By Harry Easton
The Sydney North Young Men’s Health Forum on September 6 has received hugely positive feedback from teachers and students alike.
The Civic Pavilion in Chatswood was packed with 246 students from 24 schools across the Sydney North region, with dozens of Conviction Group’s fantastic volunteers going above and beyond to make the event happen.
The Forum was a major success, with one teacher from Rose Bay Secondary College describing it as “an incomparable resource and experience for teenage boys.”
Throughout the day, the students listened to five speakers present on a range of topics from health relationships to violence.
The six speakers, Marco Capobianco (Mental Health), Melinda Tankard-Reist (Healthy Relationships), Dale Palmer (Healthy Relationships), Matthew Caruana (Mental Wellbeing), Chris Lee (Violence) and Zoe Robinson (Masculinity), gave the students plenty to think about, with small group sessions used to stimulate discussion and provide students with the practical tools to address the pivotal topics presented.
Upon arriving, the boys were split up from their classmates and placed in groups with students who they had never met before. The Conviction Group small group leader volunteers ensured the boys had a chance to open up with their own thoughts on the presentations, creating a safe environment where ideas flowed, and personal stories were shared.
Conviction Group prides itself on delivering high-quality presentations for high school students, and the Sydney North Forum proved not exception.
At the conclusion of the day’s events, the students were asked if they enjoyed the events and 96 per cent agreed. The full feedback report of the Sydney North Forum can be found here.
The students also provided anonymous feedback on what they had learnt at the forum.
“I have learnt that it isn’t wrong to show and tell other people about your feelings and that it may actually be a good thing to do so, so that if for any chance it turns into something bad you can always go out and seek help with friends or family” said one student.
Another student wrote “It helped me redefine masculinity and what it means to be a man. it also taught me how to treat my friends and people that I have a relationship with.”
Writing about his experience in the small groups, a student heaped praise on his facilitator.
“Our facilitator was lenient, caring and expressed his personal opinions correctly and at the correct time. The small group sessions were a safe place for everyone to express their thoughts, characteristics and beliefs freely.”
In addition, 82% of students found the presentation on mental wellbeing relevant for them, and 72 per cent found the healthy relationship topic relevant.
One of the presenters for the health relationships topic, writer and social commentator Melinda Tankard-Reist, was presenting at her second forum for 2019.
“I unpacked messages boys receive from media, advertising, and popular culture which teach them what a ‘man’ should be and how he should act,” says Melinda. “I examined how these messages can give them distorted ideas about bodies, relationships and sexuality.”
Melinda believes the Forum provides an engaging environment for students to discuss critical topics that affect young men.
“The group facilitated discussion helps to re-enforce key learnings in a safe environment. In a culture which is frequently harmful to our young men, they need as much help as they can get, and Conviction Group offers that.”
“They’re important topics because of the destructive impact these things have on boys physical, social, emotional and spiritual development, which not only hurts them, but everyone around them and the community as a whole.”
Conviction Group Chairman Dr Jason Pace was on deck in The Civic Pavilion to provide support and talk with the boys if needed.
“We know young men and in fact all men, find it difficult to talk about these topics and their emotions in general,” says Dr Pace.
“The forum is a place to start to give them the confidence to talk about this stuff in a safe place.”
Dr Pace says the Forum has had an enormous impact in the community, and recalled a moment in his professional life where he saw this impact firsthand
“About a week after one of the forums, a regular patient of mine came to see me and told me about ‘this school excursion’ her son had been on and how amazingly moved he was by it.
“He had not stopped talking to the family about it. She said it was like he was a different boy, normally he hardly says a word. One of those boys who gives one-word answers to everything.
“Well it turned out the school excursion he had gone to was the CG North Forum at Chatswood. I was so proud to tell her that I was working with CG.”
Conviction Group also accommodates teachers from the student’s respective schools, as they too get to attend and listen to the presentations. 100 per cent of teachers recommended the forum for other schools, and were glowing in their feedback about the Sydney North Forum.
“So many issues in society come from negative mental health in relation to the issues that were discussed in the Young Men's Health Forum,” said Robert, Careers Adviser at North Sydney Boys High School.
“The key issues are addressed comprehensively in a way that is effective, informative and enjoyable.
“I'd like to see much more of this in high schools around Australia. We are overdue for a massive shift and evolution in this space.”
The Year 10 Adviser from Ku-ring-gai High School said the Forum provided him with plenty to take back to the school.
“The keynote speakers provided insightful information that our school representatives can bring back to their peers to help initiate conversations and change.”
It is perhaps this closing remark that make Conviction Group proud to present to hundreds of students every year, as the organisation hopes to foster change in the community to create a generation of empowered young Australians capable of taking responsibility for their personal health.
Conviction Group would like to thank our Corporate Partners for their support:
Conviction Group would like to thank our Supporters:
The Concourse, Chatswood
The Resilience Centre
White Ribbon Australia