Developing small farms on unused land in urban areas could help alleviate chronic unemployment for refugees resettled in Australia.
At Mangerton in Wollongong, Karenni refugees are transforming a steep hillside next to the Saint Therese Primary School, into a traditional terraced garden.
According to University of Wollongong geographer Ananth Gopal, community gardens could help refugees avoid the sort of isolation that comes with long-term unemployment.
The Karenni community garden is being developed on less than half-a-hectare of land with poor soils, but its volunteers are rapidly transforming it into a traditional food garden.
General manager Jess Moore said the group employed more than 100 refugees and young people last year in a waste recovery business and growing food for trade on a five hectare urban farm at Warrawong.
“There’s so many barriers when a refugee first comes to Australia in terms of finding a job, so apart from the obvious, learning English, learning how to catch a train or drive a car, a lot of refugees have never had either a paid employment experience at all because they’ve always lived in a refugee camp or they’ve never had a paid employment experience working in Australia so we chose to work in industries where a lot of former refugees are really skilled like chemical free farming,” Ms Moore said.
“Australians aren’t great at chemical-free farming generally, a lot of refugees are and it’s a real opportunity while refugees are learning the language, learning about working in Australia, they’re also making an incredibly meaningful contribution in terms of sharing their skills.”