Mensans making a difference

Some see Mensa as an elitist club for people who want to show off their high IQ, and have no better way to do it. Mensa is a lot more than that. Have you noticed how many programs about intelligence seem to be on TV these days? One of Mensa’s goals is to foster intelligence, and it welcomes the sign of society appreciating the talents of each individual in the use of the most marvellous of human attributes – the brain.

Mensa sees its mission as helping stimulate all people in using as much of their brain as possible. When you think about it, in a smarter world, everybody wins! Mensa is a not-for-profit society, the oldest and most well-known high-IQ society in the world. Its purposes are to identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity, encourage research into the nature, characteristics and uses of intelligence, and to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members.

You’ll find all sorts of people in Mensa. But Mensans worldwide have one thing in common: they’re bright. Mensa is an international society with only one criterion for membership: a score on a standardised IQ test higher than that of 98% of the general population.

Mensa offers opportunities to meet people, exchange ideas and make new friends at your intellectual level. Quick minds are welcomed; instant communication and comprehension are the rule rather than the exception. The Mensa network extends beyond Australia, with international gatherings in America, Europe and Asia and a chance to meet fellow Mensans when you travel the world.

Its growth as a worldwide entity can be traced to Victor Serebriakoff (1912-2000), who was born in the slums of East London, the son of a Russian father and a cockney mother. His brains caused trouble early on. ”I was chased home from school every day because I was the kid who put his hand up at every question,” he told The Chicago Tribune in 1986. ”The teachers liked me all right, but the other kids didn’t.”

Victor had to drop out of school after year ten and get a job, as his family was poor and needed his help. He worked as a labourer in a timber processing company. Twenty years later he was the managing director of that company, having developed new ways to process the timber. He also taught himself computer programming. He used to say: “The fact that I didn’t have formal education did not stop me from learning. I read and read as much as I could, until I could talk with anyone about any subject”.

Victor became the president of Mensa in 1982 and he was the one who spread the idea of Mensa around the world, and campaigned for educational improvements for gifted children. Today there are around 134 000 Mensans in 100 countries throughout the world. There are active Mensa organisations in more than 40 countries on every continent except Antarctica.

In the last seven years there has been a massive growth in young members and the organisation has been putting more attention into young people’s programs. There are workshops and presentations for kids and parents to enrich their minds and help them socialise. There are museum visits, walking tours and science groups. In most of these cases the attendance is open to non-members and everybody gets a chance for a stimulating experience.

Nowadays Mensa reaches out by motivating schools to support programs for gifted children and has established funds for scholarships and grants for researches. More information about membership is available on the organisation’s website – www.mensa.org.au

The artists’ muse for 65 years

There’s a reason the Box Hill Art Group has been going strong for 65 years this year. Commencing in 1952, it has serviced its community well, nurturing the talents of thousands of budding artists, as well as stretching the skills of experienced and exhibiting artists along the way.

Its weekly classes cater for watercolour, oil, acrylic, pastel, drawing and mixed media. Then there’s the monthly life drawing sessions, all with tutorage from seasoned award-winning artists who are only too eager to pass on their practical secrets about how to make excellent works of art. But there’s more to it than just making art.

While we know that painting and drawing are enjoyable, satisfying, therapeutic and good for the soul, it also combats social isolation by extending one’s social life, and it helps in the fight against depression and dementia by stretching one’s brain in the art of learning.

Brushtail possum by Rosemary Morgan
Brushtail possum by Rosemary Morgan

Not only does the Box Hill Art Group provide for all styles and competence levels, it also provides opportunities for special workshops; regular painting expeditions to local destinations of note (followed up with social lunches); and the opportunity of exhibiting original art twice each year.

The Group also keeps interested parties abreast of what is going on in the wider art communities. For those who enjoy engaging online, there is a range of information available on the Box Hill Art Group website, as well as on its Facebook and meetup pages. As Helen Harris, Chair of the Whitehorse Council’s Visual  Arts Committee said:

“Whether you’ve just  retired, or simply have  time on your hands,  I cannot recommend  the Box Hill Art Group  highly enough. It’s made  up of really interesting  people from all walks of life who  simply love to paint fabulous pictures.  Some enter their creative art into  community art competitions where  many attract buyers, while others  simply have them framed for their  own walls at home.”

