Move over men ... women in Bendigo now have their own shed!
BY LERISSE SMITH
A pioneering Women’s Shed program is breaking new ground at Bendigo Corps’ Community Services, causing much excitement amongst the local community.
“If you’re a lady and you want to learn to swing a hammer, you are welcome to come along,” said Belinda Smith, Community Services Manager.
“It really is come, taste it, try it, give it a go. And if you make it, you take it!”
The program’s opening a few weeks ago – aimed at local women to enjoy the art of woodworking in a workshop group setting, plus be a focal point for social connection – has fulfilled a long-term vision for the community hub.
Belinda said the local community had asked her to establish a women’s workshop group for quite some time, but funding or the capacity to cater for such a group had not been available.
However, thanks to funding from The Salvation Army, the ‘Women’s Shed’ program has now come to fruition, with women meeting every Thursday morning to be part of the workshop group and learn woodworking skills. It’s based at the Services’ Community Shed premises, fondly known as ‘The Shed’, that offers an array of programs to the local community plus a large, fully equipped woodwork studio complete with machinery and tools.
“We are thankful to the Salvos for allowing us to take this opportunity,” Belinda said.
“Without the Salvos providing and opening up the money to provide the women’s workshop group through Red Shield Appeal funding, we would not be able to run it. It’s early days, and we hope to be in a position to build upon it and respond to the demand as it grows.”
Walk into the shed every Thursday morning and you’ll find an array of amazing and creative woodwork pieces crafted by the women, from bird and planter boxes to chopping boards for the kitchen that have proven to be a hit among the attendees. Creating lots of ‘bibs and bobs’ is part of the fun, too.
One local community member who has loved her time being part of the Women’s Shed is local community member Jenna Langlan.
“I still have all my fingers!” Jenna said with a laugh. “I love it at the shed; it’s awesome.”
Attending the program has also allowed Jenna the space to speak with her Speech Pathologist, as it was a “good and safe place” to talk about personal matters. Women can work at their own pace in the shed and need not have previous woodworking experience. There are no set time limits or an agenda.
Belinda said some of the ladies she had spoken to wanted to learn how to use a tool, and the Women’s Shed enabled them to learn new skills.
“They have got to the point where they are sick of relying on others to do something simple around the place,” Belinda said.
“So, it’s that feeling of achievement that they have done something and created something.”
Community Shed Supervisor Rick Price oversees the Women’s Shed and assists the ladies in showing them how to use the tools and equipment.
One key element central to the success of the Community Shed’s service to locals, including the women’s workshop program, is fellowship among its attendees. Formally known as the ‘Men’s Shed’, the shed services several groups, including NDIS clients three sessions a week, with one day a week dedicated to men at risk of social isolation through the running of men’s workshop groups. They have run successfully for many years, with members often staying for hours beyond the shed’s allocated times to enjoy lunch together, chat about their woodwork creations, and fellowship among each other.
“I think the fellowship stuff is really important,” Belinda said. “I know it is for the men who turn up every week. They look forward to that. I go into the shed on a Wednesday when they’re all there, and they are all chit-chatting and having their coffee break. They bounce ideas off each other. They’re helping each other out. It’s just a real nice little community.”
Fellowship is a key element for the Women’s Shed program, especially for some ladies involved with the TDR group (Drug and Alcohol rehab group) who are now starting to get involved with the workshop group to learn new skills.
“They get so much out of it,” Belinda said.
“The shed has met a critical need in the community. We have seen this with the men and also from the TDR group who are on a journey. The feedback we’re getting from their counsellors is the workshop stuff is just such a release for them. They work on the serious stuff … then they come into the workshop for two or three hours in the afternoon, get their hands in there, make stuff, cut wood, hammer away, and are chit-chatting and so are giving to each other. They are an amazing group, and while the change-over (for the workshop group) is every eight weeks, some want to keep coming back and do the woodwork.”
Plans are in place to run the Women’s Shed program at night once a week to cater to women who work during the day.
Federal MP for Bendigo Lisa Chesters has given funding towards wood and other items for the Community Shed, while the Red Shield Appeal has funded a local volunteer to cover her attendance at the women’s group. A small fee of $8 for each male/female participant goes towards equipment and costs.
For more details on the Women’s Shed program, phone the Community Services office on (03) 54408410 or email email@example.com