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A New Life Through Gardening
Part of the pleasure of gardening comes in the sharing of plants, seeds, learning and experience with
other gardeners. There are so many stories of people who make gardening their day to day way of
life, and their motivation, which very often is the glue that keeps them ‘together’. Our Patron, Jane
Edmanson, shares a story of how gardening has contributed to making life sustainable for a
vulnerable group of people.
I have had the great pleasure of meeting a group of Karen women, migrants from Burma, who live in
the western suburbs of Melbourne, and are now working on a wonderful gardening project at
Werribee Park. Many were persecuted by the Burmese military regime and forced to flee to live in
refugee camps on the border, some for 22 years. Now they have migrated to Australia, but found life
hard due to isolation and lack of English language, many became depressed.
This is where the old kitchen garden at Werribee Park Mansion became important, as a central focus
for helping these newly arrived migrants to improved health. James Brincat, Ranger in Charge of
Werribee Park, works for Parks Victoria, and is passionate about revitalising this kitchen garden
space, and says it has worked a treat. The women come regularly to work on the garden beds, and it
is a place they can talk, share experiences and cook a meal together. It was heartening to see the
women (and a few men, most are out at work) smiling, chatting and cooking up a storm, and what
delicious food they prepared for lunch on the day. All the vegetables and herbs were picked straight
from their garden.
The range is huge: coriander, silverbeet, tomatoes,
basil, parsley, chillies, nasturtiums, spring onions,
tatsoy, bok choi, lettuces, peas, rhubarb and water
spinach. Lots of mustard plants grow as collecting
seed is important.
Gardening, harvesting and preparing food has brought people together and it does prove that
gardening and sharing really is for everyone.
Story and photo credits: Jane Edmanson