At Repair Cafés, the philosophy is fix it, don’t dump it

A great place to meet, mix and learn new skills.

Repair Cafés – fix it, don’t dump it

In the Morwell community centre is a new initiative – the Repair Café.  It opened in September and the café gang has already repaired everything from electrical equipment to a much-loved umbrella.

Morwell Community House manager Tracie Lund says: “Some of our best repairers are over 50. They understand the value of fixing things and have often been ‘tinkering’ for years.”  Now they have a place to share their skills and knowledge, and reduce the environmental damage of our ‘disposable’ society. 

Ms Lund said the Repair Café had been very simple to set up and was already a great success – bringing the community together and attracting a whole new group of people to the community centre.

What is a Repair Café? 

The Repair Café movement started in Amsterdam in 2007, and there are now more than 1300 cafés worldwide. The principle behind the repair café is simple: why throw it away when it can be fixed? 

Fixing things is generally much cheaper than manufacturing new products, given the cost of raw materials and energy, not to mention the CO2 emitted in the manufacturing process.

The free cafés are run by volunteers, but you don’t just get to drop your item off for repair. You repair it yourself alongside the ‘expert’, learning new skills and gaining an understanding of how things work. 

This means that valuable skills, which were rapidly being lost in the ‘throw it away and buy a new one’ era, are being passed on. Whether it’s a bike, clothing, appliance or some other household item that needs mending, someone will be happy to fix it.

The sessions are held once a month, usually in cafés, community centres or public halls. There are 18 Repair Cafés in Australia, across all states and territories, except South Australia and Tasmania. To find a repair café, go to the Repair Café website.

If you don’t have a particular skill or anything to repair, you can still drop in for a cuppa and help with someone else’s repair job, and maybe pick up a few skills along the way.

No Repair Café in your area? Start one.

You will get lots of support from this not-for-profit organisation. There is a small fee for the ‘starter kit’, but for less than $80 you will get all the information you need about insurance, starting up and communication, as well as a listing on their website and contact information for other people in your area who have shown an interest in a Repair Café.

Alternatively, contact your local community centre; they can often help with the set-up of groups like this, and provide a free venue as well.

This is a great way to reuse and recycle, save money and help save the planet along the way.

Would you work in a repair café? Do you support the concept?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    5th Jan 2018
    This a great idea. But why not extend the repaired items to be given away to the needy.
    5th Jan 2018
    So the original owner has to buy a new one which is exactly what they could have done in the first place!

    This is about repair and keep using instead of throwing away and buying new appliances. Your idea would surely defeat this objective.
    5th Jan 2018
    The owner can do as they please with it. Giving away repaired goods to the needy is good too.
    Polly Esther
    5th Jan 2018
    I agree to a point. To the needy, yes the 'needy' , in theory it sounds great but unfortunately, how does one in a lot of instances, differentiate between the 'needy' and the others that really don't need, meaning the plain downright, greedy' ?
    I suppose then the bottom line is, that yes the owner can give the repaired item to whoever they want to.
    5th Jan 2018
    KSS, sometimes people don't want to replace what could be repaired. They may have decided prior to it breaking down that they didn't want another one.

    However new spare parts are often so expensive, and labour charges so high that sometimes to fix it would cost almost as much as a new one. Sometimes things like fridges break down again after a couple of years so you might as well bought a new one the first time while htey were cheaper the first time. I have been down that track with a fridge. Once they would last up to 30 years, perhaps more. Now you're lucky if they last 10 years and can be repaired to last another 5 - 10 years.
    pedro the swift
    5th Jan 2018
    Great idea,but what is the liability issue if there is a problem (specially electrical). I assume there would have to be some sort of insurance. Its good to see some move away from a throwaway society.
    5th Jan 2018
    There is no liability problem when so many electrical from Asia cause fires.
    7th Jan 2018
    Actually, I think there is a liability problem. I know a woman who volunteers extensively at St Vincent de Paul shops (NSW) and she tells me they are not allowed to sell or even give away anything electrical. They also have big restrictions on things that might be used for babies. She once put a pram out back by the trash bin and whispered to a very needy expectant Mum that she might want to look out back because sometimes people dump useful stuff there - because she wasn't permitted to sell or give the pram to the woman for 'health and hygiene reasons'', even though it was an excellent model in superb condition and the volunteer was quite happy to totally disinfect every inch of it.

