St Joseph’s Indigenous Garden

Students in year five and six wanted to celebrate “The United Nations International Year of Indigenous Language”. They wanted to make a difference and encourage a greater biodiversity of flora and fauna; which would host a wider range of birds, native bees and insects into their school grounds.

Nine students visited the Royal Botanical Gardens in Cranbourne and returned to school to deliver, to their peers, images and knowledge of what they had experienced. All students then researched and designed their own Indigenous Sensory, Edible and Medicinal garden using the indigenous plants of the Mornington Peninsula. They discovered their uses and benefits to the Boon Wurrung and Bunurong people. During this journey they also documented local language and translated it into Italian and English and placed these words around the school. 

At St Joseph, we believe that it is important that our “children are connected with and contribute to their world”. The garden is to be a sensory journey where different senses are stimulated by exploring texture of the foliage of plants, the leaves, tree bark and mosaics; which represented local bird life.

The students collaborated and worked with diverse groups of people including,

-Tracey O’Connor; a Landscape Architect, and parent who recently established Sorrento HUB Co-workspace.

-The men from Point Nepean Men’s Shed, who constructed bird habitat boxes, seating, wicking boxes , insect hotels and contributed many man hours: all funded by the Mornington Peninsula Shire “Place Maker Grant”.

-Jane Robins; Activities Organiser from Bunning’s, who through their generosity of donations, donated corten steel Landscape Rings and plants.

The main funding came from receiving a grant in 2018 from the VSGA Independent Schools Victoria sensory garden application.

The students have gained a wonderful understanding of how the Indigenous people of the Mornington Peninsula nurtured their environment and how they managed the land sustainably. Their garden design incorporated the elements of design; line, colour, shape, form and texture. It includes Indigenous medicinal and edibles plants and symbols, using a bird’s eye view. The garden encourages us to look  at plant species that our Indigenous groups would have used in everyday life, and how these indigenous plants and fauna have been depleted or endangered by the clearing of land for agricultural use and domesticated animals.

The garden was recently entered in to the Tidy Town Awards and was short listed. Two judges, one from Keep Victoria Beautiful and the other a Mornington Peninsula Shire Councillor, recently visited our school. Three students, Chloe, Rubystar  and Poppy gave the judges a guided tour of the garden.

It was a great surprise when we were notified that St Joseph’s garden has made it through as a finalist; the winners will be announced in Dimboola in October.

Having planted this garden, it also means, that St Joseph’s can now apply to receive our second star for the Biodiversity component of the Resource Smart schools, having received our first star last semester.