Join the repair economy

Posted on: December 21, 2023

Repair Cafe Bassendean won the Community Waste category at the 2023 WasteSorted Awards, and with an 81% fix-it rate it’s easy to see why! Since their inception in 2018, they’ve saved over 1,277 items from landfill.

The Repair Cafe opens its doors on the second Sunday of every month at the Bassendean Community Youth Centre. It’s a simple concept, people bring in their damaged or malfunctioning items and a team of skilled volunteers restores them free of charge – you only pay if extra parts need to be purchased.

What can be repaired?

The range of items that find their way to the Repair Cafe is incredibly diverse, with the venue providing a general repair station for items like lamp shades, toys and shoes, a station for textiles and an electronic repair station for phones, tablets and domestic appliances.
The volunteers’ expertise spans a wide spectrum. Dale, one of the electronic repair technicians says “What we get is varied, no two sessions are the same”.

Bringing back the culture of repair

Mitch, the current Repair Cafe chairperson, says the thing he is passionate about isn’t just fixing items, but bringing back the culture of repair, by showing people it is still possible to repair things, even with the manufacturing industry making it more difficult to access.

Dale agrees and says there’s no longer an economical repair industry for items under $500, often those things go straight in the bin when they break. There’s a lot of simple repairs we can do that are just outside the scope of the owner that save those items from landfill. “If we can save them from going to landfill then that’s great,” he says.

It feels good

“It’s a feel-good exercise,” Alan, one of the general repairers, says. One of his proudest moments was fixing a family heirloom cuckoo clock. It required two repair cafe visits to complete, but in the end it worked beautifully again, “and will for quite some time I think”, he says with a laugh.

Mitch, who also repairs electronics, says he was surprised by how easy most things are to fix. “Usually it’s something really simple, you just need to know where to look to find the right information. When I first started, I had no idea how easy it was to take some of these small items apart and say “oh, this just needs one new wire put it in, and it’s fixed.”

Mitch also explains that the most successful repairs are often textiles. A repair is sewing on a strap or repairing a tear in clothing. Often people leave wanting to know more about how to fix their own items. Annie, one of the textile repairers says “It’s just been incredibly useful my whole life, knowing how to sew, and I just want to share it.”

Repair Cafe Bassendean reminds us that the power to create change lies not only in grand gestures but in the small, everyday choices we make. Repairing a broken toaster or mending a hole in a favourite sweater might seem inconsequential, but collectively, these actions are bringing back the culture of repair and fostering a sense of sustainability within the community.

To find your nearest repair cafe, check out our ultimate WA repair lab and repair cafe guide.

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