By Claire Ottaviano
BUSHFIRE recovery comes in many shapes and sizes, and for men in Gidgegannup it comes in the form of a Men’s Shed.
Not long after the February 1 bushfire swept across the communities of Wooroloo and Gidgegannup, the community came together to brainstorm a range of options that would help towards social recovery efforts.
Resident Bob Bristow said as well as sundowners and regular information sessions, a men’s group rated highly on the community’s recovery wish-list.
“All the ideas were put up on butcher’s paper and we all got six red dots each and the idea of forming a men’s group of some sort got a lot of dots,” he said.
“Interestingly, I was the only male in that group (of dots) and it wasn’t all my six dots up there.”
Without realising it at the time, Mr Bristow would find himself the chairman of the new Gidgegannup Men’s Shed.
After a formal meeting of about 20 people in June, the vision had well and truly become real.
“There’s a few reasons why for a ‘men’s shed’, one, the purpose of Men’s Sheds is to give men a place to meet together socially, to do stuff men like doing, it’s very much aimed at men’s mental health,” Mr Bristow said.
“And two, there’s already a structure in place to support it, there’s the Australian Men’s Shed Association to help us get going with insurance and things built through years of experience.”
The group has already gathered interest from several men who lost homes or property in the fire.
“This is very much a part of the community recovery,” Mr Bristow said.
“I worked in social welfare for years and I think it’s very important because they’re still feeling isolated from the rest of the world because no one else understands.
“I have some friends who lost their house and they’re only now starting to speak about it.
“The other thing is, down the track everyone is going to look fine but they might not be, there will be milestones and it will bring it all up again.”
The big task ahead of them is now securing a temporary building while the newly incorporated body seeks out a permanent location, building and funding.
“Ideally we need some person who has a big shed on their property that they don’t use anymore, looking for someone to come keep it warm so we can take over that while we get something purpose built,” he said.
While the shed will ultimately be a place where men can come and build things through woodwork and metalwork, there will be many options to learn new skills such as cooking, painting and sewing with scope for women’s inclusion also.