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Finished at last: Randwick Sustainability Hub Official opening — International permaculture Day 2018

What do you call a city park, permaculture demonstration garden, up-and-coming orchard, community centre retrofitted for energy and water efficiency, children’s playground, beehive enclosure, public open space, a classroom made largely of recycled building materials, reedbed water recycling toilet, renewable energy systems, Wildfood and Habitat trails, 13 hectares of rare Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub including an ephemeral lake and a community resilience education program laid on top of all this?

The answer: Randwick Sustainability Hub.

It was for the official opening of the completed three-stage project that concludes the construction of the Hub that people gathered around Randwick mayor, Lindsay Shurey, and Costa Georgiardis, host of ABC Gardening Australia and promoter of permaculture design. Standing in the new Meeting Place, a pergola shelter and gathering area, attendees to International Permaculture Day 2018 watched as the mayor and Costa launched the conclusion of the final phase of construction.

Randwick mayor, Lindsay Shurey (centre, white shirt), with council sustainability educator Fiona Campbell (black shirt behind plaque) launching the last stage in the development of the Randwick Sustainability Hub at the Randwick Community Centre. Horticultural educator Emma Daniell (yellow dress) co-leads the PermaBee garden volunteers and other initiatives in the Permaculture Interpretive Garden at the Hub. The others are some of the Permabee crew with landscape architect/permaculture educator, Steve Batley, behind.

Mayor Lindsay Shurey, at right, opens the upgrade. At left, council sustainability educator, Fiona Campbell, who inspired the retrofit of the community centre building for energy and water efficiency, the development of the Permaculture Interpretive Garden and construction of the Meeting Place entryway pergola and landscaping.

Host of ABC Gardening Australia and champion of the permaculture design system, Costa Georgiardis, introduced the mayor who opened the upgrade.

Costa Georgiardis' speech at the opening of the upgraded entryway.

While the name, Randwick Sustainability Hub, refers to the resilience education and schools excursion program, Wild Food Trail, Habitat Trail and Permaculture Interpretive Garden, it fits all of the features found in this place, a place that has become a regional park attracting visitors from the Sydney Eastern Suburbs and beyond.

Construction of the Meeting Place continued to the day before the official opening. At left is the pergola which will eventually be covered by a shady deciduous vine. Open space and seating at centre will be shaded by trees. The timber structure at right rear will hold information about creating habitats. At the entrance is wayfinding sign directing visitors to different features on site. Rain falling on the roof cascades into a rill that takes it into the garden for irrigation. The area around the eucalypts at right is planted to flowering plants — our cottage garden — including herbs and native plants adapted to the dry, sandy soils. There, they provide forage and home to birds, bees from the Sydney Bee Club's nearby hives and lizards.
On the day before the opening, looking from the southern side, we see landscape architect, Steve Batley preparing the Meeting Place landscaping. The installation provides unimpeded access from the community centre building to the open space. At right is the classroom-on-the-commons, build largely of recycled building materials. The grid-connected wind turbine and a photovoltaic array on the roof offsets energy use in the community centre. The sprinkler uses rainwater, and in in dry times draws from the aquifer.
The opening of the Meeting Place included a participatory public planting led by ABC Gardening Australia host, Costs Georgiardis (top). The Amazing Drumming Monkeys kept the children entertained.
Planting out is nothing new to horticulturist and landscape designer Emma Daniell. Emma is a permaculture educator at Randwick Sustainability Hub.
Attending the launch was Randwick councillor, Kathy Nielson (ALP; at centre of photo on left). Right: Costa Georgiardis.

A day to celebrate a global social movement

International Permaculture Day came early to Randwick this year so that it could link with the energy and ideas coming from the Australasian Permaculture Convergence that concluded in Canberra a couple days before, and with the other events showcasing the permaculture design system around the world.

At the Hub, International Permaculture Day featured:

  • tours of the site led by permaculture-trained architect, Terry Bail from Archology, who designed the retrofit of the community centre, the garden shed, BBQ area, Wayfinding sign, the reedbed water recycling toilet and classroom-on-the-commons and who teaches at the Hub
  • tours of the gardens and landscaping led by landscape architect/permaculture educator, Steve Batley from Sydney Organic Gardens who designed the landscaping and who teaches at the Hub
  • a LETS trading event and talk organised by Annette Loudon from Community Exchange Systems; LETS (Local Exchange and Trading Systems) is a cashless, community-based trading system
  • workshops on beekeeping by native bee expert, Elke Haege; there are five native social beehives on site, the purpose being to reintroduce Trigona species to the urbanscape, to pollinate flowers, fruit and vegetables in the gardens and to produce a small amount of honey; the solitary native bee motels to reintroduce bees such as the blue banded and resin bees; the hives are maintained by Sydney Bee Club
  • workshops with Oliver Brown, who for a year conducted a life-experiment of living off what he could grow in his home garden, in Randwick Community Organic Garden, from what he could obtain from neighbours and crop swaps, from what he could harvest from the rockshelves of the Eastern Suburbs coast, fish from the sea and by what he could hunt; Oliver leads wild food walks on the Eastern Suburbs coast.
FROM UPPER LEFT clockwise: 1. Oliver demonstrates how to open a sea urchin. 2. A sea urchin, spiky but edible. 3. Extracting the edible part from a sea urchin — tastes like soft, salty oyster. 4. Pickled kelp, a tasty seaweed. 5. Acorns collected by Oliver as wild harvest of the suburbs.
Left: Elke Haege of Elkie Bees with one of five hives for native social bees she made for installation at Randwick Sustainabiity Hub. She led a workshop in social and solitary native bees on International Permaculture Day 2018. Centre: Doug Purdie of The Urban Beehive, which produces honey in hives located in the suburbs, Sydney CBD and Randwick Sustainability Hub, led tours of the Sydney Bee Club's honey and native bee hives at the Hub. Right: Accommodation for native solitary bees and other insects forming part of the integrated pest management of the Permaculture Interpretive Garden.

