Musician relishes noteworthy cause

Nicola KalmarBroome Advertiser
William "Tonchi" McIntosh with his sons Banjo, 11, Tonchi Jr, 17, and Brigalow, 15.
Camera IconWilliam "Tonchi" McIntosh with his sons Banjo, 11, Tonchi Jr, 17, and Brigalow, 15. Credit: Tonchi McIntosh

A musician has added another string to his bow after taking on a role with Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services to promote men’s health and wellbeing in the region.

William “Tonchi” McIntosh, from Broome band The Mexicans, was recently appointed the men’s health regional facilitator and is now on a mission to help remove the stigma surrounding male health and encourage more men to open up.

“As a young man growing up on a cattle farm, I can see how I thought I was unbreakable, bullet-proof, so much so that I didn’t see the bad health of the men around me at the time or think that my own health would ever matter,” he said.

“I’m learning it’s a common thread that men just don’t think about their health like they should.

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“Personally, it wasn’t until I went and had the dreaded men’s check-up that I’d been putting off for years that my attitude changed.

“It was after that check-up, which put my mind at ease ... and the passing of some close local mates well before their time that I had a burning desire to say to all men ‘hey, it’s a bigger man that fronts up to the clinic for a check-up than the one that refuses to pay attention to his health.’

“It takes guts to seek help.”

The singer/ songwriter said he was honoured to take on the new role and would use his skills in the arts and experience working in indigenous communities to encourage clients to attend check-ups, talk about their health, and learn about healthy options and lifestyles.

Mr McIntosh previously worked for Pilbara and Kimberley Aboriginal Media, travelling to remote communities promoting health education and recording community bands.

He also worked as an outreach alcohol and drug counsellor for Dampier communities.

The father-of-three said the drive behind his new-found passion was knowing that the majority of men’s health problems were preventable and reversible, and that a man’s health influenced the health of his children.

“I think herein lies the key to helping break the stigma associated with men’s health,” he said.

“Men talking to men works. The information is in the right culture, the right language, the right authority and it’s from the heart.”

As part of his appointment, Mr McIntosh will travel around the Kimberley supporting member clinics including facilities in Broome, Derby, Beagle Bay, Kununurra and Halls Creek to engage men over the age of 16.

“We know this group is our least engaged, they’re out of the school health system and now they are in no-man’s-land, with some of the worst health statistics in the world,” he said.

“I aim to get to know these services really well and identify ways we can encourage men to pay attention to their health in a culturally secure way.”

Mr McIntosh said one way he planned to spread important health messages and make check-ups even more accessible to men was by launching a mobile garage and having a presence at different locations where men often gather, such as rodeos, cattle musters, sporting and cultural events and even workplaces.

“There is no doubt that men generally don’t like to talk about their health… some of us even go to great lengths to hide illness from family,” he said.

“I know from talking to another mate of mine that some of the language used to describe mental health is in itself a major put-off for many men.

“The one reason why he wasn’t physically able to seek help from a counsellor was because he wouldn’t accept that he had a ‘mental health’ problem, and ‘going to counselling’ is a sign that you’ve failed as a man.

“That’s just not the case. My mate explained the ‘massive weight off my shoulders just lifted’ when he finally went to a counsellor and talked through his concerns.

“He said he was amazed that counselling actually just means ‘talking’ with a professional who just asks the right questions that help you see you have the answers already.

“I love the idea that the act of talking, helps the formation of your opinions.”

This year, Mr McIntosh plans to facilitate a steering group and organise a health conference in the Kimberley to bring men together and provide them with an opportunity to have their say about health issues affecting them.

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