After retiring from his position as manager in a south east suburban home appliance store, Lindsay Harding found himself wondering how to “fill 40-50 hours of (his) week”.
He found an answer in the nearby branch of the Men’s Shed community organisation that focuses on the health and wellbeing by reducing social isolation.
Now acting vice president of the Akoonah Park branch, Harding said, “We try to encourage guys to get out of their arm chair and get away from the TV.”
Harding is part of an association that began in South Gippsland in 2007 and now spans 1000 sheds in Australia, with more in Ireland and New Zealand.
Like Harding, Maurice Hall, ex-Port Phillip Council manager, found himself with time on his hands, and decided that the Men’s Shed was a natural course of action after seeing an ad in the local paper.
Now the acting shed manager, Hall credits the Akoonah Park branch with “giv[ing] the blokes a sense of empowerment and responsibility.”
The Akoonah Park branch is home to 155 members, from Berwick and the surrounding Cardinia and southern-east suburbs, ranging in age from early 30s to mid-90s.
Most of its members have retired.
“Typically, men are prone not to really open up and talk, but when you get them in an environment like (the Men’s Shed), they tend to speak a bit differently,” Harding said.
Harding also organises talks for members on issues related to health and wellbeing. Guest speakers have included representatives from Centrelink and the St John of God Hospital Oncology department.
The Akoonah Park Shed also focuses on ensuring the retirees continue to engage with the community, with a “responsibility to [their] members and people in the community”, Harding said.
Acting shed manager, Maurice Hall, spoke of an occasion in which the Men’s Shed did a job for a woman who was committed to improving conditions in a village in India.
“She devotes her life to helping a village in India, and neglects her own property, so the boys went and built her fences and gates there,” Hall said. “So there is community involvement as well.”
The self-funded organisation has also held an in-shed can drive for a Pakenham food bank, built a hen house for a nursing home and completed a project with Afghanistan veterans.
However these are only few of the accomplishments.
The Akoonah Park branch plans to expand the shed to accommodate up to 100 members at the same time.