Volunteer Profile: Meet Travelling Tinkerers Karen and Danny Ellis
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Volunteer Profile: Meet Travelling Tinkerers Karen and Danny Ellis

Volunteer Profile: Meet Travelling Tinkerers Karen and Danny Ellis

Karen and Danny Ellis, the power team behind Mend It Australia, will have attended more than 40 Repair Cafe events around Victoria by the end of 2019.

The couple spend most of their weekends travelling around the state to visit different Repair Cafes, supporting volunteers and the start up of new events, while advocating widely for the right to repair.

Danny and Karen were a great help and provided valuable advice in launching the Repair Cafe in Ballarat. They attended the hugely successful launch event in July and returned for the second time to help out at the September event.

Below Karen shares her thoughts about the Ballarat Repair Cafe and progress of the repair movement.

What was your experience at the September Repair Cafe event?

This was the third Ballarat Repair Cafe and we noticed it was considerably quieter than the packed to the rafters launch event. This was to be expected and with less distractions Danny was able to concentrate on the tasks at hand and the individuals bringing in their items.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to go around a talk with people. I like to capture the stories about their items that they have brought in to be assessed and/or repaired. By engaging with the person and their item, fixers form a bond with the object and its owner. I like to capture those stories if I am not busy mending textiles, and at this event I was not stitching.

Why did you want to return to another Ballarat Repair Cafe event?

We returned to Ballarat Repair Cafe because we were made to feel like a part of the initiative before it even launched. We were able to share some of our experiences with the organisers, as a result of attending many community repair events over the past
three years.

Ballarat is a good drive for us, as we live in Melton. It’s just up the highway and not much traffic to worry about. And, we were included in the launch proceedings and that really made us feel like valued members of the volunteer team.

Danny Ellis at the September Repair Cafe event.

What are some of the other Repair Cafes you have been to?

This year, and by the end of 2019 Mend It, Australia will have attended 40 community repair events. Here’s the list of repair cafes and other repair initiatives that we have been to:

Geelong, Geelong West, Castlemaine, Bendigo, Moonee Valley, Yarraville, Southern Peninsula, LaTrobe Valley, Darebin, North Balwyn, Venus Bay, Korumburra, Wonthaggi, Woodend, Daylesford, Brunswick, Melton and pop-up events in Warragul, Watsonia, Inverloch, Yarragon, Mirboo North, Altona.

How does the Ballarat Repair Cafe compare to other Repair Cafes?

The Ballarat Repair Cafe follows pretty much the same repair cafe processes as other community repair initiatives but these appear to be more formally set up due to its location at the Ballarat Tech School and the structures that were set in place before the repair cafe was launched. For example there are designated volunteers for specific roles such as media, volunteering, administration, resources, coffee making, refreshments etc. This is not to say it doesn’t happen elsewhere, it just feels that processes are more formalised at Ballarat Repair Cafe. Also, the event is on the upper level with the welcoming and administration desk on the lower level. This is unique.

What do you envision as the future of Repair Cafes in Victoria?

Mend It, Australia envisions repair initiatives in Victoria having dedicated funding for a Victorian Repair and Reuse Society from Sustainability Victoria [the State Government]. This ‘society’ could help to support this growing movement with much needed funds for venue hire and insurance coverage, for example.

What do you see as the long term impacts of Repair Cafes?

The long term impacts of community repair initiatives globally, can be found in going to the International Repair Cafe Foundation’s website. Qualitative and quantitative research that has been undertaken on items repaired and how much in weight has been
saved from landfills.

For Mend It, Australia we predict that providing Victorian community repair cafes and other repair initiatives are started up in more towns and neighbourhoods, the long term impacts around social connectedness and reducing isolation will be substantial.

Can you explain your passion for advocating for the right to repair?

When we were blindsided by bureaucrats and prohibited from informally volunteering our mending, fixing and repairing skills in our local community due to organisational red tape and lack of understanding about the global repair movement, and an unwillingness to accommodate our initiative, it was at this time we also made a decision to become generally more vocal about our fundamental right to repair, and that of others.

More formally, we are currently campaigning for Australian right to repair legislation. We tweet about Right To Repair on Twitter @MendItAussie.

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