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Broken Hill Garden provides training for young people

The Uniting Church Community Garden in Broken Hill is a collaboration between the Far West Indigenous Church, the Bush Church Aid Society, and Robinson College.  The garden aims to provide activities to alleviate boredom, and offers horticulture training for young people.

The Uniting Church Community Garden in Broken Hill is a collaboration between the Far West Indigenous Church, the Bush Church Aid Society, and Robinson College.  The garden, which is hosted by Bush Church Aid, provides horticulture training for young people, garden activities for families, and fresh food for the community.

How did the garden come about?

The garden project started in mid 2009.  It was initiated by leaders of the Far West Indigenous Church, who investigated possible sites, and ultimately decided upon negotiating an agreement with the Bush Church Aid for the use of their land.  They also established a relationship with Robinson College to conduct the training at the garden.

Why did the church get involved?

The church was looking to do mission differently, outside the box.  In running the garden, the church is aiming to serve young people from broken families and/or who may have dropped out of school.  The garden offers them a place to hang out, activities to alleviate boredom (which is one of the factors leading to substance abuse), and opportunities to learn new skills.  Church members want to draw alongside people and share the love of Christ with them in a practical way.

What goes on at the garden?

Robinson College runs a horticulture course twice a year, with ten participants each semester on average.  Participants also receive OH&S, first aid, and food hygiene training.  In between the courses, families are encouraged, equipped and supported to look after the six individual gardens.  Extra produce is given away to the community. 

What is the organisational structure of the garden?

This garden was set up to alleviate boredom and to grow fresh fruit and veg.  People are able to come and go as they please.  There is no real need for a structured program – it runs itself.

How does the garden link with other activities of the church?

The garden is a church activity.  Many who frequent the garden may not necessarily come to church, but they are able to engage in conversation and enjoy the company of those who do.  This is as important as the other activities of the church, as it allows us to get to know members of our community.

Who is involved in the garden, and what community partnerships have been involved?

The project is a partnership between the church, Bush Church Aid, and Robinson College.  Mission Australia is also involved in the project.  Bush Church Aid provided the space, as the garden is situated at the rear of BCA house.  They have also provided the means through which the seed funding was handled.  Robinson College provide all the formal training in horticulture and garden support when called on to do so.  Mission Australia assists with providing us with our participants.  The project is supported by other churches in Broken Hill and elsewhere in Australia.  For example, a mission team from an Anglican church in Sydney visited and built the shade structures for the garden.  An average of 10 young people enrol in the horticulture training each semester.  The church is aiming to work with six families in looking after the six gardens in between courses.  At present, one family from the church is involved.

What are the funding needs of the garden and where does the funding come from?

The community garden project sources $15,000 seed funding from a company in Melbourne.  Materials have been donated, e.g. the railways department provided sleepers for the garden beds. 

What challenges were faced in establishing the community garden, and how were these addressed?

Mustering community interest in the garden has been an ongoing challenge.  Unfortunately, the preferred site for the garden, which was in close proximity to where many aboriginal families live, could not be used for the project.  The current site is not as accessible.  Also, in hindsight, the church feels that they could have collaborated more closely with the whole community right from the start of the project, ensuring that the interest was there and that the project was closely targeted to community needs.  The church is now investing effort in building these collaborative relationships, and hopes that their perseverance will yield fruit in the form of a vibrant community garden.

More information

Address: 182 Lane St, Broken Hill, NSW 2880
Church website: http://www.uaicc.org.au
Garden/church contact: Rev Neville Naden, ph: 0425 387 402