Brian Parker, who usually organises the Ipswich Gem Show, is also the current secretary of the Ipswich Men's Shed.
Brian Parker, who usually organises the Ipswich Gem Show, is also the current secretary of the Ipswich Men's Shed.

New online tool to help keep men connected

MEN who miss getting on the tools and the camaraderie of their friends are being encouraged to jump online and access a new interactive website to keep their minds active and network with others while in self isolation.

With coronavirus forcing the closure of Men's Sheds across the world, the group's association has launched a new online space where people can connect the same way they do at the shed - over a cuppa and a laugh.

The website is aimed at sharing information, ideas, blog posts and conversations in online forums to keep members connected to the wider community.

Australian Men's Shed Association executive officer David Helmers said it was important to protect the mental health of members during the coronavirus health scare.

"Men's Sheds are an effective initiative because they connect people who would otherwise be socially isolated on a daily basis," Mr Helmers said.

"Australians are becoming more and more physically isolated amidst the current coronavirus emergency - right now we need to find ways to maintain our social connections.

The original online shed platform The Shed Online was developed as a collaboration between the Australian Men's Shed Association and Beyond Blue in 2012. The platform attracted huge participation but was closed down due to lack of funding.

"We have used the original online shed platform as an inspiration to create a simple online space for Australian men to stay connected - as they would in a shed - at a time when community connection is increasingly difficult, but still vitally important to our health and wellbeing," said Mr Helmers.

This program has been launched globally in partnership with the Irish Men's Shed Association and the International Mens Shed Organisation.

"We hope to create a global social community where men can talk and share their experiences," said Mr Helmers.

"There are Men's Sheds operating in 12 countries now and we are anticipating a global information exchange."

Several members of the Ipswich Men's Shed have already came on board and accessed tee new website.

Ipswich Men's Shed secretary Brian Parker said the group was vital in helping others in the community, and hoped to see some new faces when it was up and running again.

"The shed has been operating for almost eight years now and in that time, those members that have stayed, have formed friendships through the various activity groups such as gardening, art, cards and woodwork," he said.

"While we are now isolated, it is hoped that these groups continue to support each other, especially for those members who are single and are restricted to their houses.

"One of our members continues to produce an occasional newsletter so anyone with news snippets can share their experiences.

"Once we get back, I would like to encourage any gentleman (18 and over) to come along, look us over and maybe eventually forge new friendships and contacts at the club."

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