Men’s shed progress

State Member for Macedon Mary-Anne Thomas, front left, and federal Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell, front right, celebrate the construction of Romsey Men’s Shed with members last week.

By Colin MacGillivray

ROMSEY Men’s Shed members are looking for donations of tools and equipment after celebrating the long-awaited construction of a shed at Romsey Recreation Reserve.

For more than two years the group laboured to make the shed a reality, as disputes with Macedon Ranges Shire Council stalled progress.

In December 2019 a toilet block on the reserve next to Romsey Scout Hall was demolished, and in July this year construction of the shed began on the site.

Members marked the completion of the shed with a morning tea last week.

State Member for Macedon Mary-Anne Thomas and federal Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell attended the event. Mr Mitchell helped secure a grant of $20,000 and the State Government contributed $60,000 towards the shed’s construction.

Romsey Men’s Shed president Steve Goodman said both Ms Thomas and Mr Mitchell had been there ‘every step of the way’ as the group attempted to get the shed built.

“It’s been two-and-a-half years of bitter struggle at times,” Mr Goodman said.

“It was a pain in the bum while it was all happening – the toing and froing, and the arguments with the shire and all those sorts of things – but now that it’s up and it’s here, you sort of forget about all that.

“Somebody has got to put their hand up. Unless you do that and make it happen, this would still be a vacant block of land.”

Power is expected to be connected to the shed before Christmas and members are now searching for donations of tools and equipment ahead of a planned grand opening in February.

“The thing is now to get it filled and start putting things in – finding things like donations and equipment that might be suitable,” Mr Mitchell said.

“There are people who might be sitting at home and have dad’s old tools that they don’t use anymore. If it’s serviceable and useable for the community, then donate it – put your little piece into it.”

Ms Thomas said local businesses should also consider making donations.

“That would be a fantastic Christmas gift for these blokes who work so hard to get this shed to where it is today,” she said.

Mr Goodman said some items, such as a car hoist and some woodworking machinery, had already been donated.

He said the group was thrilled to finally have its own space, with membership more than doubling during the shed’s construction.

“Once people see things happening, bang, away you go,” he said.

“We’ve got a good number of members, somewhere in the mid-40s.

“It’s been very hard [having meetings without our own space]. We used to do it in the scout hall.

“We’d have our meetings there, but you couldn’t really do anything – you would just having a meeting and talk.”

The men’s shed movement aims to combat social isolation in men by providing a communal space where they can work together, bond, and discuss their issues.

The movement originated in Australia and has spread to several countries around the world.

Mr Goodman said the shed would make a difference to the lives of many people in the Romsey community.

“A big part of the meetings is communication. It gets you out of your house and you have social contact with someone else other than your wife or your family – and that’s a big thing,” he said.

Mr Mitchell is a co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Men’s Sheds group and said he had seen firsthand the positive effect the sheds could have on men’s mental and physical health.

“[Earlier this month] I went to a barbecue at Whittlesea Men’s Shed that was about making sure people get prostate checks,” he said.

“The important thing is having that conversation, and two days after that visit I got a phone call saying two guys had gone and got check-ups for the first time in about six years.

“I thought, beauty – a box of snags, a loaf of bread and a conversation was all it took to get two blokes on a better road for their own future.”

Mr Mitchell said breaking down social isolation was especially important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In normal times when you’re out doorknocking, you can meet blokes who haven’t spoken to another soul for four or five days,” he said.

“Over the course of the pandemic, isolation has been a big problem, so let’s address that.

“Wherever we look, men’s sheds are thriving. Every single one of them starts off with a handful of blokes, and it takes off from there.

“If you know someone who should be getting involved in the shed, then encourage them to get out and do it. Help them, because getting them out gives them an opportunity to connect with their peers and supports their mental and physical health.”

Ms Thomas said the Romsey group would welcome new members of any age or background with open arms.

“I encourage all men in Romsey to come down and have a look. They’re a very friendly group of men and I know the door will be open for people who are new to the town and people who are recently retired, but for younger men also,” she said.