On Saturday, September 13, 2014, at around lunchtime, two sleep-deprived and nervous but also excited and 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 1:30 a.m. the night before and had to get up at 4:30 a.m. to catch the first flight from Sydney to Melbourne; we were nervous because we weren’t sure how many, if any, would show up; and we were 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 and/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 three-quarters 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 and why we had gone to the trouble and 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 two to six and were all yammering away like we had all known one another for years. It was incredible how well everyone seemed to get on and how naturally and easily the conversations started.
When we first conceived of this meeting way back in March, we had no idea whether anyone would be interested in a meeting like this so we scoured as many men’s rights blogs, forums, websites, and 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 and 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 and 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 and 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 and boys in Australia, and discussion of a formal list of guidelines, best practice, and good strategies and 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 who we had previously only known online and get to know them in person. The time and 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 and money well spent.
The day ended pleasantly enough with a few of us stragglers and hangers-on, still madly yammering away at one another, retiring to a nearby Chinese restaurant for dinner before saying our final farewells. Adrian and I, completely exhausted after a 15-hour day on only three hours of 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 postmortem, a couple of James Bond movies, and a pizza soon solved that little problem, though. Thank god for late checkouts.
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 and 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 and, with any luck, working with you on behalf of Australian men and boys for a long time to come.