It’s the holistic art experience  which allows new people to try out  a class or two before committing  to a term of lessons by booking  online for only $10 per lesson.  For more information visit www. boxhillartgroup.com.au or call Eric on 0424 775 540.

The Highway Gallery for talent

THE City of Monash’s community gallery, The Highway Gallery, is going from strength to strength and, in 2015, celebrated its 25th anniversary with an exhibition of selected works by previous Exhibitors.

The gallery had its germination way back in 1965 when Waverley was something of a cultural desert as far as visual arts were concerned but the formation of the Waverley Arts Society in 1969 heralded the beginning of change. It took a while, but by the early 1980s Waverley Council had established two bodies relevant to the arts: the Art Acquisition Committee (which was allocated funds to acquire art for the City) and Arts Waverley (an advisory body to foster all of the Visual and Performing Arts).

Acting proactively, The Arts Acquisition Committee persuaded Council to assign to them a property acquired due to road widening. This they did, and 14 The Highway Mount Waverley eventually became known as The Highway Gallery. Its goal was to benefit the local arts and wider community. Its first exhibition was on 19 January 1990. Since then the gallery has been the venue for a wide range of exhibitions by artists and community groups. It is operated by the City of Monash and its use is open to groups and individual applicants.

Storybook Yarn Art
Storybook Yarn Art

Over the years, artists and groups exhibiting at the gallery have been provided with professional guidance in curatorial skills, presentation and how to seek sponsorship. The Committee of Management and Exhibitors are forever grateful to the many volunteers who have contributed years of valuable service on their behalf. If you are interested in volunteering with The Highway Gallery, phone 9807 7261 during opening hours (see page 30) or email timing_nza@yahoo.com.au

The gallery very proudly mentions some of Australia’s prominent citizens who have opened past exhibitions: Weary Dunlop, Cathy Freeman, Mirka Mora, Dacre Smyth, Tim Bowden and Lady Southey. Parents, mark your diaries – a must-see exhibition for 2017’s first term holidays is Storybook Yarn Art by school children. Open from 5 to 23 April (Wednesdays to Sundays 12 noon–4pm), it includes a program of workshops and demonstrations. Also, if you have some spare time, check out the Gallery’s very interesting website – there are lots of images for upcoming and past exhibitions. highwaygallery.wordpress.com 

Upcoming Exhibitions at The Highway Gallery
1–19 March Paintings of Australian Landscapes, by Greg Footit
22 Mar–2 April Living Colour, A Peg Widdows Retrospective
5–23 April Storybook Yarn Art, from Longbeach Place, Bayside
25 April–22 May Indonesian Art and Artefacts, Museum of Indonesian Arts
23 May–6 Jun Reconciliation and NAIDOC, a Monash Reconciliation Group presentation

The Highway Gallery Map
The Highway Gallery Map

 

You can find The Highway Gallery adjacent to Mount Waverley Shopping Centre, close to trains, buses and cafés. It is easily accessible and there is ample car parking and disability access. 14 The Highway, Mount Waverley.
Opening hours: Wed–Sun 12noon–4pm.

Cultures can – and do- mix at Louise Multicultural Centre

I spoke to Anna Walker and Klaudia Lozo in the warm offices of the Louise Multicultural Centre in Box Hill. Anna, who has just assumed the role of president, is passionate about her work, as are all those who come together in the organisation – and all are volunteers. She hales from Scotland, and coming to Australia was an eye-opener for her. “People from Malaysia … in Scotland I’d never met any before. Just the diversity of the nature of Australia amazed me, and people cooperate with each other to make it a good place,” she says. “We get a lot out of this, and participants at the centre, they get a lot out of it. Their English improves and I think, more importantly, their confidence improves. They mainly come to learn English, but for instance we also have Mandarin classes – I started to learn Mandarin from one of our tutors. When you learn a language you also learn about the culture.”