    Vinnies tells their volunteers (at least in the location this woman works) that there are major risks of a law suit if anything sold or gifted from the shop can be claimed to cause an accident or illness.

    5th Jan 2018
    What a clever concept. Saving money, it’s good for the environment, the money stays in Australia and it’s saving valuable skills by sharing the knowledge. Yes I would love to work at such a place. Australia needs more of these places everywhere. A great concept for creating jobs for Australians and creating Australian industry. Our Government should be supporting this instead of overseas corporations that avoid tax and send the profits off shore eg Appe.
    5th Jan 2018
    Corporations like Apple and Samsung have no intention of letting our devices be repaired. They want us to constantly upgrade.
    Can you imaging how angry we would be if our fridge broke down every two years. Its an unbelievable waste of earth's materials. So many batteries, so much lithium.
    5th Jan 2018
    That's nice but Morwell is a bit far away.
    My kids have a Miele glass oven door. It has two layers and on Xmas day the glue sealing the two doors gave up and the front glass fell off.
    Now one would think a repair guy with a dab of sealer could come and fix it. No - that will be $700 for a new door thanks. So its still not repaired. We would be happy to receive a few tips.
    Next, dear Windows, not glass windows - windows software. One day my peripherals work and the next day Windows does an upgrade and sends out messages to say they no longer work. Thank heavens the Internet is so useful when it comes to fixing the software giants planned obsolescence.
    I am not sure what can be fixed easily these days as they really make sure its not worth your while - but hey - its sounds better than just sitting around gossiping with a cuppa in hand.
    5th Jan 2018
    Great idea. But couldnt this be done anyway generally in any local area without referring to Repair Cafe org in I think its the UK ? One of the latest culprits in planned obsolescence is flat screen TVs, they invariably fail within a few short years. Would be a good project for the Mens Sheds.
    Polly Esther
    5th Jan 2018
    I have never been in a Mens Shed for obvious reasons, but have read about them. What I gleaned from doing so, it seems to me that this sort of thing went on in these sheds already. That is, making things and repairing things etc. and if not, then why not? Yes johnp you are correct I say, a very good project for the Mens Sheds, indeed.
    Any men out there who visit these sheds please take heed.
    7th Jan 2018
    Men's Shed in my area is a place for bullying and aggression and environmental destruction, sadly!
    5th Jan 2018
    The article said all states and territories in Australia have these [except two], so I went looking for one in Canberra. Nope. The only places they list are in Europe and the UK, nothing available in Canberra at all, though the map appeared to show some in NSW and Victoria.
    5th Jan 2018
    Correction - at the second attempt I found one:
    Repair Café Canberra
    Canberra Environment Centre
    cnr Lawson Crescent and Lennox Crossing
    Acton Peninsula ACT 2601
    Golden Oldie
    5th Jan 2018
    I looked for one in Melbourne. Could not find one, message received in Dutch. Luckily I knew enough to decipher it.
    5th Jan 2018
    I am all for repairing -- we throw too much away -- when I am sure there is NO need -- but so many things have a built-in break down time these days --
    5th Jan 2018
    I agree. My f television of 15 years gave up the ghost then my old fridge broke down. Admittedly it was over 20 years old and would have cost too much to fix let alone the older the model the less energy efficiency it is. New fridges last 10 to 15 years depending on you how you take care of them The maker of the tv has folded up. Getting replacements parts would have been impossible, Just remember that what cannot be repaired such as toaster and microwaves can be sold for scrap metal That applies to white goods as well, Scrap metal can be turned into new products
    5th Jan 2018
    Is there one of these in Perth Metro please
    5th Jan 2018
    Not sure how close this is to you but...

