Werribee Park rangers partner with AMES Australia and Sikh volunteers to provide food relief
Friday 25 March, 2022
Parks Victoria Rangers transformed the historic mansion’s parterre from floral display to edible crop.
The team behind the Werribee Park kitchen garden, established during the height of COVID-19 restrictions, have received a 2021 Volunteering Victoria State Award.
Twenty-four people and 26 organisations were finalists across seven award categories. Parks Victoria, AMES Australia and the Sikh community of western Victoria have taken home the Volunteering Partnerships Award.
Run by Volunteering Victoria with the support of the Victorian State Government through the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, these awards celebrate the impact volunteers, volunteer leaders and volunteer programs have in building resilient communities, services and connections across Victoria.
Karen community volunteers in the kitchen garden
Located in Wyndham City, the heritage-listed mansion and sprawling gardens of Werribee Park usually feature as an opulent backdrop for a packed calendar of festivals and weddings. This site boasts immaculate lawns and features the stunning Victoria State Rose Garden. However, the humble vegetable gardens have taken the spotlight in recent years.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, an important partnership between AMES Australia and Parks Victoria was formed to respond to food security issues brought on by the health crisis. Coupled with innovative thinking, the famous parterre (ornamental) garden, which usually displays coloured annuals, was instead planted with rows of silverbeet by volunteers recruited through AMES Australia and Parks Victoria. These rows of healthy vegetables were then harvested and donated to local community kitchens to produce cooked meals for local communities in need.
The local Sikh community heard about this initiative and partnered with our rangers to assist with distribution. They created the Pride and Sikh group for volunteers who wanted to donate their time responding to food security issues brought on by COVID-19. These volunteers also helped grow and harvest vegetables at Werribee Park.
The Tarneit Sikh Temple group joined the team of community volunteers in the kitchen garden
During the winter of 2021, members of the Tarneit Sikh Temple cooked and packaged more than 1,000 meals a week for families in need, utilising the silverbeet grown at Werribee Park. This evolving collaboration became a huge success, with more than 4,000 kilograms of silverbeet harvested and donated to local community kitchens and free food share shops across Victoria.
The kitchen garden project is now an annual feature of the formal gardens. The project has grown to include the South Sudanese Women Group and produces thousands of kilograms of fresh vegetables for ongoing food relief.
Werribee Park Rangers planted 1,500 seedlings in the parterre
By working together, Parks Victoria and AMES – in partnership with the Sikh community –, have guaranteed the future of this successful program. They have exemplified what it means to be a community that supports and acts on the needs of other communities.
As well as receiving a Volunteer Partnership Award, the Werribee Park kitchen garden program won the Premier’s Sustainability Awards in 2019, in the Environmental Justice category. At that time, more than 500 refugees had participated in the program since it began.
Entry to Werribee Park Gardens and Victoria State Rose Garden is free.
For more information about Werribee Park, visit our website: https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/places-to-see/parks/werribee-park