Our first full-day workshop was held on May 31st 2019 at Camperdown Commons and since that day we have convened another four; two in Sydney, one in Newcastle and one in the Blue Mountains for a total of five in all.
Each workshop was fully subscribed and we also have a waiting list that we are managing pro-actively.
We have put through 85 participants from across NSW, Victoria and Queensland.
Attendees have come from a diverse range of backgrounds – social work, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, horticulture, community development, community gardeners, teaching, counseling, psychology, child care, parents of children on the autism spectrum, aged-care, early childhood and child care, youth workers, farmers, a florist, Local Government, a Paediatrician and people seeking a change in direction and specifically looking to do something that connects with nature, gardens and being outside.
The group learning was vast at each workshop due to the sheer breadth and depth of experience that each person brought to their respective groups.
Connections and friendships were made and new skills learnt.
Each facilitator had stories to share from their lived experience to illustrate the joys and difficulties of therapeutic horticulture. They also shared some great activities that they use to engage people in TH from the more horticultural such as soil preparation, planting seeds and propagating to the more artistic expression of TH using seeds and other foraged items or sand to make mandalas, making potpourri sachets and using plant and art materials to create beautiful works of art based on a simple stencil drawing.
Making tea with lovely edible herbs and flowers was designed to show how to encourage people to engage in conversation, stimulate memories and improve socialisation skills, thereby reducing isolation and loneliness.
Each workshop included a session on adaptive tools which was always a lot of fun as each participant tried to work out what each ‘tool’ could be used for – the stubbie holder, towel and trowel always got people thinking! Lots of ‘Aha!’ moments in this session.
We also included a practical session using simulation glasses supplied by Vision Australia, whereby everyone was able to get some understanding of what it is like to be vision impaired and conversely how can TH enable the person to be included in activities and life. It is also a powerful exercise in understanding just how difficult and isolating life can be for someone with any form of disablement.
All activities were simple but powerful examples of ways in which TH can incrementally improve a person’s physical and mental health.
As someone was heard to remark – ‘this is therapy for the therapists.’
We were extremely lucky to have fabulous venues: Camperdown Commons for the Sydney workshops, Hunter Multicultural Centre in Newcastle and Lyttleton Stores in Lawson for the Blue Mountains.
The weather in Newcastle was very trying, stinking hot and blowing a gale but it did not dampen enthusiasm or participation. Unfortunately we were not able to take full advantage of the fabulous community garden at the centre but we did make an attempt and we will certainly schedule another workshop at the garden in 2020.
A fire very close to Lawson did cause a little anxiety the day before the Blue Mountains workshop but thanks to our wonderful fire fighters it was of no concern on the day. In fact it was BM weather – quite chilly!
Where to from here – more Intro courses next year in both the metropolitan and regional areas. In fact the first one for 2020 will be at Camperdown Commons on February 28th. We are also starting to develop regional cells/hubs as support and training networks for participants. The Hunter region is underway and we have identified two other regions where there is a lot of interest in TH. More news to come on those potential sites, early next year. We are also going to develop a standardised framework and workbook for use in the Intro workshops to ensure consistency of delivery but allowing the facilitators to add their own lived experience through their examples and activities.
As a result of the feedback from the courses together with members’ stated interests, the Education and Training sub-committee will be building on the Intro workshops to develop courses/workshops aimed at providing more depth for specific areas of interest such as aged care/dementia; mental health/PTSD/trauma; grief and loss amongst others.
As the Cultivate NSW representative who attended all of the workshops on behalf of Cultivate, I would like to say a HUGE thank you to the facilitators - Toni Salter in Sydney; Carol and Doug Twentyman and Peter Wann in Newcastle and Virginia Field and Meera Jarvis in the Blue Mountains – who made the days not only very different but also very successful. Their knowledge, passion for the subject, willingness to share with participants and each other , warmth and sense of humour, made every session a sheer delight.
The participants were an equally big part of the success of each day and a big thank you to each of you for participating so fully on the day.
The venues and catering at each location also supported a great days’ learning and sharing.
We look forward to another year of Intro workshops expanding across NSW and further afield as well as taking the next steps to provide more in depth and targeted knowledge for people to build up their skills in TH.
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year and we look forward to catching up in 2020!