90-year neighbours unite for garden

By Alex Dalziel 

The Immigration Museum and the Port Authority Building have collaborated to deliver a community garden to residents.

August 24 marked the beginning of a 12-month trial community garden in the Immigration Museum’s rear courtyard.  

The trial will allow Port Authority Building residents to use garden planter boxes in the courtyard, providing green space to residents who otherwise have none.  

The boxes were handed over to the residents after their use in the Immigration Museum’s Grow, Gather, Share exhibition in 2018/19, which showcased the diversity and history of gardening and food culture in Australia. 

The Immigration Museum hopes the garden’s second life will help facilitate human connection and social cohesion among the local community as well as build a connection with the neighbouring Port Authority Building. 

Port Authority Building resident and the garden’s association president Nene Machwhirter said that residents welcomed the collaboration.

“We’ve been neighbours for almost 100 years but it’s taken this long to work together on something,” she said. 

Nene has lived in the Port Authority Building for over 10 years, and said that the building suffered from a lack of shared and outdoor spaces.  She, along with other residents with similar concerns, led the development of the community space.

She said that the inspiration for the garden came from her daughter, who started the North Melbourne community garden “the North West Patch”. 

“The building as built originally as office spaces in the 1920s so it doesn’t have any outdoors or shared spaces, and you can’t tack on balconies,” she said. 

“You would only see other people in the elevator, so it’s been really fantastic in getting to know people who live here.”

“Some are interested in gardening and some are just happy in getting to know the other people that they live with.”

The gardening association plans to divide the boxes between each floor, with one or two floors getting a box to themselves, which they can grow whatever they want in. 

“It’s creating a sense of community with the immigration museum, and it’s healthier to be out in the fresh air. A lot of people already use the court yard so they can go out and get their hands dirty,” Nene said.

Immigration Museum spokesperson Anna Quinn said that the boxes made the concrete courtyard more vibrant and inviting for visitors and residents. 

“When we proposed it, the Port Authority Building residents saw the project as an opportunity to forge relationships with other residents, which they don’t often have the opportunity to do,” she said.

“Apparently we’re already seeing some unlikely friendships forming.” 

The boxes were officially handed over to the residents on August 24, with a number out of a hat lucky dip determining who received which box. 

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