Above Dhan Neopanay, originally from Nepal, harvests long melon and pumpkin from her family’s plot in the community gardens.
The umbrella provided by Landcare can reach far in an urban setting, where environmental restoration and renewal can also fulfil a variety of community needs.
The activities of the Wodonga Urban Landcare Network generate benefits beyond on-ground ecological improvements.
Landcare activities also become catalysts for social and cultural exchange, places to express art, the means to excite the intellect and learn about scientific concepts from an early age, and an opportunity for physical exercise.
The Wodonga Urban Landcare Network has member groups that work with people of a wide variety of ages and diverse social and cultural backgrounds. Parklands Albury Wodonga offers ranger-led work experience programs, where volunteers undertake environmental restoration in regional parks and reserves, with training and supervision.
Volunteers are regularly invited to give feedback on the program. In 2017, over a three-month period, 209 volunteers said they learnt a new skill, 280 said they felt healthier and/or happier and 27 made changes in their life as a result of their environmental volunteering experience.
In 2015 Parklands Albury Wodonga was approached by the Bhutanese Community Association in Albury Inc. for assistance with developing an organic community farm as a social enterprise for new migrants. The farm provides a safe place for people to learn about their new country, exchange skills and knowledge, improve language and employment skills, socialise, and share their culture while producing organic vegetables for sale to the local community.
Parklands Albury Wodonga has also been able to partner with other groups to employ three Bhutanese community members as part time farm rangers and develop a successful community garden and a catering enterprise. The farm rangers also work as leaders on Parklands Albury Wodonga’s environmental projects, giving volunteers valuable employment skills in environmental restoration tasks.
The community farm has recently diversified to offer individual plots, resulting in families from diverse backgrounds including Congolese and Nepalese sharing knowledge and experience to produce healthy food.
Liviette Nakidi, originally from Congo, has been struggling with finding work, learning English and making contacts in the community. The garden has provided her with fresh food, social connections and a sense of confidence.
“I like all the different types of work in the gardening – I can do them all. It has improved my life,” Liviette said.
Anne Stelling is the Landcare Facilitator for Wodonga Urban Landcare Network and her position is funded through the Victorian Landcare Facilitator Program.
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