Community Happenings

SGAE Hamilton and partners have celebrated the end of their very first Garden to Plate program by doing what they do best, sharing fresh food and festive vibes! The Garden to Plate program launched in early 2019 and uses vegetable gardening and meal preparation to enhance language, literacy, numeracy and technology, and build skills for everyday living. It's an innovative approach to students obtaining a Certificate in Transition Education. Running one day a week, the program will commence again in February 2020 welcomes more participants along for the ride. Around 30 members of the Southern Grampians community came together on Monday 25th November for the Garden to Plate Summer Christmas, including program participants, carers, families, peers and the Mayor of the Southern Grampians Shire. Program participants showcased some of the fresh produce they have nurtured, and the cooking skills they’ve developed so far. HIRL garden volunteer Glenice says it’s important for participants to embrace the whole life cycle of the plants, ‘they’ve nourished little seedlings in the hothouse before they were even planted, they’ve been a part of the growth process from start to finish (garden to plate!)’.   Fresh garden beans, peas, carrots, beetroots, zucchini and varied herbs all featured in this weeks celebration.               Garden to Plate is much more than a gardening or cooking course, it’s about building life skills, utilising kitchen gardening to do so. Participants grow their social and organisational skills, problem solving abilities and more on top of learning about weights, measures, budgeting and shopping.   If you know of someone living with a disability who might be interested in Garden to Plate, get in touch with SGAE 48 Thompson Street or on 5571 9900.   Is your organisation, club, community group or school making a change so that the healthier choice is the easier choice? Let us know about it! Get in touch with Ebony at or 5551 8475 for support or to share your story.

Standing tall is a school based mentoring program ran out of Baimbridge College, matching trained volunteer mentors with at risk youth to establish trusting relationships for support, encouragement and guidance in the lives of young people.   Karen (mentor) and Nyah (mentee) are one of the 17 current pairs in the program. Karen and Nyah have been a Standing Tall pair for 3 years now and have built a strong relationship that has benefitted them both. Karen and Nyah often use their weekly mentoring time to get out for a walk! Whilst on occasion the pair will also go on driving lessons or play table tennis, they have really embraced the social walk and both find it a great way to break up their day. Nyah says walking has helped strengthen her relationship with Karen, “I find it easier to talk about things while we walk and it’s good one on one time” says Nyah, “’s refreshing to go for a walk in the middle of the school day”. Karen says all the mentoring pairs should try using their mentoring time for walking, because there’s so much to see in our area. “We’ve been to HIRL, along the Grange, out to the Wannon Falls and through the gardens. The whole reason we started walking was to show Nyah more of what’s out there in Hamilton”.        Standing Tall co-coordinator, Jane Crowe congratulates the pair for thinking outside the box and getting out and about. “It’s great for pairs to do something active, frequently in our program mentors take their mentees out for lunch, which is again great bonding time but sometimes not the best food choices are made. We’re looking to make healthier choices easier within our group as a whole, we now have a permanent fruit bowl in our mentoring space and display the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. It’s hard on our budget to provide healthy choices, but we are working on finding healthy alternatives”.     A big congratulations to Nyah and Karen for trying something new and healthy within their mentoring time! We hope they set the scene for other pairs to follow their lead and enjoy some active outdoor time. To find out more about Standing Tall, you can contact Jane at or phone 5572 2788 . How is your school, workplace, sporting club or community group encouraging healthy choices when it comes to food and activity? Let us share your story, contact Ebony at or phone 5551 8475

