Calls for shed groups to come together

‘Tiny’ Begg and Sam Hughes at the old Mountain Maid site.

It’s not always clear why relationships break down. Sometimes, the two sides have a sharp disagreement over when or where or why or how they want to move forwards; at other times, two people who once worked towards the same goal end up at cross-purposes, and neither side is completely sure why.

That’s the case for two groups who are currently working to establish a Batlow Men’s (or Men’s and Hen’s) Shed… or sheds.

The concept started with Zach Horder – both sides agree on that point. Mr Horder brought the idea to the local Rotary Club in mid-2019, but the club didn’t have the resources at that time to support the project – both sides still agree – and then the fires came. The fires brought money through the Rotary Club and current President Sam Hughes agreed that they wanted to use the funding in a way that would best support the community, so they reconnected with the Men’s Shed idea, which could help supply tools and workspace for those displaced by the fires.

So far, everyone agrees. 

Mr Hughes said a ‘focus group’ was formed to help develop the idea, which included Mr Horder and others who have been keenly involved in the idea. 

Then, the groups diverged. Both teams are still working towards the goal of establishing a Men’s Shed in Batlow. 

At this point in time, Mr Horder – along with a group supported by Deb Wiltshire (who also sits on the Batlow Development League), Nancy Gower, Neil Shaw and Jenny Hogan – has continued to develop his idea. Their group has been registered with The Australian Men’s Shed Association and NSW Fair Trading since late 2020 and they’re continuing with fundraising to establish a Men’s Shed at the old Pony Club location, near the town showgrounds. 

“We’ve got through the first stage, which is a location to put a storage facility, so sometime [this] week the first start-up grant will come through, which is about $10,000, which will be deposited into our account,” said Mr Shaw.

“The further deposits will be once we get a site location. I’m trying to get council involvement, so other [donors] will get involved, and they may fund the full start-up… I’m not certain. We just have to wait and time will tell.”

Mr Shaw said he feels like his group has been misrepresented as being an unregistered splinter group.

His goal, like the rest of his group, is to ensure the shed will be entirely inclusive for the whole community, for both men and women.

“It has to be inclusive of everybody, not just men alone,” he said.

He said his goal is to see the community united with a fully functional Men’s Shed. Ideally, by the end of this year.

Mr Hughes and the Batlow Rotary Club are supporting a different group, which now has close to 40 paying members and an elected board. Their group has applied for a $500,000 Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund grant and have established support from the Snowy Valleys Council and a peppercorn lease on the old Mountain Maid site.

On Friday, Mr Hughes was unloading donated equipment – including a table saw, an antique desk and a router – into the Mountain Maid offices, along with Mick and ‘Tiny’ Begg.

“We all want what’s best for the town,” said Mick Begg.

“The two groups need to meet, the President and others,” said Tiny.

“Everyone just needs to talk,” agreed Mick.

Mr Hughes said they’re trying to organise an executive meeting between the two groups to smooth things out, but he acknowledges total resolution might not be possible. 

“We won’t get everybody on board, nobody can,” said Mr Hughes.

“Politicians are always trying to get everybody on board, and you can’t.”

His fear is that the division will scare away potential supporters or donors. 

“A town’s division is the worst thing,” he said. 

“If everybody wants it to go forward, you’ve got to talk the same way as long as you possibly can, the whole town, so that’s what I’m trying to do. 

“Not everyone’s going to agree with me.”

The group currently has 40 members, but Mr Hughes said based on discussions he’s had with other groups, he expects there will be about 12 frequent users of the space once it’s established.