SBCG Faces in the Crowd–Natalia Ribeiro

Natalia Ribeiro

It’s a rare morning you won’t find SBCG member Natalia Ribeiro tending to her diverse and vibrant garden bed. Plot number five to be exact. The one, fittingly enough, located just around the entrance to the SBCG propagation tunnel housing fledgling seedlings which, if they could talk, would surely tell you about wanting to look just like the plants on their door step when they grow up.

It’s the plot managing to grow coffee, pawpaw, Thai basil, various chilli plants, mint, tarragon, bitter melon, arrowroot, okra, various lettuces and, no doubt, a wide

Natalia Ribeiro
Natalia & her Pawpaw

assortment of other unique fruits, flowers and veggies that might look familiar but whose names don’t exactly leap off the tongue.

And while you might not know the names of everything growing in garden bed number 5, one look will tell you the person responsible for such a prolific plot has invested more than just a bit of their time and effort into that space.

And you’d be very right.

But probably not for the reasons you might think.

For Natalia Ribeiro, you see, her raised garden bed is more than the mere sum of its many bountiful parts. It’s a portal of sorts. A connection to her past. A past that, until she and half of her eleven brothers and sisters emigrated to Portugal in 1974, saw Natalia grow up on her family’s vast farm in East Timor.

So all that said, in what we hope will be the first of many ongoing ‘Faces in the Crowd’ posts to come, here’s Natalia’s take on all things gardening.

How long have you been a SBCG member and how did you first get into gardening?

East Timor Plantation
The Ribeiro family farm in East Timor. A labour of love.

I joined the SBCG back around 2010. I was walking by and saw the area and immediately went in and started asking questions. As for how I got into gardening, that’s a bit of a long story. I guess you could say it’s in my blood. My father took over the family farm in East Timor from my grandparents. It was more a ranch than a farm and we had everything on it. Livestock of all sorts and we grew all our fruit and vegetables. We were completely self-sufficient with the only thing we had to buy from the store being toiletries. My favourite memory of the place was sitting on our big veranda waiting for my father to come home from the fields. I’d see him in his loaded up truck and I’d get so excited to see him every time. I lived there until the age of nine. It was then, when my father decided things were getting too dangerous, that me and half my twelve brothers and sisters moved to Lisbon, Portugal. He ran that farm for 61 years before my oldest brother took over.

What do you find most rewarding about gardening?

Like was probably the case with my father, I find the most satisfying aspect of gardening being able to grow my own fruits and vegetables and being able to harvest and bring them home. I’m proud to be able to say what I produce allows me to cook a delicious meal for my family.

What mistakes do you feel new gardeners make?

I think too many new gardeners underestimate the amount of work which is often necessary to produce and maintain a really healthy and productive garden over time.

They come in to it all very excited to get a garden bed and for the first few months—especially when the weather is cooperating—everything seems perfect. But later, whether it’s their busy life outside the garden or whatever, they start to neglect things. Add long periods with little to no rain and failing to get their garden sufficient amounts of water only seems to make the issue worse. A garden can be a lot of responsibility. I don’t think a lot of new gardeners understand that.

East Timor family photo
Natalia, bottom row (on right) with older sisters and baby brother

What’s your favourite fruit/veggie/flower to grow and why?

I’d have to say pau pau is my favourite because it’s so healthy and it grows year round. Back in East Timor we ate it all the time green or ripe. We used all the parts of it, too. The leaves, the flowers. Everything. My father planted a big patch of it and I remember he used to sit on our veranda eating it with a spoon in the afternoons.

What’s an aspect of gardening you struggle with and why?

I know a lot of people will probably say the heat but, to be honest, I’m pretty used to it. I suppose East Timor prepared me for it and I just really enjoy being outside tending to my plot and the other common areas. I usually arrive very early in the morning and am gone before things get too hot anyway. That way I do what I need to do in the garden and I still have plenty of time for other things I like to do like going to the beach.

What’s your favourite all natural fertilizer and why?

Although we have access to composted material in the garden, I still prefer grass clippings. The clippings are natural and generally in an abundant supply. I sometimes find bits of discarded plastic in the compost bins which kind of ruins everything for me. It might seem nit-picky, but I’m just all for the grass clippings.

What’s the best way to convince a young person gardening is a viable activity?

Leading by example in an enthusiastic manner is probably the best way. That way it’s easier to explain how much fun gardening can be while having them help you with various projects around the garden, like watering.

