On Wednesday, January 26 the Southern Beaches Community Garden partnered with members of the Afrekete Community Organisation to put on a unique celebration of cultural awareness.
Compliments of a generous grant from the National Australia Day Council (NADC), the SBCG would host traditional music and dance performances from the Torres Strait Islands, Cuba and Southeast Queensland’s very own indigenous Yugambeh tribe.
The day would include a traditional Torres Strait Kup Murri feast, a childrens’ potting workshop and the start of an ongoing mural painting project.
It was a very special day and one captured brilliantly through the professional lens of Lee Corrington from Noah Productions.
Thank you Lee and thank you to all the performers, community-minded contributors/donors and volunteers that came together to make this Australia Day in the garden one to remember for a very long time to come.
The 2021 Garden Christmas Party BBQ was held in the garden on Friday 10 December. What follows is the contents of the email sent out by SBCG Membership Secretary Deb Powers (with just a bit of extra added for clarification purposes by yours truly). So, if you couldn’t make it this year, keep in mind the Australia Day Afrekete Festival will be happening later next month in the garden.
You definitely won’t want to miss all the dancing, food and libations and overall festive atmosphere of that one.
So, see you in the garden and here’s to a bigger and better 2022.
Now, About that Party
What a wonderful SBCG Christmas party we had. In all, the total numbers would be in the neighbourhood of around 50 members and their families.
The weather was perfect with temps in the mid to upper 20s and no humidity to speak of. Even the mozzies behaved for the night.
Everywhere I looked, people were smiling, laughing and eating. And after so much rain, all amidst some incredibly healthy and vibrant-looking garden plots. Such an amazing setting to have and share with the community.
Thank you everyone for your share plates. The range of food was just so good and eclectic. Everything from snags and
chicken to Annie’s ‘rice sausages’ and authentic Thai Green Payaya Salad. Between that and the many chips and dips, cheeses and numerous delicious desserts, everyone was spoiled for choice.
Thanks to Mary and Natalia for cooking the sausages, chicken and onions. In the end, it almost goes without saying, there was nothing left.
Thanks to Jim for the Christmas tablecloths and the decorations. They looked great and added to the festive cheer.
Thank you to everyone who joined the party. It was lots of fun.
To our members, prospective members, your families and friends – we wish you all a very joyous Christmas and a safe new year.
We have some great events coming up in 2022 and we look forward to seeing you at them.
We just wanted to give you an update and say thank you for coming to our kindy and fixing up our little garden.
It brings us so much joy to see how much our garden grows from week to week. It literally doubles in size each time we see it anew and fills us all with excitement and joy to find what developments have been happening since we last saw it.
The children created their own signs for the flowers and vegetables and they also made a combined effort beautiful big 💐thank you 💐 for all that you did for us.
Special thanks to Di, Archie and Judy who came to our centre on the day and to SBCG for the generosity of time, labour, supplies and kindness🙏
I’ll attach a couple of photos for you and we would welcome a visit from any of you at the end of the week group B if you wanted to drop in and see how our magical garden grows.
Of all the happy faces in the garden, theirs are always the happiest.
Wearing black t-shirts and infectious smiles you’ll find them. Getting tucked into any task that needs attending. No job is too big or too trivial for this crew.
They are Team Lemonade, a disability service organisation serving the southern Gold Coast and The Tweed.
Ask them and they’ll tell you, they’re just happy to be there. In the company of their fellow team members, lending a hand and contributing in any way possible.
In April of 2020, the group was started by Elaine Johnston, a mother who wanted more for her oldest son, 31-year-old Nathan, who has Downs Syndrome and autism.
“A lot of people let my son get away with a lot when he was young. ‘That’s alright, he’s got a disability.’ Actually, it’s not alright. I’ve taught him right from wrong and you’re allowing him to do what he likes because you feel empathetic for him…We (at Team Lemonade) empower, not enable, that’s a huge thing we do,” says Johnston.
Starting with only her son and two other students just over 18 months ago, today Team Lemonade is comprised of 11 staff and 35 team members. Members that range in ages from 19-39.
They are based out of present-day Kirra Cultural Centre atop Kirra Hill where many of the team members went to school as young children. Johnston says doing so has helped to create a sense of familiarity and belonging which the team members find very appealing.
And while many of the classroom programs revolve around literacy, numeracy, and general life skills, a large percentage of Team Lemonade’s educational opportunities are undertaken outside, in and around the community. These events involve work experience outings, health and fitness instruction at local gyms and volunteer opportunities; one of which is visits to the Southern Beaches Community Garden.
