Archive for the ‘Australian learnscapes’ Category

Promoting sustainability, health and inclusion in the city

This 2-day conference to be held on October 7-8 2010 at the University of Canberra brings together representatives of different forms of community gardening practices in Australia to share knowledge, promote dialogue and assess best practice.

Keynote speakers include:

  • Myles Bremner from the United Kingdom – Trustee of Sustain (UK) and Chief Executive of Garden Organic
  • Keith Colls – President of Canberra Organic Growers Society
  • Costa Georgiadis – from SBS television’s ‘Costa’s Garden Odyssey’
  • Phil Harris – Professor in Sustainable Agriculture and Head of International Development at the University of Coventry, UK
  • Andre Leu – Chair of Organic Federation of Australia and Deputy Chair of International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements
  • Senator Christine Milne (Greens) TBC
  • Neil Savery – Chief Planning Executive, ACT Planning and Land Authority and an Adjunct Professor in Urban Design with the University of Canberra

Where and when?

October 7-8, 2010, NATSEM Building (Building 24), University of Canberra

For full details or to register visit the website


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Check out the progress over just two years!

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On 16th July 2009, eight teachers, parents and volunteers of Nashville State School’s wondrous food garden participated in a full day Permaculture Design workshop, giving them a range of skills for maintaining the various natural and developed systems that make up a functioning garden.

Participants learned about integrated pest management, relative placement of elements, soil fertility management (including composting) as well as gaining a strong understanding of the ecological principles that underpin this sustainable design system.

Many participants were surprised to discover that Permaculture design is not synonymous with organic gardening, but is actually a system or approach that can be applied to many aspects of life including human social systems, educational methods and economic structures.

The day was lots of fun and participants are looking forward to a cming wokshop in organic growing techniques, followed by a session on linking curriculum to the school garden.

The workshops have been developed for the school by Growing Communities and Living Schools.

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In late 2008 Living Schools worked with Kogarah Council to initiate a community garden project on a local disused bowling green in Carrs Park.

Following initial promotion and community consultation regarding the concept an enthusiastic group had formed, eager to learn and to put their ideas to the test. Educators worked with the group, facilitating two full-day training session, the first focusing on strategic planning and group development and the second on site assessment and design.

Council’s landscape architect attended both sessions, listening closely to the ideas generated so that they could later be translated into a professional design. At the end of the process a strong group of about twenty people agreed on the date for their first independent planning meeting.

The top-down approach to community garden development is often cited as being problematic, probably due to the many examples where such an approach has failed because the community were never actually given ownership. This project suggests that with communication, respect and genuine shared ownership a community garden can indeed be successfully initiated from above. Council is now working collaboratively with the community group to make the garden a reality. We are eager to see how it progresses.

Living Schools have collated the work of the community group during the two training days to develop policy recommendations for council as well as a gardeners’ guide, gardeners’ agreement and initial action plan. These are available upon request to interested parties.

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A recent visit to Cringila Public School was an eye opener to the amazing potential of learnscapes for children to learn not just about, for and in the environment, but also to gain an understanding of nutrition, develop healthy social skills and gain confidence and initiative. Teacher and Permaculture designer Aaron Sorenson holds regular sessions in the garden with students and his approach is participatory and hands-on. Students decide which tasks they would like to work on and collaborate with each other to achieve the desired outcome.

Enthusiasm is high and students often attend the garden during breaks as well as in allocated lesson times. Part of this enthusiasm may be due to Aaron’s respect for the children who he refers to as ‘garden ambassadors’. This role is embraced with pride and taken very seriously, with older students mentoring younger ones and taking on greater responsibility as their skills increase. Some children who previously exhibited pronounced behaviour problems have flourished in this learning environment, becoming easier to communicate with and manage. Successful garden learnscapes have been set up in five local schools with more planned for the future.

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A recent visit to the Northey Street City Farm has left us inspired! Northey Street is a Permaculturally designed learnscape and functioning food production space in Windsor, an inner city suburb of Brisbane. It is alive with people: children gambling about in the carefully designed play spaces, mums and dads sipping organic coffee in the rustic café, weekend shoppers buying local produce at the busy farmers markets that are held there every Sunday.

We explored the wonderfully diverse food forest and garden areas, the edible plant nursery and native regeneration areas, admiring sculpture and other works of art tucked into odd little nooks for the visitor to discover. Northey Street has a well developed formal and informal education program including regular tours, intensive on the job training programs for the unemployed, accredited and non-accredited permaculture courses and short workshops. For more information visit their website at www.northeystreetcityfarm.org.au.

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Set amongst the picturesque hills of the Dorrigo plateau the abundance and beauty of Jenni’s garden inspires. Fresh food, flowers, fragrance abound; while fibre producing plants, the source of raw material and first principle for diverse creativity grow in and around the council approved grey water reed bed system. Symbiotic relationships with the land, plants, animals, reptiles, insects and the local community are interwoven and evolving in a celebration of life.

Passionate about sharing her experience, knowledge and skills on plant fibre use, Jenni conducts classes and weekend workshops at suitable venues in other areas. Imagine taking a walk to harvest sustainably grown plants that will with your energy become the hand-made paper for a book you bind with your own hands. . .. or perhaps a basket woven from the leaves of a collected plant. Maybe a story, moulded from clay, painted and fired in the kiln then composed as a mosaic.

Through utilizing the Earth’s gifts of fibre and clay as mediums of artistic expression and practical applications, Jenni encourages workshop participants of varying ages and abilities to explore their creativity. A process of effective change, creativity is an elegant use of energy. Workshops are conducted from the renovated dairy bales home, studio and small-scale paper mill surrounded by the gardens, enabling up to 12 people at one time to expand their creativity with supportive guidance and access to the extensively equipped studio.


In 2007 this garden was the state individual winner in the inaugural Keep Australia Beautiful / Raine and Horne Sustainable Garden Challenge. To find out more contact Jenni Francis at PO Box 620, Dorrigo 2453, call (02) 66572625 or email jennifrancis@dorrigo.com

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