Mayor Steve Allan visits Bellingen Men’s Shed as Men’s Shed Week celebrates 30 years of sheds

Bellingen Shire Mayor Steve Allan joined Michael Bleakley to discover the workings of the Bellingen Men’s Shed.

AS MEN’S Shed Week celebrates 30 years of sheds across the country, the spotlight shines on this well-known organisation, acknowledging its value to individual members and to the local community.

At the Bellingen Men’s Shed there’s been more than the usual activity in preparation for its big garage sale on Saturday, September 16.

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Last Monday was particularly busy in the shed with projects to be finished, mended or repurposed from the accumulated bits and pieces.

At the front bay several large timber storage boxes stood ready for a final sanding before being varnished.

Just inside, a couple of tall and sturdy bird-feeders on tripod legs awaited completion.

By mid-morning the fully equipped workshop was buzzing.

There was something happening at each workbench with drills, sanders and bandsaws all competing in a crazy cacophony.

It was the perfect time for Bellingen Shire Mayor Steve Allan to call in for his first visit to the shed.

Cr Allan was greeted by the local Men Shed’s President, Michael Bleakley, who answered questions, provided descriptions of the projects and explanations of the procedures as they walked around the various workstations.

The nearly completed bird-feeders caught the Mayor’s eye and he was quick to note the clever use of old picture frames reworked to cover the tops.

He had probably also noticed that, while the majority of the group were men, there were also a couple of women working on projects.

Michael explained that men’s sheds vary according to the membership, and at Bellingen Men’s Shed, by popular agreement, membership is open to both men and women who want to learn new skills or work on their own projects.

Michael also mentioned that all members need to have current Working with Children clearance, since the shed is located on the Bellingen High School campus and often works in cooperation with Bellingen High School students.

Like other Men’s Sheds, the Bellingen Shed is a not-for-profit organisation, and people of all ages are welcome.

There is a lot to take in on one short visit so, with the most interesting features covered, Michael and Cr Allan joined the team in the kitchen where the kettle had just boiled.

There’s nothing like sitting around the table with a cuppa to open up an informal chat about the work of Men’s Sheds and projects generally, and this conversation led naturally to a discussion of the work of the Council.

The size and geography of the Shire in itself presents huge challenges, yet, as several members mentioned, they see examples of the council at work every day.

Heads nodded in agreement with Cr Allan’s mention that the biggest problem facing the Shire is the need to improve employment opportunities.

This was particularly concerning to parents and grandparents among the group who worried that their children would need to leave the region to find work, so it was reassuring to hear from the Mayor that this is at the forefront in Council planning.

“Community well-being is our top priority,” he stated.

“Enhancing employment opportunities for young people remains a challenge and I understand concerns about youth seeking work elsewhere.

“The Council has been participating in an industry hub working group looking at alternative pathways for young people in the region, with Business NSW picking up the baton to continue this work to support young people so we can retain them in our workforce and not get lost to the larger cities.

“Council continues to advocate for employment, traineeships and apprenticeships through Business NSW and other government agencies.”

Cr Allan went on to talk about State and Federal support for the Great Koala National Park and Dorrigo Rainforest Centre, which are expected to position the Shire as a natural wonder and encourage visitors to the area.

“Eco-tourism prospects, complemented by our unique local retail, arts and food and beverage space, will be part of that transition and our Eco-Tourism Certificate application shows commitment to preserving our environment and will encourage visitors to the region to tread lightly nurturing our pristine environment.”

It’s not every day that the Mayor drops into the Men’s Shed, and even rarer to be ambushed over a cup of tea, but while he learned a lot about the Shed and its workings, members also appreciated his interest and his encouraging information.


Bird-feeders are in high demand and they vary in detail according to available offcuts.

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