Repair Café Fremantle is revitalising the lost art of fixing stuff

Repair Café Fremantle is revitalising the lost art of fixing stuff

By Lucy Jones  November 15th, 2020

The community initiative is diverting waste from landfill and equipping residents with new skills in the process.


This year has thrown some curveballs our way, but it has also required us to pause, think about what we want our future to look like and reset accordingly. For National Recycling Week this year we are looking ahead to our Future Beyond the Bin, where materials remain in circulation and what was once seen as waste is understood as resource. To that end, we are asking Australians from all walks of life to share their inspiring stories of how they #gobeyondthebin at work, home, school and in the community. 

We often discuss the need for government and industry to transition our society to a circular economy. But there are already hundreds of small-scale circular economies operating in our own backyards. Repair Café Fremantle is one community-led circular solution that is keeping resources out of landfill and helping residents build skills in the process. The monthly two-hour repair session brings together expert repairers and residents to celebrate the lost art of fixing stuff. We spoke to Joanna Blackley, the Chairperson of Repair Café Fremantle, about the magical experience of restoring broken objects to a useful state.  

Where Repair Café Fremantle’s waste-reduction journey started: 

“Repair Café Fremantle is a member of the Repair Café International Foundation which commenced in 2009 in the Netherlands. There are now more than 1,400 across the world, in over 30 countries. We are part of a global movement! 

Reducing environmental impact is so important to me because we are now facing a climate emergency and we must find ways to support the environment and community members with regard to managing our household waste.”  



What Repair Café Fremantle does to reduce waste:  

“Repair Café Fremantle (RCF) is a community initiative that is all about promoting the repair of broken household items instead of throwing them away. By facilitating repair sessions, RCF aims to reduce unnecessary waste going to landfill, encourage the art of repairing and build community connections along the way. Most people would agree that as a society we throw away vast amounts of ‘stuff, even items which could be easily repaired in some instances.  

One of the reasons for throwing things away seems to be that many people do not know, or have forgotten how, or do not have the tools and equipment, to carry out the repair of a broken item themselves. At RCF, a community member is able to bring in their broken household item and work with a volunteer repairer to repair it, where possible. Repairs are made free of charge, with donations warmly received. 

Successfully repaired items are returned to usefulness and no longer need to be thrown away. In turn, this reduces items going to landfill, the volume of raw materials and energy needed to make new products and a reduces CO2 emissions. 

It is also hoped that the Repair Café Fremantle repair experience will encourage community members to further their enthusiasm for other sustainable living practices as they will feel empowered by having used shared practical knowledge to solve a problem, with the full knowledge that they are contributing to a healthier environment and brighter future for the community and the planet.” 



How Repair Café Fremantle goes #beyondthebin:  

“It’s so wonderful, it's magical every time. You get obsessed about things, you'll be like, what's happened to the rooster clock? Or did the solder job get done? It's just pure joy and it's actually so magical watching something being restored to being useful again, it's just fantastic. 

I think the probably the most magical bit is the exchange between the repairer and the visitor, handling this sort of object together where the repairer gets so much pleasure out of out of doing the repair work and the visitor is so incredibly grateful that they've been able to bring their object to this person who has skills in relation to it; There’s this really lovely little symbiosis.  

And then, just a complete added bonus of saving stuff from landfill. We do feel super proud about that, we ring a little bell when something gets repaired. The person can take their item and go and have a little photo and ring the bell and we all stop momentarily what we're doing and clap. It's quite hilarious, it's great!” 



 National Recycling Week takes place from November 9-13. For more information and to find out how you can get involved, head here.


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Lucy Jones

Lucy started her career working as a writer and editor in print and digital publishing. She went on to create content for Australia's leading sustainable fashion platform while completing her Master of Cultural Studies. Lucy spends her downtime at the beach, crocheting and hanging out with her cat Larry. She believes words can change the world and is stoked to help Planet Ark spread the message of positive environmental change.

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