Better off sheds
Published: 6 February 2024
By Regional Development Victoria
Building upgrades are helping the Tallygaroopna and Rosedale Men’s Sheds welcome more members and better support their local communities.
‘Men don't talk face to face. They talk shoulder to shoulder.’
That's the philosophy behind the Men's Shed movement, which has spread across Victoria and Australia over the last 30 years.
Indeed, the sheds have become so popular that they are now an integral part of more than 360 communities across the state.
According to Richard Lilley, Secretary of the Tallygaroopna Men’s Shed, a big reason for their popularity is the special camaraderie the sheds create for members.
'Sheds draw people together to make new friendships, renew old friendships, have a laugh and share problems,' said Richard.
Peter Carr, Vice-President and Secretary of the Rosedale Men’s Shed, notes that the sheds also fulfil an important social service by providing a lifeline to older community members.
'If you look at any community, there are older people going through major life changes,' said Peter.
'They might have retired from work, or lost a partner with whom they have lived for decades.'
'That's where the sheds come in, they provide the support that many people need,' added Peter.
But, as the name 'shed' might imply, the buildings are not always the most comfortable places to spend time.
'If you've never worked in a tin shed, you'd be surprised at how unpleasant they can be,' said Peter.
'In the summer you roast and in the winter you freeze. Which can make attracting and retaining members very difficult,' he added.
Similarly, your typical shed does not come with a fully equipped kitchen or break room, which can pose problems for sheds looking to expand their membership base – particularly when financial margins are often tight.
A helping hand
For both the Tallygaroopna and Rosedale sheds, support has come in the form of grants from the Victorian Government's Living Local - Regional Fund.
The Tally shed received almost $5,000 to upgrade their kitchen and meeting area. This has bolstered their capacity to host community groups, including the local primary school and Country Women's Association (CWA).
'We've now got an insulated and air-conditioned area, complete with new appliances and crockery,' said Richard.
'This makes it easier for the CWA, who do a lot of cooking when they are here, and helps us run our morning teas with the local primary students.'
'Those morning teas are particularly important, as they give kids a chance to get comfortable meeting adults and learn how to safely work with tools,' he added.
The Tally shed upgrades also installed an important safety feature, with the building now featuring windows between the kitchen and work areas.
'We do a lot of repairs for locals, so the machines are always being put to good use,' said Richard.
'The windows mean that we can keep an eye on things while we are having a break and make sure no one has an accident,' he added.
Getting more people involved
Over at the Rosedale shed, another grant of almost $5,000 supported the installation of a new air conditioner.
For Peter, who uses Men's Sheds as a place to support people living with a disability, this upgrade has gone a long way to making the shed more accessible to the wider community.
'Our membership has doubled since it was installed, and it's now a place that is comfortable for all community members, not just those who can withstand the heat or cold,' said Peter.
'This is important, because Men's Sheds can be a great support to people's mental health and wellbeing, but only if the buildings are accessible,' he added.
Peter, a former counsellor with Uniting Care and the Salvation Army, believes that accessibility is the path forward for Men's Sheds.
'It's becoming more common for sheds to support men with a disability, and to welcome women into the group as well,' he said.
'Grants like the one we received are helping to move this process forward and ensuring that more people are benefiting from the unique camaraderie that you find in these environments.'
Both Richard and Peter see the recent upgrades as an opportunity to do more for the community.
Richard is keen to attract more members to the Tally Shed and provide more goods and services for the local community.
Peter, meanwhile, is looking forward to finding more ways to use the Rosedale Shed and continue to make it welcoming for people of all abilities.
At the heart of both groups, and the Men's Shed movement, is the key goal of helping people feel happy, healthy, connected and valued by their community.
Richard sums it up well.
'Spending time with good people and helping your community - what's better than that?'
Learn more by visiting Regional Development Victoria.
The Victorian Connection articles feature the people, projects and programs driving economic growth and prosperity across Victoria.