Everything is done based on a lesson Johnston learned almost fifteen years ago from three Aboriginal elders while working as a special needs teacher. It revolved around the Indigenous belief that hierarchy should not be triangular but, rather, circular.
This circular perspective renders the place of actual teaching irrelevant. And, in the end, teaching moments abound. More often than not, when least expected; which is how a wrong turn in her car helped the Team Lemonade director stumble onto the SBCG.
“They learn what they need to learn. We benefit from their knowledge and everyone just learns from each other. All with no (traditional) hierarchy, it just doesn’t work,” says Johnston.
And the director of Team Lemonade is not alone in this belief. Janelle Staggard, who worked with her current boss at the Coolangatta Special School almost 16 years ago and has known many of the Team Lemonade members for 20 years, agrees wholeheartedly.
“I think we’re setting them up to, actually, fail at school,” Staggard says of the current special needs school programs. “What we’re doing is trying to provide a mainstream curriculum to guys that don’t fit into the box.”
And, according to Staggard, the SBCG grounds are a perfect out-of-the-box experience. Perfect from a holistic perspective in that it provides a real grounding opportunity to members that too often find themselves amidst a world of sensory overload.
She adds the garden requires members to get outside, explore and be hands-on. All in the pursuit of learning what can and cannot be grown, built, or improved upon. And better still, all while finding their own path towards becoming contributing members of society.
On this day the members engaged in this ongoing process of discovery include Andrew (29), Tim (34), David (31), Mitch (33), Joel (27) and Nathan (31).
Pruning tools, garden hoses, and a pitchfork for compost turning are the tools of the trade for the day’s excursion. One that also involves a quick lesson in worm composting. With minimal instruction from the three Team Lemonade staff members (done in a ratio of 3:1), the team members divide and conquer.
Except for Mitch, who is new to the program, the others are familiar with the routine and dive right in with the first-timer Mitch, quick to follow suit. Each member has their own section of garden to tend to and with water nozzles set to a light drenching mist, they tackle their assigned plots with gusto.
A gusto including plenty of friendly banter and laughs. Along with the occasional mischievous blast of water directed at their nearest team member. All of which serves as a not-so-subtle reminder: these disabled garden volunteers thrive on the activity and, even more obvious, love each other’s company.
During an equally jovial lunch break in the garden beneath some nearby trees, team member Joel confirms this stating simply, “I enjoy Team Lemonade because it’s a group of people that I get to be next to and talk to.”
It’s an unmistakable common theme running through the entire group and their unbridled enthusiasm maintains the afternoon’s positivity and fun. No one is immune from the buzz. Least of all the team staff members.
Staggard says the Team Lemonade members have helped her learn to “live life without boundaries.” She’s quick to comment that the emotions of the team members are genuine and sincere. They don’t want or expect anything in return in their dealings with others. “They’re just in this present moment and we live so much in the past or in the future. We forget about the right now.”
As an outsider, it’s both a unique and refreshing perspective to find yourself a part of. It also serves as a powerful reminder. One which suggests that the path Team Lemonade has pursued this past year and a half works as intended.
Johnson sums it up this way. “I learned a long time ago tropical fish don’t belong in a gold fishbowl. So, putting tropical fish in a tropical fishbowl, you then see the capabilities of these young people.”
This belief firmly entrenched, the circle becomes complete.
People are helping people. And with everyone learning from each other.
Wednesday night, the 8th of September would be a business network event to remember for everyone lucky enough to have been able to attend Tugun’s growing Southern Beaches Community Garden.
Under clear, late summer, evening skies, the SBCG and its members opened up the grounds of their community garden for something unique. An expertly planned and executed gathering of local business and council members and passionate, civic-minded gardeners.
Bendigo Bank’s Executive Assistant Maris Dirkx summed it up very succinctly in her following morning thank you email to the garden.
“The GC South Business Network event, proudly co-hosted by Southern Beaches Community Garden and Community Bank Tugun was a huge success last night with over 80 people enjoying the wonderful hospitality of the volunteers of SBCG.
Guests enjoyed a unique opportunity to mix and mingle under the stars with other local business and organisation representatives.
A BIG thank you to the volunteers of SBCG and their hard work to make the event such a success.”
In addition to what was expressed in her following day’s thank you email, Maris even went so far as to say the event raised the bar and the garden should be proud of itself as this was the first Business Networking Event staged at a venue that wasn’t licensed.
And in her short speech on the night, SBCG President Di Gunther was quick to give credit where credit was due. Namely, to the SBCG’s biggest sponsor Bendigo Bank and its Manager Allan Merlehan. As well as to Laura Gerber and Councillor Gail O’Neill for their ongoing support, so much of which has made the garden’s recent expansion project such a huge success.
