The Beginning of the Port Phillip Men’s Shed
A group of blokes were chatting after hearing of an organization called “Men’s
Shed”. The chatting gathered momentum with the feeling this could be a
positive for them and after seeking and considering relevant information they
decided to establish one in their own district, namely the City of Port Phillip.
One of these men Peter Simmons, with strong support from another, Mark
Stephens started the ball rolling with a little local advertising and signage
resulting with approximately sixty people arriving for the first advertised
meeting. This proved to be very positive and a steering group of sixteen was
established with the endeavour to form a “Shed” in Port Phillip.
Some members of that original steering group are still active in the Shed
today; these include Rod Hall, Peter Harkin, Steve Ingrouille, Don Laird, and
Bob Small, with Mark Stephens having to retire from the committee during this
past year. Mark deserves special mention for his early work in guiding the
establishment of the shed as well as establishing our bank accounts and all
the other documentation needed to get any new group up and running.
The Australian Men’s Shed Association was formed in 2007 and currently has
more than nine hundred active Sheds operating across Australia.
For any reader not familiar with Port Phillip the district may be described
briefly as an area bounded by parts of South Melbourne, Port Melbourne,
Albert and Middle Parks, Balaclava, East St Kilda, Ripponlea, Windsor and
Garden City. The population was a little over 100,000 by official records 2012.
Port Phillip Men’s Shed was officially formed and incorporated 21st November
- That start up began with just a handful of members but through steady
progress our membership today (February 2016) is forty-five.
A search began for a suitable work site and it was Southport Uniting Care
who, working in a most ecumenical way, referred us to St Luke’s Anglican
Church who had more space and an existing but unused workshop to offer us.
This worked well all around with St Luke’s and ourselves having since
developed a very amicable arrangement for these first three years of our
We acknowledge the ongoing support from the City of Port Phillip who
encouraged us in the beginning and have continued to do so since with grants
of a significant nature, greatly appreciated.
Some tools and equipment were donated privately and other items purchased
within the constraints of our budget at that time.
We are much indebted to several local organizations, businesses, and
sponsors who also gave us strong support until we became better established.
Several are still with us today and are duly acknowledged;
National Storage: This group have provided us with very useful and
convenient storage space, some extra facilities for making and assembling
smaller jobs plus assisting us with transport when we have had special needs.
Bunnings: This Company has helped us extremely well by allocating time
and the facility to conduct an onsite B.B.Q. at their premises; this assists us by
way of giving us a regular income stream. They often also help by either
donation or discounts on materials we use, for jobs we do in our local
Masters: This Company have also been of real assistance by way of
providing us with donations of tools and materials.
We were fortunate to have in our start-up group some very capable men,
several still with us, with broad experience across many areas in the use of
machinery and of construction techniques. Their expertise and work
experience has been used wisely in setting up our shed.
With the ‘bones’ of the club now established, thoughts turned to recruiting
members, and what would be our first job? Some of those early jobs were
right under our noses’ as whilst St Luke’s could give us space we had to first
reorganise the existing workshop and replace or repair worn out equipment.
We were able to repay the generous attitude of St Luke’s by restoring and
bringing back to life several broken church pews and other pieces of their
furniture that needed a little loving care.
We each endeavoured to pass on the news of the creation of our club by word
of mouth and while this is a tried and proven method we distributed, and still
do, our club brochure whenever it is appropriate. This often works well for us.
Our doors are open to all; our Shed has no standards or levels of technical
ability to meet before joining. We have people who need help in other ways,
emotionally and physically, and we have a type of buddy system here to help
make those in need feel comfortable.
Port Phillip Men’s Shed aims to help, wherever possible, local residents when
they bring items to us in need of repair, or even sometimes just advice, but an
active place in our community is our main thrust.