If you were a politician with clout on the Gold Coast, what gardening related initiatives would you put in place?

Natalia's Parents
Mr. and Mrs. Ribeiro

I would probably want to start an educational program in the area that focused more on recycling. Because it seems like a lot of people don’t have a really good idea about what can and cannot be recycled or composted.

If you could swap out your gardening ability with another skill or hobby, what would it be and why?

One of biggest dreams of mine has always been to be a real qualified chef. I’ve always been pretty good at creating healthy meals for my family but to be a chef would let

me take things to a whole other level. Plus, being a chef would allow me to really capitalise on my knowledge of plants and vegetables.

What’s the most memorable tip anyone’s ever given you pertaining to gardening?

Of course the most memorable tip I’ve received about gardening was from my father. He just always used to say that to have a beautiful and healthy garden you really just have to be committed to it and to believe.












Niamph Williams & Hester Clark

The Duke of Edinburgh Award-The Tradition Continues at the SBCG

In 1956, Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh had a plan. He wanted to set up an awards program which would recognise adolescents and young adults for completing a series of self-improvement activities. The ultimate goal of the program being to help young people discover their full potential by finding their purpose, passion and place in the world.

Co-workers, mentors, friends. Natalia Ribeiro (L) and Hana Smith (R)

To achieve this award, each young person would need to participate in a four part process. A process which revolves around physical recreation, skills, community service and participating in a team adventure in a new environment. All while under the guidance of award leaders, supervisors and accessors.

Today the Duke of Edinburgh Award has expanded to 144 countries with over 8 million young adults having participated in the past 55 plus years of its existence. And in Australia alone, the Duke of Edinburgh Award has seen over 775,000 young people participate.

Young people like 14 year olds, Niamh Williams and Hester Clark of Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School in Terranora, NSW.

For a period of three months, both Niamh and Hester have collectively worked 26 hours under the guidance of SBCG

SBCG Propagation Tunnel
Planting Seedlings

Community Engagement Officer Di Gunther. In that time their activities and subsequent accomplishments have been numerous.

These activities and tasks involved garden projects including seeding and weeding along with general garden beautification projects. Projects such as designing murals for the garden white board and composting bins, installing and decorating the wooden frames around the garden’s worm farm baths and assisting garden member Hana

Smith decorate large bulk containers with colourful and engaging sunflower and bumble bee scenes.

Additionally, the two friends also designed a folder containing various seedlings that are distributed at community workshops so the recipients can see what the plant will look like once it matures. And at the Palmy Festival, Niamh

SBCG Wicking Beds
Creative Helping Hands

donated her time at the Children’s Workshop answering questions and assisting the ever inquisitive youngsters in preparing and taking home a decorated pot with their choice of seedling.

In the end, it’s simply safe to say, it’s been a very hands on few months for two very busy bees. All of which has been incredibly appreciated.

“The girls have been a credit to the youth of today,” says Gunther who adds such a positive experience will see her being

Palmy Festival
Niamh assisting at the Palmy Festival

very proactive in inviting many more young people into the garden. “The artwork they have helped create has been happy and injects colour into the garden space and ignites the imagination of all ages…More families have joined since the girls have been involved and when asked why, they simply state they enjoy the welcoming feeling they get when walking around the garden.”

As for how two teenagers managed to find themselves in the SBCG garden in the first place, that can be largely attributed to Niamh’s mother, Fiona, who, as fate would have it, herself participated in The Duke of Edinburgh back in 1988-89 while in school in Ireland. (Fittingly, Niamh’s father, Paul, completed his program in 1984-85 in England).

Fiona says she was struggling to find a project to fulfil the community service portion of the award until a couple lunch break discussions with Di—the two are co-workers in the mental health department  at Tweed Hospital– parted the clouds in what everyone seems to feel has been a very symbiotic working relationship.

Hester Clark & Niamph Williams
Beautification Projects and Smiles

“It’s been good to see how everyone at the garden works as a team to make projects come together,” says Hester.

And Niamh, “I now have a greater interest in doing planting and gardening projects at home,” before adding a sentiment both rising high schoolers share. “Thank you to Di, Hana and everyone else at the garden for making this such a positive experience.”

All of which is, no doubt, everything Prince Phillip could’ve hoped for.




Gail O'Neill & Friends AGM Gathering

SBCG’s November 2019 Annual General Meeting

Hello again,

It’s been a busy year at the Southern Beaches Community Garden here in Tugun with the Annual General Meeting held on 23 November, 2019 at the garden clubhouse a testimony to this.

