Growing hope in the community

There is a lot more than produce flourishing at the Cannington Community Garden.

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The Cannington Community Garden near Perth, WA, is a thriving sanctuary for green thumbs, workers and visitors alike. What was once a humble community garden four years ago has grown to become one of the largest gardens in the area, which is helping to feed the homeless as well as hosting Work for the Dole participants.

“It all began with just a few members of the church congregation,” says Andi Benson, the garden’s Work for the Dole supervisor.

Jack Beere and Heather Stewart-Johnson, members of Cannington Community Seventh-day Adventist Church, wanted to do something with the large grassy space at the back of their church. With a gardening hobby, the two saw an opportunity to reach out to their community through a garden and partnered with ADRA Australia to make it happen.

“Cannington Community Garden is a space for growing food and community,” says Heather.

Andi Benson.

Within its first year, Andi discovered the garden on his walk home from dropping his daughter at school. After moving back to Australia with his family after working in Indonesia for 20 years, Andi struggled to find work. His teaching degree was outdated and other jobs were scarce. With a passion for sustainability and community, Andi began to volunteer at the garden to occupy his time.

When Andi had an interview with atWork, he was told he needed to find a community activity in order to keep his dole payments. “I told atWork that I was already involved in a few community programs,” Andi says. “And that’s when they came to have a look at the garden there.”

"Cannington Community Garden is a space for growing food and community."

atWork were thrilled to discover the garden, as it opened up opportunities for other Work for the Dole participants to work there too. With the need for a supervisor on site for the program to go ahead, Andi was hired.

With the extra help and funding from the program, the garden’s produce is not the only thing flourishing. So too, is its impact on the community.

“It’s a noticeable healing space there,” Andi says. “You see a lot of people become quite depressed with the prospect of not being able to find work. The garden’s really good for that. Because you can get back to the basics and forget about your problems there, dig a few carrots, flip some compost and meet some other people who are in the same boat.”

And once a week, the church has a food truck to provide a meal to those who are doing it tough. “On Friday nights there’s a food truck, and we’re getting around about 60-70 people at the moment,” says Andi. “About 30-50 per cent would be homeless.

“There’s the importance of community and looking after one another. It’s vital. Heather and Jack had a good vision. It’s certainly got an important function in the community.”

Like Andi, there are many hurting people in your local community right now too. So, how can your church be ready and relevant to serve them? Visit adra.org.au/appeal to try something new to help others this October.


Ashley Stanton is Media and Communications coordinator for ADRA Australia.