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Veterans & Community Wood Centre Special Interest Speech

Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, many men love their shed, the place where they can create, be inspired, be left alone sometimes and chill out with their mates. Today I am going to talk to you about one such place in my electorate, the Veterans & Community Wood Centre.

In the next few weeks the shed will begin operating from a brand new site in Nunamina Avenue, Kings Meadows, after four-and-a-half happy years at Masonic Peace Haven retirement village in Norwood. The new building cost $210 000, of which $87 000 came from a Tasmanian Community Fund grant and the balance was raised by the Rotary Clubs of Kings Meadows and Youngtown.

There are 51 men's sheds in Tasmania and 957 throughout Australia. While their focus is on camaraderie, friendship and woodwork, they are also widely credited with encouraging men to talk. Opening up about your problems in front of others is difficult for some men, but doing it in a non-judgmental place like a shed, where you can be creative, have a laugh and a chat and enjoy a hot cuppa, helps to make their conversation a little easier.

The shed has been successful beyond the wildest dreams of its founder, David Brooks. He says it is a place where men - young and old and in between - can come together and do their thing without pressure from anyone else. They can work on a project if they wish, or watch others create and hang out with the fellas. There are 24 men ranging in age from 14 to 84 years old. A few months ago there were 15 people on the waiting list to join.

That growing popularity meant they needed a larger site. They have used the upcoming move to add some modern touches, such as a machine that enables them to do computerised woodwork. Traditional woodworking tools are still used but increasingly they are moving into computerised woodwork and metalwork. The men make a huge range of items from oyster racks to shoe boxes, chopping boards, serving trays, jewellery boxes, beautiful children's toys, salt and pepper shakers, raised gardens, blanket boxes and clocks, to name a few. They sell their products at the shed and at school fairs, Meadow Mews shopping centre at Kings Meadows, the Rock Souvenir shop and Regal Press in Launceston. Some items are donated to other groups including the Veteran's Support Group, and the totally and permanently incapacitated veterans.

The inspiration behind the shed is David's own experience as a Vietnam veteran. David was 21 years old when he flew into Nui Dat in 1969 and saw firsthand where the bombs had fallen and devastated entire areas. It was a shocking sight for a young man to see. He completed a full 12-month tour in Vietnam as a machine gunner serving in the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment - Alpha Company 2 Platoon - and Charlie Company, 8th Platoon in the 8th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.

David came home in 1971 and was very ill with acute appendicitis during the journey. It was a difficult experience returning to ordinary life. He felt like many other Vietnam veterans - ostracised in the community and that no-one cared. There was no support available to help transition back into daily life from the confronting and traumatic experience of war. Initially he resumed working as a foreman at Coats Patons, then returned to the army in 1973. He retired from the army in 1979 and in 1980 he began working as a police officer. David retired from the police force as a sergeant in 2001.

David's interest in woodwork never wavered through this period. Friends regularly admired the wood creations he would make in the shed of his Youngtown house. One day, at a men's health forum, his mates - many of whom were also Vietnam veterans - said they wanted somewhere they could meet as a group to enjoy their common interest in woodwork together. David thought it was a great idea and that such a group might give the men the sense of belonging and friendship they were looking for.

The shed has operated out of a number of sites over the years, initially starting in Christmas 2008 in Elizabeth Street in Launceston, provided by the Salvos, then Peace Haven at Norwood and now Nunamina Avenue, Kings Meadows. David says he is proud to have realised his vision to have a shed that would give so much to men, particularly friendship and a sense of feeling valued by the community.

Mr President, I commend David Brooks and all the members of the shed for the wonderful work they do in our community. They remind us that everyone has a right to be valued; to enjoy friendship and to realise their potential.

Members - Hear, hear .

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