“We have the Korean Drumming,” adds Klaudia. “We have Chinese dancing and a Chinese national version of line dancing. Although it is about learning the language, the basis is mainly social. We have had some students coming to us since inception – 34 to 35 odd years.”

Klaudia goes on to describe how people coming to the centre are eager to share each other’s cultures. Recently they had a Moon Festival mid-morning tea. People brought food in to share. “You get different cultures saying ‘Oooh what’s that and how did you make it?’” she says. “And you’ve got Chinese ladies trying to make Greek Spanakopita. One of them was successful, but there was a Greek cake that one of the Chinese ladies tried to make – I think she put in three times the amount of cinnamon required! The Greek lady promised to come over to her place and show her how to do it.”

Much of what happens in classes is contextual learning. For instance, approaching local elections were used as both a tool to teach English and an integration opportunity. Students were taught about the Council and about its responsibilities. Those who came from countries where freedom doesn’t exist have to get used to the notion that it is safe to choose. “If you’ve come as a refugee, you really need to learn that you can have different opinions and you are not going to be castigated because of that,” says Anna.

Both Anna and Klaudia emphasise how much they too have learned from their pupils, giving as an example students who come from China. “We often put the Chinese as one group, but they are so very different. A lady who comes from Beijing has different ways than somebody from Shanghai, and very different to Hong Kong; it is wonderful learning about the variety. You realise that you cannot make people just one group” says Anna. “I think what often impresses me is people from very different cultures, the willingness they’ve had to share with each other. So you will have someone from Egypt who is struggling about something; a student from Japan says ‘Oh I know’, and that sharing sense really becomes a strong bond within the class”.

Occasionally the centre will have students who have difficult home circumstances; Anna recalls one case where a particular family had child issues at school. “The woman in question started to do an English class, and then did volunteer work here in the office, developing skills and confidence so that eventually she was able to stand on her own two feet. We were able to step in and do a one-on-one program with the family to help them build their confidence to work, and also for the child to get assistance. The child progressed beautifully and is now comfortable at school – it is a real success story!”

The Louise Multicultural Centre started through St John’s parish in Mitcham, and out of the local migrant hostel, when the Vietnamese boat people were coming. The need for action was obvious to founder, the late Sister Miriam Boland of the Daughters of Charity order. She asked herself the question “What do these people need?” They needed blankets; they needed toys for the children … Recruiting some of the St John parishioners Sister Miriam helped out wherever they could. It might have been English – trying to help the people to understand what letters meant; driving pregnant women to the Royal Women’s Hospital – anything that was required. Eventually the Parish Priest and the Council got wind of what was going on and a house was allocated so that people could have a place to go. And so it has become the organisation it is today – still 100% voluntary, as a Neighbourhood or Community House and an indispensable part of the community.

Waverley Helpmates celebrate

WAVERLEY Helpmates, a not-for-profit community based Supported Employment & Training Program located in Ashwood is celebrating 30 years of service in 2016.

In October 1986, a group of forward-thinking community members established a new program in Ashwood to employ and support young people with Intellectual Disability. Set up as an alternate employment option to the sheltered workshop model, Waverley Helpmates’ goal was to provide meaningful work beneficial to both community members and young people who required a supportive work environment. From its humble beginnings of ten Helpmates with 50 jobs, Waverley Helpmates has grown to be a thriving organisation of 33 Helpmates and with over 700 customers – meeting and far exceeding its original aims.

The Ashwood location was specifically selected to match the needs of an ageing population with the abilities of young people who were requiring regular work. Although the Ashwood, Mt Waverley & Chadstone areas make up the bulk of Helpmates’ customers, the Helpmates travel far and wide, and also maintain six retirement villages and five schools.

Being a small organisation, Waverley Helpmates provides lots of time for relationships to develop between customers and Helpmates. These friendships are celebrated each year in early December at the Thank You Afternoon Tea. There are no restrictions on who can become a customer, providing they fall within our “catchment” area and will be supportive of the way our program operates.

