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Men’s Shed: The Power of Purpose

Updated: Jun 9

✦ How Tuncurry Men’s Shed has transformed the lives of men.

Words and photos by Mattea McKinnon 

A place to socialise, learn a new practical skill, give back to others and be part of a welcoming community. To feel safe voicing something that’s worrying you. To share jokes during morning coffees. It may sound simple, but for many Australian males, this is something deeply lacking in their lives. The global organisation Men’s Shed, provides a space to fill this void and more. Whether it’s making furniture, restoring old bicycles, making wooden bowls or fixing lawn mowers – it has become a powerful tool in many communities. 

Since its origins in 1978 in NSW, 1200 have now popped up around Australia, with a total of 2500 operating globally in 12 countries. 

Long term member Shaun, a former TAFE teacher, is the club’s Treasurer. He said; ‘I came here with depression. Now, to have a purpose and reason to get out of bed every day is rewarding for me and also for the other members.’

He continues; “Some men come here for their mental health, some people come here because they are lonely, some just want some purpose in life. The motto here is shoulder-to-shoulder. Women can often find it easier to talk face-to-face and men will talk shoulder-to-shoulder. I’ve had men burst into tears sometimes, they are just so lonely.’

‘When morning tea happens there is a lot of talk about issues. It just takes someone who’s not frightened to talk about it. You get stories with someone who’s developed some ailment and their symptoms and we’ll encourage them to get checked out.’

90-year old Bill is one of the founding members of Men’s Shed in Tuncurry and has been for over three decades. A former architect, Bill’s speciality is creating magnificent wooden dolls house, making children’s dreams come true. He describes Men’s Shed as his ‘saviour’ and that he can ‘come here, forget his worries and just concentrate on what I’m doing.’

He said; ‘It has been a blessing. During the financial crisis, my wife and I lost everything – we went from a lucrative financial position to a state pension and lost everything. I got arthritis, became diabetic and couldn’t walk for 6 weeks because of the stress. Once I got through it, things settled down. In the local paper, I saw they were setting up a Men’s Shed and I decided to give it a go.’

Bill’s sadly lost his wife this year after a long battle with dementia. Creating works of art and training up apprentices at Men’s Shed is now pivotal part of his weekly routine and aids his wellbeing. 

The beautiful faces of Men's Shed

First Row, left to right: Bob, Richard, Shaun

Second Row, left to right: Daryl, Warren, George

Third Row, left to right: Jeff, Spike, Tony

Richard, who has a background in transport, works on hand-made wooden pieces of furniture, for Bob’s doll’s houses. He says; ‘Bob has been teaching me, he’s really patient. Before this I was in part’s management for heavy earth moving equipment - nothing to do with woodwork at all. I love the companionship, the motivation to do something good for myself and others.’

Member George has background in carpentry and joinery and has been coming to Men’s Shed for over a decade. He says; ‘my passion has always been with wood and creating things. I’ve done so many projects in here – a BBQ table, jewellery boxes, all sorts. I select the wood and it’s all recycled timbres. My favourite thing about this place, aside from the people, is teaching others. I’m 83 in a few weeks and have 70-year-old apprentices. Nothing pleases me more than showing someone how to start something.  I really like helping out.”

Treasurer Shaun has a deep understanding of the meaning behind Men’s Shed and the power of purpose, friendship and kindness. ‘I know I have more birthdays behind me than in front of me. When you turn 60 or 65, you’ve got no value if you’re sat watching TV. You are still the same person but you’ve got no value. A lot of these people don’t understand what the Men’s Shed about, they just think it’s a fun place to be. I keep telling them, it’s not about the woodwork, it’s about the community. When you see of kids playing with the toys we’ve made – it makes you feel great.’

‘Society is now at a stage, that if you’re not wealthy and you don’t work hard, then you’re not good person. We’re driven to consume and get wealthy - that’s where we are getting our worth from. When you do that, you build a cage for yourself, because it can lead to distrusting people around you. The more you chase money and possessions and what governments what you to do, the small this cage can get smaller, and when you finish working, no one wants to know you.

We’ve evolved to be like this but we can’t live by ourselves, we die inside.’ 

He finishes with a wise statement; ‘if you see someone who looks a bit lost, be kind – pass it on’.

Contact Men's Shed


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