We have a strong and lively interest in promoting men’s health issues and
have regular forums for any and all local persons to attend in conjunction with
the teaching and instruction of the St Johns Ambulance Association
We have had much satisfaction in making items for local schools,
kindergartens or like groups. We recently pre-cut and semi manufactured
some small toolboxes for a local scout group allowing the boys and girls to
assemble and finish them off in their own environment. Quite recently we did
likewise with a run of billy carts allowing those to be completed also by local
An item of a different nature just completed was a maypole made for a dance
group, an interesting project. A mud trough for a kindergarten and a series of
bowling ball carriers for a local bowls club plus regular bits of broken furniture
and lawn mowers in need of repair always make our Saturday work mornings
Another channel we have opened is a liaison with a local antique shop where
we are often asked to assist with restoration work before goods can be
presented for sale in a proper manner. This works by arrangement and suits
The Shed is a not for profit organization and we endeavour to be self-funding
with income derived from member subscriptions, BBQs at Bunnings and any
donations received from community groups and individuals for work done. We
regularly apply for, when available (and have received) grants from Federal,
State and Local government to provide health programs and assist with the
establishment and upgrade of the workshop.
The mornings are broken up with a coffee and chat with everybody getting a
chance to develop new friendships.
Our Shed, like many clubs has quite a mixture of people from many
backgrounds with varying life stories, included here are a few that offer
Christopher Lynch will be a good start, a ‘bloke’ who fits in well with those
around him, quiet, helpful, an ordinary sort of bread and butter guy, yes, but
let’s learn a little more. Chris was born 1960 in Salisbury, capital city of then
Rhodesia before the family moved to North Rhodesia (separate country to
Rhodesia) in 1964. That was the year North Rhodesia gained independence
from the U.K. and became Zambia. Rhodesia gained independence in 1976
and became Zimbabwe.
Chris’ parents had moved from U.K. to Rhodesia in 1956 as special teachers
to the miners in a major open cut Copper mining project in Chingola. Chris
completed his primary education in this town in very mixed multi-cultural
schools with the children of miners from all over Africa and other parts of the
The local political situation changed dramatically however and Chris’ parents
decided to bring their family to Australia under a program sponsored by the
Australian government encouraging people with mining experience to come
here, especially to W.A. at that stage only in the embryonic days of
Chris was 13yrs age at his time of arrival in Australia and completed his
secondary education in Perth where the family was based with his father
spending much of his time travelling on a type of fly in-fly out basis up to Mt
Newman and similar projects far North.
Chris had always had ambitions to be in the business of theatre and
entertainment, even hoping to be an actor or performer at one stage before
completing his University degree, gaining his B.A. in English and Film with an
emphasis on ‘Sound Production and Recording’ at Curtain University Perth.
He has been quite successful in this area and working as a freelance has
travelled many parts of the world involved in making documentaries and other
film work for the BBC, ABC and others, in Indonesia, Java, France,
Switzerland, Spain and more. Chris has had his own production company and
is currently doing much local work for channels 7, 9 10, ABC and SBS.
Chris has two sons aged 22yrs and 18yrs and is very close to both. Their
careers are developing nicely and with both boys Chris enjoys and shares the
paths they are following.
His own time of recreation and creation at our “shed” is very important to Chris
and despite the breaks he sometimes has to have where and when his work
takes him he values the concept of the shed and the friends he has made
there since joining.
His speciality is reuse of old skate boards, his work here very creative with lots
of variation in colours before being matched and turned into his very own style
and shapes of furniture.
Happy skateboarding Chris
Barry is one of our very early members and as he lives very close to our ‘
shed ‘ is often left with the task of picking up, dropping off or being there first
to start the barbeque or open the door when we may have a function on. A
valued member, he exhibits much enthusiasm and helps spread a feeling of
positivity and friendship to others around him.
Barry was born in Albert Park 1945, the eldest of four, with three younger
sisters, the family moving then to Northcote where Barry completed his
primary education. Barry’s father was a Spray Painter employed at the
Government Aircraft factory at Fisherman’s Bend during WW2.
After primary school the family moved to West Heidelberg where housing
became available in the area that had been the Olympic Games Village, this
was very convenient for Barry to finish his secondary education at Heidelberg
From here Barry was accepted as an apprentice with the State Electricity
Commission completing his five-year term as an Electrical Fitter. There was
plenty of work available at that period for qualified tradesmen and he accepted
an opportunity with a small private business in Richmond specializing in
repairs and maintenance of all types of electrical appliances.