Lying just outside of the Southern Grampians shire, the Merino produce swap is one of the strongest in our area. Recently, swapper Kim Chintock shared just how the swap became so strong and how it’s evolved over the years. Could your community use some of these learnings to start a ‘swap’ of your own?                                                                                    The idea of a Merino produce swap evolved out of the Food for Thought conference back in 2012. A presentation from existing Nareen Swap group inspired a small local group to try a similar thing, and six years later they’re still going strong. The swap happens on the second Saturday of the month from 10am at the Merino Community Health Centre. A further idea stemmed from the swap team shortly after the swaps began, as the community centre had a large garden space, the team worked to establish a community garden. Starting with just three raised vegie beds, over time fruit trees, citrus buses and decorative plants have been established and maintained by volunteers. At each swap, attendees give a gold coin donation towards morning tea. This has raised over $1000 to date that has been injected directly into the upkeep of the community garden. Just recently, the swap group have changed their name to, ‘Merino Swap & Share’ because it's really about bringing anything along, putting it on the table and sharing. The word ‘share’ is important to the group, as not every transaction is a trade, you can bring along 'anything' and who knows you may take home a different 'anything'. Now, in addition to the monthly gatherings, excess produce and goods, especially in times of abundance at the entrance to the Merino Community Health Centre, for anyone to take or add to. The next step for the group is to create a Facebook group page where users can post what they have an excess of or goods they no longer require, as another means of maintaining the swapping culture between meets. The concept of sharing is a growing trend worldwide and Merino is up there with it!                                                  

Approximately 35 community members gathered in the The Hub Hamilton early on Tuesday morning to learn about and celebrate changes organisations, schools, sporting clubs and workplaces have made so that healthier choices are easier to make in their respective settings.   Ursula from South West TAFE, John from Western District Health Service, Lynne and Emily from Southern Stay Disability Services Inc and Fiona Hermon from Penshurst Primary School - Vic all shared their stories of change on the community panel.   There was lots of positive networking and buzz fuelled by delicious healthy catering from Cafe Gray, Tosca Browns and Jack + Jude.   We hope all who came along left feeling inspired to drive further change and promote healthy choices! As always, if you have an idea for change, need some support with healthy choices or have a story you'd like to share please do get in touch at We're already looking forward to the next celebration event!                  

Coleraine welcomed a community produce sharing basket last week! The sharing basket lives at new Coleraine cafe' the Catching Pen, and is a base for community members to drop their excess produce from any overflowing vegetable gardens to ensure it doesn't go to waste. The basket is accessible to anyone, and if you don't have produce to leave, you can still take as you please for a small donation that goes directly to the Coleraine Primary School Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program.  The philosophy is 'Give what you can and take what you need'.              Community member Beccy Wishart says the Coleraine community have really embraced the idea so far, "We picked up the concept from Dunkeld who have their own produce cart. Ours has been popular with the community so far, there's been plenty of support and we feel it's off to a flying start".  It's amazing what type of ripple effects small actions can have! The Coleraine crew picked up this idea from a similar initiative happening in Dunkeld, who were inspired by a community produce hub in Robe SA.    Do you know of any other produce swaps happening across the Southern Grampians? Or maybe you'd like some more information or tips to start your own? Contact Ebony at or on 5551 8475.       

The Dunkeld Old Bakery is now home to Dunkeld's first Community Produce cart!  The cart came to life after bakery manager Belinda heard several local gardens were overflowing. 'With so much produce growing at this time of year most of us just don't have the time to utilise it', Belinda said. Whilst produce carts are popping up in a number of places, Belinda first noticed one at a small cafe in Robe SA and knew this year it would be worthwhile implementing a similar thing in Dunkeld.  "We launched the cart on the Australia Day long weekend, there were plenty of visitors passing through town and they just loved it", Belinda said.   So, if you're in or passing through Dunkeld, drop by the cart and give your excess produce! If you don't have produce to give, you can still take what you need and choose to give a small donation, all of which are passed onto the Dunkeld Consolidated School's Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program.          Well done Dunkeld Old Bakery for making fresh produce more readily available and reducing waste for many!   Do you know of any other produce carts or swaps in our region? Or have an idea to get one going? Let us know about it! Contact Ebony at or 5551 8475 to chat.     

The healthy beverage choice was the easy one at Hamilton's Australia Day Celebrations! Southern Grampians Shire Council were on the front foot, supplying fresh drinking water through two dispenser stations and a 'Meet Pat' chilled dispenser at the Botanic Gardens. Approximately 380 people attended the celebrations, providing the feedback that it was brilliant to have easy access to Australia's Best Tasting water, whilst minimising waste at the event though avoiding bottled water.        Pictured is Maggie Mercer enjoying some great tasting water at the Hamilton Australia Day celebrations.     Whilst the dispensers pictured here are for council events only, Wannon Water have a range of water taps, dispensers, paper cups and more available for free hire for your next community event. There's no need to sell or supply bottled water when we have access to these resources! See link here for more details:…/sponsorship-and-grants.aspx   Has your community group, school, sporting club or workplace recently made a move to promote and encourage water consumption? We'd love to know about it! Get in touch and share your story with Ebony at or on 55518475. 