Occasionally described as an “onion”, (when one layer is removed, another layer will be revealed underneath), there are many facets to the Waverley Helpmates’ program. Literacy, numeracy, work ethic, punctuality, reliability, budgeting and cooking are some of the skills that the Helpmates learn. They also fundraise annually for Reefton CFA and collect blankets and clothes for the Avalon Centre in Malvern, in the part of the program that aims to develop social awareness and community responsibility. An optional holiday is offered to the Helpmates every year, and this year 14 Helpmates and six staff members holidayed for 12 days in Chiang Mai Thailand.

By offering work within the community, several boundaries are being broken down, with both sides being winners. Customers receive a regular, reliable and affordable lawn service and the Helpmates win because they are receiving payment for a valuable and real job being done. Everybody is learning that being a little bit different does not mean you cannot do as well as someone else. Diversity is important, welcomed and encouraged. Empowered by the committee, the staff empower the Helpmates in their work so that the standards are of an excellent quality.

Every person in the world needs essentially the same things – a safe environment, something worthwhile to do, someone to love and be loved by and something to look forward to; for those involved in the Waverley Helpmates’ program, all of these goals are surely being met every day. Please visit our website: Waverley Helpmates

Mad Cat – a joyous beginning

THEATRE is alive and well … which is attested to by the fact that, along with the established companies, new ones are still emerging. And one of these is Mad Cat Theatre Company. Mad Cat (Music and Dance, Comedy and Theatre) springs from the St Dunstan’s Rep Circle; under which umbrella Mad Cat’s first two productions, in 2014 and 2015, were staged.

The enthusiasm of Joanna Buddee and Marianne Duane for the company they’ve helped create is infectious as they tell of the plunge into the deep end they experienced as not only writers of the original music and lyrics for 2016’s show Baba Yaga, but also producing, directing, costumes and marketing. Why such a plunge?

“David and Jess (Hewitson-Kerr), who revived St Dunstan’s Rep Circle in 2014, are moving to South Australia,” says Joanna. “So this year Marianne and I took the helm. We co-directed Baba Yaga as well as starring in it – though we didn’t cast ourselves!

Vasilisa is captured by some evil sprites during Baba Yaga
Vasilisa in Baba Yaga

“With this production we decided to take it to the next level – to change the name and also the venue. The quality of our shows just keeps improving. The last three shows have all been original scripts. David was the playwright of those and then Marianne and I wrote the music to Baba Yaga. We had an extremely talented cast of 20 in Baba Yaga, the majority from the Boroondara area – especially Hartwell Primary School. We performed at Kew Renaissance Theatre, which is part of Kew High School. Four hundred and fifty people came to see Baba Yaga and they loved it! We feel exceptionally proud”.

 

Anyone who has been in a play knows that, even in the best-run productions, things go wrong. Joanna has an example to share:

“The worst mistake was something I did. I had my song – and it was opening night – and it was so well received I was just in shock at the applause. I got off stage in a bit of a daze and then went to the dressing room and I’m like ‘Oh my gosh! That was amazing!’ Then I stopped for a minute because I knew I had a quick change as I was going from my main character, Dunyasha, to become a sprite. ‘Quick,’ I said to myself. ‘Pull it together. You’ve got a quick change’. “So I got dressed as a sprite; then one of the other actors came in and she went ‘aren’t you meant to be on stage now as Dunyasha?’ I (swore!) and flung the Dunyasha cloak over the sprite costume. I had no shoes on, but my skirt was really long. Then I went on like that! It wasn’t my full flamboyant character because I was trying not to show that I didn’t have the right outfit on, but actually no one noticed!”

Marianne remembers another story:

“We also had a major change the night before the opening. We didn’t realise that a costume change was actually too difficult. The witch, Baba Yaga, had a scene where there is a great big fight, with smoke and special effects and then she disappears, presumably dead, but then shortly afterwards has a big confrontational scene in which she is revealed as (spoiler alert) the herione’s mother. But there was simply not enough time in between the big stand-off and the reveal, so we had to re-write stuff just before Opening Night … in the end we pre-recorded a whole speech and had it coming over the speakers – and it worked better than the original idea!”

