The Royal Botanic Gardens is helping Hunter-based social and community housing organisation Compass Housing set up its first sensory garden in suburban Lake Macquarie.

Key points:

  • Sensory vegetable garden to improve nutrition and social interactions for people with disabilities
  • Nine people at Mount Hutton were formerly living at a large residential centre the Stockton
  • Specialist disability accommodation property provides 24-hour support at the home

Gardens community greening officer, Brenden Moore, and Compass Housing sustainability manager, Jandy McCandless, started work on site yesterday, creating garden beds that will be planted with lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, bush tucker and citrus.

“The whole idea of building a garden here is to provide some social inclusion opportunity for our residents,” Ms McCandless said.

Nine supported independent living residents will benefit from the garden program, which aims to improve their nutrition and social interactions.

“It’s a pick-it-and-eat-it situation here, so that will help us with harvest,” Ms McCandless said.

“He’ll be able to make sure we’ve got something seasonal in there, and provide other different engagement programs for the residents.”

Jandy McCandless and Brenden Moore unloading materials for the sensory garden.(Supplied: Compass Housing)

Creating a connection to country

Mr Moore, a Biripi man from Taree, had helped Compass create gardens for tenants in other parts of the Hunter and New South Wales, including Muswellbrook.

But this new installation at Mount Hutton was the first sensory garden installed at one of the not-for-profit housing provider’s specialist disability accommodation properties.

“It’s creating that connection of people and plants.

Pick-and-eat vegetable and herb varieties ready to be planted.(Supplied: Compass Housing)

“As a kid of my dad had a little spot out the back where he’d grow seasonal fruits and veggies.

“Us kids, we weren’t allowed to go in there, because we weren’t in there to harvest, we were in there to search and destroy.”

The sensory gardens allowed people to connect with nature by touching, rubbing, smelling and eating the plants.

‘A new way of delivering specialist disability accommodation’

Compass is a Hunter-based community housing provider and an NDIS specialist disability accommodation provider, with 7,000 properties in NSW and Queensland.

Group managing director, Greg Budworth, said residents of the Mount Hutton property used to live at a large residential centre the Stockton.

Large residential centres, such as Stockton and Tomaree, were slated for closure by the State Government as part of a plans to provide modern and more appropriate accommodation for people with disability.

Resident David Lancer and Compass Housing sustainability manager Jandy McCandless holding herbs and a wind chime.(Supplied: Compass Housing)

Supported Independent Living (SIL) organisation, The Disability Trust, provides “highly specialised, 24-hour support at the home”.

“This is a new way of delivering contemporary, high quality, specialist disability accommodation,” Mr Budworth said.

“The sensory garden is a small but important aspect of how we are working with the SILs to create home for life.”

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