Kiama Community Garden brims with joy, Kiama Bugle, 19 April, 2024

“We love compost here,” declares a jubilant Peter Maywald, a staunch member of the Kiama Community Garden.

But that’s not all that the dedicated members of the garden are in love with at the moment. 

A sense of jubilation surrounds the dedicated crew at the Kiama Community Garden, which until recently were certain they were under a death sentence. 

Now they’ve had a reprieve. 

The Kiama Council considered selling off the land, which is attached to the Blue Haven Aged Care complex. 

The latest performance improvement order from the NSW Minister for Local Government to the Council included the requirement that the garden, as a community resource, be separated out in a subdivision prior to the sale of the Blue Haven complex.

“We were under threat,” says Peter. “The Council was talking about selling. We were certain a developer would just get rid of the garden. The Council has now publicly committed to subdividing, so this garden will be preserved. We are very relieved, actually we are thrilled that the future of the garden is now assured.”

It is no exaggeration to say that the Kiama Community Garden is a community resource. The dedicated group, which boasts 49 financial members but is open to the public and welcoming to all comers, serves multiple functions, including teaching locals about what plants can be grown in the Kiama climate and how to improve their own gardens. They also hold courses explaining how people can make their own compost.  

The site is known as a peaceful place where people can come just to relax. One group comes to paint. Other groups include scouts, school children’s groups, and people participating in The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award (the Duke of Ed). 

“The Garden is important to a lot of people,” says Peter. 

This week, the Gardens were important for a group of excited children from the Outside of school hours care (OOSH). “I love connecting with the gardens. It is good for the kids. Many of them don’t have backyards. Lots of kids whinge about eating vegetables, but when they are actively involved in the garden, pulling out carrots, picking snow peas, munching on celery, they are far more willing to try. They learn food doesn’t just arrive in a packet, it is part of a natural cycle,” says founder Sabrina Kelly.

Also involved with this week’s OOSH group was music therapist Kathleen Lawson, who has just penned a new song, to the tune of John Williamson’s Home Among the Gum Trees:

“There is a garden in Kiama

It’s permaculture

A place to be, a community.

There’s lots of things to do, 

And you can join us too

Fun for Everyone!”

“The idea of combining music therapy with the garden is that it makes it accessible to a whole range of people, young and old,” Kathleen says. “Music and nature go hand in hand. They both have healing qualities, and allow you to commit to new and different things.”

“I like that the garden is big and you can play in it. I like to hide. Sometimes you can eat the lemons. I have them in my garden too. I like gardening, I am going to get chooks in my garden,” an excited James Little, 7, told The Bugle.

“I like that it is a nice peaceful place and that you can come to relax. It is really peaceful and somewhere nice,” Hannah Mensforth, also 7, says.

Once a dumping ground, Kiama Community Garden now resides in people’s hearts. The strawberries have finished for the year, the fig trees have been pruned back and the pumpkins are running wild. But as we prepare for winter, carrots, cauliflowers and spinach are all flourishing. 

Julie Howe came to the official opening in 2011, promptly fell in love and has, as she puts it, “never left.”

A Minammurra local, Julie describes herself as a “gardening tragic.” 

“This was designed as a permaculture garden, and we continue to maintain the garden on permaculture principles.”

She points to a sign overhanging the communal area: 

Earth Care

People Care

Fair Share

“They are the principles of permaculture, and that is the basis of our garden. One of the best things about the garden is I have met some wonderful people I would never have crossed paths with otherwise.” 

“It is the atmosphere. Ability, agility, knowledge, it is all about the community, that is so important.”

Unlike some community gardens, participants are not assigned their separate plots but all muck in together.

Asked if there are ever any arguments, she smiles broadly: 

“It is all about collaboration, cooperation and community. You learn so much here. Some people say it has helped them to fit into the Kiama community, others that it has helped with their mindset, calmed them down.”

Earth Care

People Care

Fair Share

You could create a happy, fulfilling life just on those principles alone. Viva the Kiama Community Garden!

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