A native garden at Victoria University will become an outdoor classroom to demonstrate Indigenous uses of plants for food, medicine and tools.
At the same time, the Iramoo Bush Food Garden at St Albans Campus is helping rehabilitate offenders and develop horticulture skills of people contributing toward community service orders.
The 1100-square-metre garden is a joint project with the Victorian Department of Justice, offering up to 10 participants a chance to learn basic gardening and landscaping each week. The workers are also planting native trees grown in a program that teaches horticulture to women in prison.
Garden co-designer Cassandra Twomey says the project is aimed at fostering a new interest for these participants while creating a lasting community asset once completed later this year.
Situated within the Iramoo Grassland Centre, workers have now cleared the land and laid paths for the garden. With a strong focus on sustainability, it will contain rocks, logs, recycled pavers and sleepers, and incorporated artwork.
The plants in the garden will include lomandra longifolia, traditionally used for weaving and netting; Murnong or Yam Daisy, an important source of starch in traditional Aboriginal societies; and many species of wattle.
“It may cover a small area, but this garden has the potential to raise awareness on a much bigger picture,” she says.
In addition to being a showcase for Indigenous plants and an outdoor classroom for VU students, Cassandra expects the garden to be used for community workshops that will pass on traditional Indigenous knowledge of food preparation, cooking and weaving.
“The garden will grow to a place where people can learn by touching and feeling, rather than from textbook photos,” she says.
Once completed, a nursery will be open to the community for plant purchases.
The garden was also designed by Charles Solomon, VU’s Indigenous Employment and Community Liaison officer.