There’s nothing new about men gathering together in their own space to talk, share skills, swap ideas, solve problems or just discuss life in general – it’s been happening since the beginning of time. There’s nothing new either about men spending time in their backyard shed – an acknowledged Aussie pastime.
What is new is that men, particularly retired men, are combining these two activities in a communal space simply called a “Men’s Shed”. What is also new is how strongly men have embraced this new identity – being a member of a Men’s Shed. Men’s Sheds, as such, are a peculiarly Australian phenomenon. In the past decade a wide range of community-based Men’s Sheds has sprung up – each with its own unique identity and purpose.
Activities within sheds are many and various: woodwork, metal work, restoration of old cars, community projects, portable’ sheds taken to Alzheimer facilities or mobile sheds for remote country areas. The membership is diverse too. Men of all ages from all backgrounds, ethnic and social mixes can enjoy a Men’s Shed, bringing their unique cultural characteristics to enliven the activities.
The common theme in all Sheds is about men feeling useful and contributing again to their communities, learning or sharing their skills, making friends, networking and availing themselves of health information programmes and opportunities. Men’s Sheds are under the auspices of a variety of organisations whose ethos they tend to exemplify.
Communities are keen to provide activity, identity and meaning for vast numbers of older, unemployed, job-redundant, ‘downsized’, isolated, depressed and happily retired, active, creative, enthusiastic men. Men’s Sheds are fast being recognized as vital, viable places to fulfill these needs and provide relaxed, happy creative spaces for men to enjoy.