Reuse, repair, returns

February 26, 2021 BY

On the record: Adam Bradley looks at Robyn Ryan’s 1960s turntable at the Bendigo Repair Cafe event. Photos: ALISTAIR FINLAY

AFTER an eleven-month COVID induced hiatus, the Bendigo Repair Cafe was back in action on Saturday.

In the hall off to the side of the Old Church on the Hill volunteers were busy fixing everything from furniture to electronics and clothing, all with the aim of diverting what could have been rubbish from landfill and doing their best to give things a second life.

“The whole thing about repair is acknowledging the throwaway society and the impact that has on the environment,” said Repair Cafe co-coordinator Elsie L’Huillier.

“But it’s also cultural thing around the way individuals think about their lives. We talk about seven Rs, there were five, but they are putting in there now ‘rechoose’. We need to make choices about our lives.”

As for what it’s like to be back and making a difference in a COVID-safe way, Ms L’Huillier was emphatic.

“It’s great!” she said. “We didn’t know if we’d get one or a million people coming, but really we’ve got to keep it under 20 anyways.

“We all really get along well, so there’s a great sense of camaraderie among us a fixers.”

Volunteer Jane Ineson makes alterations to a dress.

Robyn Ryan was one of the many people who came along with things that needed looking at, brining two items in need of repair – a classic record player made in the 1960s, and mechanical music box.

Both pieces held important sentimental value to her.

“The music box was given to me when I was 12 years old, and it’s not working anymore,” she said. “The little dancing girl’s come off and hopefully someone can fix it and we can get her going.

“The record player was my older brothers. I’ve carried both items around and moved many times and taken them with me everywhere I’ve gone.

“When I saw this advertised I thought what a great idea.”

Fixing Ms Ryan’s record player was volunteer Adam Bradley.

A member of the Repair Cafe’s small team from the beginning three years ago, he’s been busy all morning. Before looking at the old turn table he was outside seeing to a bike, and he’s got more to do afterwards.

“I usually get categorised as a general fixer,” he said. “Whatever comes through, excluding sewing, I try and sort out.

“This record player is a bit of a challenge as it’s a bit out of my age bracket. It’s a good learning experience for me, so that’s why I enjoy it.”

During the working week Mr Bradley is an IT software and hardware tech, and while he said that was an area of interest for him, what he gets from being part of the Repair Cafe’s small team of dedicated volunteers is much broader.

“It’s more about the community group than anything else,” he said.

“My son [Toby] is here on an off as well and we try and get him involved to have a bit more of a mindset about being a part of something bigger.”

While you might think that a repair cafe is just about fixing hardware like electronics or furniture to save it from landfill, the Bendigo group also puts a focus on the artistic side of the movement.

When it comes to clothing, the team of sewers and stitchers don’t just fix holes they upcycle fashion.

“There are decorative things that we’re doing when we’re repairing,” Ms L’Huillier said. “There’s a whole movement now that if I have a hole in a garment and I fix it with a big red cross, I’m wearing a badge to say ‘I’ve fixed this’.”

Keep an eye out for future Repair Café events via

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