HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL: Chaffey Secondary College students, Alira Lyons, 13, Jasmine Caldow, 14, and First Constable Stacey Purves, working on the mural for the Garden of Hope.

By MADISON EASTMOND

THE Garden of Hope has become Mallee District Aboriginal Services Family Wellbeing Program’s latest project for high school students.

Meeting at the garden, located on Seventeenth Street, every fortnight, teens from Chaffey Secondary College are working on both creative murals and their own personal development as part of the program.

With a wider focus on engagement, the program as a whole targets building positive relationships between participants and the wider community. 

Co-ordinators of the program Sioned Price, Nikita Hart, Justine Bowden and Claire O’Connor, began Family Wellbeing late last year, working with Victoria Police to bridge gaps and build trust with law enforcement.

“The Family Wellbeing Program works with kids at TAFE, women at  Eastern Community Health, with Aboriginal Elders, and now we will be working with kids from Chaffey Secondary College,” Ms Price said.

“The program can be adjusted and looks very different for everyone.

“For our Chaffey kids, we thought helping out and getting creative at the Garden of Hope would be a good way to teach work ethic, and also create a safe space for those kids to open up and feel comfortable.”

Police involvement has been integral to the program’s process, and Mildura’s First Constable Stacey Purves spends sessions with the teens, removing the hostility some may feel towards law enforcement.

“It builds trust and a connection. If they have an issue they know they can seek help and support from Stacey,” Ms Price said.

In the short time that the program has been running, positive results have already been achieved.

“Some of the young girls that are a part of the Eastern Community Health Group have started attending school again, which is really great!” Ms Price said.

“We just want to engage, and give them opportunities to do something great for their community.”

Chaffey Secondary students visit the garden every fortnight, which complement sessions spent at school with Family Wellbeing.

Garden of Hope owner, Debbie Halliwell, is very happy to have the group of youngsters using her community garden.

“It’s been great having everyone here, working together and being creative for the community,” Mrs Halliwell said.

“I really want the children to take my garden’s message of hope away with them, apply it to their everyday life and look at things in a different and positive way!”

Planning to spend the rest of the year at the gardens, the Family Wellbeing Program hopes to continue to provide open communication and support for those in need.

“This is an amazing program and we really hope our groups can continue to make positive differences to the community,” Ms Hart said.