9 May 2024

Transform neglected patches of land into community spaces through garden grants

| Claire Fenwicke
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Holy Parish's community garden

Good Shepherd Primary School students have been learning and helping at Holy Parish’s community garden. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Out the back of Holy Spirit Parish in Amaroo is a thriving garden full of pumpkins, potatoes, coriander, zucchini and a variety of other vegetables and herbs to nourish families.

The neglected patch of land already contained some garden infrastructure and was fenced, but had been untouched for about five years.

An ACT Government grant made it possible to turn the area into a community garden designed to educate, bring people together and help feed the wider community.

Holy Spirit Community Garden volunteer Fiona Wilkinson has been involved in the project since it received a grant in 2022. She said it was especially important because some people struggled to put nutritious food on their tables.

“[One woman we’re helping] has eight children, which is a lot of children to feed. We’ve occasionally given what we have left over to Vinnies and a member of the parish has connections to people in need, so she’ll take things away sometimes as well,” she said.

“We don’t necessarily know who all those people are [who receive our food] but we just know that there are people who are in need.”

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It’s not just about learning new skills and the satisfaction of eating a crop you’ve grown with your own hands.

Holy Spirit Parish office manager Theivani Evers said it was about responding to the needs of the wider Gungahlin community.

“At a time when social anxiety is so prevalent among young people around Australia, providing spaces that support wellbeing and calm is more important than ever,” she said.

“The addition of a vibrant garden to the church grounds has strengthened connections between the church, the Good Shepherd Primary School, and broader Amaroo community.

“With the support of a Community Garden Grant, the previously forgotten-about corner of the grounds has become a place to relax, enjoy the outdoors, work with other likeminded people and learn new skills.”

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The latest round of the Community Garden Grants program has opened with two funding streams available for eligible schools, community groups, not-for-profits and owners corporations to access.

There’s $40,000 available to improve and expand existing gardens or to build low-impact gardens, plus another $60,000 to establish large-scale food production community gardens or for significant infrastructure to increase food production in existing gardens.

Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti said community gardens not only provided chances for people to connect but to also contribute to climate action.

“They help reduce flood risk and make our city cooler. This makes our patch of the world much more resilient to the impacts of climate change,” she said.

“Even better, food production in community gardens, and our own gardens at home, can contribute massively to protecting our community from the rising costs in supermarkets.

“Community gardens do grow food, but they do so much more than that. They are inclusive places that improve physical and social wellbeing, where people can really connect and create a sense of belonging.”

This year’s funding will prioritise projects that benefit wider communities and encourage social inclusion, promote healthy living and that demonstrate circular economy principles.

Applications for Community Garden Grants round 10 close on 11 July.

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I was interested to read the first part of this article, with the benefits stated by the organizer. All seemed fair enough – the suggested benefits are social, both providing food and encouraging positive social interaction.

By why the second half of the article is given over to soapboxing I don’t know. Here was this:
“They help reduce flood risk and make our city cooler. This makes our patch of the world much more resilient to the impacts of climate change,” she (Vassarotti) said.

This is cant. Any quantification of these claims wouldn’t even be measurable within the precision limits of the baselines used. It reminds me of the preachy religious homilies of yesteryear.

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