    The Makeover Movement
    58 Angove Street
    West Perth
    5th Jan 2018
    There is one in Perth. Couldn't post a link here for some reason but google repair lab Perth. They have a Facebook page.
    5th Jan 2018
    Assume nothing in Brisbane as yet ?
    5th Jan 2018
    I assume you have to take the appliance to them. I live close to one of these cafes, but don't have the means to take my clothes washing machine to them. Looks like I'll have to get a repair man in.
    5th Jan 2018
    Perhaps you could ask then to come to your house,
    5th Jan 2018
    This is a great idea Also I people are clearing out the estate of a deceased relation items that could be repairable should be given to group like this to be repaired and passed on to a needy person,
    5th Jan 2018
    Click on OTHER COUNTRIES on the website. Not that hard to find Australia.
    Old Geezer
    5th Jan 2018
    I f I can't fix something it simply isn't worth fixing.
    5th Jan 2018
    Repairing Oven Doors & Hi Temp Silastic

    I'm a retired 'lecky.

    We sometimes had to repair oven doors that had the seal fail.

    One other 'lecky that was a manufacturer's agent bought the special silastic from them & it was worth a fortune. When it came through it was only the black silastic used for car windscreens.

    He sent it back with a very nasty message about the fact that they marked it up about ten times.

    We used the back windscreen silastic several times sucessfully for oven door repairs ourselves. It is designed to handle the very high temps that a car experiences so I guess that was the basis for it being used for oven doors.

    5th Jan 2018
    Thanks Brian S - your response has been invaluable!
    5th Jan 2018
    For medical reasons I have to keep my feet up on a recliner. When that function broke in my chair, my husband took apart another chair, looked at how it worked, and replaced the broken bit in my chair with one from the other chair. He can fix most things. So I am lucky.
    5th Jan 2018
    Yep. :)
    5th Jan 2018
    I know of one charity that has a voluntary retired electrician that cleans, tests and tags electrical goods that are donated. If there is any doubt he won't tag them and they can't be sold.
    6th Jan 2018
    Try a Men's Shed first. Our Men's Shed does exactly this. If it is broken you can't do any more damage trying to fix it. If it is an electrical appliance we have a retired electrician check it out and a friendly "test and tag" person verify safety. Also do furniture and other things
    6th Jan 2018
    We have been involved in the Repair Cafe Albury Wodonga for over a year now. It includes repairing clothes as well. It is social and all the volunteers are highly qualified and very willing to help. They do bicycles, woodwork, jewellery, sewing, bookbinding ,electronics as well as electrical goods. All is done in good humour and cheer and we weigh everything which goes towards a target of saving landfill. It is held on the first Saturday of every month on the Causeway where the Tourist Information Centre used to be. There is even coffee and cake-served with a smile.

    7th Jan 2018
    One of our favourite weekend activities was a trip to the 'Dump shop' to scrounge for discarded items that might be useful. Lots were broken but fixable. Many could be used as parts in various projects. Sadly, the shop closed last year. A big loss for us!
    7th Jan 2018
    This is an excellent inovation ... a little different from ‘men’s shed’ ... both can play a role.
    If you don’t have one near you ... START ONE.

    It is really surprising that on a forum such as this that is is not recognised how society have been manipulated into a consumer driven culture … we live in an age of intense desire for wealth and power… abject greed.

    Meanwhile we rip, tear and suck everything out of the planet (the only one we have) … we use abuse and waste resources … then treat the planet as a massive dump … air, land and sea.

    Wasting, wasting and wasting all that this planet gives us … our planet is not infinite.

    If we want to leave something liveable to our descendants… we MUST repair, reuse, repurpose.
    And we MUST collectively demand that our leaders make laws to live more sustainably.

    The progeny (all species) of this planet deserve better than we are doing.
    24th Jan 2018
    There's a Fixit Cafe in Maleny, in Queensland's Sunshine Coast hinterland.

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