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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Tool time: A shed for Canberra’s women

The latest community project from Canberra besties Sunita Kotnala and Robby McGarvey has come to fruition, as the red ribbon was cut at Canberra Women’s Shed last Friday and the co-founders declared it tool time.

The Women’s Shed will operate in two separate venues with separate objectives.

Workshops in basic tool competence will be held at Thor’s Hammer in Griffith, and mental health and wellbeing classes at the Jerrabomberra Wetlands.

Sunita said the tool workshops would benefit women who had not been exposed to skills necessary for “day-to-day management” of the home.

“You can learn to hang a picture or put up floating shelves, there will be classes in basic plumbing and electrical,” Sunita said.

The community-minded women first met and bonded while volunteering at the Kingston Organic Community Garden.

As they planted their share of 8,000 tulips in the Kingston area, they got talking about women in the community who felt “isolated and left out”.

“We started to talk about women who felt a loss of community and connection,” Sunita said.

Sunita shared with Robby her experience at a Women’s Shed in Sydney and suggested they find one in Canberra to go to together.

“I love upcycling, picking up stuff from the side of the road and recycling and repurposing pieces of furniture,” Sunita said.

“The basic tool workshop really gave me confidence to work on my projects.”

Robby was keen.

“I told her, ‘Yeah, I really need to learn that stuff and then I can teach my husband’.”

They looked for one in vain.

“So, what do you do when you can’t find something?” Sunita asked. “You create one.”

Sunita’s master’s degree in social work and her experience with counselling, mental health and community development paired perfectly with Robby’s 25 years as an early childhood educator.

Robby said it was Sunita’s passion and commitment to the project that delivered the results.

“Passion is a powerful force in anything you set your mind to,” Robby said.

“With Sunita’s business acumen and drive, we are delighted to say we are here.”

Sunita said it was Robby’s energy by her side as the co-founder that made Canberra Women’s Shed possible.

The Griffith workshop at Thor’s Hammer was chosen because Sunita and Robby thought Thor’s business model of making furniture from recycled material “fitted in well” with their values.

Thor said it was a “really fun process” working with the two women to develop the women’s shed concept in Canberra.

He said in the 26 years he had been in business, its gender diversity had grown.

“We have three women out of 10 in the joinery and it’s really good having a better balance,” Thor said.

“All the interest from young women to learn trades has really changed in the last 10 years; I don’t know what’s changed but it’s a good thing.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing what everyone starts making.”

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