Sheds have their own place in Australian culture, traditionally a space for men to fix things or to simply have time out. Many men have lost this outlet owing to different circumstances.
The ‘men’s shed’ movement addresses this void and the issue of men’s health and wellbeing by providing an atmosphere of good old-fashioned mateship.
The Lismore Men and Community Shed (LMCS) is close to being operational, thanks to hard work and a welcome financial boost of $21,600 from the state government. Lismore MP Thomas George presented the cheque to the group this week and showed genuine support for the project.
‘This gives people a chance to get out of everyone’s hair and come and have a bit of time here, share some time with each other and do things they are justifiably proud of for our community. I hope you get as much out of this as I think you will,’ Mr George said.
‘I only took the case forward but I know a lot of work went into this, particularly the development application; it just didn’t appear so. I acknowledge that and thank you.’
The LMCS is an outreach service of the Men and Family Centre in Lismore. It started as a mobile men’s shed and because of its popularity and effectiveness has now become more permanent.
Twelve months ago, after a few attempts in different locations, the group started the enormous feat to transform the ground floor of the main grandstand in the Lismore Showground. This included waterproofing the seating to prevent leakage through to the shed and the removal of concrete tables and chairs that were cemented to the floor.
Extensive work is continuing to meet all the DA and OH&S requirements, including fire safety and lighting. Most of the funding will pay for electrical work, which will enable adequate overhead lighting for the workspaces.
Currently, there is a core group who are contributing to create the space for future use and have formed a steering committee to establish the premises.
‘I rocked up 12 months ago with a piece of paper and a pen and became secretary!’ George Sparnon told Echonetdaily. ‘We have a long way to go but we have a fairly cohesive group now.’
The group has accepted donations of materials. George added, ‘We have had phases of low numbers and no money but we get through. Every little bit that we get doesn’t go to waste.
‘It is pretty much the “pub with no beer” in here; you get to sound off and form mateships without the alcohol.’
Andy Winton-Brown is part of the core committee and also sits on the management committee at the Men and Family Centre in Lismore, which has operated since 1993, and has many programs: MEND (Men Exploring New Directions), Men’s Call Back (telephone peer support), BUILD (group programs and one-to-one counselling), volunteer training for projects such as the Mobile Men’s Shed (outreach and publicity), dads’ and kids’ playgroups and training courses for professionals.
He told Echonetdaily why this shed has opened its doors to all of the community, not just men.
‘I was part of a group that went to the Australian Men’s Shed Association conference in 2007 in Sydney and we visited five sheds along the way. The one that had the best fit with what the Men and Family Centre does was Windale, as it worked with men, boys, mums, single mums etc.
‘For a number of years we ran a mobile outreach service and our surveys showed that a third of the people that came and talked to us were women who wanted to talk about their sons, partners, brothers etc.
‘The Men and Family Centre is about working with men but we have programs that work in with women as well. If you fix the bloke that’s great, but if you can get the relationship going it will be more effective.’
Most men have learned from our culture that they don’t talk about feelings and emotions and that means that they usually don’t ask for help. Probably because of this many men are less healthy than women; they drink more, take more risks and they suffer more from isolation, loneliness and depression. Relationship breakdown, retrenchment or early retirement from a job, loss of children following divorce, physical or mental illness are just some of the problems that men find it hard to deal with on their own.
‘What sticks in my mind is at the opening of the conference one man stood up and said “… women will talk face to face and men talk side by side”. Men will come in and won’t talk about their issues, but while we are working on projects, conversations over time may evolve.’
Andy explained the ethos of the men’s shed: ‘It is about peer support, having a chat over a cup of coffee’.
‘Ultimately, we would like facilitators to come over and run some awareness courses. We all need to learn how to listen without bringing our own agendas to the table and not trying to fix it!’
The LMCS hopes to be running in its full capacity within a year.
Andy explained: ‘Until we meet the DA requirements, we can’t accept general admittance to the work area as it is a construction site. However, to make it operational we need more skilled labour and are looking for retired tradespeople or any with some spare time to contribute.’
If you can assist in the final renovation stage please contact Stuart Gibbons on 6629 8393 or email [email protected].
To find your nearest men’s shed go to http://www.mensshed.org.