Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

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Students join Minister to plant palms on National School Tree Planting Day  

On 27 July 2012 Youth Community Greening  program students and their teacher from Miller Technology High School assisted NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker to plant new palms in the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, following severe damage caused by flying foxes. Youth Community Greening is the offspring of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust’s Community Greening educational partnership with Housing NSW and Eden Gardens. The Trust would like to thank Eden Gardens for its generous financial support of this wonderful program, which focuses on helping today’s youth green their local environment and sow seeds for a greener future. 

Minister Parker met the western Sydney students - participants in special gardening projects designed to provide them with learning opportunities and give them a fresh start - in the Garden’s unique Palm Grove which has been devastated by thousands of flying-foxes. 'Before the flying-foxes made it their home, the Palm Grove was internationally recognised as one of the best palm gardens in the world,' Minister Parker said.

'However, at their peak there were 22,000 flying-foxes roosting at the Garden and over the years they killed 30 palms and 28 mature trees. More than 300 other trees and palms, including rare and heritage species, also suffered.

'The relocation of palms has been a success to date and the long-term aim is to restore Palm Grove to surpass its former glory and become Australia’s largest palm collection of more than 1,300 palms.

'Some of the palms are so rare they are at risk of extinction and growing specimens in the Palm Grove will contribute to their survival.'

The Miller Technology High School students who helped Minister Parker plant new palms are involved in the Royal Botanic Garden and Domain Trust’s Youth Community Greening program. For over a decade, Trust education horticulturists have been improving the lives of social housing tenants and other disadvantaged communities by helping them establish community garden projects. Since Youth Community Greening began in 2008, education horticulturalists from the Trust have provided 1,381 face-to-face sessions with 17,842 students in 112 garden projects.

Before the planting, the students’ teacher, Damien Fleming, was awarded the first Youth Community Greening excellence award for his commitment to gardening projects that engage students and provide them with learning opportunities.

Professor David Mabberley, Executive Director, the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, said it is important that school principals like Miller Technology High School’s Mr Bruce Axam support garden projects and the Youth Community Greening program.

It allows teachers like Damien Fleming to bring new opportunities to students,' Professor Mabberley said. 'Mr Fleming teaches the school curriculum such as maths and science in an outdoor setting to increase student engagement in learning and provide them with the experience and qualifications that can act as a stepping stone to a trade when they leave school.

'The boys who assisted in the planting are working towards a Certificate 1 in construction. Mr Fleming is also involved with designing an indigenous bush tucker garden with his students.

'The Youth Community Greening excellence award is due to Mr Fleming’s passion for using the environment to help inspire and engage ‘at risk’ students with the long-term aim of improving their lives as well as the local school environment.' 

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From left to right:  Felicity Tyson, Damien Fleming,  Tristen Osborne, Environment Minister Robyn Parker, Professor David Mabberley, Vinh Nguyen, James Barnes and Jarrod Butler