Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 10 Hansard (Tuesday, 12 September 2017) . . Page.. 3568 ..
these things openly if we are to tackle them in our society. I welcome the opportunity to have this discussion this week particularly, but more generally to acknowledge the role of men’s sheds in our community, to congratulate all those involved. It takes an effort to run something like this, but I think the benefit far outweighs the effort that goes into that.
MR PARTON (Brindabella) (4.15): I rise to speak to this matter of public importance. Isn’t it refreshing when we get a matter in this chamber that all of us agree pretty much wholeheartedly on every aspect of? I wish there was more of that. Someone once described men’s sheds to me as a practical network to support cranky old men. I commend my colleague Ms Lawder for initially bringing this one forward but also for her speech on this. I know that she has particular experience with one tall, cranky old man and that she and others have experience that blokes are strange creatures. I think it is safe to say that we do get stranger as we get older.
Blokes are funny, as has been highlighted by a number of the speakers on this, because we do not talk enough. Blokes often believe that they are self-sufficient, that they do not need to reach out to anyone else for help. I think too many men retreat to a cave within themselves to deal with their problems. I know it a generalisation, but so many men struggle to have their thoughts shared with others. What that means is that, as men get older, as men stop playing sport, as they get to the end of their working lives, their friend networks diminish, and for some men those networks disintegrate completely. Men’s sheds across Australia and, of course, across Canberra reconnect cranky old men who soon discover that they are not as old as they thought they were and they are probably not as cranky as they thought they were.
I do recall inspecting a men’s shed workshop on one occasion. It was a very busy workshop, with so much activity going on. The power tools were going; the jokes were rolling out; there was the sound of hearty laughter. It was almost like question time here. It was echoing around the place. In a quieter place I asked one of the men’s shed representatives where he believed these men would be today if they were not in there, so actively participating in life. And he turned to me with a very serious face on and said, “I don’t want to put too fine a point on it, but the reality is that some of them would be dead.” He is absolutely right. When older men lose connection, when they lose the sense of self-importance, they lose so much of their lives.
I have to tell you that I witnessed it firsthand earlier this year with my father. I was staggered to see the deterioration in my father’s health after he had disconnected from the networks which had once supported him. Men’s sheds change lives. Echoing the thoughts of Mr Rattenbury earlier, I do wish to commend everyone who is involved at any level in pulling together the activities of men’s sheds and making it work.
The modern men’s shed is an updated version of the shed in the backyard that has long been a part of the Australian culture. The shed in the backyard has for many years been a man’s place, where men would retreat from the hectic pace of life to make or repair things and enjoy the company of other men. Due to the changing property and social trends, the backyard shed is disappearing. It is probably disappearing more quickly in this city than in some others. These circumstances, combined with retirement and loss of social networks, as we have explained, can