In Summary

  • Students learn lost skills of growing and cooking their own food
  • Community garden established with $11,000 donation
  • Young Mums learn about food safety and nutrition


Members of Swinburne’s award-winning Young Mums Program are ready to turn the first sod on their own community garden and plan to harvest beans, chives, parsley and thyme this spring. 

The garden has been designed and built by the students as part of the program that offers a Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL) to mothers aged 15-20 years at Swinburne’s Croydon campus. It is an extension of a study program helping young women take control of their lives.

Young Mums Coordinator Louise Schilling says the garden project “will give students a chance to get their hands dirty and at the same time, teach them the lost skills of growing and cooking their own food."

The community garden was established using an anonymous $11,000 donation and the young women have spent the last few months learning the basics of horticulture and planning their gardens.

“The garden project has three phases and each will teach students a range of skills,” Ms Schilling says.

“The first phase is the set up and sourcing of material to set up a garden, safety and the environment.

"The second will give students an idea of where plant food comes from and the third will teach them the benefits of home-grown food, food safety, nutrition and how to cook healthy food.”

Planting a seed

Year 12 student Ash Lanko is busily planning what she will plant in her garden and has learned about natural pest control and companion planting.

“Staff from the horticulture department came along to teach us about soil preparation, watering, fertiliser and the risks and hazards of working in a garden such as wearing hard shoes and keeping our kids buckled in their prams,” Ms Lanko says.

“My dad worked in horticulture but I didn’t know anything about gardening before this. Now I understand the basics and I could start my own garden and grow my own vegetables for my son Hayden, 14 months."

The Young Mums program is one of Swinburne’s success stories and assists young mothers to complete a VCAL course while caring for their young children. Classrooms are set up with change tables and toys so that mothers can care for their children while they study.

More than 130 Young Mums have completed Year 12 through the Young Mums Program since it began in 2007.

In 2009, the Young Mums Program won the Diversity@Work and NAPCAN Safe Communities awards for its success in helping young mothers train and enter the workforce. It was also acknowledged as the Victorian Training Initiative of the Year at the 2009 Victorian Training Awards.