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From little things, good communities grow.

Recently, Wurruk Community House has been enjoying the fruits of nurturing its burgeoning community garden.

Oct 18, 2022

Words: Gippslandia

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The Wurruk Community House, near Sale, was established nearly 30 years ago, with humble beginnings in a caravan by a team of dedicated Wurruk community members on land donated by the Uniting Church.

After much fundraising and the incredible support of dedicated volunteers, the Wurruk Community House was incorporated as a not-for-profit and a permanent house was built.

The community continues to actively improve the house and surrounding grounds. An undercover awning area was added, as well as some new flooring and a repaint on the inside – both projects supported, gratefully, by the Wellington Shire Council.

...the local primary school is “awesome” and there’s a strong social conscience in the community, which ensures the continued vibrancy of the house.

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Sarah Bardsley, the manager of the Wurruk Community House for the past two-and-a- half years, says that the “undercover area was invaluable during Covid, as it allowed us to run the Wurruk Food Pantry, a food relief service for Wurruk locals, and an after-school activities program our local primary school children called Play.Learn.Share, and many other community events”.

Similar to Gippsland’s other fantastic community houses, the programs at Wurruk are driven by the local community members and their needs. Sarah says that the local primary school is “awesome” and that there’s a strong social conscience in the community, which ensures the continued vibrancy of the house.

Sarah adds, “As they say, it takes a ‘village’, and for many communities, places like community and neighbourhood houses are great places to create the village: through supporting and bringing people together to connect, grow and, hopefully, flourish.”

Having worked in community development for a number of years, Sara says, “It’s an incredibly rewarding vocation, connecting and working with people, making the world a brighter and more rewarding place.”

Recently, one of the key ideas has been the establishment of a community garden.

“When this idea was raised early last year, I noticed that TAFE Gippsland was promoting a horticultural course. I made contact with the TAFE team and they were incredibly enthusiastic about getting involved as it was a great opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience in working on a project with community members to design and build two substantial raised garden beds.

“Then we applied for Connect Well grant funding to purchase all the materials, which made it all happen.”

Wurruk Community House is relatively isolated from food sources, especially for particular members of their community, given that it’s five kilometres from the nearest shopping precinct.

Now, the garden delivers a great area to get involved. It’s also a source of food for our food pantry, where community members are encouraged to take produce whenever they need it, through a simple idea called the “Grab a Bag” program – grab a paper bag near the community library to fill up with fresh, organic produce.

The ‟Grab a Bag” and food pantry concepts at Wurruk are representative of one of the key attributes of community gardens; participation in community gardens has been shown to change the relationship people have with food, through educating participants about food production and increasing their access to healthy and fresh food. More simply, people with links to community gardens have a higher consumption of fruits and vegetables.

These gardens, and this is true throughout the region, are being increasingly recognised as an everyday therapeutic landscape, which has positive impacts on individuals’ health and wellbeing. Health benefits gained through participation include an increase in physical fitness, the development of a social support network within the local community and the chance to connect with nature.

Tellingly, in studies relating to rural community gardens, including one in South Gippsland, the most common feedback received was that more space and resources should be devoted to these gardens.

As for the program in Wurruk, Sarah says that everyone is, “looking forward to the time when we can start running cooking classes – using produce from our garden and utilising food from our food pantry to show how easily people can make a variety of healthy and affordable meals at home.

“The next phase of the community garden is building three composting bays and expanding our produce area with pumpkin and melon patches, which will happen in the coming months.

“We’re also talking with our local Wellington Shire Council sustainability guru about running sessions here to help us all learn how to reduce our waste footprint – this includes recycling and composting – which we’re excited about.

For young and old, it’s time to get your hands dirty and learn about gardening, together!

Gippslandia - Issue No. 24

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