The construction of a new Men’s Shed at the Hughes Community Centre marks the first step in a long journey to empower the Australian Men’s Shed organisation.
Work will begin in March, with the first sod turned before a crowd of enthusiastic men and women on Thursday (27 February). It is hoped the shed will be completed in early May.
The ACT Government has invested more than $200,000 in the construction of the facility, which will cover about half the cost of the building.
The site at the Hughes Community Centre is also shared by the ACT Office of the Council of the Ageing (COTA), which offers weekly events, including sessions conducted by the University of the Third Age.
Men’s Shed central-south region coordinator Jim Thornton said locations for 49 sheds have been identified in the region, covering the ACT and surrounding areas in NSW.
“Sixteen sheds have been built in our area and this shed [at Hughes] is one step in a long journey, so there is still a long way to go,” Mr Thornton said.
Mr Thornton has been working with the CEO of the ACT Council of the Ageing, Jenny Mobbs, to identify a suitable site for more than four years, so seeing the first sod turned was a milestone for the Men’s Shed movement.
He said Men’s Shed has become one of the most powerful tools in addressing health and wellbeing by helping men to become valued and productive members of the community.
“I’m excited to see this finally happening. Now, my job starts by trying to get people to donate things like tools and equipment and to run a few fundraisers,” Mr Thornton said.
He said that the recent bushfires had also burned tools used in sheds in rural areas, so the Men’s Shed movement has become an even more valuable resource for men in rural areas seeking to rebuild.
“With the fires, there have been lots of farmers who want simple things like a hammer because the handle had burnt on the one they had. People in those areas want a handsaw, they want the simple things, so we have access to a lot of those types of tools for the people who need them most,” Mr Thornton said.
The Minister for Community Services and Facilities, Suzanne Orr, said the construction of the Men’s Shed at Hughes would increase community participation at the existing centre.
“The positive health influences associated with having a stronger involvement within the community makes Men’s Sheds and associations like the Council of the Ageing so important,” Minister Orr said.
“The spirit of comradery and mateship promoted within Men’s Sheds provides a sense of community to members, gives them a purpose and a way to use their skills to benefit the broader local community.
“The Hughes Community Centre is already a much-loved part of the community and the new Men’s Shed will be a welcome extension of the centre.”
Minister for Seniors and Veterans Gordon Ramsay said that Men’s Sheds were an important way for older Canberrans to learn new skills and build strong relationships, particularly into retirement.
“This new Men’s Shed will add to the already dynamic community facilities available here at the centre and I look forward to seeing some of the projects that are produced once construction is completed,” Minister Ramsay said.
“I’m proud to be part of a government that backs our entire community, no matter their age or social standing.”
Labor Member for Murrumbidgee Bec Cody said there is scope for the Men’s Shed movement to broaden its reach with the site at Hughes.
“The South Canberra Men’s Shed provides support and care to war veterans, and I know there is at least one woman who gets involved as they all share some of those same feelings of isolation,” Ms Cody said.
“Having the Men’s Shed here in Hughes so close to the COTA building is really important to provide men with a place to go and feel at home and welcome. We may have to look at changing the name of the organisation to something more inclusive someday.”
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