Photo: Yass Valley Men’s Shed past president Bob Nash and Wayne Stuart (Supplied)

Long-time Yass resident Wayne Stuart has been recognised for his dedication to the community with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) as part of the Queen’s birthday honour roll over the weekend.

When Wayne was nominated for an OAM he initially thought it was an April Fool’s joke before taking another look.

“I am totally surprised and humbled by this award,” he said. “My first reaction is that I could not be here without the constant support and encouragement of my wife of 50 years.”

“Throughout my life, I have tried always to be positive, enjoy life, do my best and help where I can. Doesn’t everyone?”

“To be recognised for doing that is just amazing and I am very grateful.”

Wayne’s OAM comes off the back of his passion and involvement with the Yass Valley Men’s Shed, where he was a foundation member and served as Secretary for 13 years.

He sought to “give back” to the community after his retirement in 2001 and has worked in most areas of management at the Shed including Vice President, Membership Officer, Treasurer, and Communications Officer.

Wayne regularly releases issues of newsletters that record the history of the Men’s Shed in Yass and has also been the main Grants Coordinator for the Shed resulting in about $100,000 in funding.

During the initial public meeting brought about by current Mayor Allan McGrath, the Council called for people interested in becoming involved in an Establishment Committee.

“I put my hand up for that and here I am 14 years later,” he said.

Wayne Stuart

Before his retirement in 2001, Wayne worked in the public sector for over 40 years largely across the Department of Health, Department of Transport in the maritime sector, and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

He then established the Old Salts Club, which comprises retired, former, and some current members in those organisations in the public service to keep in touch. With a membership list of some 280 names, members are invited to attend three lunches a year to chat, provide support and enjoy recalling the past.

Although Wayne described the Men’s Shed as fantastic he was surprised about being recognised for something he was simply passionate about.

“You just do it because you see a need, which certainly there was here in Yass and still is.”

“It’s a worthwhile thing to do and place to be,” Wayne said. “I think this recognition is as much about what a good thing Men Sheds are to be involved in.”

In the 14 years the Yass Valley Men’s Shed has been operating its seen nearly 300 members walk through its doors. Currently, there are about 105 active members on the book, which Wayne labelled as one of the more successful Sheds in the area.

“The Men’s Shed doesn’t struggle for membership,” he said.

But compared to other organisations like Rotary or the Lions Club, which are integral to the community and largely focused on outreach, the Men’s Shed is focused on “in-reach”.

“It’s looking after the people inside the walls,” Wayne said. “The basic focus is on the membership because in a place like Yass with the demographic we’ve got, there are a lot of blokes who are alone.”

Men who feel isolated and want to socialise with peers can find that in spades at the Men’s Shed.

“It’s not like going to the doctor, a psychologist, or a counsellor,” he said. “It’s not like feeling that you’re less than others. You’re the same as everyone else.”

“And if you’ve got an issue, you can talk about it and people are interested and want to help and I think that’s the big achievement this place has.”

By Brianna O’Rourke