Students secure grant to fund Indigenous garden

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Work will soon begin on a new garden on the grounds of the College, designed to build relationships with our local Indigenous community, and raise awareness of Indigenous culture and history.

The project comes about thanks to our Catholic Action Program (CAP) Class of 2020, who formulated the idea and made a submission to the Rerum Novarum Awards program last year, in the hope of securing a grant.

The Awards, run by the Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools and the Rerum Novarum Foundation, asked students from Years 10 – 12 to address a social justice issue in their community by using the ‘See, Judge, Act' method to apply the principles of Catholic social teaching to their project.

The Mater Christi CAP team won first place and were awarded a $10,000 grant for their garden that will include native plants for food, medicinal and educational use, information plaques about the plants and local indigenous history, indigenous artwork, seating and indigenous plants, sourced from local businesses.

The garden will be a beautiful addition to our College campus and work on its construction will begin soon.

We congratulate all the members of the CAP Class of 2020 on their vision for the garden and their commitment on seeing the project through.

Con Sarris, Social Justice Co-ordinator

Below is an excerpt from the students’ submission to the awards, outlining their plan.

Imagine having an area to go to for reflection, education on land, culture and history of local indigenous communities all surrounded by native flora and wildlife. With our distinct Rerum Novarum project aimed at dismantling systematic racism by gaining an education on land, culture and history of local indigenous communities we aim to achieve this.
Our goal is to provide a safe, educational and reflective space for the whole community to enjoy and use.

Through the See, Judge, Act methodology we researched the need for this project, we found many injustices towards Indigenous Australians. Systematic racism surrounding the Indigenous communities in Melbourne is ever present, but this should not be the case.

We hope that the community garden will help to establish a partnership with our local indigenous community, as well as provide an educational garden and increase the exposure of the culture that often goes unseen. By creating an important relationship with local indigenous leaders and elders, we can help be part of a widespread action into dismantling systematic racism.

The garden would provide a safe place and platform for education and celebration of culture, connecting the community and developing knowledge and respect for the Wurundjeri people and other local indigenous people in and around Yarra Ranges area.

We’ve worked as a class and collaborated to form an ideal look of the garden as follows. We sourced external community input by working with a draftsman to create a mock-up of the ideal garden.

As you enter the garden you will see welcome sign with an acknowledgement of country. Bordering the garden bed and path within reach will be small indigenous edible plants. Along higher sections of the path there will be indigenous edible shrubs and plants such as berries. As you move higher, overlooking the garden most of the plaques will be positioned with indigenous history and culture on them. Areas that aren’t reachable from the path will have indigenous shrubs, small bushes or groundcovers that aren’t edible

The garden will comprise of 4 main features:

  • Native plants indigenous to the area for food, medicinal and educational use as well as to attract native flora and fauna such as Australian birds.
  • Plaques that have information about the use of plants and a history of the area and local indigenous history.
  • Art will be made on the day, as we welcome any indigenous art and incorporate a hand wall of all those who contributed in the community to the garden.
  • Seating is important for people to rest and enjoy the garden.
  • We will source native, indigenous plants from Kuranga Native nursery in Mount Evelyn and Southern Dandenongs Community Nursery in Belgrave Heights. This will support these local nurseries and provide quality native plants.

By working with and listening to our community elders we will be celebrating and sharing their culture which is one of the central ideas of social justice teachings – subsidiarity.

CAP Class 2020