Men's Sheds around Australia are helping to strengthen communities. I recently visited the Wangaratta Men's Shed. The shed is located at the livestock yards on the town's outskirts. When I arrived at the shed some of its members were busy fixing chairs for a local school. Another group of men were engaged in a game of pool. The shed's computer whiz was teaching someone to use a scanner. Other men chatted over a cup of coffee.
A guide dog sat quietly waiting for its owner. The black labrador belonged to Jim Dunn, one of the shed's co-ordinators. Jim was busy putting together a showbag for Senior's Week. Much of the showbag's information was about coping with depression. Jim was keen to make the information accessible. He had created audio CDs and cassettes.
Many members said depression is a problem among local men. Jim Dunn said there was also a high suicide rate in North-East Victoria. They invited representatives from Beyond Blue to visit the shed recently. Members said the shed was somewhere men could talk to other men. It also kept them busy.
Restore a bike
A group of teenagers arrived from Wangaratta District Special School. Each teenager had selected an old bike form the shed's collection. The teenagers used the shed's equipment to repaint and repair the bikes. Shed members were there to help them if needed. Each teenager kept the bike he restored.
There are plans to turn any unused bike frames into wheelchairs. The wheelchairs would be sent to developing countries.
A work in progress
The shed only opened in Wangaratta a few months ago. It used to be a storage pavilion for the livestock yards. Members are fixing it up and installing partitioning walls. Charlie Parkinson said he enjoyed the challenge of establishing the shed. Charlie was enthusiastic about renovating its kitchen area.
Many things to do
Russell Frankel is President of the Men's Shed. Russell said he liked the shed having no agenda. Members can do what they want. They can build something, help someone, or just play pool. The Men's Shed helps whoever they can. They are currently preparing to help children with special needs on a camping trip.
Funds for the shed come from many sources. They receive donations from various community organisations and businesses. Members also raise money with sausage sizzles. Most of the shed's equipment is donated.
Any man can join
Any male can join the men's shed. They currently have 44 members. They particularly want members who can teach others new skills. Many of the shed's current members are retired tradesmen and farmers. One is an ex-policeman. People with disabilities are welcome. The shed is wheelchair accessible and there is an accessible toilet nearby. Membership is $30 per year.
At the moment the shed is only open on Wednesday afternoons. There is a barbecue lunch and speaker on the first Wednesday of each month. Speakers have talked about depression, legal wills and how to deal with door-to-door salespeople.
I left the shed marvelling at its member's community spirit.
Support is available for anyone who may be distressed.
Lifeline - 24 hour telephone counselling - 131 114
Kids Helpline - under 18 years of age - 1800 551 800
Just Ask - rural mental health information - 1300 131 114
Men's Line Australia - 24 hour telephone counselling - 1300 789 978
Salvation Army - 24 hour telephone counselling - 1300 363 622
SANE Helpline - mental illness information, support and referral - 1800 187 263
beyondblue Information Line - information about depression, anxiety and related substance abuse disorders, treatments and help - 1300 224 636