Get Your Fix at the Repair Cafe
by Lilian Koch
Since its inception in 2018, Aaron Benham has been a co-convenor and general volunteer at the Repair Café in New Town. Visitors can bring broken items from their home and with the assistance of volunteers, learn how to repair items that would have otherwise been discarded.
What is your role at the Repair Café? I am a co-convenor at the Repair Café as well as one of the general volunteers. I’ve been involved with Repair Café Hobart since its inception in 2018.
Why is there a need for Repair Cafés? Repair Cafes act to counter the ideals of consumerist culture and reduce waste. Waste is a serious issue that needs addressing, and by offering to help people fix things for free, we hope to reduce waste by extending the lives of products and preventing them from going to landfill. Providing the service for free is important to ensure cost isn’t a barrier for people getting help to fix their things.
What kind of things can one fix at a repair café? It depends on the expertise of the repairers available on the day! We’re very lucky at Repair Café Hobart because we have a pool of highly skilled repairers, many of whom can repair all sorts of different things. At a typical session, we will have repairers for clothing, bicycles, jewellery, electronics, furniture, and knife and tool sharpening. For items that don’t fit neatly into those categories, we have a general repairs station staffed by folks who can turn their hand to fixing practically anything! Because of this, we say that if you can fit it through the door (which is quite a wide, double-door!), you can get help to fix it.
Do you think newer generations have lost the skills of knowing how to repair things? I do. Because newer generations (of which I am a part) have grown up in rampant consumerist culture, we’ve been conditioned to believe that it’s easier and/ or cheaper to replace something than it is to repair it. One of the best recent examples is modern printers. It’s often cheaper to buy a new one than to replace an ink cartridge. We need to make sure that, when we can, we consider not just the financial costs of our actions, but the environmental costs. Internet repair tutorials go some way to filling the knowledge gap, but they’re no substitute for being able to talk to someone about your specific problem who can answer your questions and provide targeted advice. The transfer of these skills through things like repair cafes is therefore of great personal and community benefit.
Where can readers find the Repair Café in Hobart? Repair Café Hobart operates out of Kickstart Arts at 12 St Johns Avenue, New Town. Sessions are held on the third Saturday of each month from 1-3pm. Readers can also find us on Facebook and Instagram. We’re also very excited about the new, Eastside Repair Café which operates out of the Warrane Mornington Neighbourhood Centre at 150A Bligh Street, Warrane. Their sessions are on the fourth Saturday of each month from 2-4pm.
What do you do outside the Repair Café? Outside Repair Café, I’m a primary school teacher. In my spare time I like to play guitar, Dungeons & Dragons, ultimate frisbee, and video games. I like to sing and read and I would really like to improve my drawing.
Do you have any tips for our readers for reducing waste at home? Aside from repairing things, cut down on food waste by shopping smart and putting scraps in a compost bin if you can accommodate one and buy products with minimal packaging (particularly plastic). Buying second hand things wherever possible also helps to reduce the cycle of waste. There’s lots of information on waste reduction out there including plenty of social media groups. The most important thing is to approach waste reduction with realistic goals. Creating a zero-waste household doesn’t happen overnight. Your best bet is to try a few waste reduction techniques at a time, practise them until they’re familiar, then pick another set to try when you’re ready. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.