Each Monday, a group of women from migrant and refugee backgrounds visits Victoria’s Government House to take part in activities such as gardening, cooking, and handicrafts. They enjoy lunch with the Governor Linda Dessau AC and her husband, Anthony Howard QC, as well as tours of the buildings that have defined our state and country since 1876.
Run in partnership with Community Hubs Australia and the Scanlon Foundation, The Peace and Prosperity Kitchen Garden Program welcomes women from different Community Hubs each term. More than 240 women from 30 different backgrounds have taken part since it first began in 2015.
The program provides an opportunity to spend the day in an inclusive environment, build social connections, develop English-language skills, and grow in confidence. You can easily see how this initiative has fostered greater connections among the local communities, and also between the women and their home city.
‘Often the one thing that initially connects the women is the need to connect with others. This program is a small way in which my husband Tony and I can contribute to those important connections, and a sense of belonging for the women we welcome,’ explains the Governor, who is conscious that many participants hail from countries where they may have not felt safe nor welcome.
When I visit, it’s the last Monday of term and the women, originally from Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Vietnam among other countries, laugh with each other like close friends. They gather salad greens for lunch and huddle for a few prize selfies in-between – the back-drops of the Italianate Government House, lush Royal Botanical Gardens, and Melbourne’s skyline demand it really!
The energy is electric as I chat with some of the women, and I feel it in my cheeks as I subconsciously mirror their wide smiles. Later, over tea in Government House’s State Dining Room and the lunch table inside The Cottage, several women, unprompted, choose to speak of their pasts, hopes for the future, and express gratitude for the gathering.
‘In hosting these women in Victoria’s Government House, we intend to send a clear message to them that they are welcome in Victoria as a part of our vibrant and multicultural community,’ adds the Governor, who on Tuesday had her term extended until 2023 by the Queen. ‘We encourage everyone to be involved in their own communities, in whatever way they are able, to pass on this message of unity.’
Find out more about the Governor’s Peace + Prosperity Kitchen Garden Program, here, as well as myriad ways Community Hubs Australia is supporting migrant and refugee women to overcome social isolation, here.
Tomorrow, we will take you on a virtual tour inside Victoria’s Government House! The House and grounds will also be open to the public as part of Open House Melbourne on July 27th, 2019.
The Governor of Victoria, Linda Dessau AC, started the Peace and Prosperity Kitchen Garden Program when she was appointed in July 2015. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
The Governor worked as a magistrate in the Children’s Court and the Melbourne Magistrates Court before serving as a Family Court judge from 1995 to 2013. She was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2010 and a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2017, for service to the Victorian community.Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
Women from migrant and refugee backgrounds visit Government House to take part in activities such as cooking, gardening and handicrafts. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
More than 240 women from 30 different backgrounds have taken part since it first began. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
They gather lunch ingredients before touring Government House and joining the Governor and her husband for lunch. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
Horticulturist, Suzie, helps the women to plant, pick, and care for the vegetables and herbs that grow in the garden, and also maintains the beautiful veggie patch throughout the week. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
The women laugh among each other like close friends as they gather lunch ingredients and pose for selfies. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
‘My hope is that, during my term as Governor, I will be able to reflect the values within our broader Victorian community and share the message of our State motto – Peace and Prosperity – with all Victorians,’ tells the Governor. ‘The kitchen garden program is just one part of that work.’ Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
Since her appointment as governor in 2015, the Governor and Mr Howard have become patrons to more than 160 community organisations. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.
‘Being the first female Governor is just one sign of changing times,’ says the Governor. ‘I am pleased that the gender of future Governors will be an unremarkable feature’. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.