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Mens Shed A Short History






 A Short History of the Development of the Torquay Community Men’s Shed


Early in 2007, Digby Williamson approached the Spring Creek Community House (SCCH) Co-ordinator, Laura Connor and suggested that he believed that a Men’s Shed should be started in Torquay, as he perceived a real need for such an enterprise. As a result of this interest, he was ‘encouraged’ to jump in and see whether he could make it work.

The notion of a Men’s Shed had been tried in earlier years when Sid Pope from Barwon Health conducted a very successful Men’s Shed Personal Development workshop program that ran for 7 weeks. Unfortunately the impetus faded after that period as there was no follow-on occurring. Laura did suggest to Digby though, that it was worth the effort to try again and offered the storage shed at the rear of the Community House as a temporary meeting place. In an effort to develop public support, a short article and photograph was published in the ‘Echo’ of June 21, 2007.

While the shed was quite cramped, it was room enough for 6 to 8 men to meet on Wednesday mornings and the choice of day was great, as the Community House held a ‘Meet and Greet’ morning on Wednesdays and the men really took advantage of the cakes, hot tea and coffee.

Initially there were Digby Williamson, Geoff Prichard and Stephen Riley, followed by Steve Major, Vern Stott and Ray Busby. Later on, Don Duffield and Andy Berry also joined the party.

With the cramped space and no tools or equipment, it was difficult to maintain an interest level and indeed there were some disagreements and conflicts that needed to be resolved but we struggled on. Diversions were created by going on excursions – one was to visit the men (and woman) at the Geelong Community Men’s Shed (as it is now known), up in Norlane. Another time, a visit to the Anglesea Men’s Shed resulted in the two groups getting together and motoring down to the B24 Liberator bomber restoration project in Werribee, followed by a BBQ lunch at the Point Cook aircraft museum.

Towards the end of 2007, Laura suggested that, if we wanted to organise it, we could conduct a garage sale of the unwanted items in ‘our’ little shed. We attacked this idea with gusto and with a lot of generous donations from the Torquay/Jan Juc community (and some rubbish), we conducted our garage sale on the Saturday prior to the Melbourne Cup in that November. With the generous assistance from the Torquay Lions Club BBQ trailer sausage sizzle and sales on the day, we were able to generate just under $1,000.

Another event we involved ourselves in, was the “Ride2School’ day that was promoted by Bicycles Victoria and organised by the then SCCH activities program organiser, Katja Medoli, who spent a great deal of time ensuring that the day was a success. For this event, a marquee loaned to us by Bill Nairn from L.J. Hooker was set up (again in the backyard of the Community House). Parents and children were encouraged to bring their bicycles along and get a free safety check, prior to the event. We were very ably assisted by Lorenzo from Torquay Cycle Factory, who not only provided his expert knowledge and skills but also donated a BMX bike and helmet for competitions held inside the House.

Things moved quietly along with Digby attending the then fledgling Victorian Men’s Shed Association (VMSA) meetings to seek advice and to network with other established and emerging sheds. Locally, Digby and Laura addressed various clubs in the area to spread the word and to look for assistance, either in donating tools and equipment and/or locating a more spacious shed for us to operate from. Towards the end of 2007, Digby, with the help of SCCH volunteer manager, Deidre Slater and Stephen Riley put in a lot of time and effort to assemble and submit a grant application for financial assistance from the State Government to the tune of $50,000. Unfortunately this proved unsuccessful. In the meantime, the Community House needed some artist easels to assist in the conduct of art classes. After some discussion and design ideas we made up some ‘miniature’ easels to check the design. These proved very popular for displaying art and we made about 6 or 8 of them (for a price of course!).

With the generous assistance of the Mitre 10 hardware store in Torquay by providing the timber, we made up six full sized studio easels for the Community House, which are still in use today.

Mid-way through 2008, we invited the then mayor Dean Webster to visit us in our little tin shed, at which time he could see our plight. Shortly afterwards, he located a disused shed on a block of land, just outside of town, at 151 Grossmans Road. As the owner of the land, Alby Rothel was quite happy for us to use the shed rent-free, this was paradise for us! Not only did we have a shed to fill with useful (and not so useful) ‘stuff’ but we had a whole paddock to fill up as well! We moved in with our meagre possessions on October 29, 2008.


