Garden Pathway program trainer, Carol, has observed the impact growing food can have on people.

“From the very first day running the Garden Pathway course, I noticed that everyone leaves the garden in a better state than when they arrived. And I’ve even had some participants get emotional on their final day, because they’re going to miss the garden so much.” 

The program is run by Jesuit Community College, a program of Jesuit Social Services, in partnership with the Department of Justice and Community Safety.  With the aim of embedding pre-accredited training into community work, the program supports men who are in contact with the justice system to serve their community work hours growing produce which is donated to food relief programs.  

While participants are working off their community hours they learn practical horticultural skills, develop their employability skills, build confidence, and create pathways to further education, training and employment. The model encourages participant’s learning, challenging potentially negative past experiences of education and training with new positive experiences. 

One participant told us that working in the garden has “slowly started to make me remember the sensation of feeling productive and involved.” Another said, “I’ve grown as a person… and I know doing this has made me gain a lot of knowledge not just about gardening, but about myself.” 

In one year, participants grew and donated over $5000 worth of fresh veggies. 

Situated in a community garden, participants are involved in a variety of garden maintenance and food production tasks. One young Aboriginal participant spent some of his time recently painting a mural on the garden wall. 

An Aboriginal participant led the creation of this mural for the community garden

An Aboriginal participant led the creation of this mural for the community garden

Carol says beyond equipping participants with basic gardening skills, she’s observed the program’s impacts on participants’ social skills too. 

“I know sometimes it’s particularly hard for men to make new friendships as adults. I’ve got participants here together for six hours a day, tending to the garden together, and I see them developing really nice, respectful relationships. 

I’ve observed program participants gain self-confidence, improve their social skills, learn how to work in a team, and even go on to pursue a career in agriculture or land management,” Carol says.