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Migrant garden project unveiled

General description of the good practice

Mt Gambier AMRC provides an opportunity for the elder group of migrants to learn about irrigation and horticulture and improve their English vocabulary. Members of the Senior Life skills Group have planned and planted the garden over the past few months.

Main activities of the good practice

The Mount Gambier Migrant Resource Centre (MRC) provides group meetings for elderly refugee clients who are at risk of isolation and loneliness at their centre every Wednesday. Most of them used to grow their own food in their villages in Burma and the Congo, but due to their new lifestyle and living conditions in Australia, they are unable to grow vegetables. They are also unsure what to plant at different times of the year as the climate is different to what they were used to.

Members of the group asked if they could plant some vegetables in the backyard of the MRC where they meet each week, so after some planning and consultation with the group, manager Anelia Blackie successfully applied for a grant from the Stand Like Stone Foundation.

The grant enabled MRC volunteers and the group to plan and develop a vegetable garden with a rainwater tank and irrigation system, teaching refugees about sustainable gardening. It also taught them how to plan a garden, interact with shop assistants when selecting seeds and seedlings, what to plant at different times of the year, and expanded their knowledge of what garden tools and equipment are available for purchase.

Results of the good practice

As a result of these activities the elder migrants have an opportunity to socialise with other elders, develop their gardening, irrigation, horticulture and English language skills in one place.

Challenges in implementing the good practice and how they are being addressed

  • The most obvious challenge is the language barrier as these clients are elderly and not able to learn to speak English well. Volunteers use pictures, hand signals and other visual materials to communicate.
  • Members of the group had very limited understanding of safety when using garden tools and had to be reminded constantly to wear safety gear and not use sharp garden tools close to another person’s feet.
  • They were initially frustrated that they first had to do planning for the garden and instead wanted to start planting straight away, but later admitted that planning was a valuable part of the process and something new they learned.
  • Volunteers tried many times to teach them how to use a tape measure to space plants correctly according to planting instructions, but they insisted on using their arms (from the middle finger to the elbow) to measure distances. It works for them, so volunteers learned to compromise.