5 April 2024

Veterans, first responders and families evicted from South Canberra 'safe place'

| Sally Hopman
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Neil Sperring in high-vis shirt with wooden planter boxes

Founder of the South Canberra Veterans Shed, Neil Sperring, with some planter boxes made by shed members for a local child care centre. Photo: Supplied.

Since 2016, it’s been a place defence veterans, first responders and their families can go, a place where they can talk about things only they can understand, a safe place – the South Canberra Veterans Shed (SCVS).

But last month, the building’s owner, LDK Seniors Living, told members their lease at the Greenway site would be terminated.

SCVS founder Neil Sperring said he was “disappointed” LDK had taken this action.

A 30-year veteran of the Royal Australian Air Force, Mr Sperring said when the SCVS signed a lease for space in the centre, there was an understanding it would have some degree of permanency. But he was also aware of an exit clause that gave either side the option of six months’ notice to terminate the lease.

“LDK has told us they will be exercising that option,” he said. “They gave us no reason.

“We expected to be here forever. When I first saw the letter from them giving us notice, I was disappointed, but that’s life I suppose.”

The SCVS has had up to 100 members, the oldest in their 80s, with others, mainly first responders – police, fire, ambulance and emergency service personnel and their families – about half that age. It has male and female members.

Mr Sperring said the aim of the not-for-profit shed had always been to provide a safe space for men and women who served their country, and for first responders and their families who had gone through life experiences like few others.

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“The idea was to provide a place for like-minded people, a drop-in centre for veterans, first responders and their families.”

He said it was particularly important to have such a place for families of veterans, many of whom had to raise their children alone while their partner was overseas.

“There was a a need for a place where whole families could go to relax, not just a place for grumpy old men,” he joked.

At the SCVS, like many of the 1000 or so Men’s Sheds around the country, members are encouraged to be active, learn and share new skills to help raise self-esteem as part of the healing process.

Members spend time on a variety of projects – from wood and metalwork to sewing and social activities.

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SCVS secretary Tina Jones said she had no doubt the group had helped save lives. Describing herself as an army brat, she said such places were vital amid a rising suicide rate.

“The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicides states there have been at least 1677 deaths by suicide among members of the Australian Defence Force between 1997 to 2021,” she said.

“We are one of several organisations trying to reduce the number of suicides experienced by veterans and first responders. We cannot continue this work unless we find another home.”

Mr Sperring said SCVS had already applied to the ACT Property Group to find new premises.

“You don’t know what’s out there until you ask,” he said, “but we’re not naive enough to think something will just turn up. We need the community’s help.”

The group has until August to leave the Greenway site. Although new premises are top of the agenda, it also needs to find temporary storage for its equipment.

“In the interim we need at least three shipping containers to store our workshop equipment and property temporarily. We will take what we can acquire but a shed or building around 600 square metres would be ideal,” Ms Jones said.

Region sought comment from LDK Seniors Living based in Brisbane, but is yet to receive a reply.

If you can help the SCVS find a new home or help store its equipment temporarily, email scveteransshed@gmail.com

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Burul Talant1:45 pm 09 Apr 24

Greenway Views ( LDK = Love Decency and Kindness) were very generous to allow South Canberra Veterans Shed to occupy a large basement area under the Arawang Building. Everything was mutually fine until a couple of members chose to act, within the shed confines, and worse, in public spaces within Greenway Views, in a manner contrary to the principles of Love Decency and Kindness. The Shed became a place not providing “a safe space for men and women who served their country, and for first responders and their families” but an uncomfortable environment for many members. This finally resulted in Police attendance at Greenway Views. This was the the final straw for the Principal of LDK, and the cancellation of the lease agreement was invoked. Quite understandable, wouldn’t you think?

How many times did police attend? I think if it’s for VETs their maybe times where they are triggered. If it’s a one off and knee jerk then no it’s not understandable!

Burul Talant3:22 pm 12 Apr 24

The police attended to serve notice on a resident, not to quell a riot. The point is, it wasn’t a good look for LDK, according to management. The Principal of LDK is an ex-copper himself.

Capital Retro please be advised, there are TWO men’s sheds in the area. One located within LDK Greenway Views [in the basement] and one down near the Archery Centre. The one referenced in this article is the one located in LDK Greenway Views.

Also, many residents of LDK Greenway Views are not Veterans and weren’t allowed to be part of the Men’s Shed within LDK Greenway Views.

Capital Retro7:45 am 09 Apr 24

Thanks for adding to the confusion.

Burul Talant1:27 pm 09 Apr 24

That is not true Linda. Residents of Greenway Views, whether Veterans or not were welcome to join the South Canberra Veterans Shed. The Secretary Tina Jones, mentioned and quoted in Mr Sperring’s article is NOT a veteran, but is an SCVS member and an executive office holder on the Committee of SCVS.

There’s a big building on a hill with a giant flagpole atop it. The current tenants are disruptive and not worth the money they are paid. Perfect for these people to move into

Capital Retro3:52 pm 08 Apr 24

There is another building just down the road from the big one on the hill is (it’s UN missable) and unelected people can hang out there and tell us how to run our country.

@Capital Retro
You’ve previously made these nonsensical proclamations about the United Nations and when challenged don’t respond … so I expect the same will happen here, but nevertheless, I’ll ask.

Firstly, given Australia is a voluntary member of the body, why would you expect there to be elections? It’s worth remembering that your elected government has chosen for Australia to remain a member state of the UN – that’s the only election that counts.

Secondly, when has the UN ever dictated that Australia must do anything – i.e told us how to run our country?

Tuggeranong School house is available and part of ACT Property Group. I think they have been seeking EOIs.

Burul Talant1:50 pm 09 Apr 24

This property is National Trust registered and is an historic museum restored by the ACT Government – Its not a solution

Capital Retro11:34 am 07 Apr 24

When I made enquiries with LDK at Greenway about activities nearby they highly recommended the shed but they didn’t mention is was exclusively for defence veterans and first responders. The described it as a a community men’s shed.

I couldn’t afford what they were offering anyway.

Burul Talant2:09 pm 09 Apr 24

Yes, Pretty expensive to become a resident at Greenway Views, but you pay for what you get. Was this what you were asking Greenway Views about? Residency? As a resident of Greenway views you could (past tense) become a member of South Canberra Veterans Shed, whether you were a Veteran or First Responder or not, The Secretary, Tina Jones, quoted in the headline article by Mr Sperring, is neither a Veteran nor a First Responder but IS a resident of Greenway Views and is a shed member, holding an Executive position of the Committee of SCVS.

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