All posts by barrygoanna

Adjunct Professor, Federation University Australia: researcher in men's learning through community contexts, author of 'Men learning through life' 2014) and 'The Men's Shed Movement: The Company of Men' (2015).

Dick McGowan: A few remarkable ‘back stories’

Barry Golding, 5 November 2015

The role the late Dick McGowan played in starting up the first Men’s Shed opened by that name in the world in Tongala, Victoria, Australia in July 1998 is covered in considerable detail in my recently published Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men book (14 pages, between 114 & 127). Indeed the ‘Company of Men’ idea comes directly from McGowan’s genius.

On page 123 of my book I say ‘One day someone will write more about the many other facets of Dick McGowan’. This brief account, created in advance of the Victorian launch on my book in Tongala on 16 November 2015 goes some small way towards doing this. It is based mainly on interviews and documents collected in 2015 after my Men’s Shed Movement book manuscript was finalised, including from conversations in mid 2015 with his remarkable and generous widow, Ruth McGowan. My particular thanks for much of this new information to former Gordon Dowell (who worked with Dick in Tongala, now living in Newstead, Victoria), Lynne Cooper (now in Bendigo), Alan Dureau from Tongala (who was Principal in Tongala when Dick McGowan began work there) and Rob and Olya Willis from Forbes, NSW.

Dick McGowan was a widely travelled and highly regarded concert and dance band pianist and entertainer, sometimes teaming up with Graeme Watt, a bush poet, as the Coolstore Concert Company. Dick was born in Maroubra in Sydney in 1940. He was taught piano by a nun at the school he attended in Castlemaine, Victoria and played in his first dance band at age 13. At band gigs, at dances and in venues such as the Leagues Club foyer in Moama he would persuasively talk and network with patrons to get them to support and donate to any of his many community projects.

One of the most powerful new documents to elaborate on Dick’s philosophy about the Men’s Shed, opened in his honour as the Dick McGowan Men’s Shed in July 1998 surfaced via Ruth McGowan after the text of the book had been finalised. In words typed by Dick dated 27 May 1999 and signed off as ‘The Company of Men’, McGowan used capitalisation for emphasis when he noted that the list of things that might take place in the Shed

… is endless. WE SHOULD NOT THINK OF THE SHED AS ONLY A WORK-SHOP. It is an activity centre, a meeting place, a place for discussion and argument, a place for companionship – in short a part of HOME.


Dick was two-year trained as a primary school teacher at Bendigo Teachers College in 1958-9. He was posted to schools at Tarnagulla, Kananook (Frankston) then Dingley before the family moved to Tongala as a ‘temporary move’: they had intended to move on to Wangaratta but they never made it. Dick and Ruth in married January 1963 and had nine children including two sets of twins. Their third son, Peter died at 8 and a half months while they were in Frankston. Ruth became ‘the essential rock’ at home for much of Dick’s working life. Their other children are today all grown up and spread very widely.

Dick was a highly regarded primary school teacher. An unsourced and undated newspaper cutting headed ‘Dick’s near the top of class’ noted that Mr Richard McGowan (then at Tongala Consolidated School, age 41) was being considered in the final selection of the Victorian Teacher of the Year award. The evidence cited in the article went back almost three decades before his creation of the first ever Men’s Shed. The cited evidence is reproduced verbatim below:

  • ‘His sustained innovatory approach to education over many years. That approach won him the G.S Browne Prize for outstanding educational practice and successful use of teaching methods on teaching by a classroom teacher in 1970. [then age 30]
  • His actions in seeking out and developing programs to cater for the individual needs of individual children.
  • His sustained and successful efforts to utilise resources from departmental, Commonwealth programs and community resources to further the educational and cultural opportunities for children and the community generally.
  • His efforts to develop teachers and programs within and beyond his own school.’

Dick’s first early experiment with community education for adults in Tongala was The Cottage. Created in tandem with Murray Ross, a local graphic artist, it was for many years a local activity centre opposite the Tongala Swimming Pool. Like the Men’s Shed, McGowan regarded it as a place to go and do things.

Dick was a major contributor to the creation and regional success of the Country Education Project (CEP) model in Victoria, which was still operating in 2015. McGowan wrote in 1981 that he regarded CEP as ‘a grass roots, self help scheme. According to Gordon McDowell (21 May 2015 email)

Don Edgar and Dick developed the innovative CEP [Country Education project model. If not, he certainly had the task along with Don of selling the concept around the state [of Victoria]’.

The CEP North Central Area Information Booklet from 1979 provides a brief history of CEP, which Dick McGowan was closely associated with from its inception in 1977. At one stage Dick

… was the Director of CEP under the Chairmanship of Dr Don Edgar. Within this role he advocated for and supported a wide range of education initiatives within rural and remote communities if Victoria that we often take for granted today’ (‘A rural educators contribution to the Men’s Shed Movement’, CEP Newsletter, 2015).

For eight years from 1985 Dick spearheaded the creation of a radical Conductive Education School in Tongala for children with neurological disorders. The Conductive Education model was first pioneered in Hungary and focused on young children with cerebral palsy. Whilst operating, the Tongala-based program that Lynne Cooper became an important part of ‘worked with around 150 families from all states of Australia, from New Zealand and Papua New Guinea’. In a huge advertisement thanking donors and supporters as the School was forced to close in early 1992, Dick listed over 100 individual sponsors and 150 community organisations, including 23 CWA Branches, 13 Catholic Women’s Leagues, and nine Lions Clubs that had provided support.

