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10 Jan 2018


NSW Government awards SSI to build accessible sensory garden

Captured is Muthana one of the regular Friendship Garden’s gardeners and his daughter. 

Over the past three years, SSI has welcomed people from many diverse backgrounds to the Friendship Garden at Auburn Centre for Community.

The existing garden brings together locals for community gardening, horticulture courses and community development initiatives, however it’s limited in what it offers to people living with disability.

The sensory garden will foster community cohesion and inclusiveness, enabling children of all abilities to learn and express themselves freely.

The garden features were chosen through a consultation with the garden designers and a large group of children. The design incorporates frog ponds, spiralled textured paths and sand pits that simulate participation in sensory based play.

SSI’s disability and settlement programs will connect local families to the garden and engage established networks to offer therapeutic intervention, play-based activities and community development initiatives.

SSI has engaged a diverse group of community participants at its Friendship Garden, including participants like Muthana who are passionate about all things gardening.

Muthana is originally from Iraq and came to Australia on a humanitarian visa from Syria. As he is missing a hand, his first touchstone with SSI was via the Ability Links NSW program, which supports people with disability, their family and carers.

Muthana had been a horticulturalist by trade back in Iraq and was referred to SSI’s short course in horticulture as he was eager to re-qualify his skills here in Australia. He began the course last July to help ignite his own business.

“SSI has helped me complete my study in an activity that truly motivates me, and I have been able to form many new friendships in the garden while improving my English,” Muthana said.

Muthana attends a weekly garden session, where a group of gardeners maintain the garden together, followed by a shared multicultural lunch. After lunch they reconvene for an English class run by a garden volunteer who taught English at ‘Read, Write and Spell’, a pre-literacy course for adult asylum seekers and refugees in Ultimo.

Diana Nguyen, SSI Community Engagement Practitioner, has facilitated the onboarding of participants like Muthana into the Friendship Garden and said that it makes a massive difference to the integration of newcomers into local communities.

“Initiatives like our Friendship Garden allow new community members to do something therapeutic like gardening and form new friendships whilst simultaneously improving their English literacy,” Ms Nguyen said.

The construction of the sensory garden will commence in 2018, and once completed will launch with a grand opening and celebrations.

SSI staff captured with gardeners at the Friendship Garden where the new sensory garden will be installed. 

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