Over the next 3 years, we did a good job of filling that paddock and the shed and we had some good times (and not so good) doing it. We demolished what was left of the Spittle family shearing shed (behind the primary school) after the Danawa Garden group removed the roof trusses and walls. We transported the remainder of the timber to our paddock, where some of it still resides today!

From the shearing shed timber we produced two potting tables (proportioned to accommodate wheelchair access) and bench seats for the Danawa Community Garden. It was a great move actually – Danawa Garden was granted a small business grant from the Surf Coast Shire, which allowed us to buy a compound mitre saw to cut the wood and to buy the necessary fasteners to put everything together. So the money went around and came around – a win, win situation! They got their tables and bench seats and we got a mitre saw that is in constant use today, at no cost to either party!

We also undertook to clean and refurbish a wool classers table for a client and to cut the legs down to make a (rather large) occasional table.

A single bed base was converted to a platform so the model in life drawing classes could repose.

We recycled some other timber to construct a bench seat, a children’s picnic table and six ‘toadstools’ to sit on for the Surf Coast Shire Council (SCSC) Bob Pettit sensory garden project. As a group, we also helped out on a couple of occasions to plant tree seedlings for the same project.

Other projects have been a lockable display cabinet for the Bellbrae Community Hall, plus another two lockable display cabinets for the Torquay Community Enterprise to mount on the ANZ bank wall and in the local IGA supermarket, for community use.

At a more personal level Barry Chatfield, took some time to re-cover a small billiard table donated to the Shed by John Belovitch. The ‘real’ felt was too expensive for us, so we compromised (as you do) and used craft felt from Spotlight at a fraction of the cost. Another ‘internal’ project was the making of Tony’s Inferno which kept us snug and warm in those colder winter months.

Another long project commissioned by the Torquay Lions Club was the rebuilding of the three dimensional sign at Fishermans Beach showing the location of the Sundial. Outgoings were generously paid for by the Torquay Lions Club.

Our latest community project was the construction of two different height sand trays to allow handicapped children to ‘play in the sand’. This is now in the new White’s Beach playground.

Over time we have made possum relocation boxes for Wildlife Victoria and bird nesting boxes for rosellas and lorikeets which we sell to both cover costs and to help pay for the electricity bills etc.

Other items we make are children’s chairs, a folding table, gumboot racks (and remover) and just recently, Christmas trees that are easily dismantled for storage and some three dimension reindeers. Also for a recent community precinct open day, we made two different standing kangaroos, a whale and a penguin, all of which were greatly admired.

We have also manned a crew to help out the Neighbourhood Watch men when they conducted a ‘safe plate’ day, where the number plate securing screws are replaced with ones of a special one-way design.

We have also been involved in the local High Tide Festival since 2008 and our billy cart in 2010, while not successful on the day, created a great deal of interest in the local Men’s Shed.

Early in our occupation of the Grossman’s Road shed, we realised that we needed to embrace OH&S procedures and practices, in order to provide the due care we needed to provide for our participants. We therefore organised an OH&S committee to advise and assist in the implementation of safe working procedures. As a component of that concern, we were very generously donated a large quantity of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) from CIG in Melbourne, due to the efforts of Paul Wise (deceased). We are still working on the development of competency training for the various pieces of equipment we now have in our Machine Room.

Five members have successfully completed First Aid training courses; Digby Williamson, Ray Busby, Lidio Ricci, Charlie Spiteri and Tony Marsh. Digby and Ray completed a Safe Food Handling course while Tim Robinson and Ray Busby also attended Worksafe Victoria seminars in Geelong. While we are still far from perfect we are on the right track and progressing well I believe, in keeping our people safe.