Twenty-sixteen was the year of Baba Yaga (though it hasn’t necessarily breathed its last), but already next year is under consideration, with one major production planned, as well as a children’s workshop in the summer holidays under the Mad Cat name. Mad Cat Theatre pride themselves on being inclusive, so anyone interested in being involved either on-stage or off, or in the workshops, are invited to like their facebook page or email them: madcattheatre1@gmail.com

Gardiners Creek guardians for 20 years

A stretch of Gardiners Creek south of Nettleton Park in Glen Iris was environmentally developed not by a local authority, but rather by members and friends of the Lions Club of Boroondara–Gardiners Creek. For one weekend a month, for more than ten years, members and supporters of the club gathered together to prepare and plant native shrubs and trees to create what today is one of the most attractive stretches of the Gardiners Creek Trail.

A special anniversary dinner is being held on 12 December to celebrate the club’s achievements over the twenty years since its foundation. Four members of the club have been there from the beginning: President Chris Hayward, Treasurer Howard Hamlyn, and Lions Jenny Peacock and Julie Deamer – and they would like to celebrate this milestone in the club’s journey with as many past members as possible.

The club, which centres its activities around the Ashburton area, has for most of the time worked with fewer than fifteen members and raised in excess of $100 000. Fundraising methods have ranged from trivia nights to sausage sizzles, and the sale of both Christmas trees and the famous Lions Christmas Cakes.

All of the money raised has been channelled into local and international projects, as well as local club projects such as the planting of trees along Gardiners Creek. Club members have devoted many hours to organising, attending and working at such endeavours. The club receives many requests for disaster relief and in its time has responded promptly to send funds for victims of floods, bushfire and earthquakes.

Today the club, one of only two in the Boroondara Municipality, continues to serve the local Ashburton community with nine highly motivated and dedicated members who have great pride in the way that they work together. If you are interested in finding out more about the Lions Club and what they do in your community, or even in joining them, please contact President, Chris Hayward on 0412 403 837 or Membership Officer, Nigel Hurd, on 0418 355 36

George Bills: a Legacy of Welfare for Animals

GEORGE (Joe) Bills left a lasting local legacy to animal welfare when he died in December 1927. He and his wife Annis, who predeceased him, had no children but shared a great love of animals. After providing some personal bequests his will established a trust and directed that the residue of his estate and income therefrom be used to provide watering troughs for horses and for the purpose of preventing cruelty and to alleviate the suffering of animals in any country. Evidence of his enduring legacy can be found today in the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) Centre at Burwood East and horse troughs at Box Hill and Blackburn South.

George, one of fourteen children, was born in the United Kingdom in 1859. His father was a bird dealer and instilled a love of all animals in his children. When George was fourteen his family emigrated to New Zealand and later to Australia, initially settling at Echuca. When he was twenty-one George moved to Sydney and worked as a bird dealer with his brother Harry. By 1883, after realising how well Harry’s business was doing, George moved to Brisbane and set up his own bird dealing business. Whilst there he also became involved in wire weaving to make inner spring mattresses. Other siblings later became involved in the manufacture of these mattresses and this resulted in the establishment of BBB, an iconic name in bed making and George’s relocation to Victoria to live in Hawthorn where other members of his family lived.

In 1885, George married his wife Annis, who shared his love of animals. They had no children and became benefactors both for people in need and animal welfare causes. George retired in 1908 and he and Annis travelled quite extensively. Unfortunately, she passed away on a trip to England in 1910. George continued to support animal welfare causes and was made a Life Governor of the Victorian Society for the Protection of Animals (VSPA) in 1924. His brother Henry was a Commissioner of VSPA from 1913 to 1922. George died of heart failure on 14 December 1927 at the age of 68.

In her book For All Creatures – A History of RSPCA Victoria, Barbara Pretzel details a number of animal welfare initiatives around Melbourne supported by significant donations from the George Bills Trust during a period, over several decades, when there appears to have been a fractious relationship between several animal welfare agencies. The donations appear to have assisted in working towards an increased spirit of cooperation between these agencies through initiatives such as the purchase of an animal ambulance.

