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Community & Business

26 July, 2022

Gilgandra Men’s Shed providing companionship for over 12 years

Since 2009, Gilgandra’s Men’s Shed has provided a safe place for men to catch up, work on projects, and get the latest town gossip.

By Emily Middleton

The shed has around 24 members, and three times a week, members meet in the mornings to work on their latest project, create new items, or restore old furniture.

But the space is more than just a large man cave.

Members are typically retired men who come to the shed for shared solidarity, and use the space to stay busy and moving.

“You need that companionship, there’s just too many people sitting at home doing nothing, that’s just not a good way to end up,” said one of the original members, Roy Duncan.

“The main thing for me was to keep on my feet and keep doing things for as long as I could.”

Mr Duncan was on the committee that organised the initial meetings to get the shed going. After searching for a venue and gauged interest, the shed officially opened in October 2009.

Mr Duncan had come off a farm and retired in town. He initially thought he could keep himself occupied at home, but soon came to realise this wasn’t the case.

“Once you get involved, you tend to realise it’s great to come up, see what the others are doing, learn a little about what’s going on around the place. While there’s gossip downtown, you can get gossip from up here too,” said Mr Duncan.

“You get to the stage when you’re up here and you find that you have poor vision or something and you need some help, you need someone to check things out for you. You can’t get that at home. So you go into reclusion.”

Phillip Yeo agreed, stating the space was great for those who may be struggling finding a sense of purpose.

“There are quite a few widowers in Gilgandra, and a few are here of course. It’s great for those people who may be feeling lost, or depressed after they retire or their wife/partner dies,” he said.

“I retired before I came to town really, and now I have three days a week I can come here and fill in the morning.

“I’ve always been an office bearer here too so I’ve always had paper work to do, shopping to do, things like that. Then I can also build a few things, get to know people. Then after you’ve been here for the morning you can take the rest of the day quite easy.”

Ted Harland, another original member, also found retirement to be quite lonely.

“I joined for the male company. When I retired, that’s what I missed. I was always with men working, and I missed that.”

But the issue with an aging population, is member numbers are always decreasing.

“We need more members!” said Mr Harland passionately.

“We need a more even spread of age groups if possible, but I know it’s difficult for people who work to come. But we could do with any age,” said Mr Duncan.

“For a lot of us, with big projects, there’s only two or three of us that are strong enough to lift the project because a lot of us have back issues, limited movement etc. It makes it hard.”

Mr Yeo joked that there was even a few “artificial knees, hips, hearts and so forth around the men’s shed”.

Members want to encourage men to come in with their sons when they are working on a project.

“We have the tools, the facilities, the supplies, we would just love to see it get used by younger people,” said Bruce James.

According to Mr Yeo, medical professionals have endorsed the Gilgandra Men’s Shed, recommending the shed to patients who may need some distraction or movement coming into the later part of their life.

“There’s signs for the shed in the doctors waiting rooms, and sometimes even doctors steer patients up to us,” said Mr Yeo.

And you don’t have to be 90-yearsold to join either, members stressed. The shed is open to any man who would like a place to meet, work, and chat to other men in town.

“Problem is – when we suggest to people to come here, and they’re 60-70, they say we aren’t old enough! They think you have to be 90 to join. That’s simply not true,” said Mr Yeo.

“I think that might be a psychological thing too though, people may not be ready to accept their retirement and their older age.”

Originally operating from the old wool pavilion at the Gilgandra showground, the men’s shed has only evolved, with the present being built and opened in 2014. Still situated in the showground, the current shed was built by locals, funded by various government grants, and aided by generous donations of funds and labour from local businesses, tradies, and individuals.

The shed holds a lot of character and love. Full of old and new tools and machines, members main activity is wood working, but often dabble in wood engraving and metal working, making things such as pot plant stands and clothes basket holders.

“But our coffee cup is the most important tool in the shed,” said Mr Yeo.

Enjoying smoko together, the men lookout for each other and keep each other busy. Most recently, the shed has installed solar panels, and brand new LED lighting.

Mr Yeo is proud to state that the shed is now “carbon negative, and we are selling power back to the grid. We get no power bills”.

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