Older Men Unlimited (O.M.U.) was the name given to an organisation founded in June 2001 through funding from the Federal Department of Health and Ageing's National Suicide Prevention Strategy for a project to support senior men living on their own and at risk of suicide in the Hervey Bay City Council area.
The aim of the project was to investigate and implement ways of connecting with older men living on their own and provide activities and interests that would improve the quality of their life. The over 75 age group of men had the highest rate of suicide in Australia and that was the impetus for this project. There were no support organisations for retired men at this stage because the Men's Shed movement had not yet commenced so there was no template to work off.
After a series of orientation and planning meetings with the Department to develop guidelines and reporting templates that would provide relative information about the value of such projects, the project commenced on a local basis with introductory visits to health and seniors’ organisations to explain the project. A survey of 150 + senior men in Hervey Bay to assess their main needs was carried out and this resulted in several senior retired men volunteering to being part of an initial mentor group. This survey and ongoing meetings with these men established that they had a widely diverse range of backgrounds and interests.
Monthly morning tea meetings commenced in September 2000 with 15 attendees and have been held regularly on a monthly basis from that time along with monthly meetings of the mentor group/working (now management committee). Smaller interest groups were also established for those men who were not comfortable in large groups. Something like 30 organisations, retirement villages etc. were visited on a monthly basis from September onwards including regular visits to 17 caravan parks, and 3 blocks of Housing Units in the Hervey Bay City Council area and in January 2002 some interested men volunteered to start doing visits with the coordinator to retirement villages, nursing homes and caravan parks.
Quarterly reports were provided for the Department along with regular meetings and meetings with the Hervey Bay City Council Community Development Officer for updates. In March 2002 an application for a further three years of funding for the program under the National Suicide Prevention Strategy was applied for and was approved in August 2002.
One of the most significant developmental decisions that was made by the working group during this period and supported by the au spicing body was to invite senior retired men who were still married to become part of the project. The reason for this decision was so that if or when these men lost their partner, there would be a support network there for them that they were already involved with assisting them to re-adjust and work with their grief.
Membership at this time was by attendance and involvement and there were no subscription fees etc. All costs were covered by the funding grant so there were limitations as to what could be spent. Fund raising activities in a small way were commenced and involvement in community activities increased, though the aim of fundraising is always secondary to supporting senior retired men by more physical and emotional means.
Part of the evolvement of the organisation was to prepare and carry out incorporation at the end of the Federal Government funding program. This occurred in June 2005 with the incorporation of the project as an incorporated body and election of the first office bearers.
In December 2005 a successful application for funding through the State Government's Department of Communities was approved and is the main source of funding to this day.
In May 2012, a decision was made by the OMU Management Committee in Hervey Bay to look at the possibility of starting a small group in Maryborough along similar lines to the other small groups or organisation cells that were currently operating successfully in Hervey Bay such as the fishing group, art group, walking group etc. The first regular morning tea meeting was held on the 2nd September 2012 and these have continued successfully with 20 -25 members attending regularly. There are now over 70 members in Maryborough.