Hub opens doors – and fixes them

A Hub trial skills workshop. Photo by Melissa Cashman.

WOMEN will get their own tool library and workshop in Bayswater, the first dedicated women’s shed in the state.

The Bayswater Women’s Hub has fixed a five-year lease with Bayswater council to move into the long-vacant building kiosk, changerooms and bunker at Shearn Memorial Park in Maylands. 

The not-for-profit group ran some trial tool skills workshops in temporary venues last year but have been on a long search for a proper home.

Hub chair Michelle Slater told the March council briefing: “Our mission is to provide access to tools and workshop facilities in a community space and to facilitate the exchange of knowledge between cultures, generations, and capabilities.

“Our vision is to empower the women of Bayswater and beyond. We aim to achieve this by our two initiatives: A community tool library and a women’s workshop.”

Hub member Denise Pepper, a local artist and sculptor, said learning to use tools was a pivotal moment in her life and she wanted other women to have the same opportunity. 

“I went and studied a home handyperson course and I learned how to use tools. And I didn’t realise at the time that the minute I picked up that drill something actually evoked and awoke inside of me. It wasn’t until later that I realised what that was.

“That gave me the confidence… to change a fuse wire, fix that broken chair, have a bit of confidence in the house and also be in a situation where I don’t have to have a handyman come in and fix things. I can be independent.”

The five-year lease at Shearn Memorial Park lease stemmed from a motion by councillor Elli Petersen-Pik, who said at last week’s meeting: “I personally was very moved by the story of Denise Pepper. I think it was quite inspirational and I hope we’ll all be able to hear stories of other women, what they got from this place and how we helped them to grow.”

When they first found the spot it was in clear need of some love. The space had long ago hosted sports teams, and old blueprints show the layout held two lots of male toilets, two male changerooms, and a small double-loo for women off to the side.

“When we initially opened that bunker it was like walking into a scene from Indiana Jones,” Ms Slater said.

“There were cobwebs, and creatures scuttled off into the distance. But I saw it with love-heart shaped eyes, because it was the perfect size for our storage requirements.

“We could see behind the faded graffiti to see what it was going to become”.

It’ll be the first dedicated space for a women’s shed in WA. Stirling councillor Elizabeth Re has been trying to get her council to set one up, but so far they’ve stopped short of a full women’s shed and are just running skills workshops on lighter tools in a shared space. She’s still pushing for a permanent spot.

Denise Pepper and Michele Slater. Photo by Bridget Turner.

ARTIST DENISE PEPPER gave an impassioned speech to Bayswater councillors to help secure the Women’s Hub a five-year lease. Here are some excerpts.

I FOUND myself in an  unusual but also very awkward situation at age 24 of being a single mother with two children.

I had so many things to learn, let alone “how do I look after my house”.

So I realised I needed to do something about this, and I went and studied a home handyperson course and I learned how to use tools. 

And I didn’t realise at the time that the minute I picked up that drill something actually evoked and awoke inside of me. It wasn’t until later that I realised what that was.

That gave me the confidence … to change a fuse wire, fix that broken chair, have a bit of confidence in the house and also be in a situation where I don’t have to have a handyman come in and fix things. 

I can be independent.

From thereon things changed. I never actually finished high school, so reading and writing was always a difficult thing for me. 

So I also then went off and studied building construction because of that workshop.

I worked in the building trade for a number of years. 

I purchased my own home, I did my extensions on my own home. 

I got lots of editorials about this woman who has done this extension herself.

From there I ended up going to university, not knowing that I’d ever get into university because I never finished high school. 

I got in on a portfolio exemption. 

So from there I end up working at this university, and I’m still there, working and teaching how to use tools, how to create art, and now I have a career … from that day, picking up that tool and learning to use that tool, my life has changed. 

If I had never had that workshop I wouldn’t be standing here today. It’s really important for me, now, as a 62-year-old woman, to do that full circle.

I now want to teach women who are in domestic violence, relocating, starting over, I want those women to have that empowerment. 

I want them to feel confident, I want them to feel they’re in their own home, they don’t have to call a handyman. 

They can do it for themselves. This is about empowerment for women, this is why this women’s hub is so important.

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