As we approach the end of another year, I will speak about a group that plays an integral role in the lives of many. The Australian Men's Shed Association was established in 2007. The driving force behind the group was to provide men and women with a space to hang out, chat and enjoy getting their hands dirty. Whether it was gardening or woodworking, the idea was to connect and learn as a group as well as have the space to stand shoulder to shoulder and talk.
In the Blue Mountains there are three men's sheds: Katoomba, Central Mountains and Lower Mountains. I am lucky enough to be the patron of the Central Mountains Men's Shed and was recently invited to attend its annual Christmas party. In the lead-up to Christmas, it was a timely reminder of how important it is to establish and nurture valuable connections with those around you, and how those connections can lead to a community. We live in a world that puts immense pressure on individuals to conform to certain expectations. In a refreshing counter narrative, the men's shed recognises that everyone has something unique to offer regardless of age, skill or gender.
One of the core principles of the men's shed is the promotion of mental wellbeing. Sometimes men can find themselves grappling with isolation, depression and a lack of purpose as they navigate life's challenges. The importance of intergenerational connections cannot be overstated. Men's sheds provide a platform for older men to pass on their skills, wisdom and life experiences to a younger generation. In turn, younger members bring fresh perspectives, energy and a willingness to learn skills that are increasingly being forgotten. This interplay of knowledge creates a dynamic environment where everyone benefits and contributes to the collective growth of the community.
Recently the story of the Central Mountains Men Shed's was shared with me. I thought it encapsulated the heart and soul of this association and wish to share it in this place. The shed began as a small group of men meeting for coffee once a month. Slowly, as the group grew and its members found themselves moving tables together to all fit into a cafe, they thought there might be an opportunity to do something bigger. Thus the Central Mountain's Men Shed was formed.
Like many other men's sheds, the group was originally made up of retired men looking to fill some time and make connections. However, this gradually changed as younger members joined to see what was on offer. In a wonderful interview for theMid Mountains Local News, one of the younger members, Graham Menzies, said, "This is a goldmine. There is a lot of skill in here that I can learn." Another young member, Heri Lim, is training to work in the community services. One day he mentioned that he wanted to learn to drive a manual car in case of an emergency. One of the older members offered to give him driving lessons, an offer he took up eagerly. We know that mentor relationships can have a wonderful impact on one's wellbeing, and these kinds of relationships are fostered within the men's shed.
I also mention that the shed is not exclusively for men, either. On Wednesdays women come along to the shed to build and work on the tools, whether to complete house maintenance or work on a building project. The tools are there for everyone to use. That is a real help for people who do not own or have access to the kinds of tools and machinery stored in the sheds. It was an absolute pleasure to attend the Central Mountains Men's Shed Christmas lunch. I thank John Crichton, Laurie Gilman and their partners for extending an invitation to me. As I walked into the room, it had a great energy and lots of banter. The raffle brought lots of laughs, and my offer to provide a fancy‑pants lunch here in Parliament was a smash hit.
As we applaud the Australian Men's Shed Association for its invaluable work, let us also reflect on the broader implications of its efforts. The impact of this movement goes beyond the shed walls, influencing societal perceptions of masculinity and mental health. It encourages a shift towards a more compassionate, understanding and supportive society. The men's sheds are a testament to the transformative power of community and shared purpose. By providing a space for people to connect, create and contribute, the association builds bridges and inspires positive change in the lives of countless individuals. I thank those good men involved in our Blue Mountains men's shed. You are more valued than you realise.