Speech - Men's Shed Association Forum

March 27, 2018

My thanks to the Men’s Shed Association for inviting me today to speak at this forum on the role of Men’s Sheds in Canberra.

I apologise that I can only be here for short time this morning: I have just come from representing the Chief Minister at the launch of the Cartier Exhibition at the National gallery.  

And at 11 o’clock I’m attending the special Aged Care ANZAC Commemorative Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial which is held a little ahead of ANZAC Day to give aged veterans, war widows and widowers, who can’t otherwise attend ANZAC Day services an opportunity to commemorate the day.

I’ll be laying a wreath on behalf the ACT Government and giving the commemorative address.

I do commend the Men’s Sheds for proposing to come together in this way to build common understanding and find new opportunities for collaboration. A great strength of the Sheds is the grassroots way in which they emerge in the places where there is a need. In my long experience in the community sector, I’ve observed this as a key element to success and sustainability.     

 I want to thank you all for the work that Men’s Sheds do here in the ACT. You offer men in the Canberra community a place where they can establish friendships and networks of support and where they can be creative, learn new things, and share experiences. 

Many years ago now, I was very fortunate to be in a position to help make some of the connections between the men’s shed movement, and Melba Uniting Church, which led to the formation Melba shed, one of Canberra’s earliest.  It has been a great pleasure to be involved there on many occasions over the years.   Can I note with a sense of sadness that one of the long standing members of the Melba shed, Arend Bleyerveen died last week, aged 90, and his funeral is tomorrow.

Also, I want to pass on my thanks to the men’s sheds that have supported, over many years, the Christmas Appeal I have previously been heavily involved with - seeking to ensure that vulnerable children do not go without support and joy at Christmas.

And for the shed who gathers at 32 Dallachy St Page, I might note that you are in the house that was originally meant to be my house when I first moved to Canberra.  I have no doubt that Ric Small and the rest of the team involved have turned it into something much more than would have been the case if I had lived there!

Now, I think we as a society have a tendency to under-estimate the  importance of creating spaces for men to foster friendships, experience  meaningful social connection, and to find ways of expressing their identity in healthy ways.

This fundamental human need to find creative expression is something I talk about a lot in my capacity as Minister for Arts and Community Events too. I believe that all people have the innate ability and need to express themselves creatively because in that process we learn more about ourselves and we connect with those around us to build community and identity.      

Men’s Sheds are particularly well-known for providing access to wood-working and metal-working tools. It’s been said before that men talk shoulder to shoulder more than face to face - working alongside each other, doing something together.  But as someone who is not super-handy in this area, can I say how much I admire people who develop these skills and create useful and beautiful things.     

One example of how the ACT Government was able to help out in this space was through a grant to the Belconnen Community Men’s Shed to purchase a specialised scroll saw for the more intricate wood work. 

It was good to see last year the establishment of the Southside Veterans Shed which also received a government grant to purchase IT equipment. 

I’d like to acknowledge the South Canberra Veterans Shed for the particular way it contributes to helping veterans of all ages reconnect with civilian life and remain actively engaged in their community. Through the non-judgmental, welcoming environment of the Shed, veterans can connect with others who have served and had similar experiences. We know camaraderie and shared understanding flourish in these circumstances. 

The ACT Government is happy to have been a supporter of Men’s Sheds over the years and I would encourage you all to be aware of the many avenues for grant funding that are available to groups such as yours – including the Veterans and Seniors grants, other Community Participation grants, and the Community Support and Infrastructure Grants program. 

I believe we are a strong community when everyone is valued, everyone belongs and everyone has the opportunity to participate. The work you do helps achieve this. 

The way that Men’s Sheds help people to connect is a fantastic model. It’s less about giving someone a hand to pull them up, and more about standing shoulder to shoulder and helping people along, side by side. 

Once again,  thank you to the Men’s Shed Association for inviting me here today. I look forward to hearing the outcomes of the forum discussion and continuing to work with Men’s Sheds to support their valuable work.