South West men, take your seat at the table

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Damian Tapley welcomes locals to check out The Men’s Table. Article by Damian.

From an early age I knew my dad didn’t grow up in Margaret River, but he was born here.

As a kid I spent holidays on my Aunty and Uncles vineyard in the Margaret River region, playing cricket, building a dam in a drainage ditch, and on occasion pruning some vines, although I always suspected I did some irreparable damage to those vines.

As teenager the town meant visiting the bakery and then wandering up the street to the new age shop as I tried to work out how the dreamcatchers, crystals and incense worked to create a better me.

In my 20s Margaret River is where I brought school groups for outdoor education camps, where these kids would connect with natural world and themselves creating a pivotal learning experiences that they would carry for life.

Towns like Margaret River tend to create “opportunities” for connecting with people you recognise when you’re out and about in town. Urban designers and community development people know that these “opportunities” can create connection to a place, reduce crime, promote wellbeing, increase health outcomes, and are even good for property prices.

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There are no fees to join the Margaret River Men’s Table, participants just cover the cost of their meal. The first introductory dinner is at The River on June 6.

I recently returned to Australia after being overseas for almost two decades. I’m reconnecting with my Australian identity, which includes rediscovering Margaret River/Wooditjup. I still visit my Aunty and Uncle for some continuity and look for the things I still remember amongst the new.

Part of the new is being the WA Region Host for an organisation that builds connections in communities. The Men’s Table establishes groups of 8-12 men in local communities to connect men each month for a meal and some real conversation; creating a deeper sense of belonging.

Building connections in communities has a deep resonance for me. I spent close on two decades in China and amongst other things I got to help expatriates belong. I learned that the things that were hardest to say good bye to when we left, were the things we were most connected to.

These connections can be simplified into five things: people, places, possessions, pets, and professions. Connection to all of these or a combination of some of them build into our identity.

I’m more likely to emphasis my connection to people and places. Though ironically, it’s my current ‘profession’ with The Men’s Table that emphasises connection to people and places. So, I genuinely feel positive connection to my profession and this builds into my identity.

The Men’s Table is all about supporting these “opportunities” by widening healthier relational connections. It is a simple concept of eating, talking, and listening, but research shows the impact on the life on those who join in creates a more contented person.

Our research also looks at the ripple effect on family, friends, colleagues and communities of these men, experiencing the positive impact of a man who is better connected to others and themselves. They belong. Our world really does change one person at a time when each person can say with contented satisfaction, “I belong”.

The Men’s Table builds real relational connections at the community level. I’ve been alive just long enough now to realise that relationships are my most valuable and sustainable asset, if I invest in them.

The Men’s Table is an opportunity for men to talk more than just about footy and sh*t. It is not therapy or a support group but it is a group of men who talk with some authenticity and learn to listen without fixing. So, the experience probably is a therapeutic and supportive one… just like any healthy friendship that fosters genuine sharing and listening.

On 6 June at the River Hotel we are holding an introductory dinner. See the sign-up link: You can find out more at or call 1800 636 782.

Damian Tapley is a father and husband and loves his connection to Wooditjup. He looks forward to welcoming men to the inaugural Men’s Table event on June 6 at the River.

Mindful Margaret River is a group of volunteers who undertake local action to support social and emotional wellbeing in Augusta Margaret River.

First published in the Augusta Margaret River Mail on 26 May 2023.

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