By Jenny Lindsay
What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than supporting community-led sustainability efforts in my area. I joined the crew of the Melbourne Repair Café (Inner West) for a pop-up repair session at the Hobsons Bay City Council’s World Environment Day Community Festival in Williamstown last weekend.
Some folk came along prepared with their broken household items, while others were pleased to learn what a Repair Café does.
Brain-busting troubleshooting tested the skills of our fixers on an array of broken and tired appliances and tools. There was an eager queue awaiting their turn and all the visitors were good sports about taking their place in a busy line-up. We took on a surprising amount of fixes in the 2-hour session.
One terrific piece was a 1970’s era desktop fan, which had been no more than a table ornament for over 30 years, according to its owner. It turned out the switch mechanism was in need of some repair which was swiftly fixed. Then, although a little sluggish after decades unused, the fan came back to life. Hurrah! Another fix, another item saved from landfill, and a treasured family piece with a second life.
Photos by Michelle Fisher
Often, the items we see at the Repair Café are designed not to be opened. They’re either glued together or have proprietary screw heads for expensive manufacturer’s servicing only. So, having a kettle that came apart easily was a bonus. The screws were all a standard type and were easily located. All parts were accessible. It was fairly straightforward then to discover the pesky problem and clear out the pipe to the steam switch so that it could be brought back into use, saved from a trip to landfill and avoiding expensive replacement.
We were delighted to take up Hobson’s Bay City Council’s invitation to co-locate with the World Environment Day Community Festival. Visitors enjoyed the festival before or after stopping by our pop-up Repair Café. When you visit us at the Yarraville Community Centre, there’s also plenty to see. During a busy session, the small wait for a fixer to be available gives you time for a coffee or tea and to check out the (small, but growing) Really Really Free Market. You can watch the other repairs underway, then take a seat, because the fun of a Repair Café session is learning how to repair or pull your item apart and trouble-shoot for next time.
Many visitors were fascinated to see a Repair Café in operation, among many cries of “I’ll have to bring in all my broken things”. It’s clear so many of us hang on to items which might be saved, but we’re not ready to find a fix or bid farewell to it either way. A Repair Café run by skilled volunteers is a handy solution, then, and we’re anticipating a lot more visitors next session.
A job well done, said one of our fixers: “We made people happy and got paid in mandarins.”
If you’re keen to get your “fix”, check out the next Melbourne Repair Café session on our website: http://www.melbournerepaircafe.org/
and follow us at:
By Michelle Fisher
First check to see if there's a repair cafe or fixit initiative in your area already. You can check the map hosted by the International Repair Foundation for registered repair cafes around the world. We keep a map for Victoria where we try to keep track of existing, proposed and potential repair cafes in our State. You can also check with your local community centre or local government offices to see if they are aware of any fix-it or repair intiatives in your area.
If you're interested in starting a repair cafe, I recommend getting ahold of the starter kit from the International Repair Foundation and registering on their map (joining the network of 1200+ repair cafes across 30+ countries!). Then set about getting volunteer fixers, a venue to hold the first session, get a start date and event to launch, and then various avenues to promote it. Lessons learned include:
Okay - let's address one common what-about: What about insurance? After questions around how to get fixers along, this seems to be the next most common question asked when people are looking to set up a repair cafe. The following points are worth noting (mindful that this is not intended to constitute legal advice and you'll need to satisfy yourselves about what measures you adopt to address safety, risk and liability):
If you want to find out more about starting up a repair cafe in your community, check out:
[This text also appears in the FAQ section of this website and has been reproduced here to assist those with mobile devices who may not be able to view the FAQ drop down boxes.]
By Michelle Fisher
Melbourne’s inner west now has its own repair cafe, where people can bring along their broken items from home for volunteer fixers to fix, wherever possible, and where visitors get the chance to learn practical skills and have a go at fixing things themselves – all free of charge!
The “Melbourne Repair Cafe (Inner West)” launched this past Sunday (21 February) at the Living Future Festival in the Yarraville Gardens. Over a dozen volunteers were on hand to run workshops and talk to festival-goers about what they can expect at future repair sessions. Dean brought his guitar-fixing gear to the launch to repair bridges and broken strings – including a Moroccan banjo (sitir) he was presented with on the day and which he managed to fix! Howard, a mechanical fitter by trade, showed people how they can revitalise rusty tools. Sylvie, sitir owner and local artist, captivated both young and older visitors to talk about what goes into an essentials toolkit. Danny and Karen, from Reusers of Unloved Discarded Excess (RUDE), ran sessions on fixing garden hose connections, replacing three-point electrical cords, and doing basic clothing repairs and alterations. And Mick and John (the “bike whisperers”) were on hand to show cyclists how to fix and maintain their bikes.
The repair cafe concept started in the Netherlands in 2009 and, in 2010, the Repair Cafe Foundation (http://www.repaircafe.org) was set up to help other local groups wanting to start up their own repair cafe. The Melbourne Repair Cafe (Inner West) joins over 900 repair cafes around the world and is one of only four in Australia. The other three are at Albury-Wodonga, Marrickville and Mullumbimby in New South Wales.
The idea is to help put neighbours in touch with each other to discover and share practical skills close to home. Repairs can also save money and resources, and minimise what goes into landfill. Plus, as every kid who takes things apart can tell you, it’s just plain fun to be able to fix stuff!
The first in-cafe repair session will be held at Natasha’s cafe in Seddon on the first Sunday in March (the 6th) from 10am til noon. Rhubarb Wholefoods Cafe is located on the corner of Buckley and Victoria Streets.
Find out more about the Melbourne Repair Cafe, future repair sessions, and how to become a volunteer fixer by visiting http://www.melbournerepaircafe.org.
*This article also appeared in the print issue of The Westsider newspaper (March 2016, Issue #14).
Michelle Fisher is the founder and coordinator of the Melbourne Repair Cafe (Inner West). She is more comfortable wielding pens than tools and welcomes contributions from those who can wield one or the other or both! Please send submissions to the Melbourne Repair Cafe's email address..
Jenny Lindsay is a seeker of sustainable lifestyle solutions who regularly helps out on the Repair Café registration desk. Jenny is the founder of Connectjen virtual assistant which offers copywriting, marketing and admin support for businesses committed to challenging the status quo.