• Special Interest Speech

Launceston Tough Guy Book Club

Ms Armitage (Launceston) - Today I am going to speak about a club which is working hard in Launceston to support men through the simple act of sharing books and good conversation. The Tough Guy Book Club is encouraging men to enjoy reading amazing literature, but also creating friendships and supporting men to take care of themselves. It is important to note this group is for men from all walks of life, so you do not need to be a bookworm to join. The only rules are that you do not talk about work and you have to be nice.

The Launceston chapter was set up in 2016, but the Tough Guy Book Club was first established in Australia by Shay Leighton three-and-a-half years ago. It now operates in many regional and capital cities across Australia and also in the United States.

Shay admits he had fun choosing the name and says the tough guy thing is more a theme than anything and that they mostly read books by tough guys rather than as tough guys. The books they choose are guided by a loose central theme of masculinity.

Shay cites Ernest Hemingway books, adding -

… he's a perfect example of the masculine. … His books are strong and pioneering, they're about conflict and bullfighting, loving, drinking and war and the ocean.

The Launceston chapter was started by father-of-two Pod Melia as a way to meet people, after relocating from Hobart. Pod did not know a soul in Launceston and life was a bit tough at that time. Starting the club changed his life around for the better and gave him something to look forward to in his new city. A self-confessed bookworm, he liked the idea of creating a communal space where men from all walks of life could meet, discover great books together and open up to each other.

From the outset, Pod wanted the club to be a place where men could relax, let down their guard and have a laugh. Importantly, it was to be a place where men could find unconditional acceptance and achieve a sense of community.

While many book clubs are for avid readers, this one has something for everyone. Pod says he is happy to attract more people who maybe have not read much previously. Shay notes one of the most common pieces of feedback he hears from new members is, 'I have not read a book since high school'.

Providing a place where men can talk freely and easily has been a particularly important aim. As Pod says, 'If I can get even just one guy to feel he has got something off his chest, I am happy'. On that point, the Tough Guy Book Club founder, Shay, says he regularly hears stories from members putting responsibilities at work and personal lives before their own needs.

One of the club's big messages is men do need to share things going on in their lives and need to look after themselves. Currently the Tough Guy Book Club has a campaign encouraging members to see their GP to get their blood pressure checked.

There is no fee to join the club; meetings are held on the first Wednesday of the month at the Kingsway Bar in Launceston and you can find the Tough Guy Book Club on Facebook.

Currently several regulars come along, ranging in age from 26 to 70. A particular strength of the diversity in members' ages is the opportunity for older men to mentor younger men through the simple act of getting to know each other over a book and a beer.

Members are from a broad cross section of the community and many are relatively new to Launceston, so the experience of settling into a new place is one they share.

Recently the group has been reading the following books: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway; Home by Toni Morrison; James Ellroy's The Big Nowhere; Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett; and Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.

A year on, the Tough Guy Book Club in Launceston continues to go from strength to strength. Pod Melia says that, for him, it has become a group of great mates. Members catch up outside of meetings, most recently over lunch at the Inveresk Tavern.

Tough Guy Book Club members across Australia will also head to a lake in Victoria at the end of this month to have a few days together as a group. Activities will include hiking, swimming and playing pool.

I applaud the Tough Guy Book Club, particularly Shay Leighton and Pod Melia, for doing so much to support men. The Tough Guy Book Club is encouraging men to seek support, to reach out to others to enjoy the many benefits of reading great literature and to remember to look after themselves each day.

We cannot put a price on the positive difference this group is making to the lives of men in Launceston.

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