In 2021 following her participation in the CEO Sleepout, owner and proprietor of Dirty Janes, Jane Crowley, approached St Vincent de Paul Society about what she referred to as the “long thin paddock” in the carpark of her Fyshwick outlet.
“Like all good things, it started with the right idea,” St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn CEO Lucy Hohnen explains.
“There was a casual conversation and meetings to form a project plan.
“That led to a rallying of support as more people got behind the vision for the Good Works Garden.”
Launched on October 20, the Good Works Garden is an accessible community garden for people of all ages.
The transformation was a joint venture among Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn, Dirty Janes and not-for-profit community housing provider Argyle Housing.
Run by volunteers coordinated by the three organisations, the garden was built with an ACT Government community garden grant and generous donations from the business community.
“This is a brilliant example of collaborative organisation,” Ms Hohnen says.
“The three organisations – Vinnies, Argyle and Dirty Janes – have brought together their perspectives for the vision. Then you have funding from the Government and many businesses in the community like Fyshwick Business Association, Nikias Diamond and ALLBIDS.
“What we now have is a truly collaborative venture.”
Today the only evidence of the “long thin paddock” is the shape of the grounds.
A single gate now leads into the “long thin” Good Works Garden – 300 sqm of wicking beds with herbs and vegetables, sheds and several mature trees planted as part of the Queen’s Jubilee program.
There are plans to install picnic tables and benches so people can enjoy the shade and gather for socialising.
“We’ve transformed what was a barren 300 square metre plot into a place for social activities for people of all ages and abilities,” Ms Hohnen says.
“The Good Works Garden is a place of inclusion, sustainability and learning. It’s an opportunity to learn new skills, make friends and spend time in a lovely environment.”
The garden offers community inclusion activities and a place for residents of housing run by Vinnies and Argyle to learn new skills and foster connections.
“Participants will learn all sorts of things such as how to grow and look after plants, when to harvest, how to harvest but also, there’s the social benefit of making new friends and being part of the wider community and the enjoyment of learning something new,” Ms Hohnen says.
“Plus, we all know there are fantastic therapeutic effects associated with spending time in a garden, regardless of whether you’re a gardener or not.”
Additionally, the fresh produce grown in the space will be utilised by the Vinnies Blue Door drop-in centre, providing nutritious meals to those who need them.
“That means residents who get involved in planting and growing vegetables and fruit will be getting the social benefits of being part of a community garden as well as the nutritional benefits of the produce,” Ms Hohnen says.
“The garden will also be open to the general community. If they want to be part of this wonderful venture, they can join as volunteers.”
Ms Hohnen says she hopes the garden will attract a steady stream of volunteers and some “stayers” to demonstrate what ventures like this can achieve for the local community.
“If this works well we would be keen to roll out more community gardens in similar partnerships in other parts of Canberra,” she says.
“In the meantime, we want to encourage different community, social and youth groups to participate at the Good Works Garden.”
Visit the Good Works Garden website for more information.