Garry Allen - Certificate IV in Community Services
Before commencing my Community Services Cert IV course at Byron Community College I was a Tradie, working as a Handyman. I had been for my entire career! As I thought about heading into semi-retirement, the idea of going back to study was pretty difficult and daunting at first.
I’d not been a student or studied since high school! Plus being a tradesman means working on your own a lot, and working with tools. So the challenges of technology, group interaction and being in a classroom was all very new and a lot of change for me. I had to change my whole mindset and go into a student mode.
Community Services was not what I thought it would be either! Studying full time was a big commitment. It’s a big course that covers a lot of information like laws, policies, procedures. youth, aged care, mental health and homelessness. There’s also a lot of group interaction, sharing and talking. It really pushed my boundaries and was really good for me! I was a bit scared looking back. I learnt a lot from the other students too, which you don’t realise at the time. This ended up being one of the most valuable things for me actually.
Having lived in Byron Bay for 27 years, I knew I wanted to go back to helping and giving back to this incredible community, A long long time ago I volunteered at the Byron Community Centre which I really enjoyed, and as a handyman I had a lot of older clients and was always interested in the interaction that I had with them. So when choosing where to do my work placement I decided on Diversional Therapy in Aged Care (at RSL Lifecare in Suffolk Park). You take them on bus trips, go for lunch, spend time together getting them doing different things. It’s really inspiring!
This is where I started to get interested in men’s groups and particularly the ‘Men’s Shed’ and the brilliant work they do there. My final year presentation was on what it would take to start a Men’s Shed from scratch. As part of this I met the President of the Bangalow Shed who is very involved in outreach programs and connected with the Lions Club. I ended up being so inspired by him that I joined that Men’s Shed group.
The work they do is called ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’, it’s about being there, not necessarily talking. Unless it comes up! We come together and build things, paint, exercise as a group, play ping pong, just have fun…if the men feel like they want to share or open up they can, in a safe and supportive space. It’s lovely, I’m loving it! After only a short time, I’m now on the Wellbeing Committee for that Men’s Shed. I feel HONOURED to be a part of it all.
We are soon to launch a ground breaking new initiative called Shed Mates, which will be rolled out Australia wide across all 1200+ Sheds. We bring inspiring people into the Shed to give talks and tell their stories. And it started here in the Byron Shire! I feel like I’ve definitely found my calling! And a great blend of my two passions and skills.
If you are thinking about going back to study GO FOT IT! At first its challenging, but in the end it’s rewarding. You’ll definitely transform through it.Back