Throughout the early to mid 1990s concerns were growing around Australia about men's health. There was little encouragement in Australian culture for men to meet and talk over their issues. Men were comfortable with the concept of the backyard shed and would often gather in backyard sheds to potter about and work on projects. So the concept was born of a community-based ‘shed’ as a place where men could go to meet other men, socialise and possibly work on projects.
The first Men's Sheds appeared in Tongala Victoria and Lane Cove NSW in 1998. They were not the result of any coordinated or organised national approach - that came later. These early Sheds appeared spontaneously, and the idea spread.
A small group of men in the upper Blue Mountains started to talk about creating a Men's Shed in the early years of the new century. The key obstacle was to find a place for the Shed to call home. Then an ordinary meeting of the Blue Mountains City Council in 14 December 2004 resolved as follows:
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY on the MOTION of Councillors Angel and Searle:
The trotting pavilion required extensive work to make it suitable for use as a Men's Shed. Photo dated 18 February 2005. The building had just been hosed out by the Fire Brigade and a trotting gig can be seen in the right foreground.
The 'Trotters Pavilion' is part of the Katoomba Showground complex. Originally constructed in the 1920s as stables for the Australian Light Horse (light cavilry army regiment) . The building had also been used as a poultry pavilion. There had also been an accompanying army drill hall that had been used for training by the State Emergency Sercices organisation. Following major roadworks and a realignment of the roads in the area around 2008, the drill hall was demolished ane the address of the Shed was changed to 6 Orient Street.
With the Council providing the premises, the way was finally open, and work could begin on establishing the Shed more formally. Katoomba Men's Shed (KMS) was registered as an Incorporated Association on 24 Febriary 2005. A developoment application was approved for the modifications necessary to convert the building into an operational Men's Shed.
Work progressed quite rapidly, mostly carried out by voluntary labour. A lunch and meeting room was constructed, new doors were cut into the walls, a wrap-around deck was constructed (providing emergency exits for the lunch room) and the roof was replaced. The workshop was set up with generous donations and a few strategic purchases.
Finally, in May 2006, the Shed was launched for normal operations.
KMS has continued to build and develop as the years go by. It is now financially secure, has a healthy membership base and operates 4 days each week.
The current members of KMS owe a debt of gratitude to the small group of men who had the vision to create a Men's Shed at a time when few such organisations existed. There were probably less than 25 Men's Sheds in Australia (and the world) when the idea to create KMS was first raised. At the time of writing there were almost 1000 Men's Sheds in Australia and the idea is rapidly spreading worldwide.