Then she thanked the 200 plus garden members. Those who, day in and day out, do all the little things that add up to the garden’s ongoing success. Especially the members who cleaned, set up, unpacked, cooked, served, sang, picked up supplies, collected seedlings, prepared the market, served behind the bar, spoke, participated in the garden walks and took pictures.
Lastly, a special thanks went out to garden member Deb Power who not only led the night’s team of volunteers but also assumed the evening’s role of MC.
In short, it was a magical night.
The weather was beautiful, the garden looked spectacular, the Balter beer was cold, the food was delicious and the live music by Lauren from Youth Music Venture topped off the event.
Not surprisingly, the SBCG has been asked to host again next year. An invitation the SBCG was quick to accept.
It’s been a long time coming but it appears the hard work of so many Southern Beaches Community Garden members has finally paid off. For a while, there’d been talk and plenty of whispers on the grapevine about the expansion of our little community garden. But, as the saying goes, good things come to those that wait. Or, in this case, diligently persevere.
Yet, as the pictures included here can attest to, the wait is over. Eleven and a half years since first being incorporated, expansion is underway.
Back in 2010, equipped with little more than gumption and a lease from Gold Coast City
Councillor Chris Robbins, an agenda was set. To commandeer a plot of land located directly behind the Tugun Community Centre, and turn it into something special.
This being a community garden that would allow for the general sharing of sustainable and environmentally friendly gardening ideas and knowledge. While also serving as an outlet to a healthy lifestyle and an overall better quality of life for the community as a whole.
Just getting the lease would prove a major first hurdle as original plans to set the garden up in Palm Beach were knocked back. Council’s reasoning being, such a plan would never get enough traction to prove successful. But many early members had a vision that they simply wouldn’t allow to be vanquished. Members such as Margo Janes, Chris Ettelbuttel, Mark Bibby and Michael Ratcliffe. And more. Each and everyone who worked relentlessly to get things off the ground.
Such determination would prove instrumental as local council’s scepticism very nearly proved correct once the ground was finally broken in their new Tugun home. Because it’d be then that the approximately 40 ambitious new SBCG members would be confronted with the reality of various obstacles impeding the success of their fledgling community garden.
There being nowhere to store various tools and equipment, members were forced to liaison with neighbours sympathetic to the gardeners’
plans. Neighbours who allowed SBCG materials to be stored on their property during the construction of the garden’s first plots.
And then there was a water issue. The issue being, there simply wasn’t much to be had. At least, none other than from a single spigot located in the middle of the nearby public park located a hundred metres away.
So those early days saw more than their fair share of toil. Like busy ants walking to and fro constructing, filling and watering their new community garden’s plots. Plots that would serve as the initial beachhead for so many to follow.
And follow they have. To the tune of 100 eventual total plots for a present garden membership tally in the vicinity of 150 members.
Members that, over the years have lent their time and energy in helping various organisations accomplish their own agendas. Groups and organisations such as The Thrower House, Blair Athol Homeless Shelter, U3A (University of the Third Age), the Endeavour Foundation, Centrelink and more.
And then there are the community-building efforts of putting on free workshops and attending various annual festivals. Festivals which you can always find SBCG volunteers distributing free seedlings to young and old alike. Events such as the Bleach and Swell Festivals in Coolangatta, the Check It Mental Health Festival in Southport, the Tallebudgera Flood Relief Effort and most recently the Hide and Seek Markets located around the southern Gold Coast.
Eleven and a half years of sharing our community and environmentally friendly driven passion for sustainable gardening. And forging new friendships along the way. Working relationships with the Gold Coast City Council’s Gail O’Neill, the Tweed Pony Club, Somerset College, the Bendigo Tugun Community Bank, Climate Wave Enterprises, Bunnings and countless local community mowing businesses, butchers, builders and nurseries.
So, thank you to everyone that has had a hand in helping bring this special moment to fruition. It’s been a whirlwind ride but one that proves anything is possible.
A week following our big day, an even bigger day–in the form of a Red Wriggler Homecoming–was in store for the Southern Beaches Community Garden.
It’d be then, on Thursday, March 5th—amidst grey skies and torrential rain—Tom Symmons from Worms Downunder (based out of Chandler, QLD) would arrive with the SBCG’s newest, most anticipated members in tow.
Worms. But not just any worms.
Red wiggler composting worms. Lots and lots of them.
Five kilograms or, to be a bit more precise, something in the vicinity of 20,000 worms.
Delivered and spread out amidst their moist cocopeat and straw bedding inside the SBCG’s Double Grande Worm Habitat, the red wigglers would begin their settling in process.
