By Ash Vines
Having last visited Tiwi College seven years ago, I was amazed when I returned at the start of December to see the transformation of the old athletics track into the amazingly prolific garden that it is today.
The scale and productivity of the garden project is not only now providing healthy produce for the College, but it has contributed to the wonderfully vibrant and happy College learning environment.
When I arrived with Daniel Fusimalohi (from St Joseph’s College in Sydney) to assist with the garden project over the Christmas holidays, our hope was to contribute as best we could, to the continuing maintenance and health of the garden.
In particular, to keep it in the best possible condition for the return of the students in 2016. Under the tutelage of Jason Ryan, we soon discovered how much knowledge, expertise, skill and effort is required to maintain such an impressive garden. The constant and indeed persistent care and attention given to every veggie patch, every chook and every tree has assured the ongoing healthy state of the garden.
Louis Wardle (left) and Ashley Vines (right) cleaning up in front of the chooks shed. Photo credit: Anne Mcmaster
In between carrying out the day-to-day maintenance tasks, we undertook to mulch the veggie patches, ensuring water from the irrigation system was trapped in the soil for the dry season. By the time Jason and Daniel left prior to Christmas, we had completed that task and I was joined by Louis Wardle from Melbourne, who assisted with the next task of redesigning the outside of the southern end of the garden, creating a feature.
After many hard hot days of work, there is now a new garden bed containing twelve trees that we hope will further contribute to the aesthetic of the garden oasis at the College. Other minor projects we completed, include; erecting signs around the college to ensure the safety of Tuyu (the College’s pet buffalo); building a new sleeping area for the chickens; re-mulching other areas around the garden; and planting new trees and vines along the fence lines. We both enjoyed taking on these small projects and hope that they will contribute to the ever-evolving Tiwi Garden.
Undoubtedly the most rewarding part of this two-month experience however, has been the return of the students to the College and the opportunity to see first hand, how the garden interacts with, and contributes to, the day to day activities and atmosphere of the College. Not only does it add to the general visual aesthetics, but it allows for the involvement of each and every person at the College every day.
Since the staff and students have returned, I have been asked questions about whether the chooks had been laying, how long before the bananas are ripe, and when the veggie patches will be replanted with the students. These questions and others, have spoken volumes about the social capital the garden contributes to, as well as to the health, well-being and spirit of the community.
I have been personally humbled by the welcome and acceptance of the Tiwi College community from my first day here. I would therefore like to thank everyone, particularly Jason Ryan, Guy Reynolds and all those involved in the garden project for the wonderful opportunity given to me.
I would also like to thank the Tiwi people and the Tiwi Land Council for their warm welcome and for allowing me to live and work on their country, Pickertaramoor over the Wet Season. Speaking also on behalf of Daniel and Louis, we will always remember this amazing opportunity and the added bonus of the fishing adventures, home cooked meals, and our learning about the Tiwi peoples’ rich and continuing cultural heritage and practices.