HAPPY TOGETHER: Casino Community Men's Shed's official opening, with its happy male and female members in attendance.
HAPPY TOGETHER: Casino Community Men's Shed's official opening, with its happy male and female members in attendance. Susanna Freymark

When a men's shed isn't just a men's shed

THE name says it all - Men's Shed. Or does it?

When a woman posed the question on a Kyogle Facebook page, about whether she could join the Kyogle Men's Shed, there were countless responses and strong opinions, mostly against women joining Men's Sheds.

Both Casino and Bonalbo are deliberately called "community men's sheds" and welcome men and women.

Casino member Charlie Cox said their shed had women from the very first meeting six years ago.

With 68 financial members, 22 are women, Mr Cox said, and "it's working for us".

"Men talking among ourselves is not inhibited by females. We have speakers talking about men's health," he said.

"We recently had someone speak about incontinence and no-one was embarrassed."

The Casino Community Men's Shed was a dynamic organisation and obviously doing something right, Mr Cox said.

The Bonalbo Community Men's Shed was set up last year and secretary Debbie Johnston said she was the person who called the original meeting to get the shed established.

"We are a very small rural community and, at this first meeting, it was unanimously voted to accept memberships from all community members," Ms Johnston said.

"It was also voted that there would be specific times where the shed would be attended by blokes only."

The men at Bonalbo voted to use the shed on Thursday and Saturday mornings and this is when "blokes-only" mornings are held.

Ms Johnston said the men expressed they would gain a lot from sharing their skills with others - including women.

"After all, that is one of the basics for the sheds, to share skills.

"Feedback from the blokes has been very positive.

"I'm sure there are some who won't agree, but at least now Bonalbo does have a shed with times where the men can get together to share, chat and support each other, in a place that is not linked to alcohol and when females are not in attendance."

Evans Head and Kyogle each have a Men's Shed but representatives were unavailable for comment.

You said:

Mike Hay: "I wouldn't join a Men's Shed that had women in it. I like women, I really do, but not in a Men's Shed. 

Megan Polley: "I think men need the Men's Shed to stay that way. They are for men to have time hanging with other men, to talk freely and develop friendships and to help curb the huge incidence of depression in men. To stop men from being isolated. Please respect that, ladies".

Robyn Cox: "Both. Women can be a tremendous support to the men. The women who belong to the Casino Men's Shed have had cooking lessons for the men as some are on their own. Also many women enjoy doing timber things, not girl things. I think if the men don't mind the women sharing their shed, then it shouldn't be a problem". 

Tony Hennessy: "Definitely not. Men's Sheds were set up to give men a chance to spend time together away from women. It had a psychological reason for being set up. And as such was supported by Beyond Blue. Once women are on site many men do not talk openly". 

Robyn Cox: " Please visit the Casino Men's Shed. I think you will be very surprised with the men and women talking openly and discussing their problems, supporting each other". 

Tony Hennessy: "I have been there and I repeat, Men's Sheds were set up to provide a venue where men had time away from women. I would not join a Men's Shed with women members. There are plenty of other places where I will happily spend time with women and enjoy the company but women members in a Men's Shed subverts the purpose and destroys the capacity to talk for those men who need time with men only".

Janessa Allan: "Men only".

Carlz Carlz: " I'd love there to be a ladies' shed where women, especially those who've not had positive male role models in their lives, can learn all kinds of things from woodworking to mechanical repairs".

Phillip Tonazzi- "I guess it leaves it open for men to join the CWA".    

Sue Holme: "Men only".

Rosemary Joseph: "Absolutely - let men have their own space. We have women-only clubs - why not men-only clubs?". 

Leah Jet: "I am so happy to see so many supportive women commenting here for men's rights to have a space of their own. High five, sisters".  

Shannon Maree: "Women have places to go, leave the men alone in their own space. They need support, too". 

Jenny Stubbin: "Leave it to the men".

Rhys Whitlock: "Women have facilities and groups purely for women and no-one bats an eye but something that's just for men has to be sexist, right?".

Leebee Butwell: "PART of the reason Men's Sheds were started was so that men had somewhere to go where they could talk to other men and not feel so isolated. I am very much for equality, but I know my husband and a lot of other men would not talk about serious issues with women around. Many of these men are retired and are with their spouse 24/7. It's time out for them. If women want to use the shed maybe it could be one week a month, with instruction on using tools from the men if they required help. Otherwise give women their own shed".

Elizabeth Jones Forrester: "Men need Men's Sheds like us ladies need girls' nights out. We all need a break from each other at times".

Jeanette Macey:  "Oh, please, leave them alone. What if men wanted to join the CWA?".

Bernadette Layton: "It's a Men's Shed".