Dick took a 54 year 11 month ‘early departure package’ from his position as Primary School Vice Principal, as part of the aggressive Jeff Kennett-era school restructure and closure program. Kennett, to 2015 Chair of beyondblue, a national depression initiative, was the Victorian Liberal Premier from 1992 until his electoral defeat by Steve Bracks in September 1999. In the first three years of Kennett’s Premiership, 350 government schools were closed and 7,000 teaching jobs were eliminated. The campaign of privatisation and cutbacks that led to people losing their jobs was popularly known as ‘being Jeffed’. In several ways, ‘being Jeffed’ on what he described as a ‘Kennett Scholarship’ arguably spurred Dick to find ways of helping other men debilitated and not in work for a wide range of other reasons: and to the invention of his Men’s Shed in a community setting

Dick was an unwell man for much of the last decade of his life before his early death at age 59 in 1999, only one year after his remarkable Men’s Shed, effectively the first in the world, was formally opened by Sharman Stone, MHR. Dick had his first, then undiagnosed heart attack in 1981 and his second major attack in October 1997 in the period where he was working tirelessly to get his Men’s Shed funded and built. Dick also suffered from poorly managed diabetes, leading in his final year to several lower limb amputations and restriction to a wheelchair.

A ‘testimonial celebration’ including a concert and dinner was held for Dick and Ruth in their honour in April-May 1999. In thanking the Tongala community for their thoughtfulness and generosity on 15 May 1999, Dick noted that the move to Tongala had been ‘the move of a lifetime’, and selflessly said, “Friends, without you there would be no past; without you there would be no future.” Ruth McGowan remarked in a 2015 interview with Rob and Olya Willis for the National Sound Archives in Canberra that a lot of what Dick wanted to do with and for the Men’s Shed in Tongala did not happen because of his heart attack. If only Dick knew what he had started.

As a final postscript, a small group of older Tongala men that dubbed themselves ‘The Bike Brigade’ regularly rode their bicycles to the Men’s Shed with Hec Macleod as their leader. Gordon, Cox who died at age 102, rode his bike to the Men’s Shed until he was 95. Bert Andrews, a returned serviceman from the Second World War was the only member of the Men’s Shed Bike Brigade surviving to May 2015.


Golding, B. (Ed.) (2015) The Men’s Shed Movement, The Company of Men. Champaign: Common Ground Publishing.

if you have any information that can help enhance (or correct) any of this brief and partial account of Dick McGowan’s life and community contributions, please contact Barry Golding.

Tongala Celebration of the World’s First Men’s Shed, 16 Nov 2015, 1pm

‘Bringing it all Back Home’, Book Launch, 16 November, 2015,

Tongala Men’s Shed, Tongala, Victoria, Australia


The ‘Tongala Men’s Shed’, originally opened in July 1998 as ‘The Dick McGowan Men’s Shed’, is identified in Professor Barry Golding’s recently published Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men book as the oldest Men’s Shed opened by that name in a community setting anywhere in the world.

Below is a press cutting from December 1997 confirming receipt of a grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a Men’s Shed in Tongala.


With 1,500 Sheds open globally, 30 per cent of which are outside of Australia, the Men’s Shed in Tongala, opened as The Dick McGowan Men’s Shed in Dick’s honour was indeed a ‘Great Beginning’, as the late Dick McGowan wrote in 1998.

It is fitting that the celebratory launch of the first definitive book about the now international Movement is taking place in the first ever Men’s Shed. Dr Sharman Stone, Member for Murray who launched in the Shed over 17 years ago has generously agreed to return to launch the book. In many senses, this event is a celebration.

This public opening, to which everyone is welcome, celebrates the role and impact of all previous and current Victorian Men’s Sheds, and welcomes several early and very influential people involved in Men’s Sheds and the Movement in Victoria.

This gathering and celebration of the Shed has been organised by the Victorian Men’s Shed Association (VMSA) in collaboration with the Tongala Aged Care Centre, with the support of the broader Tongala community and the Victorian shedder community.

Our guest of honour is Ruth McGowan, a long time and highly respected shedder in the Tongala Men’s Shed and widow of the late and great Dick McGowan.

Paul Sladdin, current Board member of the Australian Men’s Shed Association, former President of the Victorian Men’s Shed Association from Mansfield has been invited to act as MC.

Many Men’s Sheds across Victoria  have indicated their intention of participating in this historic event. Any Sheds in nearby southern New South Wales are also most welcome.

Some copies of the ‘Men’s Shed Movement’ book will be available for sale and signing from Barry Golding at the launch for $40. Additional copies can also be ordered (including postage for $50) via Barry, email with a preferred postal address. Payment is by invoice, via BSB bank transfer or cheque.


