Working Beyond the Boundaries - Parks Victoria (Australia)
Working in partnership with community organisations, Parks Victoria was provided with the advice and guidance needed to effectively connect with local communities.
To enable greater connection between parks and communities, Parks Victoria established the Working Beyond the Boundaries community engagement program at Werribee Park in 2012.
Western Melbourne, in Victoria, Australia is a rapidly growing area, home to more than 150 culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Working Beyond the Boundaries started from a Healthy Parks Healthy People initiative with AMES (Australian Multicultural Employment Service) Settlement Service and the Brotherhood of St Laurence (non-for profit charity). It was originally aimed at addressing isolation issues among women from new and emerging communities. It quickly became evident that the program could be broadened to overcome a number of related issues that would benefit both the local community and the park, such as:
- Traditional forms of connecting with local park communities, especially young adults were not working.
- There were few opportunities for new and emerging communities to network and improve workplace English.
- There were few pathways to employment for all age groups within the community.
- The number of volunteers within existing park Friends Groups were declining.
- Challenges in maintaining the park to an adequate standard with available resources.
The Working Beyond the Boundaries program was not taxing on park resources and park staff did not work any harder, just smarter.
Working in partnership with AMES Australia, it was identified that there was a real need for a community garden in the local area and that members of the recently arrived Karen Community (from Burma) were considered the ideal target audience. The now thriving garden, led by the Karen community and supported by many other communities, provides an important community hub and meeting place for socialising and learning. The success of the kitchen garden led to the development of a Parks Victoria traineeship for people under the age of 25 who aspire to have a career in horticulture or conservation and land management. The program then further extended to involving partnerships with local schools as students learn practical skills and undertake theory training at the park, which is delivered by a Registered Training Organisation. As a result of this program Werribee Park has seen significant benefits, with a large proportion of the grounds maintenance now undertaken by volunteers. Areas of the park that had been left overgrown or in poor condition are now regularly maintained and as a result the park is now healthier.
Using a green/gold calculator, the project contributes an estimated $2 million of in-kind support to the park.
The program not only delivers economic benefit to the park, but has led to the following outcomes for the park and local communities:
- Increase in the health and wellbeing of the community and parks staff.
- Improved social cohesion and community capacity building.
- Increased physical activity (can calculate $ based on KPI figure).
- Improving social isolation.
- Pathways to employment.
- Increased environmental value:
- Seeds and/or seedlings propagated.
- Improved riparian understory.
- Removal of woody weed species.
- Increased visitor services:
- More bookings/events.
- Increased variety of interpretation, education and activities.