Amelie Vanderstock updates us on the USYD community garden project

A community garden is growing at USYD!

After years of spontaneously arising groups, writing proposals, pressuring the university, and creating guerrilla garden plots around campus to spread the word, a community garden will soon be growing at USYD. Operating through the Student Representative Council (SRC), in a joint venture with the Centre for English Teaching (CET) and the USYD Food Coop, we can now create an inclusive space where students are empowered to come together- learning from one another through building and maintaining our campus garden. We’ve received the final approval to begin construction of raised garden beds on the 5th floor Balcony of Wentworth building. Accessible through the Centre for English teaching (CET), this location and collaboration provides a unique opportunity for international and domestic students to meet and work in concert. In this expansive space students are invited to participate in workshops from no-dig-gardening to feminism and facilitation – as the garden has the potential to become a hub of cross SRC collective endeavours. Community garden allow those without gardening area or knowledge of their own to join others in a common site for such skills and soil to be shared. Local councils including the City of Sydney with the ‘grow it local’ focus, are increasingly encouraging community garden initiatives in a shift toward local empowerment and vegetating urban environments. Schools have been leaders in such projects with increasing successful University examples. From the rooftop garden at ANU (Canberra) to the vibrant vegetable beds of UOW (Wollongong), campus gardens have brought students together in more ways than planting.

Sustainability, food security, questioning the supermarket monopoly, approaches to mental health, urban ecological understanding, collaboration and community… there is an abundance of reasons and goals for a community garden on our campus. The garden will be a balance of food crops and native flora for education, encouragement of native diversity and self-sufficient food production purposes. Multilingual signage and regular working bees to plant and maintain the garden will ensure a collaborative, volunteer-coordinated project – not to mention opportunities for volunteer participants to feast on the fruits of our labour!

Student input is important at every level of the community garden’s creation. From sprouting skills, to poster design, to volunteer roster coordination – there are many ways to contribute that cater to a diversity of interests and experience. Now that we have our location secured, we are in the final design phase: looking at best permaculture practice to use our space efficiently and sustainably. If there are any budding permaculture designers amongst our student community, why not use this as a first (or umpteenth) project? After we’ve erected the beds, ready for spring planting, watch for the call out for the Inaugural Gardening Bee! Watch this space!
In the meantime we can choose which crops we want to plant, sprout seeds at home and uni, refine the everyday organising of the garden, and complete the finer tasks that as a broad collective we can learn to do together!

I envisage the garden to bring together our broad, dynamic student community in sharing knowledge, skills and experiences- not just about gardening but about our commonalities as students and the diversities of interests and futures. As the representative body for all USYD undergraduates, it is important for the SRC to facilitate these inclusive ventures and hopefully, it can then contribute to making our SRC more accessible and relevant to our diverse community.
We next meet Monday 1pm on the Garden Balcony, Level 5 Wentworth – accessible via the Centre for English teaching, upstairs from International students lounge (or look up at the protruding rail from Hermanns!).

No matter your skills and experience, If you are interested in gardening, or simply finding or expanding your community on campus, contact us at usydcommunitygarden@gmail.com or call me on 0413679269 to find out more!

David Pink explains why the SRC did not have a stall at Open Day 2013

I have manned the SRC stall at Open Day every single year since I started university, and it is usually a fantastic opportunity to inform prospective students of their student representative organisation’s services, and ways they can get involved in our collectives should they be activist inclined.

I actually decided to go to Sydney University because of the SRC stall at Open Day. The then-President Elly Howse had a large stock of Honi Soits, and I took a few and after reading them thought that USYD sounded a lot more fun than UNSW.  (This year, that might have been a bit more difficult – a lot of the high school students are probably under-18 so we wouldn’t be able to hand out one particular issue).

Open Day is very, very important to us. However, it was our unanimous decision that the interests of undergraduate students (current and future) at the University of Sydney would be undermined if we went ahead with the stall.

Instead, we will be leafleting prospective students and informing them of why wages and conditions for staff are important. They have a right to know.
I’m not going to bother explaining why staff’s wages and conditions are important. If you’re not convinced by now, you’ll never be convinced.

I’m writing this article before the action at Open Day, but I wanted to reiterate that no matter what happens: the SRC stands in complete and 100% solidarity with staff.