Public Book Launch and Unveiling of a Commemorative Plaque


  • 1.00pm Welcome Cuppa
    • 1.30pm Acknowledgement of Country and Welcome (MC Paul Sladdin, Board Member, AMSA)
    • 1.35pm Welcome to Tongala Aged Care Centre (Jean Courtney)
    • 1.40pm Introduction to The Men’s Shed MovementBook and its author (Paul Sladdin)
    • 1.50 pm The importance of ‘The Dick McGowan Men’s Shed’ and Dick McGowan’s role (Professor Barry Golding).
    • 2.20pm Address and book launch (Dr Sharman Stone. MHR, Member for Murray).
    • 2.40pm Unveiling of The Dick McGowan Men’s Shed, commemorative plaque (Ruth McGowan).
    • 2.50pm ‘The important role of VMSA and AMSA in shaping the national Men’s Shed Movement’ (Paul Sladdin)
    • 3.00pm Afternoon Tea.
    • 3.00pm CLOSE

Sincere Thanks to:

  • Tongala Aged Care Centre (Jean Courtney & Sara Tee).
  • Dr Sharman Stone, MHR, Member for Murray.
  • Victorian Men’s Shed Association (Ric Blackburn CEO & Phil Keily, President)
  • Australian Men’s Shed Association (David Helmers, CEO & Board Member, Paul Sladdin).
  • Tongala Men’s Shed.
  • All Men’s Sheds participating in the Tongala event.
  • Stephen Dunn (CEO, Adult Learning Australia).
  • Ruth McGowan, Tongala.
  • Federation University Australia, Ballarat (Barry Golding).
  • Chris Bettle (Canberra).

Goolwa ‘Celebrate The Shed’ Event 30 Oct 2015



Thanks to the Alexandrina  Centre for Positive Ageing via Beth Moore, the ‘Celebrate The Shed’ event in Goolwa, South Australia on 30 October was very successful.


Men participated from Murray Malle Men’s Shed, Murray Bridge, Tintinara Community Men’s Shed, Tea Tree Gully Men’s Shed, Mount Prospect Men’s Shed, Nurioopta Men’s Shed, Playford Men’s Shed, Strathalbyn Wood Shed, Aldinga Community Centre, Encounter Centre and Victor Harbor Men’s Shed. We took a photo outside The Shed as below.


Maureen Kitto-Chaseling generously came all the way from Brisbane to return to ‘The Shed’ that she pioneered with the assistance of the late Ras Stokes in July 1993. A photo of The Shed with Ras’ Retreat alongside is below.


Maxine did a formal South Australian launch of Barry Golding’s Men’s Shed Movement book . The great story behind The Shed’s establishment is in ‘The Men’s Shed Movement’ book. Maxine’s stories were generous and uplifting for the 70 people who participated.

A plaque was unveiled on the end of the day by Councillor Tuckwell from there Alexandrina Council acknowledging The Shed as the first community Shed for men opened by that name in the world.

John Evoy, founding CEO of the Irish Men’s Sheds Association, and 2015 recipient of ‘The Ted Donnelly Award’ and David Helmers, CEO of Australian Men’s Shed Association drove across from Newcastle, New South Wales for the event.


Mark Thomson, from the Institute of Backyard Studies and author of several influential books about men and backyard sheds from 1995 also generously contributed to the program and supplied several photos including the one of John Evoy and Barry Golding, above.

Thanks finally to South Australian Men’s Shed Association via Bryce Routley for publicising and supporting the event.

Reviews of Men’s Shed Movement book


James Sutherland, Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand

‘The detail and scope of the ‘The Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men’ is extremely impressive. From the perspective of a New Zealand based researcher, this book has provided a wealth of information about the development of the Men’s Shed movement, and how it has benefited those involved. It situates the Shed I’m involved with, The Taieri Blokes Shed, within the scope of a wider entity. I would recommend this book as an essential purchase for any Men’s Shed bookcase.’

Emale, Men’s Health Magazine, October 2015

‘…  Barry’s book is a truly amazing work, detailing the history of men’s sheds in Australia and globally. He notes how the “men’s shed movement” in Australia was supported by the Australian Men’s Health Forum’s National Conferences which “provided an important point of contact between men’s health workers and those working in the growing Men’s Shed space for almost two decades.” The final chapter of this massive work looks at issues, trends and possibilities for the future of men’s sheds. I found this chapter the most engrossing as he suggests “this book provides evidence that, aside from the benefits of Men’s Sheds to men’s health and wellbeing, there are numerous social justice benefits of working with men and boys, exposing boys and men to traditionally masculine and non-masculine knowledges, improving their relationships with other humans, including women and other men, and thereby establishing a more just society”. This is a masterful work and a book that all people who have an interest in men and social justice should read. It has something for everyone – a bit like most sheds do.”

Dr Rob Mark, Ireland :

“Along  with Men learning through life (2014),  this is another very useful book which demonstrates how a focus on men’s learning can bring very many different benefits not only to the men themselves, but to their families and communities. It demonstrates how lifelong learning empowers individuals to make a difference in their personal and home/community life. It provides further evidence of the value in supporting men’s learning in non-traditional learning contexts.”

[Honorary Secretary, Universities Association for Lifelong Learning (UALL) UK; Editor, The Adult Learner Journal; Honorary Research Fellow, School of Education , University of Strathclyde, Glasgow; Honorary Research Fellow, Higher Education Research Centre, Dublin City University.]

“Reading it now. Great survey, lots of insights. Very useful”, Roger Spicer, (Halswell Menzshed Christcurch, New Zealand).

