340 men from diverse backgrounds across Melbourne & Victoria’s West have graduated from the 2024 the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation Sons of the West program.

Hailing from the Ballarat, Melton, Wyndham, Brimbank, Maribyrnong and Hobsons Bay regions, the men were honoured for their dedication to improving their health and well-being across a series of graduation ceremonies.

The significance of this being the 10th year of graduation ceremonies was not lost on Jenny Taing, chair of the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation.

“These men came as individuals to build their health knowledge and physical capabilities and have left as valued members of a supportive community,” she said.

“They also join a wider community of thousands; now when they are out in the local community or at the footy and see a stranger’s face wearing their Sons of the West top, they won’t see a stranger, but the familiar face of a community that gives so much to its members.”

Sons of the West is made possible through the Community Foundation’s partnership with WorkSafe Victoria, cohealth, Watergardens, Mission and facilitating partners.

Throughout the 10-week course, participants listened to experts in their field on topics such as mental fitness and financial wellbeing, participated in physical activity curated to their level by personal trainers, and even took part in a hands-on cooking class to build practical skills.

For Callum Balletsy, joining Sons of the West wasn’t initially a priority.

“If anything, you could say I was in direct opposition to joining, however I decided to give it a shot as my two brothers and my father signed up,” he told fellow graduates at the Ballarat ceremony.

“I didn’t realise the significance of the program until I missed a week. I realised that it gave my week a sense of fullness and missing it made me feel incomplete.".”

It was the session on Mental Health that stood out the most for his father, Andrew.

“The guest speaker was so down to earth, and his actionable testimony of mental health helped normalise it,” he said.

“I realised three key things - having trusted friends, helps, having simple actionable steps, helps, and having supportive & loving family, helps."