With Division 14 Local Councillor Gail O’Neill and Director of the Tugun Community Bank Board, Bob Marshall in attendance, out-going SBCG President Di Gunther was able to highlight an extensive list of achievements and general progress over the past year.

Of course, it being the AGM, the ratification of new committee members (including filling the newly created position of Community Engagement Officer) was at the top of the day’s to do list.

As such, the current SBCG committee members are as follows:

President–Marian Evans

Gail O'Neill & Friends
The SBCG welcomes Councillor Gail O’Neill to their AGM.

Vice President—Duncan McLay

Treasurer—Mark Bibby

Grants Coordinator—Emma Scott

Secretary—Arch  Cruttenden

Membership Secretary—Doris Claussen

Community Engagement Officer—Di Gunther

Ordinary Voting Member—Peter Barrett

That accomplished, out-going President Di Gunther detailed a lengthy list of activities, developments and general accomplishments experienced by the garden over the past twelve months.

In regards to the garden grounds itself, one of the biggest developments this year was the result of an extra ordinary meeting held on 25/2/19 to discuss water supply issues. The consensus would be that the majority of SBCG gardeners want both rainwater collection and irrigated town water provided. This motion agreed upon, along with the continued support from Councillor Gail O’Neill on the matter, thus suggests the eventual expansion of garden beds is no longer an issue of ‘if’ but only of ‘when’.

Additionally, the SBCG continued in its ongoing endeavour of sharing sustainable and environmentally friendly gardening ideas and knowledge via free workshops in and around Southeast Queensland. Some of these included providing seedlings and potting workshops to:

  • The Palm Beach Bleach Festival
  • Coolangatta School.
  • During the Ocean Walk grand opening in Tugun.
  • The Shout Out Festival at the Tugun Skate Park with the help of Thrower House Participants.


The SBCG also continued its ongoing partnership with the Thrower House by actively participating in the Thrower House’s Easter Holiday Program while Judith Kilburn provided three free calligraphy courses to the Thrower House as part of their holiday program.

And a Hugelkulter and Wicking Bed workshop was put on for University of the Third Age and other community members by Mel Strange and Fran James.

As the above listed examples suggest, the SBCG and its 125 members were busy. And the best part…it’s only a small snapshot of EVERYTHING that was undertaken and accomplished. For the complete list, feel free to go to our website contact form and request a copy of the President Report be emailed to you.

Look it over and it’s a very safe bet you’ll be quite impressed with all this little garden club involves itself with and accomplished over the past 12 months.

In doing so, you will, no doubt, be equally impressed with the generosity of the grant providing benefactors that have provided so much of the resources to help the SBCG accomplish so much of what it has.

First and foremost on that list being the  Bendigo’s Tugun Community Bank.  Since day one, this group has backed the SBCG with this year’s grant donation of $4,200 for a new trailer bringing their total donations to the SBCG to nearly $30,000. It’s an impressive amount of money and we at the SBCG cannot say thank you enough for such steadfast generosity.

Additionally, the Gold Coast Airport awarded us just of $500 which will be put towards an irrigation system in our propagation tunnel while Mr. Ron Hesketh rounded up the troops repeatedly and, in conjunction with both Bunnings and Harvey Normans, helped fill the SBCG coffers compliments of numerous sausage sizzles.

And finally, there was the success in another very substantial grant, compliments of MP Karen Andrew’s Community Environmental Grant. The grant in conjunction with environmental eco-warriors, Worms Downunder, will allow the SBCG to purchase a ‘Double Grande Worm Habitat’ worm composter.

The addition of the Double Grande will allow the SBCG to process up to 40 litres of food and organic waste per day leaving in its wake ‘worm castings’, these being some of the most highly prized and nutrient rich, all natural fertiliser around. Access to such castings will be utilised as fertiliser for garden members and community members alike and will help to greatly reduce the vast amounts of biodegradable waste that unfortunately ends up producing harmful methane gasses in our already overflowing landfills.

The Double Grande Worm Composter is an exciting arrival to the SBCG and will be located beside the SBCG propagation tunnel.

Stay tuned for more posts regarding its pending arrival and other ongoing developments in the garden. And, again, for a complete run down of ALL of last year’s garden activities, go to our website and request a copy of the SBCG President’s Report be sent to you.

We hope to see you getting your hands dirty soon.