If you or others  are interested in reviewing the book, please contact  Barry Golding and request a copy, confirming where the review would appear.

Men’s Sheds in Denmark and Sweden


imageMaens Modesteder in Swedish, literally

‘Men’s Meeting  Place, in English.

in Stevns, Denmark, officially opened 15 September 2015, one of nine sites where ‘Men’s Shed’ type organisations are being established, based on the Australian concept, with a ‘Danish cultural twist’.


‘Shedders’ in the Stevns Maens Modesteder after the opening.

Shed  i Malmo


Established in Malmö, Sweden by expatriate Australian Will English (in black sweater) and friends. Photo taken by Barry Golding, 14 September 2015


The Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men, BOOK DETAIL



Barry Golding’s most recent (2015) research and writing project:

The Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men

Common Ground Publishing, Champaign, Illinois,  published August 2015

This book tells the story of how men’s sheds actually got a foothold in community spaces, originally in Australia, and how it has become a Movement in several other countries. There are many myths, legends and quite a few half truths. There is an ongoing debate about ‘which sheds were first’.  My short answer before writing the book has been that wherever a new shed pops up, it is always first in some way, and certainly the first in that location or community to meet the needs of the men whose unique interests and need to ‘do stuff’ together (whatever that stuff might be), for the good of other men and the community.

I have sometimes joked that akin to ‘Aladdin and his Lamp’, someone rubbed the lamp and the first community Men Shed popped out. The real story in the book is much more interesting, and has diverse and fascinating strands, many of them starting to come together as community -‘Sheds’ in rural South Australia in the 1990s, a few years before the first named ‘Men’s Sheds’ opened in Tongala (Victoria) and Lane Cove in New South Wales (in July and December in 1998 respectively), with others appearing in Port Augusta and Bendigo during 1999.

There were only around 30 Men’s Sheds in the world a decade ago (before 2005). By May 2015 there were 1,416 Men’s Sheds open globally. All are mapped and listed by name in the book. The list includes 933 Men’s Sheds in Australia, 273 across the Island of Ireland (including 16 in Northern Ireland), 148 elsewhere in the UK (England, Scotland and Wales) and 57 in New Zealand. By September 2015 several Men’s Sheds, with an appropriate cultural accommodation) were open in Denmark (called Maens Modesteder) and Sweden (in Malmö) and at least five were open in Canada.

Part II  of the book  provides a carefully researched ‘Community Men’s Shed History’, explaining  how Men’s Sheds originated and  spread, first   in Australia, then across Ireland, the UK and New Zealand as well as very recently to Canada, Denmark and Sweden.  Part 3  illustrates  the remarkable ‘Men’s Shed Innovation and Diversity’ using national case studies. Part IV summarises the research evidence about participants and outcomes, explains its implications for shed practice and identifies some current trends an future possibilities.

Generous assistance and information have been provided by each of the four main national men’s shed associations, particularly from David Helmers and Ted Donnelly (AMSA in Australia), Mike Jenn (UKMSA in the UK),  Anne McDonnell and John Evoy (IMSA in Ireland) and Neil Bruce and MENZSHED NZ in New Zealand. This new book about The Men’s Shed Movement includes brief histories of some of the earliest sheds in each country. In an attempt to give readers an idea of the depth and breadth sheds and shedder practice, the book also documents sheds that have been particularly ‘innovative’ or ‘remarkable’, as well as those that are quite recent (opened post 2010) and that might be regarded as ‘new or cutting edge’.

The book was published in August 2015 (by Common Ground Publishing in Champaign, Illinois in the US). It will be formally launched in Europe at ESREA Research conferences in Belgrade, Serbia and Jonkoping Sweden on 10 and 15 October,  as well as at AMSA’s Australian Men’s Shed Conference, in Newcastle on 19 October 2015.

A special, Victorian and local public book  launch, called ‘Bringing it all back home’  will take place in the Tongala Men’s Shed, on 16 November  at 1pm, just over 17 years after the first Men’s Shed was launched there in July 1998. Dr Sharman Stone, MHR for Murray who originally opened the shed as The Dick McGowan Men’s Shed is returning to launch the book. The event is supported by VMSA and AMSA and hosted by the Tongala Aged Care Centre that auspices the Men’s She. The event is open to the public and shedders are particularly welcome.

A one day event organised by SAMSA and hosted by the Alexandrina Centre in Goolwa, South Australia on 30 October, A Celebration of the Shed, will celebrate the role of many early South Australian Sheds, including ‘The Shed’ in Goolwa, opened there  in February 1993. David Helmers, AMSA CEO and John Evoy, Founding CEO of the Irish Men’s Shed Assocation are also participating, as well as Mark Thomson, well known Blokes and Sheds author. It will conclude with the South Australian launch of the book and unveiling of a plaque to commemorate The Shed, opened in 1993: the first ever opened by that name in a community setting 22 years ago. Maxine Chaseling (formerly Kitto) who played an important founding role is returning to Goolwa for the event. This event is also welcome to the public and is being supported by several regional South Australian Men’s Sheds.