In 1934, the VPSA was able to purchase land at Preston for use as a rest home for horses and kennel for dogs, predominantly funded by a Bills Trust donation. In 1939, this land was sold and funds used to purchase 28 acres of land at Burwood East, the site of the current RSPCA headquarters.

Another significant donation resulted in the Trust funding the establishment of a rescue centre on the Burwood site, which was named the George Bills Rescue Centre when opened in 1964. Long serving RSPCA President and Patron, Dr Hugh Wirth AM said, “The Bills family was not particularly wealthy, but they recognised the need for people in Victoria to look after animals properly.”

The other significant legacy from the Trust was the manufacture and installation of a large number of concrete horse troughs, some with small drinking troughs for dogs attached, throughout most of Australia and several in Britain. Dr Wirth said:

“They established a Trust for the purposes of developing the design of these horse (and dog) troughs, and placed these troughs free of charge at wellsited places such as outside pubs. I think there would have been a lot of delighted horses when they saw a George Bills trough, particularly on a hot summer’s day!”

George Gemmell of Stanhope has established a website dedicated to collating information about the history and location of the  Bills troughs. The site is well worth a visit to check out the location of troughs and I am sure that George would be interested to hear about and obtain photographs of any troughs not listed on his website.

The first few troughs were hand made from granite and installed in the area around George’s home. Detailed research by George Gemmell indicates that over 500 troughs were constructed and installed up until the end of World War II. All of these troughs were made by Rocla Concrete Pipes and the troughs were installed in Victoria and NSW from 1930. No troughs were made after 1939. The cost of the troughs was about £13, plus the transport and installation costs.

Bills trough at RSPCA, East Burwood
Bills trough at RSPCA, East Burwood

There are four Bills troughs in the City of Whitehorse. One is located just inside the old entrance gates to the Box Hill Cemetery in Whitehorse Road opposite the Box Hill City Oval, a second in parkland at the corner of Blackburn and Canterbury Roads and two others at the RSPCA Centre at Burwood East. RSPCA Victoria CEO Dr Liz Walker said, “The two Bills troughs that reside at our Burwood East site hold great historical significance to RSPCA Victoria and will continue to be treasured.” One of these troughs is located outside the Centre’s Education facility where it can be seen by the manystudents who visit the Centre each year.

Like George Bills, I share a great love of all creatures great and small. It is clear that he made a great contribution to animal welfare both during his life and through the Trust established after his death. There’s no doubt his legacy formed a sound basis for the development of animal welfare facilities currently available through the RSPCA. Although the majority of the remaining horse troughs are ornamental, they are testament to an era in our history when we were dependent on horses for transport.

We are most fortunate to have these benefits and reminders of his passion for animals available locally. I am also very proud to say that he was my great grand uncle. Acknowledgements: 1. Bills Birds and Beds – The John Bills family in England, New Zealand and Australia c. 1795-1995 by Judy Crook. 2. For All Creatures – A History of RSPCA Victoria by Barbara Pretzel (2006) ISBN 0646 46078 1 3. Information provided by Natalie Filmer, Media Advisor, RSPCA, Victoria 4. Website – Bills troughs – created and maintained by George Gemmell.

Gardening in Good Company

Exciting things are afoot in the Ashwood College Permaculture Food Garden. Volunteer gardeners keep coming back to sow and plant, weed and mulch, fertilise and water in our unique community garden. The Ashwood College Permaculture Food Garden (ACPFG) is a communal garden where we all pitch in with what needs doing on the day, and at the end of the session we harvest and take home the bounty. Sometimes the bounty doesn’t make it home, as was the case with the mulberries in November. They were delicious!

Ashwood College is a state secondary school with very large grounds, some of which have been dedicated to the permaculture food garden. The land belongs to the school, but the garden is open to the community. We garden with support and encouragement from the Ashwood College Council and the Principal, Kerrie Croft.

