Together we always will. If 12 weeks can kick-start someone’s health journey, imagine what our community could look like if #HisTribe were to run multiple times in the future?
Jack Stevens – Gunggandji.