The book’s completion and launch takes place a decade after the first national Men’s Shed Conference in Lakes Entrance, Victoria, Australia in 2005, and only around two decades after the first handful of community Sheds  began to emerge in, mainly in rural South Australia from 1993 (until late 1998 without ‘Men’ in the organisation title).  If that whets your appetite, you will likely enjoy the book. …

The writing and researching has been made possible by the generosity of spirit of many Men’s Sheds, passionate and experienced shed practitioners (‘shedders’) and experts across several nations. Many people have been keen to get this untold story out: about community Men’s Shed history, innovation and diversity as well as evidence of impact, as summarised in the Chapter headings, below.

Book cost via Common Ground Website US$30, Ebook US$10, Postage Extra.

Cost in Australia, purchased or ordered via Barry Golding, A$40, postage within Australia A$10 extra for between one and four books (posted to New Zealand, A$63): for orders and payment options, contact


Chapter 1: Nailing down the Men’s Shed basics


  • Chapter 2: Coming out of the backyard shed in Australia
  • Chapter 3: Early Australian Men’s Sheds and state associations
  • Chapter 4: The Men’s Shed Movement in Australia
  • Chapter 5: The Men’s Shed Movements in Ireland, the UK & New Zealand & Elsewhere


  • Chapter 6: Australian Men’s Sheds
  • Chapter 7: Irish Men’s Sheds (John Evoy, Anne Mcdonnell & Barry Golding)
  • Chapter 8: UK Men’s Sheds ( Barry Golding & Mike Jenn)
  • Chapter 9: New Zealand Men’s Sheds (Barry Golding & Neil Bruce)


  • Chapter 10:  Research evidence from Men’s Sheds
  • Chapter 11 Men’s Shed theory and practice
  • Chapter 12: Men’s shed issues, trends & possibilities

The book’s Appendix includes a list all 1,416 community Men’s Sheds open globally to May 2015 and the 100+ articles published about Men’s Sheds.

Are you interested to learn more about this remarkable Men’s Shed Movement globally?

 Are you interested to know more about Men’s Shed innovation and diversity in community settings in four countries Australia, Ireland, the UK and New Zealand, all with active national Movements?

 Do you want to read about how and where the Movement started, who was involved, and how and where the Movement has spread globally?

 Are you interested to learn from the experience of over 80 diverse Men’s Sheds in four countries?

 Do you want to know how and why over 1,400 diverse Men’s Sheds organisations are already embraced by men and communities across the world?

 Then this book is for you

This 454 page book documents for the first time (with evidence):

  • how and why the first community Sheds were created in South Australia during the 1990s
  • the fascinating ‘birth’ of the first ‘Men’s Sheds’ elsewhere in Australia during 1998-9
  • the way the first early Men’s Sheds joined up, the Movement gained traction, forming national and state associations in Australia in the following decade
  • how Sheds have quite recently (since 2008) ‘escaped’ to and thrived in Ireland, the UK and New Zealand, to form robust, new national associations
  • what research says about the value and impact of community Men’ Sheds including men’s experiences as ‘shedders’.

 This book includes:

  • 11 national (Australian, Irish, UK and NZ) maps, 6 Australian state maps plus a list of all 1,416 community Men’s Sheds open globally to mid-2015
  • 35 photographs plus 15 historic documents from early Men’s Sheds globally.
  • a list and analysis of over 100 research articles about Men’s Sheds
  • 92 Shed and Men’s Shed case studies, one half from Australia, with around 15 each from Ireland, the UK and New Zealand
  • 45 ‘early’ Men’s Shed case studies, plus 15 ‘innovative’ case studies, 16 ‘remarkable’ case studies and 15 ‘new or cutting edge’ case studies across four countries
  • serious consideration of issues, trends and possibilities for Men’s Sheds globally.

This major, independent piece of global scholarship includes:

  • endorsement by the four national Men’s Sheds associations: in Australia (AMSA), Ireland (IMSA), the UK (UKMSA) and New Zealand (MENZSHED NZ). All assisted with the histories and case studies and contributed to the preface, as well as with the writing and checking of the four national chapters.
  • co-authorship of the Irish chapter by John Evoy, foundation CEO of IMSA (assisted by Anne McDonnell); of the UK chapter by Mike Jenn, founder of UKMSA, and the New Zealand chapter by Dr Neil Bruce, a foundation Board Member of MENZSHED NZ
  • endorsement by Mark Thomson, well known Australian author of several books about backyard and personal men’s sheds starting with Blokes and Sheds in 1995.

Endorsements of The Men’s Shed Movement Book

Mark Thomson: Widely published author about Australian (backyard) sheds since Blokes and Sheds (1995):

The Men’s Shed Movement book charts the rise of a remarkable social Movement from its unlikely origins in the backyards and streets of Australia to a global trend. As an insider in the creation of an immense network of community Sheds and meeting places, Barry Golding brings a unique perspective to a fascinating story. He reveals the immense untapped potential that lies within the grasp of ordinary citizens looking for connection and involvement in modern life and how they organized themselves into a powerful social force. The best part is that the Men’s Shed story is still evolving. A timely and useful history.

