7 August 2023

New spaces bringing old friends (and the community) together

| Claire Sams
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Work has been completed on new facilities for the Bermagui Men’s Shed, with the group making good use of them already. Photo: Bermagui Men’s Shed/Facebook.

South Coast residents and community groups have a new space to use, following upgrades to local facilities.

Bermagui Men’s Shed secretary Bill Johnston said planning for the new space began with members wanting to have a chat with each other.

“We found that some of the guys liked to sit around and have a chat, but the workshop was too noisy,” Mr Johnston said.

“So, we decided to apply for funding to build a meeting room that would be isolated from the sound coming from the workshop.”

The group received a $161,745 grant from Crown Lands in the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment, which was put towards the project.

“The grant enabled us to build the meeting room to start with,” Mr Johnston said.

“Without the grant, we probably would have had a tin shed on a concrete slab, instead of a magnificent meeting room with carpet and tiles, air conditioning and a kitchen.”

A new air-conditioned building with an adjoining veranda on local Crown land was the result.

The building also features a decked-out kitchen with a dishwasher, wall ovens, a five-burner induction hotplate and a refrigerator.

But even though the Men’s Shed received the grant, Mr Johnston said the project had not been all smooth sailing.

“We had all sorts of problems with labour shortages because of the bushfire rebuilds, COVID restrictions and then everything went haywire with the suppliers and we had some delays,” he said.

“We steamed ahead and finished mid-year last year, with painting it, installing the kitchen, and we’ve started using it on a daily basis.”

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Since the construction of the new building, several community groups have used the space for meetings, including Probus Bermagui, Marine Rescue Bermagui and the University of the Third Age.

“We’re making it a community shed and allowing other not-for-profit organisations to use it for meetings,” Mr Johnston said.

“It’s got facilities to seat about 50 people and we’ve got good audiovisual stuff there.”

But that was not all it had been used for, Mr Johnston said.

“All sorts of functions have been held there since it came into use,” he said.

“I think we’ve had three or four Christmas in July parties, and we had an 80th birthday there the other day.”

A separate grant was used to upgrade the car park and access road in 2022.

“We’ve got a fully paved car park and a new shed meeting room,” Mr Johnston said.

“It’s all been a great success.”

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Mr Johnston said the benefits of a Men’s Shed went beyond a man spending a few hours away from his home.

“A Men’s Shed gives the guys somewhere to go,” he said.

“Women tend to talk a lot more than men do about their problems, while men bottle it up.

“This gets some of it out and, I think, improves members’ health.”

Mr Johnston said the Men’s Shed was always looking for new members.

“We don’t care how old the members are, but we’d like some new members to come along and join and help out with the various chores that we do around the place,” he said.

“We’re also currently revamping our workshop, looking at how we can improve the use of it.”

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