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Garden Glow Up

Updated: Jan 19

The Castlemaine Community Kitchen Garden is growing.

With a clear vision of wanting the young people of Mount Alexander Shire to feel “welcome, comfortable and safe”, Castlemaine Community House (CCH) has enlisted the help of a team of Youth Take Over (YTO) interns to breathe new life into their outdoor area.

Mount Alexander Shire Council have generously invested $10,000 in this project, which will make a change in the lives of young people in Castlemaine.

What’s special about this project is that the way those funds will be spent is decided by a team of people aged 15-22, doubling as a work experience project.

CCH Community Development Manager Kez Jennings said they would like to explore what changes could be made at the Community House to make it more welcoming to young people.

“We noticed in 2021 that our outdoor area was being accessed by more and more young people, after hours, mostly as a spot to hang out,” she said.

The Community House has decided to encourage that and allows the young people to charge their phones and use the place as a meeting point.

“We want the young people there – to feel a connection with CCH as a space and feel a part of the community,” Kez said.

Ash, a 22-year-old YTO intern, joined the project whilst completing his Diploma of Youth Work and says this project will help create a positive change.

“This Take Over has been a great way to gain experience, knowledge and info from industry professionals and it has been great to meet, work and collaborate with other amazing young people on the project,” he said.

Iona, another intern who is 15, said that programs like this are important for young people because it lets them learn about others that they may not normally interact with in different year levels, who are doing different after-school activities.

In turn, the team hopes the garden space they are creating for young people will help bring different groups together.

“I can imagine that spending time and making connections in this garden we are creating will serve young people as a form of therapy – I believe that is the purpose of this collaboration: to help people through their young years,” Iona said.

Ideas are already budding for what to do with the space – one key idea emerging is to build a stage that could be used for performances or storytelling sessions and yarn circles, as the team has found it beneficial already sitting and sharing their own stories in the garden.

Finn, one of the interns who is 19, said the project is giving options for youth to engage in places where they might not have been able to in the past. “It’s all about youth engagement,” he said.

17-year-old intern Spencer said the social aspect has been a bonus. “I’m having a great time.

You get to meet a lot of amazing people,” they said. “We obviously had to consider taking the 10 grand from the Council and splitting it between us interns... So, unless other young people help with the survey, we might end up doing that. That’s why our survey is important.”

So here is the catch. This team of young people need other young people – living in the Mount Alexander shire – to complete a survey to ensure their recommendations for what to do at Castlemaine Community House are well-informed.

If you are a young person living locally – or know anyone local 25 and under – please ask them to give five minutes of their time to complete the questionnaire.

“We decided to create a prize incentive,” Zephyr, another intern, said. “If you do the survey, you go into the draw to win one VISA Gift Cards, vouchers from local businesses, and a Squishmallow. You gotta give the people what they want.”

Plus, the team made sure it would be an easy survey to complete. “We know no one really wants to do a survey,” Finn said. “But think of it this way: as a young person, you get to have your say in how we spend the ten grand. That’s iconic.”

You can find the survey via the QR code, or with this link: 

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