Sheds a shelter from darkness of isolation

MEN’S Sheds mean more than a few old blokes building furniture or fixing pushbikes — they also rescue people from depression and health issues.

Brothers in arms (from left) Geoff Barker, from the Port Fairy Men’s Shed, Crossley Men’s Shed’s Michael Lane and Ken Unwin, from the Simpson Men’s Shed, ahead of the Men’s Shed forum. 140723RG07 Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Brothers in arms (from left) Geoff Barker, from the Port Fairy Men’s Shed, Crossley Men’s Shed’s Michael Lane and Ken Unwin, from the Simpson Men’s Shed, ahead of the Men’s Shed forum. 140723RG07 Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

Since being formed in Victoria 15 years ago as a way of giving older men something to occupy their spare time it has spread across Australia and overseas. It now encompasses unemployed young people and women seeking help after the loss of partners.

Representatives of south-west Victorian groups were in Warrnambool yesterday for a regional forum where Victorian Men’s Shed Association executive officer Ric Blackburn was the keynote speaker.

“We have a saying that men communicate best shoulder to shoulder,” Mr Blackburn told The Standard.

“They can feel safe about talking about what’s going on in their lives.

“There have been men who have intervened in suicide and others who sought help for health issues and early intervention for cancer.

“Growth of Men’s Sheds has been extraordinary. We don’t tell members what to do, they decide for themselves.”

Yesterday’s forum was organised by Rural Access officer Neil Ballard of Warrnambool, who said there were 19 Men’s Sheds across the region.

“We want to promote participation and make sure people with disabilities can access the service,” he said.

Men’s Sheds are run on a low-cost, self-sustaining model providing social contact and the opportunity to interact with others with common interests.

Mr Blackburn said there were increasing numbers of younger unemployed and underemployed men being mentored by older Men’s Shed members.

“We also have instances of women who lost partners going to sheds for support and advice — they have lost a loved one who normally did tasks around the house,” he said.

“It’s not an insular movement ... (it) looks outwards rather than inwards.”

Mr Blackburn, based in Melbourne, has a family affiliation with Warrnambool — his great-grandfather John Leffers was a lighthouse keeper in the town from 1899 to 1902.

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