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Beyond Stolen Tomatoes and Pumpkins

The Labor policy to fund additional community gardens across Canberra has sparked up some doubt on whether the funding is not being used correctly, reports student journalist Josephine Huynh.

Robin Power, Kaleen community garden convener, and her husband enjoying this season's fresh strawberries.

Instead of funding community gardens in communal suburbs, the Labor Party are looking into extending the policy by involving community garden programs that encourage the involvement of the elderly, school students and those with an intellectual disability or a complex physical disability.

A factor that contributed to the Theodore community garden closure was vandalism. On further investigation, it turns out that the Theodore garden was not the only community garden that was subject to abuse.

Robin Power, Kaleen community garden convener says that between October 2010 and February 2011 there has been 5 vandalism and theft incidents.

“They would cut and bend the barb wire, steal the hoses and all of the tomatoes and pumpkins.”

So frequent to the point where she had to contact the Labor Chief Minister at the time, John Stanhope.

However the most prominent factor that contributed to the Theodore closure was lack of garden member interest.

To ensure there will not be a repeat, Labor pledged to involve local Canberrans in the nomination and selection process of the final new community garden sites through online voting for preferred locations in their local area.

Luckily, for the Kaleen garden there is still a lot of interest. The garden is well and truly blossoming with plenty of fruit and vegetable crops and the members keenly garden around the clock.

What sets this garden apart from the rest is that it is located on the grounds of the Kaleen High School.

“The principal and staff have kindly offered us this acre and a half of land,” Mrs Power said.

However, John Grub, former convener, says that the land still belongs to the school and although the garden has offered to assist students and staff anytime they are still not aware if the offer has been accepted.

“The garden has had yet no involvement with the school but we are hoping for a program to be implemented to bring the garden members and students together.”

Growing Community

Bruce Sutherland, teacher at the Woden ACT Government School for students with intellectual and physical disabilities, has applied for a grant to implement a garden in the school.

“Our pastoral care class is for all sorts of learning to do with quality of life type matters: sexual health, personal hygiene, social skills. The intention would be to integrate the garden activities into this learning program.”

“The rationale behind setting up the garden is by way of nurturing healthy practices in relation to diet, physical activity and general lifestyle habits,” he said.

Meegan Fitzharris, who ran as a Labor candidate for Molonglo, believes that incorporating a gardening program in schools will prove greatly beneficial to a child’s learning development and health.

“I would like to see more kitchen gardens in schools so the kids can grow and cook their own food. Children love seeing things grow, getting involved and seeing seasons change. I think there is a demand for it out here.”

Mrs Fitzharris, also says there are a lot of opportunities to have partnering programs that engage senior residents.

“I know a lot of grandparents who don’t have their grand kids here.”

“There’s so much you can get out of it, new friendships, you can learn from others and to top it off you grow your own food,” she said.

To see this through the Labor party encourage Canberrans to use the new online nomination process to nominate sites in more purposeful areas, specifically paying attention to sites in nursing homes and schools.

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