2023 Giving Program recipients announced

1 May 2023
2023 Giving Program recipients announced

2023 Giving Program recipients announced

Four community organisations will receive funding for a range of community and education horticulture programs from our Giving Program. We have also allocated funding for bushfire recovery projects and The Lakes Entrance Garden Club will receive the first of these funding allocations. Find out more about these exciting projects.

Advance College

Advance College is one of our four Giving Program recipients for 2023. The grant they receive will be used to build a garden so students can regularly interact positively with nature on the school grounds. Read on for further insight into this exciting project from the College’s Principal Steve Wright.

Our new Rosebud campus opened earlier this year. It is a purpose-built facility with large classrooms, break-out spaces, outdoor recreation areas and lots more. 

We will be using the funds generously donated by Open Gardens Victoria to install a landscaped garden area to complement our new school and for our students to have the opportunity to interact regularly with nature. We envision a multi-sensory Indigenous Garden and sensory walk where each of the built and plant elements are considered carefully to maximise accessibility, health and purpose to support maximum and appropriate sensory stimulation for our community. 

In our design, we will consider each of the five traditional senses (sight, sound, touch, taste and smell) and council requirements for Indigenous revegetation by planting only native species that provide important habitat for wildlife and support the character of the Mornington Peninsula, the traditional lands of the Bunurong people. It will include paths, seating and signage to allow for access, inclusivity and interactivity within the garden. 

OGV Project before photo 1

We believe that even the smallest interaction with nature contributes to, and improves, the mental and physical wellbeing of individuals and the benefits will be felt by students and those around them.

Creating this beautiful garden will enhance our organisation as everyone who attends Advance College can enjoy and feel the benefits of the space, especially our students. This helps further our commitment to the creation of a learning environment which centres on improving wellbeing, stamina and resilience to strengthen educational, social and vocational outcomes for each student and one that positively impacts our students and their local communities.

Our College is extremely grateful to be receiving this funding. The students are looking forward to not only having a specifically designed space for them to utilise but also to be part of the installation process. As an added bonus they will be given the opportunity to learn skills and experience under professional guidance in garden design and construction that they normally would not be able to gain.

Steve Wright,


Cultivating Community

We are proud to once again announce Cultivating Community as a 2023 Giving Program recipient to fund a series of seasonal workshops this year with the Victorian College for the Deaf. Read on for further details about their project.

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Cultivating Community is an organisation that brings joy to people and communities via their connection with gardens and food. For more than two decades it has been working with public housing communities in Melbourne and surrounding neighbourhoods to develop gardening skills and connect people through the shared experience of gardening. The organisation works with 700 gardeners in 21 sites across Melbourne’s Public Housing precincts and is currently in its first year of developing pathways to work with the Victorian College for the Deaf. 

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This wonderful organisation will be using funding from our Giving Program, to run a series of seasonal workshops over the next twelve months that are in a collaborative garden space - including the Rooftop Farm at Burwood which is Australia's most Sustainable Shopping Centre. There will be four series that each include five one-hour workshops to introduce participants to cultural food growing skills, composting and green waste management, seasonal food sowing and harvest, and supply chains.

These workshops will specifically be designed for participants who are from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Communities and students from the Victorian College of the Deaf.

CEO Rob Rees says of the workshops and the funding: "Investment into programs like this allows us to have greater impact and social connection with some of Victoria's most marginalised communities. By investing via us you are investing in them. Thank you "

The collaborative gardens are spaces Cultivating Community shares with other organisations allowing them to harvest produce grown in these gardens for food literacy projects across Melbourne and surrounding suburbs.

We can’t wait to witness this exciting project unfold.


University of Melbourne, Burnley Woody Meadow Project 

 We’re proud to announce The University of Melbourne, Burnley Campus, as another Giving Program recipient to build a Woody Meadow on the Campus.

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Associate Professor’s Claire Farrell and John Rayner from The University of Melbourne, along with their team of research partners, have been dedicated to installing Woody Meadows throughout Melbourne to improve the quality of low input landscapes and make our cities more liveable. Some may have read about the Woody Meadow at Birrarung Marr which we have featured in our socials in the past and there is now a network of Woody Meadows throughout Melbourne and Australia. You can find a Woody Meadow here: https://woodymeadow.unimelb.edu.au/woody-meadows/.

Woody Meadows are diverse, layered plantings of shrubs and small trees, managed by coppicing to create low maintenance plantings with high visual appeal. Designed in a naturalistic style using Australian plants, Woody Meadows have a wilder aesthetic, greater biodiversity and a more varied and longer display than traditional plantings. 

The first Woody Meadows were planted in 2016 (Birrarung Marr being one) and have thrived since this time with minimal maintenance.