While we have been very fortunate in having a lot of equipment donated by the public in the time we have been operating, we have also purchased quite a large number of items, due in part to a grant from the Torquay Lions Club (Table Saw and Bandsaw) and from funds earned at conducting sausage sizzles at Bunnings in Waurn Ponds or from the sale of our hand-made items, such as artists easels folding tables etc. We have also received funds from the Federal Government Volunteers Grant that allowed us to purchase some other much needed equipment such as a dust extractor, Test and Tag equipment and fire extinguishers.

As we settled more into 18 Price Street, we deliberated quite a lot about the pros and cons of becoming incorporated. This was finally agreed upon and Tim Robinson submitted the necessary paperwork to Consumer Affairs Victoria, on December 21, 2011. We have subsequently been granted our Incorporation and have been allocated an ABN, TFN and DGR status by the ATO. This will allow us to promote the Men’s Shed more diligently and generate funding to help us in our on-going work.

Resulting from the agreement to proceed with the incorporation process, a committee was formed, that had the following people elected to all positions unopposed:

Vern Stott – President

Lidio Ricci – Secretary

Tim Robinson – Treasurer

Ray Busby – Shed Manager

Peter Morgan – Committee Member

Nick Georgiou – Committee Member

John Belovitch – Committee Member


From the outset, the TCMS would not have survived had it not been for the Spring Creek Community House Committee taking it ‘under its wing’ and auspiced it as an initiative of the Community House. This covered such things as insurance, superannuation and a number of other funding issues that were needed in order for the Shed to function.

Initially Digby Williamson adopted the role of Co-ordinator and continued for two years until he felt that the position needed some ‘new blood’. During this time, a Working Group of three people (Tim Robinson, Vern Stott and Ray Busby) was also set up and, together with Digby and Laura Connor, the necessary procedures, grant submissions and general day to day running of the Shed was undertaken by this group. As the additional work load grew, it became obvious that a co-ordinator was needed. After advertising for a Co-ordinator and the subsequent interviewing process, Helen Watt was appointed to the position of Men’s Shed Co-ordinator in July 2009.

Funding for Digby’s time was initially provided by the Spring Creek Community House Committee and a joint venture between GMHBA and the Torquay Community Enterprise (TCE). This latter development began towards the end of Digby’s time and continued until March 2011. When the funding from these two organisations was discontinued, TCMS and The Community House Committee then agreed to fund Helen’s wages but to double the hours worked for a further 3 months. This venture consumed the greater amount of funds developed from the second BBQ at Bunnings Waurn Ponds (December 28, 2010). As we could no longer continue to be a joint contributor and no further funding could be found, we were unable to renew Helen’s contract from early August 2011. From that point until incorporation, the organisation and management of the TCMS has fallen back on the shoulders of the Working Group members and Laura Connor.

Until the recent incorporation, TCMS has been an initiative of the Spring Creek Community House and as such, we have not had to be concerned about the bookkeeping process nor insurance headaches that are about to beset us, in the future.

Shed Funding:

In late 2007, the Shed received a $2,000 donation from the Torquay Lions Club to go towards a building fund, which lay quietly in the bank until quite recently.

Largely due to the lobbying of Councillor Rose Hodge with MP Darren Cheeseman, Kevin Rudd’s political agenda during the 2007 campaign included a large sum of money to be allocated to the Spring Creek Community House and the Senior Citizens Club to refurbish both buildings. As this work was overseen by the Surfcoast Shire, the Men’s Shed was promised that, any funds remaining would go towards the building of our new shed behind the old Police Station at 18 Price Street. This location is now known as “T.O.P.S.”

Also mentioned, we were unsuccessful in the first of four rounds of grants provided by the (then) Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) State Labour Government. We were also unsuccessful in the second round and by the third time, disillusionment with the whole process meant that we didn’t apply. Amanda Miggins from the DPCD strongly encouraged us to apply for the fourth and final round, which we did. The submission was completed and submitted on July 7, 2010, after a great deal of work by TCMS Co-ordinator, Helen Watt.

This time we were very fortunate to have been successful and the local State member Michael Crutchfield came to Grossman’s Road on September 20, 2010 to announce our success, which was duly written up in the local press.

18 Price Street:

A great deal of water has flowed under the bridge between the successful granting of funds, to the current stage in our development.

