Cultivate - the Horticultural Therapy Society of NSW

1 May 2019

Panania Free Rangers meet Wayside Chapel

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Workshop at Wayside Chapel, Kings Cross
19th April, 2019

On a bright, sunny April day a group of keen gardeners met on the roof of the Wayside Chapel for a a lesson or two in organic gardening and social and therapeutic horticulture. 

Wayside Chapel was set up in the 1960’s by Reverend Ted Noffs at a time when Kings Cross was fast becoming a mecca for disaffected youth; the home of the red light district, illegal gambling and drug culture. Now the chapel runs various programs that address the issues that the visitors have experienced such as domestic violence, mental health, homelessness, social isolation, grief and loss, probation and parole. 

We were met and instructed by the wonderful Jon Kingston who runs social and therapeutic gardening experiences for visitors. We learned how he does this organically by incorporating the kitchen scraps into multiple worm farms and organic pest control methods such as companion planting, crop rotation and home made organic pest sprays. 

We were greeted at the entrance to the garden by Costa and a screen of “grandpa’s whiskers” which looked stunning as a mass planting (if you can call it that being an air plant).

We discussed the success and viability of the rooftop wicking beds and taste tested a succulent that Jon gives to Kylie Kwong for her restaurant at Wayside Bondi. It’s hard to describe the taste - a bit like a salty lolly that explodes in your mouth when you bite into it. He waters it with salty water to enhance the salty flavour.

Jon discussed at length the displacement of Aboriginal Australians and the disruption of their food system. Once thought to be hunter gatherers it is now known that Aboriginal Australians cropped many plants from grains used for bread to yams. 

We finished our day with a community lunch with the visitors. Corporate volunteers cook a lunch for a room full of people that regularly visit the chapel. Sharing a meal with people that you would normally walk past on the street and not meet their eyes was difficult for me and something I think we all should experience. It was a good opportunity for me to confront my privilege and acknowledging that as lucky as we are, there’s so much more we need to do when it comes to addressing disadvantage and inequality. 

Panania Free Rangers will be off to visit Jon at the Bondi Wayside Chapel later in the year. There are some amazing people doing wonderful work in the social and therapeutic horticulture arena and I encourage you to get to know and be involved with their projects and grow your passion!

If you would like to know more about Wayside Chapel or find out how you can support them and become involved, go to their website: https://www.waysidechapel.org.au/programs/

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