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Building a better future: the woodwork classes helping Canberra

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In the heart of Wanniassa, hidden in a little shed, quiet Thursday nights are not what they seem.

As music plays and people talk and laugh, the Canberra queer community come together to learn a new skill: woodwork.

Creating confidence, creativity, friendship and providing handy know-how, the Two Sheds Workshop began with two key goals: to help people build themselves, and to be a safe place for women, children and the LGBTIQ+ community.

Taught by international soccer player turned carpenter Sally Jean Davis and Jo Saccomani, a trained carpenter with more than three decades of experience, the Two Sheds Workshop originally began in Bega when Jo set out to give women the skills and confidence to shape their own physical environments and to build their own shelters.

Unable to keep up with the popularity of her classes in Bega, Jo launched the Canberra workshop in 2019 and asked Sally to come on board to help her keep up with the ever-growing demand.

Pictured above: Jo Saccomani

“Jo is really particularly passionate about creating a safe space for people to come in and not feel intimidated,” says Sally. “With a lot of the women that come in here, their experiences are ‘My dad was a carpenter but I was never allowed in the shed.’ I would say that story in and of itself is pretty common.”

“We get a lot of women that are just so curious.”

Sally’s own journey into woodwork began with curiosity. After retiring from the Matildas in 2014 and establishing her celebrant business, she was looking for something new to try when she decided to give carpentry a go.

“I dedicated my life to using my feet and I was curious about using my hands,” she says. “I’ve always been curious about building and making and I haven’t necessarily always considered that creative part of my mind.”

“I didn’t really feed that creative part of myself but I felt like I was a pretty creative footballer. But in terms of drawing, conceptualising ideas and bringing them to life like I am still very raw in that stage of my making.”

While Sally is still relatively new to the world of woodwork her role is to teach, spark creativity and empower the attendees, no matter their previous experience.

While Sally enjoys all of the programs, from school holiday programs to weekly classes, the new queer workshops are particularly close to her heart.

“I hold the queer community near and dear to myself having belonged to it. I think it’s just in the workshop’s blood to open the doors up to that minority,” says Sally.

“I’d love to for everyone—regardless of their gender—to feel like they could come here and make and be comfortable…we’re committed to the queer community and we’ll keep that class up.”

As Sally and Jo plan new classes for both Canberra and Bega, Sally hopes that through the Two Shed Workshop and other programs like it, people will learn something new.

“If a young girl has come through the workshop and the conversations I’ve had, if they’re moving onto high school, the chances of them taking woodwork is incredibly high,” Sally says.

“That’s pretty cool.”

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Feature image: Sally Jean Davis inside the workshop. Credit: Erin Cross

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