They are designed to replicate the structure of shrub-based natural ecosystems and provide visual interest. Australian shrublands are highly diverse and occur on nutrient-poor soils, making them ideal templates for low-input meadow plantings. Many of these shrubs are also extremely tolerant of disturbance and can resprout after damage from fire, herbivory, flooding or drought. This ability to resprout makes Australian shrubs perfectly suited to coppicing. Coppicing is hard-pruning of the entire plant (10-20 cm above the ground).

The $8,000 grant will be supplemented with funding from the University to build a Woody Meadow on the Burnley Campus.

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The Burnley Woody Meadow Garden will create an outdoor hub for education and outreach demonstrating key aspects of their design and maintenance, including:

rationale and concept – naturalistic style, using Australian plants to create low maintenance, highly aesthetic, functional and sustainable plantings,
planting design – based on random planting, that is high density (6.25 plants/m2) and layered,
site preparation and soils (scoria mulch) – to improve growth and reduce weeds,
pruning treatments (coppicing) - to create dense canopies with lots of flowers, that also reduce weeds
plant selection – choosing suitable species that are long lasting and low maintenance.

Claire and John have a team of people including other professors and PhD students dedicated to this project. You can read more here: Woody Meadow - Woody Meadow (unimelb.edu.au)


Farmer Incubator

We’re proud to announce Farmer Incubator as another of this year’s Giving Program recipients. The $4,750.00 funding will be used to run a series of educational workshops at the market garden site, yet to be established at Bundoora. 

Farmer Incubator is a not-for-profit organisation established in 2013, currently based in and around Naarm, Melbourne, Victoria. This organisation directly focuses on empowering aspiring farmers to get the hands-on, agroecological knowledge and experience needed to grow food regeneratively, while growing their business skills. This organisation is passionate about providing a more approachable entry into farming by creating spaces for aspiring farmers to grow, learn and connect with others, while exploring the potential of collaborative farming models.

The funding from our Giving Program will be used to run a series of workshops designed to take participants through many of the steps and decision-making processes required to establish a garden. Tickets to these workshops will be heavily subsidised in order to target as many interested people as possible.

These workshops will target a range of experience levels from horticultural enthusiasts to intermediate market gardeners. There will be four seasonally based workshops, covering:

Planning a garden
Soil management
Crop rotation
Farmer Incubator is run by an ambitious and creative group of farmers and food system advocates. These workshops are an additional step towards our organisation’s mission to contribute to growing a fairer food system.

Inca Dunphy from the project says: “We’re really excited about receiving this grant from Open Gardens Victoria as it will allow us to run these workshops and enable more people to engage in and learn about growing food and plants.”

You can read more information about Farmer Incubator here: Farmer Incubator Melbourne

Inca Dunphy
Farmer Incubator Melbourne


Lakes Entrance Garden Club

Some may recall back in January 2020, during the devastating bushfires, we pledged to donate our share of the proceeds from the garden openings at Sunnymeade and Minter Drive Gully to bushfire recovery. Our committee has been working to find out how we can assist the rebuilding of gardens lost in these fires. We’re thrilled to announce The Lakes Entrance Garden Club as the first recipient of this funding.

The Lakes Entrance Garden Club is fuelled by the hardworking band of 140 members who have worked tirelessly to grow Australian native plants to distribute to those who so tragically lost their gardens and homes in these fires. This was an idea by long-time member Shirley Bardwell after the March 2019 bushfires in the Bunyip State Park/Tonimbuk area.


Initially, 2000 native plant tubes were donated by Martin Swanson's wholesale nursery at Heyfield. The small tubes were potted on at Northview Park (the home of Stan and Ann Barker – Stan is the President of the club). In November 2019 over 900 well-grown plants were delivered to the people of Tonimbuk. 

Then following the tragic fires in summer 2019/20 the 700 plus plants still in the care of the garden club were distributed in East Gippsland to Sarsfield, Buchan, Wairewa and Mallacoota areas to revegetate properties.

The Club will receive $5,500 from our Giving Program for the purchase of mulch, compost and fertiliser to continue to grow and supply plants to the residents of the fire-gutted local communities of East Gippsland. To date the club has propagated and distributed 8,000 plants through the efforts of the 140 members. The president, Stan Barker and his wife Ann were jointly awarded the 2022 Citizen of the Year by East Gippsland Shire Council for their work on the Bushfire Recovery Project.

Our gardens can be a precious part of our homes and the simple gift of a plant has helped give people hope for a better future. Although the production output of plants has been scaled back, the Lakes Entrance Garden Club continues to propagate, water, pot up and feed a poly house full of plants ready for future distribution. The club envisages this program will continue for at least another couple of years, or until all needs have been met.


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