Our garden is thriving. There are more than 2000 square metres of land, 200 metres of cyclone mesh fence, 55 fruit trees, two 75 000-litre rainwater tanks, a shade house, a pergola, a pizza oven, bath tub wicking beds, culinary and medicinal herbs, and beehives.

There are nine different types of apples, three varieties of pear trees, a peach, a nectarine, an apricot, two matching avocados, macadamias, a mulberry, a lemon tree, a feijoa and an olive tree. And there are three different types of figs!

In March this year, the chickens returned to the garden after a three-year absence. Foxes took our hard-working ladies in 2010 but we now have electric poultry fencing. This mobile type of fence gives us the flexibility we need and also provides safety for the chickens. Check out our Facebook page – or, better still, come and check out the chooks for yourself. The ACPFG is open on Wednesday and Saturday mornings from 10am, and during summer from 9am.

Our Reason for Being- sustainable gardening is complex

When we started in 2007, we thought the main purpose of the garden was to grow food. Over the years we have learnt not only that it takes time to build soil and soil fertility, but that to garden sustainably is complex. To our surprise and delight, the garden’s main product over the last number of Gardening in Good Company years has been gardeners. In the process of turning a large grassy field into a productive space, many people have come to the garden, helped out enormously, learned what they needed to learn, and then moved on to confidently develop their own gardens.

Workshops and Courses

When you arrive for the first time, you’ll get a guided tour to introduce you to the garden. Next, you get to work alongside one of the experienced gardeners.

For those who would like a more structured approach to learning sustainable gardening principles, we run classes and courses. The main course is called Food Gardening Step-by- Step – a hands-on, practical series that puts together the building blocks of a successful, chemical-free garden. These steps include Compost, Topsoil, Weed management, Seeds and seedlings (including transplanting), Integrated pest management, Propagation, Water and more. Other specialised classes on topics such as pruning are held at the right time of year, so that they can be learnt in a practical way.

In January 2015 we’ll be running Food Gardening Step-by-Step in a Summer School format, allowing you to attend all eight sessions in the course of two weeks.

Growing your own food is like printing your own money

Access to fresh whole food is fundamental to good health. Ashwood College is located in what’s technically known as a ‘food desert’: there is no fresh whole food within walking distance. Take-away food shops, yes; fruit and veg, no. A weekly community market has been established at Amaroo Neighbourhood Centre where you can purchase fruit and veg at wholesale prices. Now that the chickens have returned to the Ashwood College Permaculture Food Garden, we’ll be ramping up vegie production, and with the fruit trees beginning to come of a productive age we look forward to regularly contributing fresh food to this community market. Meanwhile, all local residents are invited to come and help out.

Facebook page: Permaculture Food Garden

Enquiries: Mariëtte 0414 588 821 and Jean 0418 346 342

My travel through life with Travellers Aid

MY name is Bryan Porter. I live with a permanent disability, and I would like to share my involvement with an organisation that has helped me – and many others in the community – for nearly 100 years: Travellers Aid Australia.

The organisation originated as a charity in 1916, mainly to assist women and children travelling on their own from war-torn Europe or from country Victoria. Travellers Aid still provides this helping hand for women and children; for example, those who have to travel to get away from an abusive partner. But that, by far, is not all they do. Travellers Aid has always been responsive to emerging needs in the community and has developed a range of travelrelated programs and services to help people get out and about; in particular older people and those, like myself, who live with a disability. The Medical Companion Service, for example, is for people who have to come to Melbourne for a medical appointment and need someone to escort them there and back to their train. The access service provides meals and toilet assistance for people with disabilities, and promotes autonomy and independence.

My connection with the organisation reaches back 20 years. Back then I was on crutches, travelling from Traralgon to Melbourne. This was the period during which I was pursuing my education in Victoria. Because of being on crutches and then in a wheelchair, suffering from arthritis, I used to call in to Travellers Aid for support. Little did I know I would be assisting with the manning of the desk for some years in a volunteer capacity as a second pair of eyes. I am still a member and also use the services Travellers Aid has to offer.

Travellers Aid Australia is a not-for- profit organisation and relies on donations to continue delivering its services.