Participating in an inclusive community garden project has given a young man seeking asylum the skills to turn his interest in carpentry into a career.
The Friendship Garden is a joint initiative between Settlement Services International (SSI) and Auburn City Council, where SSI clients and local community members come together to socialise and learn new skills during regular gardening mornings and workshops.
Mehran is one such participant who has gone from learning carpentry in the workshops to co-facilitating them and sharing his skills with other gardeners.
“I think this program is very good for everyone because people can come here and make something with wood, and if they really enjoy that, they can make it their goal for the future to continue that and find a job in this area,” Mehran said.
“I always liked to make things and work with wood, like you do with carpentry, but I didn’t have the opportunity to do that before coming here."
Mehran was introduced to carpentry when he came along to the Friendship Garden last year for a workshop facilitated by Tasman Munro – a designer with a woodworking background who specialises in designs to promote positive social outcomes.
“I met Tasman and made things with wood, and I really enjoyed that,” Mehran said. “After that, I went with Tasman to his workshop for informal training, where I continued doing carpentry and learning about wood.”
Tasman recently hired Mehran as his co-facilitator for a workshop at the Friendship Garden and is mentoring Mehran to establish a business so he can facilitate projects independently.
“I hope in future I will continue in this job, but first, I have to improve my English,” Mehran said. “After that, I’ll go to TAFE and do a course, and then I’ll find a job in carpentry.”
Over the past 10 months, Tasman’s workshops have given gardeners the skills to further develop the Friendship Garden, including garden beds, trolleys and benches.
Tasman said the benefits of getting involved in carpentry were abundant for the refugees and people seeking asylum who SSI works with.
“Spending a day immersed in the experience of making is really rewarding,” he said. “I know from my own personal experience in the workshop, when you get involved in a project everything disappears – time and all your worries.
“The longer you get engaged, the more you develop practical skills in carpentry, and planning and carrying out projects. Those woodworking skills are directly transferable into carpentry jobs, while the other skills are valuable in a number of different areas.”
The workshops have also helped the gardeners to build confidence in their ability to complete similar projects, Tasman said.
“This is especially important when people are in circumstances where they have very little control over the situation that they’re in,” he said.
The Friendship Garden holds regular workshops on carpentry, composting, planting from seedlings, and more. The garden caters for all levels of skills and experience, and people engaged in SSI programs as well as members of the public are welcome.