A shed, some donated tools and a couple of odd jobs are keeping retired men in Donald, Vic, connected to their community.

Story By Paul Daffey

Inside the shed a couple of old blokes – retired farmers, welders and shire workers – sit around a potbelly heater and warm their hard-working hands. They’re not the sort to dwell on emotional stuff but on this day – the first anniversary of their shed – the retirees in Donald, Vic, are pretty content with themselves.
For the 40 members of the Donald Men’s Shed, the communal shed is a place to practise their professional skills and get some handy-man jobs done for the local community. But most importantly for these men – aged between 59 and 79 – the shed is a social hub. While fixing bits and pieces they talk of goings-on in town, family concerns, sore backs and recent heart check-ups. Having a place where they can regularly chat with each other rather than pottering at home by themselves has done the men of Donald the world of good.
Though they struggle to put their connection with one another into words, they all feel it. With a good bit of verbal shuffling the oldest man in the group, 79-year-old former farmer and motor mechanic Keith Smith, explains why he comes to the shed. “It’s occupational therapy, that’s what it is,” he says. “It’s companionship,” another bloke chips in.
All members have keys to the shed and can wander along for a chat or do a bit of work as they please. During weekdays there are usually about eight to 10 men at work and often one of them will bring a plate of baked goodies from home.
The bond between them was somewhat unsettled earlier in the year when young men and teenagers wandered into the shed, hoping to put their enthusiasm for repairs to good use. Members worried that the men’s sprightly outlook would effect the ambience of the place, but the young men soon lost interest in the venture and the shed was once again the domain of the community’s old blokes.

This story excerpt is from Issue #57

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2008