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VCAL students to continue work on Indigenous garden

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SOUTH West TAFE’s VCAL students have put their green thumbs to the test and created an Indigenous garden for the pupils at Merrivale Primary School with works set to continue this year.

The Intermediate VCAL (Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning) students started the project in 2020 with the goal of replacing environmental weeds with locally Indigenous and low maintenance plants.

With the assistance of Warrnambool City Council, Worn Gundidj plant nursery and students from the Merri River School, more than 300 plants were selected and planted.

South West TAFE teacher Niall Shiells said following the easing of Covid restrictions earlier in 2020 his students needed a project and the Indigenous garden gave them the chance to develop their transferable skills and complete VCAL units of literacy, numeracy, work related skills and personal development skills.

“Practical assessments are a big part of VCAL and with Covid restrictions this has been extra challenging in 2020.

“The students did a brilliant job and worked on the project from the very start, including helping to write the submission for a Victorian Junior Landcare and Biodiversity Grant which we were successful in gaining.

“They also measured the site, ordered the appropriate amount of mulch and improved their communication skills by meeting with different groups and local experts including Lisette Mill from Basalt to Bay Landcare who provided advice and taught the students how to make seed bombs,” he said.

Student Teegan Ashworth said she enjoyed the project and getting outside and working in a team to help the community.

“I really enjoyed learning to make seed bombs but we also faced some challenges including working in the heat and Covid restrictions of course,” she said.

Merrivale Primary School principal Simon Perry said the Indigenous garden project was a fantastic opportunity for the school to partner with South West TAFE on a project that benefitted their students and school community.

“Our students and staff will have an opportunity to develop their knowledge and understanding of local Indigenous flora and fauna by being involved at different stages of the project, connect with local Indigenous Elders and build their cultural understandings of our community and learn alongside VCAL students and TAFE staff.

“We hope this is the start of many collaborative community projects our students and staff can work on with SWTAFE,” Mr Perry said.

The project will continue with a new VCAL class in 2021 and will including creating interpretive signs and some further landscaping work.