Something new is happening in one of Western Australia’s oldest suburbs. From its idyllic suburban home on the Cyril Jackson Senior Campus grounds, the ArtsHouse is a new creative space in Bassendean, Perth, aimed at connecting students and the community with artists of all kinds.
To help set the vibrant scene, the ArtsHouse project includes the development of a community garden, designed by Perth landscape company Urban Botanic in consultation with the project facilitators and the community itself. The garden will unite lessons from permaculture, edible gardening, subsistence gardening, and – perfectly fitting for WA – best practice lawn management. I get goosebumps thumbing through their design proposal. To name just a few of their hearty, horti initiatives:
Fixed and portable food gardens, plus an edible orchard, featuring herbs and vegies, edible screens, fruit trees and a smörgåsbord of bush tucker selected in consultation with the local Aboriginal community.
Habitat enhancements for local fauna in the form of bird baths, stepping stones, varied height structures, and grassy depressions to create boggy areas in winter.
Children’s play spaces and picking gardens with seasonal annuals, flowers, herbs, small vegies, plus nature-based play elements like large boulders, climbing logs and stepping stones along with the usual playground equipment.
Fibre and dye plants, such as the blue flax lily (Dianella revoluta), silver dollar gum (Eucalyptus cinerea), marigolds (Tagetes sp.) and butterfly bush (Buddleia sp.) to use for both educational purposes and contributing to the ArtsHouse supply. These plants will be chosen in consultation with local fibre artists.
Plans to encourage useful weeds, allowing the garden spaces to grow naturally and attractively with less manual intervention.
A turf installation, simulating a typical home lawn, trialling two leading soil improvement methods. The trial, led by WA turf specialist Nick Bell, seeks to demonstrate best practice lawn care by assessing the quality and appearance of the ArtsHouse lawn zone over the following year.
For the school, a project of this nature remains true to the spirit of its namesake. As WA’s first Director General of Education, Cyril Jackson made contributions to the community that extended well beyond the classroom. With his influence, the WA education system saw reforms introducing compulsory education for of-age children, vocational and practical education for students in both rural and metropolitan areas, dedicated supervisors for manual training classes, improved salaries and status for teachers, and specialist technical and training colleges, along with a teaching model-school demonstrating practices and facilities closer to Jackson’s ideals.
The Cyril Jackson Senior Campus today provides innovative learning programs in keeping with the spirit of Jackson’s visions for innovative education environments. The school runs the only north-of-the-(Swan)-river, Department-of-Education-endorsed Intensive English Centre, serving a multicultural mix of students.
Interestingly, the landscape development at the ArtsHouse continues not just a tradition of community outreach, but of horticultural appreciation too. Jackson, while living in Bassendean in the early 20th century, planted two trees at the edge of his property – one oak (Querus robur) brought from England, and one kurrajong (Brachychiton populneus) imported from Queensland, in honour of his life as a British immigrant in Australia.
Driving around Jackson’s former suburb, lined with federation houses and heritage trees, it’s easy to see how the new ArtsHouse creative space and garden will make a home there.
Initial site works for the garden began in mid-June.