Thursday, August 24, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Men’s Shed – Saving Lives And Starting Conversations

Down at the Airlie Beach Men’s Shed, there is a steady flow of blokes coming and going, of projects in various degrees of completion and a hot jug always ready to fill a cup and fuel a conversation.

Since 2012, the local Men’s Shed has provided a safe place, a social network and a feeling of purpose for many men within our community.

There are over 1,200 Men’s Sheds in Australia, some of which began as early as the 1980s.

They first originated because there was a growing concern within society that men would not talk about their feelings, ask for help or take care of their health.

By providing a warm and welcoming place for men to connect in a positive and productive environment, there was a space for men to discuss important issues.

Locally, at the Airlie Beach branch, they have seen this firsthand in the open conversations the guys have about Prostate Cancer.

“More than half of our 22 members either have or have had Prostate Cancer,” said Airlie Beach Men’s Shed President Don Campbell.

It was in 2016 when Don received the diagnosis himself.

By completing his routine six monthly blood tests, which are recommended for anyone in his age bracket, the rapidly increasing PSA levels were flagged, and he was sent to a specialist.

When they conducted scans, the doctors found not only Prostate Cancer but also an issue with his Aorta which could have resulted in a heart attack, likely within the next month.

“The scan saved my life!” said Don.

With both medical conditions treated, Don's health was restored, and he now leads a full life once again.

He is now proud to be able to help others with their health problems and says the group often talk about matters that could potentially lead to life-saving decisions.

Of course, central to the Men’s Shed is also the numerous projects they work on.

Don has spent several months restoring an 18th-century sewing machine, his mate Coll has been working on a beautiful timber cabinet and Alan has just started fixing up a model of a classic sailing ship.

While projects are always encouraged, Don says there is no pressure to contribute, guys are more than welcome to simply come along

“You can do what you want down here,” he said.

“You don’t have to do any work, you can just come in and talk to people, have a coffee and socialise.”

Two men that learnt that firsthand are Peter Hallsy and Alan Bourton.

Both of them have only been coming along for a few weeks and laughingly say that their wives told them to get out of the house, but it is evident they are simply enjoying being in the calming presence of other men.

While most members are retired, there is no age barrier.

In fact, Andrew Patterson, who is 42 years old, regularly attends and says he enjoys getting guidance from the older men.

Airlie Men’s Shed is open every Tuesday and Thursday from 8am until lunchtime.

You simply need to attend three times and then pay your annual $25 membership to join.

There are plenty of tools if you want to get involved with a project of your own or help with one they have on the go.

Airlie Men’s Shed is located at 11 Salmon Street, Cannonvale.

They are currently looking for new members and are happy to consider opening on Saturdays if there was interest.

Coll Pritchard, Peter Hallsy, Alan Corney, Don Campbell, Alan Bourton and PJ Tell from the Airlie Beach Men’s Shed. Photo credit: Rachael Smith

Coll Pritchard and his cabinet

Don Campbell and his restored sewing machine

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