Hiro Guerrero, left, Maria J Alezia, Alex Haynes, Victoria Lee, Gnanes Suthaharan, Neighbourhood Houses Victoria chief executive Keir Paterson, Maylei Hunt, and Shima Ibuki at the Neighbourhood Houses Victoria annual general meeting, accepting their award. ​

By Pam Kiriakidis

Mernda Repair Café, facilitated by Mernda Community House, is the recipient of the 2022 Neighbourhood Houses Victoria Climate Action award.

The team accepted the award at the Neighbourhood Houses Victoria annual general meeting, along with other category recipients that were recognised for their action, at The Mission to Seafarers Victoria in Docklands two weeks ago.

The program involves different people using their skills to repair items and host workshops dedicated to a range of areas such as furniture, clothing and mechanics.

Mernda Repair Café coordinator Maylei Hunt said the volunteers and repairers were pleased to be acknowledged for the new community program, which launched in April this year.

“We’re a new community program repair café in Whittlesea. We were the very first to have one in our Whittlesea area, so as a new program we were really stoked and pleased to be recognised,” she said.

Ms Hunt said the award matched the values of the monthly workshops, addressing climate issues on a local level by reminding community members to think more often about recycling.

“The focus is on sustainability and trying to divert as much as we can from landfill and learn about recycling. We’ve worked together with the [City of Whittlesea] council to really help with sharing information about recycling and where to get things recycled,” she said.

She said the workshops were set to improve people’s skills in recycling and reusing, rather than disposing of items in the rubbish.

It also focused highlighted the pitfalls of ‘fast fashion’ – a design, manufacturing, and marketing method focused on rapidly producing high volumes of clothing using low-quality materials.

“A lot of these repair skills have been lost over the years, and [it’s] generational because fast fashion happens, and people don’t make their own clothes, so I think there’s been a new resurgence – new interest in people learning, which is really great,” Ms Hunt said.

The program also received $500 for winning the award, which Ms Hunt said would be used to continue running the program early next year.

Mernda Community House coordinator Paras Christou said the repairers and volunteers were the motivators of the project, with their passion contributing to the initial goal of the café – to create positivity for the community.

“These are people from our municipality and from outside our municipality who came to us with their skills, a passion to help reduce things going into landfill,” Ms Christou said.

Counting the volunteers and repairs team, the workshop was also successful with a State Government circular economy community grant.

Ms Christou said Mernda’s repair café was now an example for other areas and organisations to look at and form their own workshops.

“We’ve had other groups come to us who are inspired by our program, and we have supported them through some information sharing to help them start their own repair café,” she said.

“The impact of the program has been bigger than what we intentionally thought it would be.”

The next Mernda Repair Café workshop is on December 10 at Mernda Community House, at 2 Heals Road, Mernda. People can book at bit.ly/3gVXyvT.

To register interest for next year’s workshops, people can contact Maylei on 0493 279 650 or email mhunt@whittleseacc.org.au.