At Djanbung Gardens we actively look for opportunities for our students to gain real-life experience supporting community projects in Nimbin. Last year we heard through the village grapevine that the Nimbin Aged Care and Respite Service (NACRS) were needing help to make a garden for the aged. We got in touch and the project was taken on by two of our Permaculture Certificate IV students as a major project for their studies.

NACRS operates from the ‘Bottle Brush Studio’ building in the Nimbin Community Centre. Some years ago they installed a raised garden bed to grow some herbs and salad greens, but it wasn’t successful due to poor accessibility and maintenance issues. The NACRS then successfully applied for funding from Lismore City Council to landscape the area and retrofit the garden.

The NACRS brief for the project was to improve the raised garden, add some form of shade structure and simplify watering. The aim of the project was to provide gentle outdoor activity for the aged service users and to grow some food, herbs, flowers and veggies. It was also a requirement that the service users would participate in the planning, design and planting as well as ongoing maintenance and harvesting.

Initial site visit to Nimbin Aged Care & Respite Service. The existing garden was difficult to access.

Initial site visit to Nimbin Aged Care & Respite Service. The existing garden was difficult to access.

We undertook an initial site visit to assess the situation, meet with the staff and plan our approach. Sam and Mark took the on the project, which gave them the opportunity to cover quite a number of course requirements including community consultation, working with human and cultural diversity, as well as design and supervising implementation of a project.

An accurate base plan of the space was surveyed and drawn up, and some draft ideas were developed to work through with the group. Then a meeting was organised for the consultation process to explore the location of the raised bed and address solutions to accessibility, especially for people using walkers or in wheelchairs, and what plants they’d like to grow. Sam and Mark suggested relocating and retrofitting the existing raised bed into a wicking bed to simplify maintenance and watering, and explained how a wicking bed works. Everyone quite liked the idea so work began to finalise and cost the design.

Wicking bed and paving completed

Sam is very happy with the completed wicking bed and paving

Sam Newton completed the project earlier this year. First the bed was emptied and relocated to make it more accessible and retrofitted with a pond liner and gravel-filled water reservoir and pipes in the base, then a workshop was conducted with staff and elderly members of the community for completing the bed with an improved soil mix and mulch, ready for planting.  The surrounding area was cleared of rocks and leveled to provide wheelchair access.

Sam Newton, Robyn Francis and Lismore Mayor, Jenny Dowel

Sam Newton, Robyn Francis and Lismore Mayor, Jenny Dowel

Brett Parsons had been teaching a masonry workshop at Djanbung Gardens and stayed on to support Sam with installing the paving for the Aged garden. Then NACRS received support from the community and local businesses to install the shade sail and a handmade seating bench.

The garden was officially opened by Lismore City Council Mayor, Jenny Dowel, at the NACRS annual Garden Party in June. The garden now looks wonderful and has turned a sad and inaccessible space into a beautiful, functional and productive landscape feature for all to enjoy. The garden is highly visible to everyone at the monthly Nimbin Markets and people using the Nimbin Community Centre, as well as the staff and aged users of the NACRS.

Congratulations Sam for bringing this great project to completion, within budget, and for making a lasting contribution to the well-being of the Nimbin community.  Sam reflects on the experience, “I feel like I’ve left a legacy that brings joy to many in the community and want to thank the NACRS staff, Jenny and Rose, and everybody else who contributed towards bring this project to completion. It was a huge success and has given me the confidence to progress in my chosen career as a permaculture designer, practitioner and community facilitator”