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Garden invites community to grow into belonging

WATERLOO: The garden at South Sydney Uniting Church is flourishing and community members are invited to be part of it.

The garden has a proud history of providing a safe, inclusive space, in its various incarnations since the 1980s. This included some years as an activity of the Luncheon Club, a support group for men with HIV/AIDS.

After a hiatus during the pandemic, last year’s demolition of the degraded former air raid shelter on site opened up more space for gardening, contemplation and community gatherings.

So far, volunteers have mulched the site, constructed new garden beds and a new hen house, reinstalled the water tank, and prepared accessible paths and bays. Most recently, native and contemplative garden areas have been established. A matching grant from the City of Sydney and a community grant from South Eveleigh greatly supported these efforts.

On Saturday October 21, ahead of a formal garden opening early next year, those involved in the journey gathered to celebrate, give thanks and encourage each other.

The morning’s activities included an Acknowledgment of Country; music by Boy Torch (Joe Fenech and Edmond Kairouz); presentation of an artwork to Aunty Linda Corley in appreciation of her contribution to the native garden; and an unveiling of the “no worries and never give up” sandstone bench in honour of garden volunteer and horticulturalist Chris Lodge and his late mother Nancy Lodge.

Thanks were extended to South Sydney Uniting Church, Cana Communities and volunteers from the neighbourhood, the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence, Café Dreaming, Wildflower, IndigiGrow and others.

The Rev. Andrew Collis, minister at South Sydney Uniting Church, said: “It is important to make a contribution on the ground after the referendum result. Whatever unfolds here on Gadigal land will continue to be done with guidance from and respect for First Peoples. Mirrung is a Gadigal/Dharug word for belonging, and we hope to call this place Mirrung Garden. In this garden we learn about relationships between people and the land that are so important. We rededicate ourselves to gardening, to community, and to growing in belonging.”

Dr Cathie Harrison, Garden Working Group co-convenor, said: “The garden has been about community since the start. There are many hands, many helpers, and many contributions of recycled materials from across Sydney. You don’t always know what a gesture of openness and kindness leaves behind. In ways big and small, people are being touched by their connection to this garden.”

The garden welcomes new members and friends. See https://www.southsydneyuniting.org.au/garden/ or drop by at a community working bee on the third Saturday morning of the month for more information.

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