Thursday 23rd December, 2021

Wurruk is a small community, situated at the edge of Sale, on the banks of the picturesque Carran Carran / Thompson River, where it soon meets the Port of Sale, before flowing out into the great Gippsland Lakes Wetlands.

The community sits in a geographically isolated suburb, being five kilometres from the main shopping district in Sale. This has provided an opportunity to promote the growing of local produce, develop local horticultural skills, healthy eating, and exercise, one recently taken up by Wurruk Community House.

Wurruk Community House provides a range of programs, social activities and supports within the local community. During COVID-19 lockdowns, in talking with community members, it was found that many residents faced challenges in safely and affordably accessing quality food – this was initially addressed through developing the Wurruk Food Pantry. Looking for ways to reduce social isolation and enhance community health and wellbeing further, Wurruk Community House learned that the local community really liked the idea of establishing a community garden.

In early 2021, Wurruk Community House’s Manager, Sarah Bardsley, approached the local TAFE Gippsland Horticultural Team, requesting their support with designing and developing a much-needed community garden, and was greeted with a resounding “Yes!”.

Besides providing a fantastic green space for the local community to enjoy and develop, this TAFE and Wurruk Community partnership provides horticultural students valuable hands-on experience and skills in the design and building of a great community asset.

The community garden features raised garden beds (as pictured) that incorporates irrigation systems and a composting system, with potting and propagating facilities are planned. This project provides an ideal opportunity to encourage people of all ages to share knowledge and connect. By providing opportunities to learn, or share, new gardening skills, and experiencing the satisfaction of growing, harvesting and swapping fresh garden produce with others, this project has now attracted many local supporters.

The Wurruk community garden project was impacted by regular COVID-19 lockdowns during 2021, with four false starts, but this did not deter the TAFE Gippsland team, when work finally commenced on a grey wet Friday in early August 2021.

Sarah said,

“The community garden, is a great learning space and is already a well-loved feature of Wurruk Community House, that is tended by local gardening enthusiasts, as well as being enjoyed by our younger community members, who are already enjoying the fruits of their labour, harvesting a bumper crop of strawberries.”

“We are very grateful for the grant that Connect Well provided, which is supporting us with this wonderful addition to Wurruk Community House – that’s improving lives.”>

As Sarah spoke recently about how local people have wanted to become involved, it became obvious that the garden was becoming a truly collaborative community space, with people of all ages bringing along seedlings, planting something or just enjoying seeing things grow each time they visit. The garden has also gained several local caretakers, who regularly water and weed, and generally encourage a growing range of fruit and vegetables to flourish.

With the recent addition of more space surrounding Wurruk Community House, and a growing local community, the team are focusing upon promoting good health and community wellbeing, by sharing knowledge and tips around gardening, connecting people of all ages. With links to TAFE horticultural experience and programs, there will also be plenty of opportunities to get some hands-on experience, for those keen to start their own garden, or even learn a bit more.

(Photos: Sarah Bardsley, Michael Kenny)