Community caring for one another

Back row, left to right: HMS Secretary Graham Thomas, 4th Lieutenant Tony Henderson. Front row, left to Right: Aux Member Lily Boucher, Firefighter Luke Colussi, Firefighter Jacob Colussi, Macclesfield CFA Assistant Treasurer Elona Bast, Comms Officer Craig Ward, HMS Treasurer Steven Ross, HMS President Ed Fletcher, HMS Member Tony Hodgso. Picture: SHAMSIYA HUSSAINPOOR.

By Shamsiya Hussainpoor

The Cockatoo’s Hills Men’s Shed Inc (HMS) has generously donated a large Sienna Pine outdoor picnic table to the Macclesfield CFA.

HMS is a small but impactful organisation that provides men with the opportunity to receive social support and develop a range of skills, competencies and renewed confidence and independence to lead healthy and happy lives within their community.

Macclesfield CFA Assistant Treasurer, Elona Bast contacted the Hills Men’s Shed to order a picnic table for the crew to sit on, but she was surprised with what she was offered.

“When we’re at the fire station, sometimes we have social nights, or we’ve come back from a fire and we’re having a bit of a feed, it’s really good to be able to sit somewhere comfortably and just have a social drink and wind down,” she said.

“I started sourcing out for picnic tables to have in area and the local Hills Men’s Shed had these [picnic tables] advertised, and they were so superior in quality to some of the other ones that we saw online.”

“They generously offered us buy one get one free, it’s a huge saving to the community and everyone’s really happy.”

Organisations like the CFA heavily rely on community fundraising, and donations like this helps them save a lot of that fundraising.

“We work really hard to fundraise, it’s a lot of man hours, so to recoup some of the money for the tables and to be able to have a table given to us that we don’t have to fundraise for is just totally amazing,” she said.

Ms Bast said it’s great the community sticks together.

“I really like approaching the Hills Men’s Shed because they are a community-based programme, it’s great that one organisation can support another organisation,” she said.

Treasurer Steven Ross has been with the Hills Men’s Shed for two years, he said the organisation has donated many tables to other CFA brigades.

“CFA Macclesfield contacted us and said they were looking to buy two 2.4 metre outdoor picnic tables, she had been looking around for them – she liked the tables we made because they looked a lot more solid and a lot more refined than the others,” he said.

After receiving the CFA’s inquiry, Mr Ross discussed it with the rest of the committee before responding back.

A large Sienna Pine outdoor picnic table typically costs around $700 each, but the HMS decided to charge the CFA crew for just one of the tables and gave the other for free.

Mr Ross has moved to Cockatoo from the city, and he said the community has been absolutely amazing with their support.

“I joined the Men’s Shed in order to meet other like-minded people, it’s just been fantastic, we support the local CFAs, and they do an amazing job for us,” he said.

“We also donated a table to the SES in Emerald because they go out of their way to help the community.”

The Hills Men’s Shed started as a place where men can get together and discuss men’s issues, but it has grown to be a lot more than that.

“A lot [of] people come and do their hobbies, some people do woodworking, some people do metalwork, all sorts of things go on,” Mr Ross said.

“Some of our members just come here for a chat, and we have some female members as well, which surprises people.

“Mental health is a big issue around here.”

Many of the HMS are senior members of the community, often they are experiencing grief of losing a loved one, feeling loneliness and disconnected from the rest of the society.

“We’ve got people that have had their wives pass away, it’s a big thing for them to come out and socialise after that,” Mr Ross said.

Every third Saturday of each month, the organisation participates in the Cockatoo Country Market – an opportunity where younger members meet the senior members.

“Our younger guys that are working full time, they can’t come on a Tuesday and Wednesday, so this once-a-month market participation really helps connect everyone,” Mr Ross said.

“We’ve got plenty of members, but we’re always on the lookout for more.”

“The younger members that want to come and use the tools, it’s only costing them $30 a year, and then they get access to all the equipment inside, it’s just unbeatable – you can’t find that sort of value anywhere else.”

HMS is an incorporated association which commenced after considerable community consultation in 2008.

HMS is supported by Cardinia Shire, Cockatoo Neighbourhood House, Cockatoo Township Committee, Emerald Rotary Club, MIND Australia and Monash Health.

Mr Ross said a lot of people out there are lonely and this is a great outlet for them.

“Getting rid of that loneliness, even if it’s just for a couple of hours, couple of times a week, it’s really good for them – otherwise you just find people just sitting at home doing absolutely nothing,” he said.

“In here, you don’t even have to ask for help, people are just willing to get up and help each other.”

“The older guys – they’ve all taught me something.”

You can connect with the Hills Mens Shed via their Facebook page – visit,