Shed is a safe place

Michelle Slater

Toongabbie’s blokes now have a place to hang out, share skills and enjoy a yarn with the official opening of the town’s men’s shed on Tuesday.

The shed was built over four years with the help of several local council and state and federal government grants, and now has 34 community members.

Toongabbie and District Men’s Shed president Colin Gardner said the shed was the idea of the local Lions Club to provide an outlet for the town’s seniors to get together.

“We are here to help people. We ask for people to come along and have a chat and socially engage. They get to talk to one another,” Mr Gardner said.

The shed is fitted out with donated machinery and equipment for members to make projects and have a tinker.

Mr Gardner said men’s shed members had made a table and bench for the town’s village green as well as seating for the recreation reserve and a notice board for community events.

Local men’s shed member Maurice Gunnulson joined the shed three years ago to share his woodworking expertise.

He comes along three afternoons a week to interact with the community.

“It keeps me out of mischief. They needed someone to teach woodturning. If anyone turns up, I show them how to do it,” Mr Gunnelson said.

Victorian Men’s Shed Association president Lindsay Oates said the new facility would mean a lot to Toongabbie and provide much needed mental and physical engagement for community men.

He said the men’s shed programs had saved 12 Victorians from suicide in the past year by simply giving men a place to open up where their mates listen without judgement.

“There is a motto that what is said in the shed, stays in the shed. This is important because men can open up. Men gain confidence by participating and this creates community spirit,” Mr Oates said.

“Suicide and depression is high in older men in areas of drought, high unemployment, and where communities are dwindling … services are not always available and men don’t feel they fit in anywhere.”

Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing unveiled a plaque and donated a stack of her family’s woodwork magazines.

“We are so proud to support the men’s shed through grants and funding resources,” Ms Shing said.

“Not only do they provide a welcoming environment for people of all ages to come together and learn new skills, they literally save lives, and improve the quality of life for thousands of Victorians.”