John Ashcroft, Ron South, Richard Cairns, Bruce Packham, Jim Galloway, John Simpfendorfer, Ken You, Bryan Gawthrop, Paul Pickford. Photo: Christopher Tan.

This week is National Men’s Health Week and members of the Cootamundra Men’s Shed are raising the importance of camaraderie and friendship for men of all ages.

President John Ashcroft said about 15 to 16 years ago when he first visited the Shed to check it out, he was a bit skeptical.

Then he met members and learnt about the different projects they were accomplishing and has never looked back since.

“If the Men’s Shed does not exist, I don’t know what else I would be doing,” President Ashcroft said.

“I am not one to settle on my backside and the boys here is my main social output week-in-week-out.”

John recalled needing serious help one time when he was immobile having needed operation.

“I needed some help once and all I had to do was ring up a few of the blokes and then they were there,” he recalled.

“And that’s how it goes. Whenever someone needs help, there will always be at least six guys there to lend a hand.”

According to statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2019 there were 2,502 suicide deaths in males and 816 suicide deaths in females, a 75 per cent to 25 per cent difference.

In remote and very remote areas too, there are 113 males for every 100 females, compared with 97 male for every 100 females in major cities.

Death by suicide over time. Graphic: AIHW.

Cootamundra Men’s Shed member Jim Galloway joined in 2013 having just moved to town and the Shed is all about mateship to him. “When I came here I couldn’t drive a nail.

Bruce had taught me and didn’t do a real good job because I still can’t drive a nail,” Jim joked.

“I enjoy being here and helping the boys. I find it very satisfying not only for myself, but it’s a good thing for men to come down and have a cuppa. Every now and then someone brings in a chocolate cake.

“We can talk about different things. It’s not just about going out there and doing work because if we have problems such as health, we can talk amongst ourselves about it. The boys provide insights to what they know and help each other out.”

Mr Galloway added that he looks forward to each of his visits.

“My wife certainly looks forward to it. She calls it pre-school,” he laughed.

“She rings up John and says, ‘Have you got him?’”

With a total membership of around 34 at the moment, the Cootamundra Men’s Shed works on personal and community projects from time-to-time.

A lot of work is also done for the older members in the community and projects are predominately repair and restoration work of furnitures.

Jim said one of the highlights of his time at the Men’s Shed so far, is a Holy Water Font restoration he completed with the help of a few members.

The Holy Water Font. Photo: Supplied.

It was the first time he had ever accomplished that kind of work, to which he was very proud of. “The lady that brought it in, was very pleased with the result,” Mr Galloway said.

“I find it very rewarding seeing some of the things come in being broken such as chairs and see it repaired by the different fellows here. The delight on the customers face, is nice.”

President Ashcroft added that the idea of the Men’s Shed is to encourage blokes to call the place their home.

“That’s the benefit with an organisation such as the Men’s Shed. Members in here all look out for each of their peers and the community,” he highlighted.

“All are welcomed to sit around and have a cuppa and get involved in projects if they want to.

“It’s simply to take the life burdens off them and give them something to fill their time with alongside their good mates.”

Later tomorrow, the Cootamundra Men’s Shed located on the Corner of Wallendoon and Sutton Street will be having a social barbecue to welcome new members and reinforce National Men’s Health Week.

With the Shed closed for a short period of time last year due to Covid restrictions, members are excited for a number of social events this year starting with Christmas in July on July 21.

This will be an Open Day styled barbecue to entice more members to the Shed.

The Men’s Shed new home is also said to be well on track, with the major structure being completed and electrical work being fitted.

The new home will include a larger space and this will reinforce safety around machinery. It is expected an official opening will be held when the doors first open.

Cootamundra Men’s Shed membership is $20 a year, and $5 a week which covers morning tea and the use of equipment.

Christopher Tan