International Men’s Day – 1994

The first Australian International Men’s Day consisted of a single celebration in 1994.  The rally took place in Sydney and commenced with a gathering at Circular Quay followed by a march through the city streets to Observatory Hill where participants were addressed by a number of speakers. These included Paul Whyte from the Sydney Men’s Network, followed by Alan Tegg representing The Men’s Development Centre in Balmain. Jenny Dall, editor of the Scarlet Letter concluded the proceedings. The event was the co-ordinated by Graham North who had heard about a similar event in Kansas City the previous year. While the numbers were small by rally standards (about 50 attended), it was a start.

International Men’s Day gathering in Australia, 1994

International Men’s Day gathering in Australia, 1994


International Men’s Day – 2002-2003

After a lull new celebrations were established by Phil Gouldson of ACT’s Men’s Health and Wellbeing Association who launched an event after receiving an invitation by Trinidad and Tobago’s IMD coordinator Harrack Balramsingh which read: “Annual observance of International Men’s Day on November 19th seeks to address the problems and challenges facing men…. once again I am inviting you and your organization to Observe International Men’s Day on November 19th 2003.” Mr Gouldson took up this invitation and organized a public gathering in Canberra and gave a speech to the Australian Federal Police on men’s issues to mark the event. The day included a special press release by MHWA, an article in the Canberra Times,  radio interview, and interstate coverage which resulted in many organizations around Australia contacting the association for more details; many undertook thier own celebrations and the response was both positive and enthusiastic. Mr. Gouldson asked those attending the day to wear a red rose to mark the occasion, which symbolised strength of character and courage in meeting the challenges men face in building better, safer communities and in reaching their full potential.  Since 2003 IMD has been celebrated in every consecutive year by various organizations.

This was not the first time Australians had called for an International Men’s Day, and the issue had been tabled in the ACT parliament in 2002:

“I have heard a lot of talk about the word ‘rights’ in this debate to date” said Mr. Cornwell, “[but] what about some responsibility, what about some equality and what about merit? …. I have a question about this on the notice paper-that we have affirmative action and International Women’s Day. I do not know whatever happened to International Men’s Day. It appears that this does not count. Yet women are constantly talking about equality. Where is the equality in having an International Women’s Day but no International Men’s Day? It does not seem to me to be very equal.

Mr. Cornwell was suggesting recognition of IMD not simply because women have an International Women’s Day, but rather that a men’s day could highlight issues unique to men’s experiences and therefore deserved equal recognition by reason of fairness. As stated by International Men’s Day pioneers, the IMD event ‘is not intended to compete against the women’s day. Instead the goal is to foster better relations between men and women.’

Following the successful 2003 inauguration of IMD by Men’s Health and Wellbeing Association, the occasion was again raised in discussion in ACT parliament. Again Mr. Cornwell raised the question of why International Men’s Day had been roundly neglected in the parliament:

International Men’s Day 2003

MR CORNWELL (4.42): I must admit that, when I came in here today, I thought I was in the middle of a group of Yorkists but I could see no Lancastrian red roses. Nevertheless, I discovered that it was in fact the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. I have no objection to this day, although I feel that, unfortunately, in these days of political correctness, femo-fascists and affirmative action, we should also have some access and equity applied. How many members realise what last Wednesday, 19 November, was? It was International Men’s Day. Was this celebrated? Did I see any indication in this chamber of white badges? Did I see any indication of anything?….

The answer is no, Mr Pratt. There was nothing. Nobody came barging into my room waving these things. Mr Speaker, I do not know whether you gave permission for these things to be delivered. I understood we had an arrangement in this place that, if people wanted to sell chocolates, ribbons or whatever, they could put something on the internet and people could go to their office and collect them. I did not think my office had to be invaded by people simply because it happened to be the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

I would have thought that, if we were going to be even-handed and we were going to espouse access and equity, this government, in its usual comprehensive and compassionate approach in extending assistance to any threatened minority, would have been keen to recognise 19 November as International Men’s Day but I saw nothing. I must have missed it. I heard and saw nothing. In fact, if it had not been for a comment in the Canberra Times the day after, I would not have been aware of it-and yet this government is always so keen to advise us of things of importance in the community. It appears, however, that that importance is directed at only one sex… I am not sure.

I wonder how this government celebrated International Men’s Day. I do not expect, Minister, that you are going to spring to your feet and give me that answer now. I have saved you the trouble: I have put a question on the notice paper seeking advice into what arrangements the government made for International Men’s Day and what arrangements the government made for International Women’s Day on 8 March this year.

Aside from the apathy in political circles the inaugural celebration was hailed a success. After the 2003 event interest in International Men’s Day increased in Australia and numerous non-governmental bodies and churches held their own celebrations. In 2004 Phil Gouldson and MHWA organized a larger event again with press conference, radio interviews, and newspaper articles. The event was held at Glebe Park, Civic Canberra where Minister for Health Simon Corbell MLA was special guest and speaker. The theme highlighted this year was men’s health and Mr. Corbell noted that it was a very important day as it offered an opportunity to encourage men consider their own needs and that men’s health outcomes were not as good or well attended as women’s. The 2004 event included a two day conference ‘MPowered 04’ hosted by the Christian City Church and Australian Men’s Network which was held in Watson and aimed at encouraging men to become the fathers and leaders society expected. Mr. Gouldson said that “Our families, the general public, health-care workers, educators and policy makers all need to understand and consider masculinity and come together to create a future where boys can grow into men who take an active role in creating a better and safer world for all, as teachers, carers, lovers, leaders, partners, supporters, healers, and mentors.”

Canberra Times article for IMD - 2004

Canberra Times article for IMD – 2004

In consultation with organizers from other nations, Australian IMD coordinator Phil Gouldson has outlined the following broad objectives of International Men’s Day:

    • Celebrate manhood and the wonderful positive and valuable contributions our men, young men, and boys make to our communities and to our societies
    • Promote and Support gender equality, encouraging men to address responsibly and positively the challenges facing them in society
    • Demonstrate strength of character and courage in meeting the challenges that men face in society and in contributing to building stronger and better communities, where people can be safe and grow to reach their full potential.

IMD celebrations were held in 2005 by MHWA, and continued in 2006-08 with interested community groups and churches.


Selected Sources:

CBTT co-hosts 2nd International Men’s Day

Where is “equality” without an International Men’s Day? Question at Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (6 March) and Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (25 November) Page 4625 International Men’s Day.doc Aust Federal Police Talk.doc Flower Power Women… Canberra Times news on 19-NOV-03Blokes, it’s Your Turn to Celebrate, Article Canberra Times 20 Nov 2003 PRESIDENT report 2003.docPRESS RELEASE: International Men’s Day – Do We Care?; Red Roses for Your Blokes: It’ll Raise Their Self Esteem, Article Canberra Times, 6 Nov 2004; Manly respect blooms if you give those blokes a rose. Article- Canberra Times 19 Nov 2004; Blokes, it is your turn to celebrate. Article – Canberra Times 20 Nov 2003 Mens Health and Wellbeing Press Release re IMD 2005 copy Make a Date to Validate Men, Article in Christian Today 19 November 2008; Men’s vote carries their day-  Newcastle Herald March 12 2009; Imbalanced councillors- The Herald 12 March 2009; Men’s Day an Aussie first- Maitland Mercury 12 November 2009; IMD Speech Western Australian Legislative Council, Nov 19 2009; Seven Ulladulla men recognised for thier contribution to the community, Milton Ulladulla Times, Nov 25 2009 ;