Retirees not your average toy boys

Ernie Nankivell with rough-cut plastic used to manufacture toys for sick children.
Ernie Nankivell with rough-cut plastic used to manufacture toys for sick children. Mike Knott

BARGARA retiree Ernie Nankivell still clearly remembers the first time he watched a child play with a toy he had built at the Carlyle Gardens Toy Factory.

The young girl had eagerly made up a wooden cot with miniature sheets and pillows and was tucking in a Winnie the Pooh doll for a nap.

"By George, did she enjoy that little cradle," Mr Nankivell said.

"I think she must have tucked in and untucked that doll a good 15 times before she sat down and had a


"I get a lot of joy out of making them and it's good to know the children get a lot of joy out of playing with them as well."

The cradle had been constructed by a hard-working team of retirees who have repurposed a shed at Carlyle Gardens Retirement Village into their very own toy factory.

Each Monday morning, a group of about 15 volunteers meet at the workshop to construct children's toys of all shapes and sizes from recycled wood and plastic.

The group has passed on boxes containing about 5000 toys to charities such as Salvation Army and Aussie Helpers each year since it began in 2000.

These toys, Mr Nankivell proudly tells people, do not flash, emit pulsing screeches or contain batteries.

And they don't fall apart when you play with them or break when you drop them.

An assembled cradle in the toy shed.
An assembled cradle in the toy shed.

These are the sorts of toys that last for good and get passed on from generation to generation.

"When we first got into all of this, I asked a man at the Salvation Army what sorts of toys they would want," Mr Nankivell said.

"He said he wanted old-fashioned toys like they used to make and that's what we try to do here.

"You will struggle to find many of our toys made anywhere else and these toys are solid and durable."

Volunteers at the toy workshop have sourced industrial plastic, primarily used to construct children's playgrounds, from local business Megatoy and wood off-cuts from CQ Trusses.

The Carlyle Gardens workshop regularly produces tractors, cars, rockets, spinning tops, hobby horses, cribs and cradles.

For Mr Nankivell, a former motor mechanic and welder, the toy workshop allows him to pursue his passion for the handyman arts and offers a chance to catch up with some of his friends at the retirement village.

"I don't want to sit on my backside and do nothing," he said.

"I want to keep on going and keep the old brain ticking over."

Roy Hardwick assembling deckchairs in the Carlyle Gardens toy shed.
Roy Hardwick assembling deckchairs in the Carlyle Gardens toy shed.

Mr Nankivell said volunteers looked forward to the weekly workshop sessions and often put in a few extra hours at the workshop throughout the week.

"We've got blokes in our group who used to sit in their units twiddling their

fingers and watering lawns that didn't need to be watered," he said.

"This gives us all something meaningful and worthwhile to do."

Mr Nankivell and volunteers at the workshop have kept a treasure trove of letters of appreciation from children across Australia who have received the toys from charities.

Charity Aussie Helpers delivers the toys to children living in remote areas of the nation who do not have easy access to shopping centres.

"It's amazing the appreciation you get from the kids," he said.

"Some of these kids don't really have the opportunity to buy many toys because they live so far away from it all. It brings us a lot of joy to know that people out there are enjoying playing with them."


>> To read more lifestyle stories

Topics:  charity children health salvation army toys volunteers

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.