Redcliffe Repair Café Joins Global Campaign for Consumers’ Right to Repair

It’s Saturday morning on the scenic Redcliffe Peninsula, north of Brisbane, and 15-year-old Melissa Griffith’s KitchenAid is “clicking”.

Mrs. Griffith’s kitchen workhorse, the device is now frowned upon by a volunteer at Redcliffe Repair Cafe, a community program aimed at reducing the number of items thrown into landfills each year.

“There’s something going on with the gears, but to get it fixed in Australia I would have to send it to Melbourne or England,” she said.

The verdict is in: his KitchenAid will have to be left with a volunteer for a few days for further investigations.

“Things are repairable”

Ms Griffith is among dozens of locals who made an appointment for the Redcliffe Repair Cafe’s November meeting, bringing broken items to the volunteer facility in hopes they can be fixed.

A toy boat, strollers, a sewing machine, a wooden train, a pressure washer and a beautiful plumb bob are just a few of the items scattered around the tables in the Redcliffe neighborhood center.

Electricians, cabinet makers, mechanics – skilled workers with years of experience – volunteered their time to glue, weld, rewire, screw and oil the broken items brought in by the community.

Redcliffe Repair Cafe founder Les Barkla said the volunteer initiative is a global initiative to reduce the number of items thrown away each year.

Repair Cafe Redcliffe founder Les Barkla with Griffith University law professor Leanne Wiseman at the Repair Cafe meeting in November.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Lucy Stone)

“This is a real community project where we try to help community members get things repaired, because we have to prevent things from going to landfill,” said Barkla.

Mr Barkla said the Redcliffe team had managed to repair 77 of 127 items in eight meetings this year, and it would have been more if many mass-produced items were of such poor quality that they could not be repaired .

A man looks at a sewing machine with the casing open
Old sewing machines, lamps and kitchen equipment are all repaired at the Repair Café.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Lucy Stone)

The Redcliffe Repair Cafe is one of several cafes in South East Queensland in Sandgate and Woolloongabba.

Founded in Amsterdam in 2007, the Repair Cafe movement has grown to over 2,200 cafes internationally, part of the Right to Repair movement calling for better consumer access to repairs.

“Unnecessary barriers”

Under Australian Consumer Warranties, customers have rights when purchasing new items, such as the right to a refund or a repair.

But this can be hampered by warranty restrictions, copyright law, and the very low price of mass-produced electrical items.

A set of tools being opened
Simple repairs can often be done on objects, preventing them from being thrown away prematurely.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Lucy Stone)

This week, the Federal Productivity Commission released a report on Right to Redress laws, recommending changes to Australia’s consumer and copyright laws.

The report found that there were “significant and unnecessary barriers” to repairing some products, and that repairs to consumer products were becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible, leading to “costly and unnecessary results” for the consumer. community.

“Good product design, the reuse of materials that would otherwise end up in landfills, and a greater awareness of consumer rights and responsibilities can all help reduce environmental damage caused by unnecessary disposal of products that are not. most wanted ”says the report.

The federal government is currently studying the report.

A man working on several wooden toys.
Redcliffe Repair Cafe volunteer David Barkla works on a set of wooden toys from Ireland.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Lucy Stone)

Cheaper to throw away than to repair

Griffith University professor Leanne Wiseman has been researching the right to repair movement for several years.

Speaking to ABC Radio Brisbane during a visit to the Redcliffe Repair Cafe in November, Professor Wiseman said that if manufacturers were required to make easily repairable items, consumers would be more likely to keep the items for longer.

Often, she said, it was cheaper for manufacturers to replace the whole item rather than just one part.

“For example, I recently had a microwave that didn’t work. Everything was fine, but there was a problem with the sensor,” she said.

“It was a simple exercise to replace some wiring, but the manufacturer wasn’t interested because it was out of its warranty period… I was really reluctant to landfill it, so I was able to do it. to fix.

A man works on a broken high pressure washer.
Volunteer repairman Wayne Mathie (right) works on a broken pressure washer at the Redcliffe Repair Cafe in November.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Lucy Stone)

Volunteer repairman Wayne Mathie, who spent Saturday morning working on a pressure washer and several household appliances, said that for many people, a simple fix was beyond their knowledge and ability, which means many articles were unnecessarily thrown away.

“It’s very satisfying to be able to fix this item and give it another one or three years of life,” he said.

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