The Australian Men’s Shed Association provides safe environments for men to come together all across Australia.
In a loud workshop, Kevin Johnson proudly displays a wooden tugboat he has made for his grandson from off-cuts. With a coat of lacquer, he thinks it will look great.
Johnson earnestly discusses his six grandchildren while inspecting his creation. His words are intermittently drowned out by table saws, drills and hammers being used by the men around him.
Working as a gardener most of his life, Johnson, 68, had never worked with power tools and didn’t have the skills to build toys like the boat.
This was before he joined the Bentmoor Community Men’s Shed in Moorabbin, where a new set of opportunities was opened up to him.
“I’ve never used tools like that before, and now I’m starting to make things for my grandson. I made him a wheelbarrow and a little cart,” Johnson explained.
Between his hobby of canoeing and spending time with his grandchildren, Johnson spends his Thursday mornings down at The Shed, in the woodwork room or having a coffee with the other men.
The Men’s Shed has become Johnson’s “outlet”, which has allowed him to not only develop new skills, but also form new relationships.
“We’re a good lot of chaps. And that’s the whole thing; you meet a different lot of people. It’s good.”
Johnson has been with the Bentmoor Community Men’s Shed since its beginnings in 2012. Co-founder of The Shed and long-time friend of Johnson, Bert Dyt, says he can see a difference in Johnson after he started spending time at The Shed.
“It’s good for him. He’s a happy-go-lucky sort of bloke, but here he can meet new people, make new friends and learn new skills,” Dyt said.
“When he first came here, he’d never used a power saw before. He’s now bought one.”
The passion with which Dyt talks about The Shed shows how much he thinks the concept benefits people like Johnson and the other 30 men who are members.
Dyt explains how he believes The Shed is a place where older men can come together and “hang out”, incorporating a new sense of purpose into their lives.
“As older people, it is very difficult to make new contacts and that’s what The Shed’s all about.”
Along with Dyt, Jeff Needham, president of the Bentmoor Community Men’s Shed, also worked hard to bring the special idea of The Shed into reality.
After retiring from the IT business, Needham felt a void in his life, much the same as many retired men.
“One day I said, ‘I’ve had enough of this rubbish’, and I stopped working. I probably stopped too quickly. I was looking for something to do.”
This motivated Needham to set up The Shed, to cater for men like him. Men who are looking for something else in their lives, such as learning new skills, like woodwork and painting, or just standing around the barbecue having a chat.
The atmosphere within The Shed immediately conveys how much effort and enthusiasm Needham and Dyt put into developing this area for men.
Set up out the back of the Leighmoor Uniting Church property, the undercover courtyard, outfitted with tables and chairs, provides an inviting setting for the men. While he fires up the “barbie”, Johnson explains how this is a perfect area during the summer to stay cool and have some lunch with his new mates.
The openhearted feeling of The Shed continues inside, as Johnson gives a tour of the much-loved woodwork room. When looking at the high ceilings and large arch windows that flood the room with light, along with the wall-to-wall tools and materials, it is understandable why Johnson is fond of The Shed.
The friendly and inviting attitude is seen in every man there, as they work together to build things for the community and create a friendly place for men from all backgrounds.
“They made me really welcome. I look forward to my Thursday morning now, to come here and mess around and see what we do.” Johnson explains, laughing.
The Bentmoor Community Men’s Shed is one of more than 650 Men’s Sheds in Australia, which all work towards advancing the well-being of men by preventing social isolation.