22 January 2021

Canberra Women's Shed powering ahead with tools of their trade

| Michael Weaver
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Sunita Kotnala and Robby McGarvey

Women’s Shed president Sunita Kotnala and vice-president Robby McGarvey show off their handiwork. Photo: Supplied

In the four months since the founders of Canberra’s Women’s Shed opened their first box of business cards, they have welcomed almost 100 members while also building the foundations of a community for women empowered by power tools.

The Women’s Shed network now includes Canberra construction company, Kane Constructions, providing experiences for women wanting to know what it’s like on a construction site.

More than $20,000 has also been received to help fund workshops for women of all ages who want to know more about drop saws, nail guns and power drills.

“We’re getting phone calls every day from people either wanting to join or business or community groups wanting to help us,” Canberra Women’s Shed president Sunita Kotnala tells Region Media.

“We’ve now got 98 members in less than four months and it’s such a joy to be building on what we’ve started.”

Participants during a recent Women's Shed workshop at Thor's Hammer

Participants during a recent Women’s Shed workshop at Thor’s Hammer. Photo: Supplied

After linking with prominent men’s shedder Jim Thornton, they hammered out the details to build a group that meets each Saturday from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm at Thor’s Hammer in Griffith.

Thor’s Hammer has also been instrumental in employing many female apprentices.

They also meet once a week at the Hughes Community Shed, while providing a range of workshops that empower women with power tools.

“All of the people and groups we’ve connected with also help to support our values to support sustainability, support the community, upcycling, recycling and making sure there is a minimal footprint on the environment,” Sunita says.

The Women’s Shed received a $10,000 grant from Hands Across Canberra to provide funding for tutors to run their workshops, while they also received $5000 to run workshops specifically for young women wanting to learn about building and construction trades.

The Narrabundah Family Medical Practice also chipped in with $5000 from its community chest that helped the group provide workbenches, while Capital Chemist Group also provided $5000 specifically for young women.

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“We’re helping migrant women build skills to improve their independence and we’re helping to build houses for a population of turtles at the Jerrabomberra Wetlands,” Sunita said.

From bookstands to building decks, the Women’s Shed participants are also learning about different types of wood and their uses.

“A new bookshop in Kingston, The Book Cow, has requested some bookstands so we’re keen to help out with that project.

“We are just really excited by the way it’s all taken off.

“We’ve become more versatile as a group because we can now operate at different sites,” says Sunita.

“We’re supporting women in the ACT and regional areas too,” says Robby. “It’s been so amazing, and the support we have got is way beyond our expectations.”

Canberra Women's Shed participants during a recent workshop

Canberra Women’s Shed participants during a recent workshop. Photo: Supplied.

The Canberra Women’s Shed is now tailoring its workshops for mothers and daughters, and they’re keen to hear from community groups wanting to increase their visibility in hi-vis.

“We’re finding women who really want that social connection and can come and talk to people while they work,” says Robby. “There are women who have come back to Canberra or may have lost their jobs through COVID.”

Their next workshop will be on 6 February at the Narrabundah Children’s Cottage junior campus to build items for babies and toddlers.

If you want to get involved, visit Women’s Shed Canberra.

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