Are you a parent? Part of a community group? A sporting club? A school community? Local government? Health sector? Transport sector? Fitness industry?   Join a vast range of Southern Grampians community members and share your ideas to get our community moving!                                       Anyone and everyone is warmly welcomed to the upcoming active transport workshop, to provide valuable insights, experiences and views on active transport across our region. So what exactly is active transport? Active Transport includes walking, cycling, skating, skateboarding and any incidental activity associated with the use of transport. Currently, only 25% of Southern Grampians children use active transport to get to/from school, and just 46% meet the recommended physical activity guidelines of 60 minutes per day.   During the upcoming session on Thursday 29th November, we’ll investigate influences on our local children utilising active transport - what helps or hinders kids walking, riding or scooting to and/from school? Secondly, we’ll put our heads together and generate some ideas to create a Southern Grampians environment/culture that welcomes and encourages active transport. Increasing rates of active transport is just one way to increase our children’s physical activity levels and improve their health status!   Please circulate this event invite to anyone you think may be interested. A diverse range of participants are needed to piece together ideas that will get off the ground! Your own perspective, insight and support is greatly appreciated.   ***Details: When: Thursday November 29th Time: 4-6pm Spot: Hamilton District Skills Centre, Mt Baimbridge Rd Hamilton A light afternoon tea will be supplied.   RSVP is appreciated but not essential. RSVP’s or any queries can be directed to Ebony at or on 5551 8475 .   Hope to see you on Thursday 29th November!

Last week, Hamilton Community House held the first of two September school holiday activities, 'Make, bake, taste and take!'.   Deb King at the house has been running school holiday programs for years now, but this session was different in all the right ways. Previously the house has ran cooking skills sessions creating sweet treats and bakes, but there were no slices or biscuits in sight this time around!  Looking for an opportunity to integrate more of a health and well being lens into the program, Deb opted to run this holidays session with a lunchbox/savories theme. 'The session really allows kids to learn about different skills and build up their confidence in different cooking techniques' Deb says, 'Everything made today will go home with a recipe, and we hope families will replicate the foods again at home'.    The children pieced together mini pizza's, bacon and vegetable quiches and savory pin wheels with vegetable fillings.         In addition to recipe resources, each participating child also received a Nutrition Australia 'Pick and Mix' lunchbox information sheet to place on their fridge at home, providing families lots of healthy lunchbox ideas that fit into each of the 6 food groups. The children worked through and discussed the foods on this sheet during their afternoon tea break at the Community House, whilst snacking on a fruit platter!                                                                 Congratulations to Deb and her team of volunteers at the Hamilton Community House on a very successful healthy cooking session! To stay in the loop with all the happenings of the house, or to get information about future holiday programs, please visit or contact Deb on 5571 9780.       

Last fortnight, Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation, in conjunction with Western District Health Service, held their annual Close the Gap day celebrations in the Hamilton Botanic Gardens.  Close the Gap day acknowledges the health and life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous communities, as well as all the great work that is being done in order to minimise this.   At the event children were kept busy with, alongside other activities, building healthy lunchboxes! Western District Health Service Dietitians assisted children to identify each of the core food groups and before together discussing strategies to ensure all the food groups are represented in a lunchbox. The children then went on to draw their own representation of a healthy lunchbox! In addition to lunchbox education, there was also a sugar wall at the event that fostered lots of discussion around the nasty amounts of sugar hidden in these drinks.  Great to see health literacy messages being shared in engaging ways at Close the Gap day! Well done to Winda-Mara and WDHS!                                                            Has your organisation or community group recently incorporated some health promoting activity at your celebration or event? If so let us know about it! We'd love to share your story. Email or phone Ebony at or 5551 8475.