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Community garden to cultivate skills and connections

VISITORS to the Mount Gambier Community Centre will soon enjoy the fruits of their labour thanks to a new community garden at the Ferrers Street site.

The project will transform the previously under-utilised outdoor space at the ac.care multi-service hub, where the Limestone Coast Homelessness Service is based, into a vibrant edible garden to grow free, healthy produce for residents while delivering social and educational benefits.

Members of the centre’s existing community have already played a large role in preparing the garden space, which has received strong support from OneFortyOne, Van Schaik’s Bio Gro and Bunnings Mount Gambier, as well as funding from the Community Connections program.

Among the first to plant a seedling the celebratory launch on Wednesday, October 19 was Mark McMahon who, along with several other people, has helped establish the garden.

Mr McMahon said several of the centre’s regular visitors had banded together to help develop the community garden project.

“With the price of living today, it’s going to be good for the community to be able to come in and swap produce and maybe put in a few hours in the garden,” Mr McMahon said.

“It’s a good thing because people can get lost in this town and aren’t sure of what to do, so this gives us a sense of community.

“It’s kept me out of trouble as it gives me something to do to come down here most days.”

The Mount Gambier Community Centre, operated by ac.care, has a proud history of providing vital support to the community’s vulnerable residents, including food, housing support, financial counselling, emergency assistance and educational programs.

ac.care Limestone Coast Homelessness Service regional manager Kelly McGuinness launched the community garden on October 19, coinciding with 2022 Anti-Poverty Week, which highlights the need for action to support people facing poverty and hardship.

DIGGING IN: The Mount Gambier Community Centre’s new garden was launched on Wednesday with the first plantings undertaken by ac.care Limestone Coast homelessness regional manager Kelly McGuinness, Travis Fatchen representing Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell, Mount Gambier Mayor Lynette Martin, friends of the centre Mark McMahon and Des Reilly, and Kate Hill also representing Troy Bell MP.

“The idea first came about as people we work with were noticing the cost of living increases and fruit and vegetables were becoming less affordable,” Ms McGuinness said.

“People can grow their own food to save money or as a hobby, but unfortunately that is not always an option for some people.

“We now have this garden which can not only help people with their food, but also can be used as a learning tool to gain new skills and also socialise and keep active.”

Commending the group of regular community centre visitors who had already shown strong support for the garden, Ms McGuiness hoped the project would one day grow to become wholly-managed by the community through a committee, which ac.care would support.

“It is important that this is community driven and we would like for those interested regular visitors to take on that leadership,” Ms McGuiness said.

She said the garden area would also provide a calm and relaxed environment for some meetings with people in need of support, as well as a green space for staff to enjoy in breaks.

“It is going to be a meaningful and productive space within our centre and we look forward to watching it grow and evolve into the future,” she said.

To contribute to or support the community garden, contact Kelly at the community centre on 7725 3000.

GROWING PROJECT: Mount Gambier resident Des Reilly (right) was among the first to plant fruit and vegetable plants at the new Mount Gambier Community Centre garden.