The Hub — community education in a regional park

Randwick Sustainability Hub is open to the public. Its features include:

The Permaculture Interpretive Garden demonstrating take-home ideas to visitors, small-scale intensive vegetable and culinary herb production for Eastern suburbs residents; the Hub serves as training venue for the long-running, seven-session Organic Gardening course.

The Permaculture Interpretive Garden consists of the Kitchen garden seen in these photos, where mainly annual vegetables and herbs are grown, as well as the Forest Garden where young tree crops are coping with the nutrient-poor, sandy soils. The Wild Food Trail connects the gardens to the classroom and the Habitat Trail used in the pre-and-primary schools basic sciences program and the Sydney Bee Club's honey bee and native bee hive enclosure. The Kitchen garden demonstrates raised garden beds made of a variety of materials.
Design ideas for small space Eastern Suburbs gardens are found in the Permaculture Interpretive Garden, such as this aquaponic system. The seats house fish tanks. Water and nutrients are pumped from the tanks to the vertical growing arrays in which vegetables, herbs and flowers are grown in an expanded clay matrix as a hydroponic system. The water is recirculated through the tanks and vertical arrays, bringing nutrients to the fish tanks. The terracotta pipe sections seen in the photo at right house solitary native bees and other beneficial insects. On the fence behind the aquaponic system are different types of vertical gardens.

The Food Forest that serves the seven-session Forest Gardening course offered as a follow-on to the Organic Gardening course, and that shows ideas for people wanting to grow fruit and nut trees at home or in their community garden.

In the Food Forest garden, pomegranate, arrowroot, a range of citrus, longan, figs, olives, icecream bean, comfrey, pigeon pea, alfalfa, thyme, oregano, wormwood, southernwood, catnip, cat mint, hysop, rhubarb, artichoke, strawberries, chives, sorrel and more, and a windbreak of sugar cane, vetiver grass and bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii, a species with edible shoots) form a windbreak. The Food Forest, used in the Permaculture Orchard course, is still in its establishment phase.

Randwick Community Centre, a building retrofitted for energy and water efficiency and used to demonstrate ideas for resilient living in the Living Smart course

The Community Centre kitchenette uses plantation-grown, Australian hoop pine, low-VOC and recycled hardwood working surfaces and water-efficient appliances.
The community centre kitchenette uses Australian-grown hoop pine plywood, eboard low-VOC emission shelving and recycyled hardwood working surfaces. The displays on the doors are about the virtual water embodied in foods during their production. They are used in the school excursion program.

The Habitat Trail landscaped as wildlife habitat for birds, frogs, lizards and other creatures and for use by the schools excursion program in ecology. It forms the Zone 5 in a permaculture system.

The dip-netting pond on the Habitat Trail used for the school's program.
Left: Sandstone blocks provide seating for visitors and school groups on the schools excursion program where they gather around an educator.

As it grows, the Wild Food Trail will demonstrate native and local plants suited to wild harvesting such as midyim berry, wombat berry, apple dumpling, davidson plum, native tamarind, macadamia, lemon myrtle, lomandra, acacia and warrigal greens.

The classroom-on-the-commons, designed by Terry Bail and built largely of reused building materials; the classroom houses the Organic Gardening, Permaculture Orchard and Living Smart courses as well as workshops.

Built using recycled hardwood, bricks, aggregrate and telegraph poles, the classroom-on-the-commons serves Randwick Council sustainability community resilience courses and events. A large water tank stores rainwater falling on the roof for garden irrigation. A covered, outside area makes space for practical learning while sandstone blocks provide spill-out space for workshops and play for children. As they grow, pecan trees will shade the blocks. In the second photo, the landscaping along the path is being developed as a wild food trail. The plantings in the foreground are around the rainwater infiltration soak.

A public toilet modeled on the natural wetland (what is called 'biomimicry', permaculture being nature-assisted design); human and kitchen wastes are processed through reedbeds and then through untraviolet light sterilisation before flowing to the garden as irrigation-quality water.

