A flat paddock halfway between St Thomas Aquinas Primary School and St Columba’s High School in Springwood is about to be transformed into a thriving community garden.
The idea came from residents of Paulwood Avenue – a street that lost five homes in the October 2013 bushfires – including a woman who completed a sustainable gardening course at TAFE and was keen to contribute her skills and knowledge.
Margaret Sibbald, who moved to Paulwood Avenue in 1972 and lost her home two years ago, remembers the days when she joined her neighbours picking fresh vegetables in the area.
“It was a community where if somebody needed something, somebody helped,” Mrs Sibbald said.
“That’s what’s needed again now and I just thought the community needs healing and starting a community garden is a good way of bringing people together and getting them talking to each other.
“And this site is brilliant for it – it’s a good size and it’s in a really secure area.”
The Catholic Diocese of Parramatta donated the land for the project which received financial support from a Westpac Group Natural Disaster Recovery Grant. Father Paul Slyney and the Thomas Aquinas Parish also helped make it a reality.
“It has the opportunity to provide immense social, psychological and emotional benefits to a community in recovery,” said Catholic Care Springwood community outreach worker Liz Murphy.
As well as interested members of the community, St Thomas Aquinas Primary School students and staff will be regular users of the garden.
Principal Sergio Rosato welcomed the project as another way to weave together community ties that were cut in the aftermath of the 2013 bushfires.
“As people re-establish their lives and homes, it’s really important to re-establish their sense of community and doing that is not as simple as coming back to your home.”
Westpac Springwood bank manager Richard Wadick described the garden as “a fantastic idea and a true community project”.
A community garden launch will take place at the site this Saturday, October 24 from 3-5pm.
“Now we need interested and enthusiastic members of the community to be part of this great project from the ground up,” Ms Murphy said. “Everyone is welcome to come along and bring a fold-up chair or a rug to sit on.”
Ms Murphy is hopeful the first crop of vegetables can be grown in the community garden by early next year.
“We’re going to start as soon as we can,” she said.