Ted Donnelly: Founder of the best known early Men’s Shed in Australia in Lane Cove, Sydney, Australia, first President of the Australian Men’s Shed Association and widely respected ‘Grandfather’ of Men’s Sheds:

Although Men’s Sheds have existed for a relatively short time there are many different versions of their history, because accurate factual information has not been available. This book, which for the first time definitively details and analyses the growth and development of Sheds in Australia, and now overseas, is very timely. Nobody is more qualified to write it than Barry Golding. Barry’s research into Men’s Sheds from their earliest days has given him a very wide range of contacts and information to access the data for this book. He has meticulously verified his data with the key people who were involved in the early development stages using original documents. The work that Barry has put into this book is impressive. This will become a very valuable resource for all involved in any way with Men’s Sheds.

 David Helmers: CEO of Australian Men’s Shed Association (AMSA):

This important book confirms that Men’s Sheds in community settings did not happen overnight. It does three things. Firstly, it carefully honours and acknowledges the early Men’s Shed ‘pioneers’ in Australia and other countries that the Movement has since spread to. Secondly, it charts the incredible diversity of Men’s Sheds. Thirdly, it considers the emerging evidence base about the wider value of the Movement and Men’s Sheds to men and the wider community. It is very important after two decades to accurately tell this story: about how and where it happened, why it happened, who participates and with what benefits, as well as where this remarkable international Movement might now be headed. This knowledge is very important and timely for the future of Men’s Sheds.

 John Evoy: to early 2015, Founding CEO Irish Men’s Sheds Association (IMSA):

On behalf of the Shedders from across the Island of Ireland I would like to thank and congratulate our friend, Barry Golding, on the creation of this very valuable and insightful resource. It diligently outlines the growth and development of the Men’s Sheds Movement across the globe. The arrival of Men’s Sheds in Ireland was perfectly timed in terms of helping us manage some of the challenges we faced economically over the last number of years. This book outlines their evolution here including the tremendous support and guidance we received from our Australian friends who blazed a trail that we followed.

 Mike Jenn: President of UK Men’s Sheds Association (UKMSA) and founder of the Camden Town Men’s Shed in London, the first ‘grassroots’ Men’s Shed in the UK:

Men’s Sheds have hit a nail on the head in a very timely and powerful way. The nail in this case is the need many men feel, particularly following retirement, to recreate critically important aspects of their former workplaces: particularly the social interaction, having a purpose, being able to learn and share experiences, as well as engage with tools, materials and ideas. This book documents how men and women have got together and created the resources and facilities needed. It chronicles how the idea has spread across the world, with remarkable success, and how the Men’s Shed Movement has continued to evolve and develop. This book greatly informs and assists with this process.

Ray Hall: President of MENZSHED New Zealand:

MENZSHED NZ acknowledges the value of this timely book, which carefully places the Men’s Shed Movement, including its development in New Zealand in the past decade, in its wider international context. It illustrates what has been achieved in New Zealand, when the simple but powerful concept of a Men’s Shed in a community setting has been picked up, developed and implemented by a wide range of community groups. It charts the remarkable and rapid spread of Men’s Sheds across New Zealand, achieved through the efforts of both men and women, mostly volunteers, working by establishing trusts or incorporated societies, gaining charitable status, getting building approvals and bringing together potential shedders. This has been achieved in the absence of central government funding, but supported by local councils and providers of community funding, acknowledging the huge value and potential benefits.

Author and Editor, Professor Barry Golding

  • is an Adjunct Professor of Education in the Faculty of Education and Arts, Federation University Australia, Ballarat.
  • has extensive research experience in all adult learning sectors.
  • is a world expert on informal learning by men through participation in community organisations (see Men Learning through Life, 2014, NIACE)
  • has completed many national and international studies of men’s learning and wellbeing through community participation particularly through men’s sheds
  • is the most widely published and cited author (of 33 research publications) about Men’s Sheds, one third of the global total.
  • is honorary Patron of the Australian Men’s Shed Association.
  • is a Board Member and past President of Adult Learning Australia.



Past lives

Some Past Lives …

  • B. J  Golding, B Sc (Geology) Honours Thesis, University of Melbourne, 1972,  Lower Devonian Stratigraphy of the Walhalla-Moondarra Area.
  • Founding  member of Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band. Vocalist, guitarist and lagerphone player. The seven to eight member band played in many towns and cities in all states and territories in Australia between 1972-6 including with State Arts Councils. It represented Australia at the World Cup Soccer Finals Opening Concert, Frankfurt, (then) West Germany in 1974.
  • Master of Environmental Science Thesis, Monash University, Use of artificial hollows by mammals and birds in the Wombat Forest, Daylesford, Victoria, Feb 1979.
  • Chair, Ballarat Regional Conservation Strategy to 1991. Ballarat’s original conservation strategy was one of the first conservation strategies of its kind in Australia, making Ballarat a leader in the field of environmental planning at the time.
  • Messmate Eucalyptus obliqua
    Messmate Eucalyptus obliqua. University of Coimbra Botanical Gardens, Portugal, October 2013

‘Men learning through life’ NIACE book released in 2014

“280 page book, Men learning through life (prices and order details in Great Britain Pounds), now published by NIACE in the UK in Feb 2014, launched in UK and Ireland late February, for launch in Australia 23/24 April.

Flyers about the book with information to order copies are also available for other countries:

Extracts from two recent reviews:

‘ A useful book providing a theoretical background plus practical suggestions to enhance teaching and learning options for males outside formal settings.‘ (Matt Bennett)  The Australian TAFE Teacher Winter 2014.

