The Aboriginal community garden creating connection through food | Discovery | Gardening Australia

Clarence visits a community garden on Yuin Country, created to grow fresh food and connections for the local community. Subscribe 🔔
On the NSW South Coast near Nowra, a half hectare property in Terara is being transformed into a productive, edible garden named Kareela Ngura, which translates to ‘country of trees and water’. This community garden has been created by Waminda – South Coast Women’s Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation, to support their social enterprises and wellbeing programs for local Aboriginal women.

It’s a place to connect to the land and community, learn skills, and is a “ceremonial space for women and elders to be on country” says Health and Wellbeing Manager, Hayley Longbottom.

“People come here, and they learn how to cook things, learn about growing, recipes, taking that home, and in turn that’s feeding their families, their communities.” Produce is used in multiple programs including fruit and vegetable boxes for community members, cooking workshops, and to create products such as spice rubs and teas.

The garden was designed by Jac Eikeland who says it was intended to be a demonstration site with “zones for each one of Waminda’s programs to use.” The zones include a “nice safe zone for the kids to run around and play, so we’ve got a few raised beds with fruit and berries in there.” The market garden is then focused on production, including lots of leafy greens and fruit trees. The centre of the garden is a circular food forest “where we come together for yarning circles and just meeting and gathering,” embraced by a growing canopy of plants.

Building healthy soil and using all the waste has been a key factor to their success so far. “Waminda as a whole does well with waste management. All green waste goes into a hot compost system near the chooks, and we gather food scraps from the house of clients in the programs, turning it into luscious product for the plants. Once a year, we’ll put an inch or two of compost on the annuals in the market garden.”

Along with the common varieties of fruit and vegetables, there are plenty of native foods too. Gardener Michelle Moloney is the expert here. To prepare warrigal greens she suggests blanching the smaller leaves. “The bigger leaves, as they grow, they get very, very bitter”. Lemon-scented tea tree leaves are great with fish and also good for deterring mozzies! Finger limes create great habitat for wildlife and also complement fish-based dishes.

Skye Staniford from the Nyully Cooking Alive program demonstrates a simple way to harness these flavours from the garden in a fish dish. The lemon-scented tea tree leaves are stuffed into whole trevally, and she drizzles them with smoked blackberry vinegar. Then it’s sprinkled with finger lime salt, pepper berries, and a good squeeze of finger lime caviar before popping the whole fish onto the barbecue.

There’s plenty more to come from this space including youth education programs based around growing and cooking and partnering with local farmers to harvest and grow native grasses. The main focus is always on creating a supportive community. Hayley says “No matter what a woman and her family are coming in with, we wrap around them. And it’s our ways of knowing, being, and doing, and that’s what it’s about – providing and supporting her and walking alongside her on her journey. It’s not just an organisation, it’s a whole community behind our women here.”

Featured Plants:
ASPARAGUS – Asparagus officinalis *
KALE ‘CAVALO NERO’ – Brassica oleracea cv.
LETTUCE – Lactuca sativa cv.
APPLE – Malus cv.
WARRIGAL GREENS – Tetragonia tetragonoides
LEMON-SCENTED TEA TREE – Leptospermum petersonii
FINGER LIME – Citrus australasica cv.
* Check before planting: this may be an environmental weed in your area

Filmed on Yuin Country | Terara, NSW

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