People and Places | Property Home Garden
27/03/2021
Outdoor cultural classroom grows healthy Indigenous minds
by Mornington Peninsula Magazine

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There’s something growing in Hastings that we thought you should know about. Bunjilwarra, which is a 12-bed statewide Aboriginal youth drug and alcohol healing service, has been developing its Cultural Classroom Garden on site throughout 2020 and the result is something special. This innovative garden objective supports and nurtures the young Indigenous people attending the facility, giving them a ceremonial space and spiritual connection with Culture. A place to feel safe and at one with each other and the land.

Clinical lead of Bunjilwarra Pete Dawson explains: “Bunjilwarra provides a safe, drug-free, therapeutic cultural healing environment that allows young Aboriginal Victorians aged 16-25 to address past negative behaviours. They can establish goals that relate to their cultural identity, personal development and social and emotional well-being here. By supporting young people to build on personal and cultural strengths and resources, Bunjilwarra believes that participants of the program are more likely to develop insight and increase agency, helping to increase cultural strength and capacity to make positive life choices.”

The programs at Bunjilwarra involve alcohol and drug education and treatment, cultural knowledge and practice. The Bunjilwarra Cultural Classroom Garden creates opportunity for cultural teachings in an environment that supports and celebrates Indigenous learning.

Cultural Classroom Garden project co-ordinator Maree Beddoes continues: “The overall design and vision of the garden classroom was created by Lionel Lauch of Living Culture, who has a vast knowledge of indigenous plants and the Indigenous landscape. Cultural lead of Bunjilwarra Uncle Patrick Farrant supervised the cultural aspect of the project. Stage one came to fruition through the hard work of Lionel, Uncle Patrick, Living Culture’s Sean Moyle, Gerry Morsman and the residents and staff at Bunjilwarra. The garden has a unique design, and the young people who have used it say it is ‘spiritually welcoming’. Jeff Harvey, from the Rotary Club of Hastings Western Port, generously donated and built an outdoor shelter, and along with the Hastings Football and Netball Club donated the pizza oven which is almost complete.”

At the heart of this inspirational Cultural Classroom Garden is a central courtyard which is a gathering place for residents, staff and visitors. The centrepiece here is Grandfather Sun, which is a firepit where healing, yarning and meditation takes place, while broadening crushed rock pathways radiate out to the surrounding buildings. Features of the garden include water fountains and educational plants that are unique to the Mornington Peninsula and are used by Indigenous people for food, fibre and implements. Indigenous plants suited to the area include salt bush, native flax, yam daisy, pig face, common heath, burgan (white tea-tree), a variety of lilies and aquatic plants for the pond and sand dune design.

Maree concludes: “All indigenous plants were sourced from a range of growing conditions and suppliers within the local area. One of the ongoing challenges is wild rabbits who feast on crops. We are intending to rabbit-proof parts of the main garden area, provide weather barriers for the outdoor shelter, and showcase Aboriginal artefacts within the garden. At the furthest point of the sun ray there will be an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander six-season calendar monument display, which will be used to teach our young people and visitors about the six seasons and their significance to bush food and birdlife.”

What a great way to heal and grow healthy Indigenous minds and increase cultural strength for a resilient future.

LIZ ROGERS

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