When an opening arose through the retirement of his employer Barry
purchased the business and was his own “boss” for the next thirty-three years
before retiring himself. Barry and his family lived in Croydon, a long way from
the sea but one of life’s chance meetings with an old ‘sea dog’ presented him
with the opportunity to be a crew member on an ocean going yacht.
It was Wow! and a quick acceptance to grasp what had long been his
personal love of the sea. He was to be one of a crew of ten with his first big
venture crossing Bass Strait in the Melbourne to Devonport race 1985. Since
that first race Barry has crewed on several occasions in the Melbourne
Devonport, plus Melbourne to N.Z and Melbourne to Noumea, longer trips and
bigger oceans here.
For those with knowledge of the boating world the vessel Barry sailed on is of
37ft length and referred to as Cavalier class, his job at the bow attending the
Jib sail with his experiences having gained him his Coxswains’ certificate.
Barry’s other interests are Tennis and time spent with his grandchildren. In
shed activities he has a special touch with ‘sick or ailing’ lawn mowers and
many a happy patient in this field has been happily wheeled from our
premises and back to active duty as a result of his efforts. He and partner
Helen enjoy 4WD travel, sometimes even finding and able to help and comfort
a sick mower along the way.
Safe travels, Helen and Barry.
Steve has worked and has talents across so many job environments I hope I
don’t leave something out of his story, but let’s start in Burbank, California,
USA in 1947 where and when Steve was born. To be precise Steve was
raised in Tujunga (Calf.) where his father had a jewellery store and worked as
a Toolmaker through the war years for the Lockheed Corporation in nearby
Steve is the youngest in a family of four boys and he, when a young lad about
ten years age, developed an interest in learning to cut Gemstones. His father
had an interest from childhood in this area and he, being gifted with clever
hands, passed on to Steve many skills in the use of machinery and how to
improvise and make equipment when it was needed.
Life was going along nicely for Steve in his early teen years, he enjoyed
school and was doing very well in Athletics being quite successful in middle
distance running, representing both his school in league and city competitions
in these distances.
It was quite a surprise when his parents told him, at age sixteen years, the
family was moving to Hawaii. Whilst he was at first apprehensive of this move
he settled well once there and took up a new interest, through a part time job
with the Maui Divers. One of his brothers was already in Hawaii, diving for
Black Coral for making jewellery and this was the connection that led to the
family to move there also.
This worked well for Steve and his skills grew quickly using a range of
Gemstones, developing and creating these to his own designs. Life was very
full for him when his father opened a Jewellery shop and the family moved to
live on a Chinese Junk in Ala Wai Yacht Harbour. Steve continued to work
with his father whilst attending the University of Hawaii. He also successfully
maintained his interest in Athletics, kept up with his studies and completed his
degree in Business Administration, 1970.
After a short trip back to the U.S.A, Miami to help one of his brothers in a
restaurant business Steve returned to Hawaii for a brief period before coming
on to Australia to work as an Opal cutter. This was a good move by Steve as
he met his future wife Lynne here. While in Miami for a year with Steve as
manager of the restaurant, they travelled to Cancun, Mexico, Costa Rica,
toured Florida, and then returned to Hawaii.
Steve and Lynne married in Melbourne then settled in Hawaii for a period
before coming back to Melbourne. It was while in Hawaii however that an
unexpected opportunity arose for Steve in the computer industry. He learned
he had a natural talent here and was quickly engaged by one of the major
players in the field. This brought them to Melbourne again where Steve had
positions as Analyst, Support Manager and Project Manager before
subsequently being sent to NZ first, and then to Ireland, as a ‘trouble shooter’.
While based in Ireland Steve and Lynne took the opportunity to travel Europe
extensively before returning to Australia where Steve now works for himself as
a specialist consultant in the world of computers. His hobby and personal
interests lie in cultivating Bonsai and making Bonsai stands to his own style
Steve is highly regarded within our group and is often called upon by some of
us for advice because of his skills in jobs of a more intricate nature. Steve and
Lynne have one daughter, now 28yrs, at present working on her Masters of
Musical Direction at the Royal Conservatorium of Scotland in Glasgow.
Written by Bob Crocker 6 March 2016