It was an impressive sight, seeing those little magical creepy crawlies set loose in their new home. But, not nearly as impressive as the Red Wigglers themselves. At least, according to the incredibly thorough and enlightening literature provided in the Worms Downunder information pack.
For example, did you know the worms:
Breathe through their skin as they don’t have any lungs
Are hermaphrodites (they all have both male and female reproductive organs)
Are sensitive to light to the point where paralysis can occur within one hour
Can die if their skin becomes too dry
Cannot regulate their body temperature as they’re cold-blooded
In addition to body temperature, ambient temperature plays a major factor in the rate at which the Red Wigglers feed. Too high or too low a
temperature takes the worms out of their ideal comfort zone, greatly reducing the amount of food they consume.
However, in an ideal, well-maintained environment, Red Wigglers are capable of eating anywhere from 50 to 100% of their body weight in organic matter PER DAY.
So it stands to reason, then, the more worms, the better.
And the best part…?
You don’t have to worry about having to cull any of your Red Wiggler worm population as the little critters are as clever as they are hungry. Clever in that their reproduction is self-regulated in direct proportion to the size of their environment.
Regulated to the point where, in ideally maintained conditions, the worms can double their numbers once every three months.
Which, for the SBCG’s Double Grande Worm Habitat, will eventually equate to 80,000 Red Wigglers…
All doing their part in processing upwards of 40 litres of green waste a day, producing nutrient, soil-enriching worm ‘castings’ and helping to remove vast quantities of methane producing green waste from our local landfills.
A win-win for the SBCG and the local community alike.
If you wanted an example of community in action, a visit to your nearest community garden would be as ideal a stop as any.
And Tugun’s Southern Beaches Community Garden would be no exception. From garden beds which need building, grounds that need tending, compost bins that need turning and pony poo runs that need manning…
There’s plenty of work of the volunteer variety to go around. And, yet, that would only be half of the ‘community in action’ story.
Because, without funding from generous donors, all that work doesn’t even get off the ground. And in the case of the SBCG, chances are extremely good that generous donor would be the Tugun Branch of Bendigo Bank.
Yes, since the garden’s inception in 2009, Tugun’s Bendigo Bank has offered the garden’s members and the community, in general, its unwavering support. A level of community support that is extremely rare.
And one person that knows this better than anyone is Bendigo’s Tugun Branch Manager, Allan Merlehan.
So, that said, we at the SBCG wanted to show our gratitude by giving Allan the floor. To give him the opportunity to answer a few questions and, in doing so, to shed a little light on the banking mindset that has helped to separate and distinguish themselves from the rest of the banking, big player herd.
All while simultaneously helping the SBCG grow as much as it has.
So, Allan, how long have you worked for the Tugun Branch of Bendigo Bank? As a banker in general?
I’ve been at Tugun for I0 years and in finance for a total of 36.
Was there anything overly unique or special about the bank that sort of drew you to the place?
The ‘Community’ focus was one aspect and the other was they had bank managers with authority in their branches, so you had decision-makers at ground-level.
Having worked there for as long as you have, what do you feel makes Bendigo Bank different from other banks?
The bank’s focus on the customer & the community.
On average, how much does Bendigo Bank put back into the community each year?
Our branch directly sponsors about $90k.
When do you remember first hearing about the Southern Beaches Community Garden and how has the Tugun Branch been involved with the garden?
I heard about them very soon after I arrived in Tugun in January 2010. Since then our Tugun Community Bank Branch has provided over $32,000 in funding to assist with projects such as the propagation tunnel, water tanks, a covered seating area and a trailer. Our directors and staff have also volunteered in a working bee.
What were your first impressions of the organisation?
They immediately came across as a group of determined people wanting to improve their local community.
Since then, what have you found most interesting or impressive about the garden?
How the garden has continued to evolve from the initial concept 10 years ago to what it is today.
Do you find any similarities between the goals of your bank and the SBCG?
The goal of connecting with your local community & endeavouring to make a difference.
After so much involvement with the garden, what are your thoughts as you walk around the grounds that, over the years, you’ve had such a significant hand in helping to shape?
I believe it is the members who have had a significant hand in shaping the garden into what it is today. We have assisted where we can, but it is the determination and hard work of the committee and the members of the SBCG that has brought that concept 10 years ago into a reality.
Of Bendigo Bank’s Tugun Branch’s many contributions to the local community, is there one that makes you most proud? If so, which one and why?
I am proud of all our contributions in the community, whether that is in a dollar value, the sharing of knowledge or the volunteering of time. It’s not so much the contribution, but what it enables others to do, that makes a difference for our community.