The Friendship Garden in Auburn has blossomed recently thanks to the hard work and enthusiasm of former refugees and people seeking asylum, who are supported by Settlement Services International (SSI). Participants have volunteered to nurture the garden with others in the community.
SSI partnered with Auburn City Council in June 2015 to support the expansion of the existing Friendship Garden and transform it into a productive and inclusive community garden project. Their combined efforts over the past three months are clearly evident, with the garden now flourishing and attracting significantly more people from the community to enjoy the shared space.
As SSI Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) Service Delivery Manager Yamamah Agha explained, SSI clients who have taken part in the project — including refugees and people seeking asylum — have developed a range of new skills such as planting, weeding, soil testing, composting and even carpentry, as part of a series of workshops coordinated by SSI’s Community Engagement team.
Some of the active participants at Auburn Community Friendship Garden.
All participants say they have also made new friends, diversified their skills, developed stronger relationships, and enjoyed sharing the common goal of developing the garden and watching it grow.
“SSI has had an extremely encouraging response from our participants who have thoroughly enjoyed nurturing the Friendship Garden alongside others in the community. Participants have achieved exactly what the program set out to achieve; they learned new skills with new friends, and feel more confident in their own communities,” Ms Agha said.
“The project is an ideal example of how SSI’s Community Engagement program is helping to connect people from diverse backgrounds and make them feel included and welcomed in their community.”
Abdul, who is seeking asylum in Australia and regularly attends SSI Community Engagement activities, said the gardening days have become a regular part of his routine.
“I come to all of the activities – Community Kitchen, bush regeneration and the Friendship Garden to see my friends. I love gardening so I come every week to learn new skills,” he said.
Yosuf, who is also supported by SSI while his application for a refugee visa is assessed, is another regular participant whose confidence and English speaking skills have significantly improved since the program commenced.
“I like the gardening, and the painting, and I like seeing my friends every week,” he said. “I like coming here.”
The community garden will be open to everyone for the Friendship Garden Spring Party on Saturday October 24, to celebrate the combined efforts of Auburn Council, SSI , and the community in developing the project. The Spring party will Include food stalls, entertainment, family activities and a jumping castle, everyone is welcome.
Details: Auburn Centre for Community, 44A Macquarie Road, Auburn, 10am-4pm.