I have pondered why we have been so slow to look beyond classrooms for places to engage with learners. So this is a book I have been waiting to read and it does not disappoint,

This is an important and refreshing book that urges us to take male friendly learning places seriously. But it does more than this. It gives both research evidence and concrete examples how this can be done, and is being done in Australia and internationally. …. These spaces give men a place to feel safe and be themselves, surely we want this for all our learners.’ Fine Print (VALBEC)  2014, Vol. 37 #2 (Pauline O’Malley, Australia).

‘Men Learning through Life’ ….does make a significant contribution to our understanding of men’s learning in informal settings. It is a useful book for someone who has an interest in how we can make men’s leaning more successful, and how we can encourage more men into ongoing learning. Book Review, ACE Aotearoa Summer Newsletter 2014, p. 12 (Peter McNeur, New Zealand).

The book is edited by Professor Barry Golding ( Federation University Australia), Dr Rob Mark  (University of Strathclyde, Scotland) & Dr Annette Foley (Federation University Australia) with contributed national chapters including eleven other researchers across seven world nations.

2014 Launch dates  (those editors and Chapter authors attending are indicated):


21 Feb University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland (Barry Golding, Rob Mark, John Evoy)


  • 25 Feb The Oak Room, the Mansion House, Dublin, Ireland info here , a men’s shed networking event and book launch, Ireland, coordinated by the Irish Men’s Sheds Association (Barry Golding, Rob Mark, Lucia Carragher & John Evoy)
  • 2pm 27 Feb (Thursday) Belfast, Northern Ireland, after the WEA ‘Man Matters’ Forum in Crumlin Gaol (Barry Golding, Rob Mark, Lucia Carragher).


  • Centre for Ageing Research, Lancaster University, England, Thursday 20 February 2014 (Barry Golding)
  • Monday 31st March 2014, at a Conference on ‘A Socially Mobile Scotland?’ Social Mobility and Widening Access to Higher Education in Scotland: Policy, Practice and Research. (Rob Mark)
  • 11-12 April, at the  The  University  Association for Lifelong Learning (UALL) annual Conference. in London.


  • Wednesday 23 April 2014, hosted by Federation University Australia (Barry Golding, Rob Mark, Annette Foley), with Prof John McDonald officiating and The Hon Steve Bracks, ex Premier of Victoria conducting the launch. Post Office Gallery, corner Sturt & Lydiard Streets, Ballarat
  • in Melbourne  as part of a Forum on ‘Learning and wellbeing across the generations’ at the Brotherhood of St Laurence, Brunswick (Father Tucker’s Room, 49 Brunswick Street) (Barry Golding, Rob Mark, Annette Foley).

Men learning through life Book Outline

Contributed national chapters are  from Ireland (Dr Lucia Carragher, John Evoy & Dr Rob Mark), UK (Dr Rob Mark & Jim Soulsby), Portugal (Dr António Fragoso, Dr João Filipe Marques & Milene Lança), Greece  (Dr George K. Zarifis),  China (Professor Tingyan Zhao, Dr Aijing Jin, Liang Hua & Prof Barry Golding), Australia (Professor Barry Golding) and New Zealand (Professor Brian Findsen).

Part 1, comprising most of the first half of the book (Chapters 1 to 8) introduces and critically analyses some of the international research evidence surrounding men’s learning. An introductory Chapter 1 provides a broad rationale and theoretical framework for analysing men’s learning. The balance of the Chapters in Part 1 are organised around themes relating to men’s learning. Specifically, these chapters discuss men’s learning: in international settings (Chapter 2), as it relates to learning and health and wellbeing (Chapter 3, Professor John Macdonald) and men’s literacies (Chapter 4, Rob Mark). Given the contested nature of ‘men’s turn to learn’ arguments, Chapter 5 makes a case for some places and spaces for men’s learning for men, particularly for those men beyond paid work (Chapter 6, Annette Foley), at different ages and stages (Chapter 7, Annette Foley & Barry Golding) and through men’s sheds in community settings (Chapter 8, Barry Golding).

Part 2 includes seven chapters (Chapter 9 to 15), each focused on aspects of men’s learning across seven nations located in three continents: in Europe (UK, Ireland, Portugal, Greece), Australasia (Australia and New Zealand) and Asia (China). Each chapter, contributed or led by researchers based in those nations, is framed around recent research evidence that points towards practical initiatives and policies that increases men’s level of engagement in learning in that national context. Given our book’s theme, Men Learning Through Life, Part 2 seeks to identify new, practical and creative ways of working and engaging men of all ages. Several of these Chapters point to new ways of involving men in communities of practice as active participants in shaping their own learning.

Each of the seven national Chapters in Part 2 has been written around four broad research questions, but customised by diverse researchers using different theoretical perspectives, as appropriate to very diverse national contexts and available data.

  1. • What prevailing socio-cultural factors affect men and their learning?
  2. • What is the current learning and wellbeing situation for men?
  3. • What practical initiatives encourage men’s learning?
  4. • In what ways are policy, practice and research shaped to accommodate men’s learning?

The book’s three editors contribute the final Chapter 16. It includes a discussion and conclusions. It seeks to identify and summarise what can be said about policy, practice and research into men’s learning in the international context. It also identifies examples of good policies or practices in men’s learning that can be shared in the international arena.

