Willo's Men's Shed

Talk and Tools mentoring program

Willo’s Men’s Shed is located in Willaston, near Gawler, South Australia. It offers programs that engage local residents and help the broader community, supporting a membership of men, women, Indigenous and disabled people. The shed also offers activities for youths, retirees and the unemployed, as well as those with mental health issues and intellectual disabilities. 

The shed wished to diversify their program offering and clientele, to ensure its longevity and future sustainability as a vibrant hub for the community and a benchmark model for other men’s sheds. 

Willo's Men's ShedSince obtaining funding from the LUCRF Super Community Program, the shed has employed a coordinator to assist with promotion and membership. The shed’s membership continues to grow and its programs have been expanded to encompass health and wellbeing, and art and craft activities. In particular, the Talk and Tools program, where volunteers mentor small groups of at-risk individuals who have basic woodworking skills, has become very popular.

Michael’s story

When Michael was retrenched from his job at age 59, he felt discarded and lost. Both his parents were in poor health, so he spent the next few years caring for them. When they passed away within a few months of each other, Michael was left alone, bereft and jobless. He became depressed and suicidal. 

Because he had been out of the workforce for so long, job agencies implied that he would be difficult to place due to his age and limited skills. This would be a blow to anyone’s feelings of self-worth. 

When Michael was offered the alternative option of looking for volunteer work, however, he approached the local Volunteer Resource Centre who put him in touch with Willo’s Men’s Shed.

Michael now spends two days a week at the Shed, both as a member and as a volunteer, assisting the other men and contributing as a valuable part of the team. He now also volunteers at a local school where he teaches gardening skills to the children. Michael has said that if it wasn’t for the acceptance and belonging he found at Willo’s Men’s Shed, he would not be here today.

Robert’s story

Robert is 15 years old and lives with his grandmother, Rosie. His mother is an alcoholic and is unable to care for him. He rarely attends school and has been in trouble with the law for breaking and entering and theft. 

Robert’s grandmother enlisted him in the Talk and Tools mentoring program at Willo’s Men’s Shed. A reluctant participant, Robert acted disinterested and disruptive during his first attendances at the Shed, and would not join in any of the activities. However, with gentle coaxing, the team were able to interest him in a project building go-karts. 

Robert now attends enthusiastically each week and his social behaviour has improved. Although he has a long way to go, Robert has found that he enjoys working with the older men and learning woodcraft. He has never missed a session of Talk and Tools.

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