Youths create permaculture garden at Headspace Katoomba branch

Susan Templeman MP, permaculture graduate Erik Osterberg, Blackheath Rotary president Christina Jackson, Blackheath Rotary's Mina Howard, permaculture graduate Vaughan Jones, and Headspace Katoomba's Debra Mainwaring. Picture: Supplied
Susan Templeman MP, permaculture graduate Erik Osterberg, Blackheath Rotary president Christina Jackson, Blackheath Rotary's Mina Howard, permaculture graduate Vaughan Jones, and Headspace Katoomba's Debra Mainwaring. Picture: Supplied

The community gathered at Headspace Katoomba on Sunday, February 28, to view a new on-site permaculture garden built by young people.

The event also acted as a youth-led launch for the Headspace outlet, which services both the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains communities, and opened in August during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The driver behind the permaculture project was Headspace's senior clinician, Deb Mainwaring, who was keen to create a safe outdoor space for young people, where they could feel a part of nature, learn about healthy eating, and where 'incidental counselling' could happen in the garden while digging, weeding or simply sitting by a pond.

After attending an Introduction to Permaculture at Blackheath Community Farm, she was thrilled when Blue Mountains City Council helped source funding to run a Permaculture Design Course.

Despite an on-again-off-again start because of COVID, the course eventually engaged over 20 young people who set to work to create their dream space out of an unloved and overgrown site at the Headspace headquarters.

According to the project co-ordinator, Lis Bastian from The Big Fix and the Blue Mountains Pluriversity's Permaculture Institute, it was "inspirational" to see how passionately the young people committed to creating the garden - despite various setbacks including cold days and a huge blackberry patch.

"A highlight was a morning spent with Gardening Australia's Costa Georgiadis, who inspired them all," Ms Bastian said.

"They were also surprised and excited by the constant arrival of donations from the community - woodchip, cardboard, plants, compost bins, worm farms, bricks, tools, a fire pit and other materials that allowed them to make their designs a reality.

"In the end it was also a large donation from the Rotary Club of Blackheath which allowed them to build a terrace on the steeply sloping site. This worked brilliantly as a stage for young musicians on the opening day."

Ms Bastian congratulated Erick Osterberg and Vaughan Jones,who graduated from the permaculture course and designed the outdoor space.

Member for Macquarie, Susan Templeman, said the weekend's youth-led event was "a terrific way to showcase the way Headspace has already become a mental health hub for young people in the upper Mountains."

"It's clear there's a strong relationship with Mountains Youth Services Team (MYST), and both organisations recognise that demand for critical mental health services is greater than the data previously suggested," Ms Templeman said.

"Sunday was a fantastic opportunity for young people to come and get a feel for what Headspace offers, with local bands, food and information stalls. I was really pleased to see Family Planning NSW - of which I am a previous board member - there to discuss sexual health services, including the issue of consent."

Headspace is an early intervention mental health service for 12 to 25-year-olds.