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How the Castlemaine Repair Cafe got started – by Chris Hooper
In early 2017 I was at a Localising Leanganook meeting in Castlemaine (related to Transition Towns – energy reduction and generally lowering consumption)  and someone mentioned starting a Repair Cafe. No one said any more about it and then I happened to see on Facebook, Jen Alden’s announcement about Bendigo Repair Cafe starting and I thought I would go and use their sewing machines. Great! Then on thinking further about it, why not have one in Castlemaine? I put something out on Facebook, we started a page called Untrash and had a great response. Eventually a meeting was called at Run Rabbit Run, Peter Bottomley, the proprietor wanted to have the Cafe upstairs from his coffee cafe. About 14 people came, mostly those prepared to fix things. What a great start. I copied information on running a Repair Cafe from the Netherlands RC website and passed that around.  We decided to register with the Netherlands Repair Cafe – they started there – so that we would be part of an international network. This meant paying for the logo, which people donated money for. I went to a Repair Cafe meeting in Bendigo and got a lot of information from them. Michelle Fisher from Melbourne Inner West Repair Cafe has also been a great help. She’s also trying to start an Australia wide network of Cafe coordinators. We’ve had one “online/zoom” meeting. There’s talk of having a Cafe at next year’s (2019) Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne but that will need coordination of people across the state to be there at various times over the weekend.
We didn’t go with Run Rabbit Run as there’s only stairs for access and bicycles, sewing machines etc coming through the door might’ve disrupted things a bit. It was decided to have our first Repair Cafe in April 2017 on the last Sunday and we approached the Community House for a space which they were pleased to offer even though they’re usually closed on weekends. It was promoted  through Facebook, email, newspapers and posters.  Elke drilled the screws into the signs on the sandwich board on the day for outside on the path. We had a good turn up, even an electrician came. All went well but the layout of the place and size of room was a bit restricting. I was sorry to be looking for an alternative venue as it seems appropriate to have something like a Repair Cafe in the Community House as it’s a community driven thing.
We have since linked with the Mount Alexander Sustainability Group – MASG – and are one of their waste reduction programs. This means we can have Council venues free. This enabled us to move to the Ray Bradfield Room meaning we have more room and possible outside space for repairs. Velvet suggested we have some soup on offer, mainly to feed the repairers and away we went. People come and have a bite to eat and or a cuppa and have their toaster, vacuum cleaner, jumper or whatever fixed – or an attempted fixing, sometimes it requires a new part.
We also have Boomerang Bag sewing after the Cafe, from 1 to 4 pm as a regular link with us and the community.
A woman from a Kyneton after school program contacted us through Facebook asking if anything unrepairable could go to them for kids to take apart. I’ve made one delivery of printers and an audio system. I’ve heard similar is done at Chewton Primary so need to find out about that but am concerned that all the bits are recycled, which is done in Kyneton at their Transfer Station. Can’t wait for one at Castlemaine landfill, real recycling.
Any money wecollect through donations is used for food and advertising and we pay a little admin fee to MASG each year. People are usually very generous and donate some money as they’re really appreciative of having a repair service and they don’t have to go an buy another vacuum cleaner, toaster or whatever.
We are on the Sustainable Living Festival website (2018) as an event linked to the Festival – for the month of February.