The EduGrow School Garden Awards – Arnhem is an exciting regional program that is all about growing good food, good learning and good times at schools that experience challenges associated with remoteness, disadvantage and often poor levels of school attendance. Plans are now underway for EduGrow to run for a fourth year in Arnhem Land, NT and – with a little luck and help – to pilot EduGrow in remote and regional communities in NSW.
Why regional? To be culturally relevant, fun and flexible for local schools and students and to enable community organisations to link the great work they do with the celebratory spirit of the Awards. Given the recent devastation caused by Cyclone Lam in East Arnhem communities (and school gardens who have participated in EduGrow over the past three years!) this is more important than ever so that practical tropical gardening expertise and supplies reach people who want to grow food and regreen their communities and schools.
Children under the age of 16 represent 50% of the population in most remote communities – a demographic contrary to the mainstream story of Australia’s ageing population! EduGrow supports this generation to learn about healthy food and lifestyles (as well as art, bush knowledge, maths, science, sustainability and more…) and to develop life skills that can help prevent high levels of diet related chronic disease such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease that disproportionately affect people in remote communities.
Many people in remote communities face food insecurity because affordable, healthy food is often difficult to access (physically and/or financially) on a reliable basis. Basic nutritious foods in remote and regional areas can regularly cost up to 30% or much more than in regional centres and major cities and the quality of fruit and vegetables stored and freighted vast distances can be tricky. Learning how to grow and enjoy new and interesting foods – a valuable lesson for ‘everyone, everywhere’ – is particularly important for young people in remote areas because these skills are skills not only for a long healthy life but also to help build resilient communities on much loved, traditional lands.
The EduGrow School Garden Awards were established in 2012 by the Remote Indigenous Gardens Network (RIG Network) in partnership with the Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA) to help celebrate ALPA’s 40th Anniversary. ALPA is an Aboriginal owned corporation who run food stores and have long promoted healthy food and good nutrition. (Read more about ALPA here).
The EduGrow Awards are flexible and fun and cater for schools of different sizes and experience – from the tiniest homeland schools to larger schools in towns such as Yirrkala, Galiwin’ku and Nhulunbuy. There are four main categories, a Grand Prize Winner and Special Theme Awards – lots of cash and other prizes, so everyone who participates in a winner. As one ‘repeat’ winning school has said:
“The EduGrow Awards have been great for our students, they LOVE competing against other Yolgnu and remote kids!”
EduGrow supports and encourages kids and teachers to get growing, learning and doing in the garden. Schools are invited to register and receive a Get Growing! Cash Incentive, Gardening Information and Resource Packs, access to garden mentors and regular ‘handy tips and updates’. In 2014 workshops, led by Foodswell Ambassador and local tropical food gardening guru Emily Gray, were very popular – something to build on in 2015! Read about Foodswell Ambassadors. And ‘top end’ EduGrow resources.
All eight schools who participated in EduGrow Arnhem in 2014 received cash prizes and other awards in the popular new Special Theme Awards. These allowed each school to shine for the amazing things they choose to focus on – be it artwork, enterprise projects, waterwise, Best Cultural Knowledge and Elder involvement, best community partnership, best soil improvement or best healthy food/activity or project. (Read more about EduGrow 2014 here).
An EduGrow highlight each year is the Awards Ceremony that in 2014 was held at Shepherdson College on Elcho Island. Awards day was lots of fun with special garden tours led by students who welcomed large numbers of parents and community members to their garden. Outstanding entries meant that the judges awarded two Grand Prizes – each of $2,000 – to Shepherdson College and Gawa Christian School. Both of these amazing gardens and their communities were directly hit by Cyclone Lam, a category 4 cyclone, in February. The damage to homes, services, the bush, shade and fruit trees, home and school gardens has been enormous…
The garden at Shepherdson College, (Grand Prize Winner in 2012, 2013 and jointly in 2014…) was devastated by Cyclone Lam and since then has again been impacted by Cyclone Nathan. The good news is that students love their garden and with their skills and passion, along with those of their teachers and school community, they are already hard at work to rebuild their garden. Amazingly their cyclone proof chicken coop (part funded by EduGrow past prize money!) built by the students and nestled amongst their banana plantation not only withstood Cyclone Lam but sheltered the chickens so well that not one was lost! Their story is truly inspiring – read about it at their wonderful school garden blog Lets Obtain A Yield.
EduGrow friends, partners and supporters have been chipping to help where they can, providing seeds, cuttings and trees to affected schools but there is so much more we can all do to help in 2015 and we need funds to make it all happen!
In 2015 the overaching theme for EduGrow Arnhem looks set to be in the spirit of ‘recovery and regeneration’ along with food, family and community. Please help Foodswell mobilize support so EduGrow can provide resources, workshops, motivational prizes and other incentives to participating schools and communities.
EduGrow Arnhem kicks off each year in term 2 and concludes early in term 4. We need to raise to raise $70,000 by April 17 to deliver the 2015 program.
Tax deductible donations to EduGrow can be directly made via GiveNow – click here
EduGrow and RIG Network are Foodswell programs. Foodswell is a health promotion charity whose mission is to create change towards food security and food sovereignty for all Australians and cultivate a healthy Australia. Anthea Fawcett, an extremely passionate woman is one of the driving forces behind Foodswell, an initiative that builds upon the achievements of RIG Network. Read more about Foodswell and subscribe for RIG Network’s quarterly newsletter.
If you would like to support Foodswell you can make a tax deductible donation via GiveNow – click here.
Foodswell has plans for new projects in NSW made possible with grant support from Medibank and Australia Post. These include the Big Lunch in partnership with the BEST Food Garden Inverell as part of our Food, Family, Community program and a pilot of EduGrow in NSW to celebrate the people and projects who are growing healthy food and culturally inclusive learning places for youth from diverse backgrounds.
If you would like to learn more or get involved Foodswell wants to hear from you! Please contact Anthea at firstname.lastname@example.org