By Lizette Salmon, Coordinator, Repair Café Albury-Wodonga
Toasters, kettles, watches, hairdryers – isn’t it dreadful how quickly they give up the ghost? Luckily I had a grandfather who fixed them for me. A retired Dutch engineer, he’d have them up and running in a few days, his initials and date discretely etched onto the underside. It was a marvellous service.
Now that he’s passed away, I’ve tried getting broken electrical appliances professionally repaired, but more often than not get told it’ll be cheaper to buy a new item. This frustrates and annoys me on so many levels – it’s a waste of money and raw materials, wasteful of energy to make and transport new goods, dreadful for landfill and entirely avoidable if products were made to last. Planned obsolescence is a disgraceful practice that’s getting worse. Grrrr.
Imagine, then, my delight when I stumbled across an antidote to this. It’s called a Repair Café. The first Repair Café was established in 2009 by a journalist in The Netherlands and has since spread to over 20 countries. The Netherlands alone has hundreds of them, often several in each town.
Repair Cafés are free meeting places for members of the community to learn the art of repair from professional tradespeople, experts and ‘hobbyists’. Visitors bring in a broken household item – a wobbly stool, torn shirt, broken lamp or flat bike tyre – and are shown how to fix it. It’s about repairing and restoring items, rejecting throw-away society and fostering a culture of creativity, innovation, repair and re-use.
Australia has only two Repair Cafés – one in Sydney, the other in Mullumbimby. Sydney’s Repair Café has been particularly successful, with a weekly service in Marrickville plus a pop-up service in various community centres. It was described by a member of Sydney Council’s Sustainability Programs Unit as having ‘the deepest impact’ on waste avoidance and re-use.
Now a group of locals are planning to trial a Repair Café in Albury-Wodonga. We hope to host four Repair Café sessions between November of this year and April of next year. But to ensure the success of this venture we need a pool of volunteer repairers.
That’s where you come into it. If you or anyone you know has a knack for fixing things and would enjoy showing others how to do so, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning (02) 6059 4185.
For more information about Repair Cafés visit: http://repaircafe.org.