How I come to live where I live 2013

Professor Barry Golding, Kingston


‘Personality of the Month’ article for Creswick and District News, April 2013



Barry Golding recalls driving through Kingston each day in the late 1970s on the way to work from home in a rented farmhouse at Kooroocheang, to Sacred Heart College in Ballarat East. The then Shire of Creswick called for public tenders for the sale of their Shire Hall in Kingston, which by that stage was in a very sad state. The back part of the building, built with triple-thickness, hand-made bricks dates back to 1860. Built by the Creswick and District Roads Board with John Hepburn then on the Board, the current 1911 ‘Creswick Shire Hall’ façade and new hall was added in 1911. By 1948 the Shire and Borough of Creswick had amalgamated and its administration had moved back to Creswick.


After being gutted internally for a post-war factory (that did not eventuate) and used as a local youth club, the hall interior was subject to vandalism and excess to Shire needs by the late 1970s. When Barry’s late father, Jack saw the building after Barry won the tender and paid a now small amount of cash for the building, Jack said it would cost too much to bulldoze. Barry put back windows, doors and internal walls that had been removed, and with family (including three children who went to Kingston Primary School, then Daylesford Secondary College, now all working in Melbourne) has made it a home for 33 years.


Born in Donald in north-western Victoria, Barry moved to Daylesford in 1976. He had completed a Science (Geology) Honours degree, mapping the rocks around Walhalla as his Honours thesis in 1971. This was followed by several years as a full time touring musician with Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band, one of Australia’s first full time, professional ‘folk ‘bands, that played in hundreds of larger Australian towns in all Australian states in the early 1970s, and was selected to play by the then Whitlam government, representing Australia at the World Cup Soccer finals opening concert in Frankfurt in 1974. Barry says no other band played such far-flung and eclectic gigs as the outdoor Amphitheatre in Darwin, Thursday Island, Cunnamulla, the Festival of Perth, Alice Springs Rodeo, the 1973 Sunbury Pop and Nimbin Aquarius Festivals: curiously also the backing band for Frank Zappa at Festival Hall. For around 15 years while living in Kingston Barry played locally for bush dances with other local musicians in the Jacaranda Jumbucks and later Everyman and his dog. He says his decision to say ‘enough’ came with the sub-text of being booked for the Hearing Impaired Ball in Ballarat.


Living in Kingston since 1980 (with one year away teaching at Humpty Doo in the Northern Territory in 1984, before returning to Daylesford Secondary College to teach until 1988), longer-term Creswick residents may remember Barry training on the grass perimeter of Hammon Park in Creswick for the annual Australian penny-farthing racing championships in Tasmania, which he won three years running, 1978-80.


Barry made the break from school teaching to university in 1988 via a job coordinating the first Aboriginal education programs at SMB, then to Ballarat University College which became University of Ballarat (UB), before gravitating to vocational education and training research at Bendigo Regional Institute of TAFE. Having completed an Arts degree in 1984, a Masters in Environmental Science, several postgraduate education diplomas and a PhD in Education in 1999 about two-way transfer between university and the vocational education and training systems (most while working full time), Barry returned to UB around ten years ago to a senior lecturer position in the School of Education.


In his current (2013) role as Professor and Associate Dean, Research, in the School of Education and Arts at UB, Barry’s main area of research is in men’s learning and wellbeing. He says he was fortunate enough to be researching in rural adult and community education as the first community men’s sheds started over ten years ago, and has made research into men’s learning beyond paid work his international speciality, currently working on a book to be published in the UK in 2015 called Men learning through life.


Contributing to the spread, development and studies of the men’s shed movement, with 900+ sheds now in Australia, nearly 100 in Ireland and 50 in Zealand, Barry regards this as a great privilege. Now Patron of the Australian Men’s Sheds Association and President of the Board of Adult Learning Australia, Barry is acutely aware of the need to have accessible places and spaces available at community level, such as the Creswick Adult Learning Centre and Neighbourhood House and the Creswick Men’s Friendship Shed, one of the earliest in Australia and one Barry has an ongoing ‘soft spot’ for.


Barry is clear about the need to follow your learning, work and out of work interests with a passion, wherever it takes you. Most weekends he rides a bicycle 100km in a loop north to Tullaroop Reservoir and back through Majorca, Mt Cameron, Clunes and Ullina: deliberately very tiny communities and quiet roads. In the past few years he has worked with and visited researchers across Australia, in Greece, Portugal, Ireland, the UK, New Zealand, Finland and China.


He recalls first coming to Daylesford as an unemployed 25 year old, looking for a house to rent a room in Daylesford, and falling on his feet by becoming part of a local study organised by then Daylesford forester, David Parnaby. The research into hollow dependent mammals and birds in the Wombat Forest, with study areas near Daylesford, Spargo Creek, and Leonard Hill, later became the subject of his Masters thesis.


Barry retains a strong interest in the local environment, with a particular interest in the pre-contact landscapes of the DjaDja Wurrong Aboriginal Nation that includes Creswick. His main, recent UB undergraduate teaching area is in Indigenous education. Before Easter 2013 much of the Crown land in this region that form part of DjaDja Wurrong country was recognised for the first time in nearly 200 years as Aboriginal land, recognition Barry regards as very welcome and long overdue. Image