A filtered water station was installed to encourage people to refill their water bottles rather than buy single-use, throw-away bottles. Top photo: Designed by architect Terry Bail (Archology), the public toilet was built of recycled hardwood. An interpretive graphic on the wall educates visitors how the system works. Lower photo: Council sustainability educator, Fiona Campbell, shows New Zealand permaculture educator, Robina McCurdy, the artificial wetland that processes black and grey water into irrigation-quality water.

The schools excursion program includes solar energy, water, seeds and ecology.

One of the native social bee hives along the Habitat Trail that is used for the school's education program. The hives were painted by children attending the Eco Heroes Club for 5-11 year old. The hives are padlocked into gabions to prevent theft.

Workshops that educate people in strategies for resilient living they can adopt in their lives, such as renovating, low toxic cleaning, decluttering your home and life using permaculture principles, home and community garden food production, food preserving, aquaponics, small space gardening, beekeeping of both native and honey bees.

Horticultural scientist Jon Kingston (top left) assists in teaching the Organic Gardening course. A member of Inner West Seedsavers, Jon cultivates plants for seed collection in the Permaculture Interpretive Garden (top right). Students in the Organic Gardening course learn to make mulched garden (lower photos).
FROM TOP LEFT clockwise: 1. Regular bicycle workshops are held at the Hub. 2. Collaborative economy educator, Annette Loudon, harvests Dianella lily, a bushfood from the Hub's garden. 3. Fiona Campbell checks the chia planted by the Organic Gardening course. 4. Cornersmith offers food preserving workshops an International Permaculture Day events. 5. The Hub's trailer used by Randwick Council's summer activities program. 6. A LETS (Local Exchange and Trading Systems) workshop and trading day at an International permaculture Day. 7. The Permabees garden volunteer program provides learning, active recreation and social contact for local people.
The Training Garden, part of the Permaculture Interpretive Garden, consists of self-watering ('wicking') gardens in halved recycled IBC (Intermediate Bulk Container) containers clad in recycled hardwood.

The Living Smart course focuses on food, retrofitting homes, community involvement and behavioral change.

The Community Leadership course trains people to assume a leadership role in the community and organisations. The courses include introduction to leadership and behaviour change, group facilitation, decision making with groups, effective communication and video production.

The community leadership course includes decision making in groups, important for anyone working with community organisations.

The Eco Heroes Club for 5-11 year olds meets monthly and provides fun and skilling-up for children and their parents and carers who attend. The Club makes use of the classroom-on-the-commons and other facilities at the Randwick Sustainability Hub.

Top: Eco Heroes paint native beehives. Middle: (left) Eco Heroes learn about bees at the Sydney Bee Club hives. (right) Eco Heroes learn to preserve vegetables with trainers from Cornersmith. Lower: Eco Heroes display the preserved vegetables they made.

The PermaBee program was started to help in maintaining the Permaculture Interpretive Garden and to provide gardening education and social contact for local people. Meeting Fridays, PermaBees are a relaxed social opportunity and led by qualified horticulturists.

In 2018, Australian Conservation Volunteers used the Permaculture Interpetive Garden for its Green Gym program to provide outdoor exercise for aged people.

Randwick mayor, Lindsay Shurey (red jacket at centre) thanked the Green Gym team at a dinner in their honour. At right: horticultural educator Jon Kingston, Randwick Council sustainability educator Fiona Campbell who organises activities at the Sustainabity Hub (orange shirt). In rear row second from right, horticultural educator Emma Daniell.

Utilising recycled brick paving and reused hardwood in its construction, the role of the Meeting Place is to provide seating and a pleasant place for relaxing, for waiting for workshops and events and meeting with friends. As vines grow to cover the pergola and as the trees grow it will become a shady place during the warm months; included in the design are a wayfinding noticboard directing people to different parts of the Hub. The structure and its immediate space provide an unimpeded link and easy access between the community centre building with the open space of Munda Street Reserve beyond.

Rainwater falling on the roof of the entryway signage stand flows into a downpipe and cascades into a rill that takes it to a soak in the garden.

A place for people, nature and learning

For passive education, interpretive signage was installed throughout the site. This one provides a map of the Permaculture Interpretive Garden. It was designed by Rob Allsop, who illustrated Rosemary Morrow's books on permaculture design.
The Habitat and Wild Food trails diversify the space for walkers.

International Permaculture Day 2018 — the lights come on

Those who have been coming to the Hub over its eight years of existence have seen it change from a poor-performing community centre building with a large, low-grade lawn area into a truly multiple-purpose regional park, community and learning centre and biodiverse garden. It was this that mayor Lindsay Shurey opened the final stage of the Hub project on International Permaculture Day 2018.

A wayfinding sign is to be installed at the entrance.
Where there was darkness now there is light. Evening comes on as International Permaculture Day 2018 draws to an end at Randwick Sustainability Hub. Activated by a movement sensor, the lights came on for the first time to illuminate the path from the entrance, past the community centre building, along the olive grove and on to the classroom.
Created By
Russ Grayson
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Photos and story by Russ Grayson — https://pacific-edge.info

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