Following the clearing of the land and a scrape, the slab was poured on February 2, 2011 and the erection of the shed started on March 6, 2011, with ‘lock-up’ status achieved by March 24, 2011.

At this time, Men’s Shed volunteers, painted the floor with two coats of paving paint and, by June 10, 2011 the second personal access door and two windows had been installed. Using local tradesmen, two partition walls were installed with insulation and lining applied to all walls and ceiling, by July 8, 2011. The meeting room walls and ceiling were plastered with insulation, all by July 13, 2011 and the electrician completed his work by late July.

Since then, the walls and ceilings in all areas have been undercoated (two coats) and top coated (also two coats) by Shed volunteers, kitchen benches recycled from the old SCCH kitchen were installed and vinyl and carpet squares also installed (October 19, 2011). Other additions have been two air conditioning units mounted on the roof, security shutters on the windows, purchase and installation of a hot water service, a dishwasher and microwave oven in the meeting room area, with a mitre saw bench with cupboards under and an internal timber rack, the latter two being both designed and built by Shed members.

In November 2011 we had 16 solar panels (3 kW) mounted on the Shed roof to generate electricity, which we are hoping will both reduce our carbon footprint and help reduce our running costs. After something of a hiatus, the panels were connected to the grid by Powercor on February 23, 2012 and power is now being pumped into the grid.

I’ve jumped all over the place chronologically, but we started to move into our new Shed during August 2011 but we didn’t get the majority of the machinery from 151 Grossmans Road into our new Shed until September 20, 2011. We were very ably assisted in this process by volunteers from the (then) Crown Plaza which certainly saved our old backs a lot of pain in the process.

We are still settling in to our new permanent home, as we have to yet purchase safety signs for the two workshop areas, make up several shadow boards to hang hand tools on and various other smaller but necessary tasks to make our shed not only a great place to be but also a safe one to work in.


Our monthly ‘open’ BBQ days are becoming legendary and we have hosted visits from Lorne, Anglesea, Geelong East, Winchelsea  and North Geelong Sheds on different occasions.

On September 7, 2011, the Torquay Community Men’s Shed hosted the quarterly meeting of Shed members in the Barwon Men’s Shed Sub-Cluster Group, comprising of 11 Men’s Sheds in the local area.

This same group of Men’s Sheds combined on Sunday, April 3, 2011 to participate in the Blokes Day Out (BDO) event at Johnstone Park, Geelong.

As a component part of the build-up to the BDO, Tim Robinson, Helen Watt and Ray Busby participated in a radio program, ‘Roads to Recovery’ on Pulse FM on March 20, 2011, which also provided the opportunity to ‘sell’ our Shed.

The Medical team at Deacon University have also been to our Shed, when they interviewed some of the men, on March 11, 2011. This was recorded and subsequently published as a training video for medical trainees, to help them understand that drugs are not the only way to fight older men’s depression!

Currently (February 2012), we have 45 men’s names registered but not all are financial members at this time. To meet our insurance requirements we need to impose an annual membership fee of $40 per person. This is in addition to the $2.00 per person attending each week, to pay for tea, coffee, biscuits and cake (yes, we do live high on the hog!).

The Future:

Who knows what the future holds but I do know that the Men’s Shed idea and what it stands for, deserves to continue and go from strength to strength.

Locally we still have much to do, that includes:

  • The further development and formal adoption of a maintenance program.
  • Purchase and installation of a verandah along the Eastern side of the Shed.
  • The purchase and installation of an identification sign at the end of the Shed. (This has been ordered and will be installed on Tuesday February 28, 2012)
  • Maintenance and further development of a small garden.
  • Development of competency based training programs for the Shed equipment.
  • A greater emphasis on the use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).
  • The completion and issuing of induction kits to all members.
  • The organisation and development of our existing library.
  • The compilation and erection of small tool shadow boards
  • Cleaning up and disposing of unwanted material and equipment at Grossman’s Road.
  • Other items as yet unforeseen.

Some of those items are in progress but it is still of value to include them at this time.

Ray Busby

Shed Manager

February 22, 2012