Community Gardens A Personal Experience

by Concetta Tahir

I first moved into the Richmond high rise thirty years ago. I lived on the 15th floor; I had never lived up that high before. I didn’t want to live there. It was a very rough environment. Concrete, hard, racist, cold. I felt my personal space was threatened, being in the lift so close to all sorts of people. The state of my health at the time compounded all these issues and more. I did manage to get a letter about the state of my health and how living in such an environment would not be a positive thing, to put it mildly. Plus I had a baby. The Ministry of Housing ignored the letter and me saying to them that I couldn’t cope living in such an environment. Too much concrete; I need trees, grass and flowers. The estate needs greenery badly. It felt very, very unhealthy.

The first I knew about the Community Gardens project was when the first of the two community gardens on the Richmond Estate Highett Street block, was when workmen were fencing the site. I thought at the time, like anyone would, that something was about to happen. Next I recall a gathering of residents. I cannot unfortunately remember the exact date. I did not know about the plan for a community garden on the estate as at the time I was isolated. I did not get involved. I found mixing with people very challenging because of my state of health. The Community Gardens were undoubtedly a breath of fresh air. A very positive move. I wanted a garden too. If only I had got involved.

The Community Gardens in public housing estates as far as I know have been a joint venture between Cultivating Community, City of Yarra and the Department of Housing. One of the main philosophies of Cultivating Communities is that through the Community Gardens they can promote healthy eating. Studies conducted over a long period of time concluded that the obesity problem was more of a problem in lower income areas. Studies done not by Cultivating Communities but by health professionals in the City of Yarra, Richmond, Fitzroy, Collingwood particularly show that there is a very high incidence of type 2 diabetes. One of the main reasons for this being our American fast food western lifestyle. I myself did not fully realise how serious diabetes really is until I completed two diabetes information sessions which each of the complete sessions lasted six weeks. So as you can imagine the Community Gardens are very important in what they promote.

The Community Gardens in my opinion promote good health and well being. A gathering place for the gardeners. We exchange information about the plants and recipes in a non-threatening environment. From my experience there are not too many negative things one could say about the Community Gardens. The Highett Street Gardens on the Richmond Estate has recently been renovated.

The styrofoam boxes have gone. It has a chicken house. They also have a pizza and bread oven.

My plot number at the Lennox Street Garden is number 17. I’ve been involved with the Community Gardens for roughly 10 years. I can access the garden at any time but to water my plants with tap water I can only go on Wednesdays and Sundays before 8am in the morning and after 8pm in the evening. At the moment I’m growing silverbeet, potatoes, celery, parsley, chives and mint. But not as much silverbeet as in previous years. I consider myself lucky to have this opportunity and I’m very happy to be a part of the community garden. Although I couldn’t see any advantages of living in the high rise when I first moved in, it does have its advantages .There have been lots of improvements on the estate. As far as health and colour goes the community gardens are the major plusses.

@4 years ago with 1 note
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