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Our most remote Kitchen Garden School: Rawa CS

Over the last ten years the number of Kitchen Garden Program schools has continued to grow and we now see the Program being delivered in a huge variety of school settings. There are many schools with large populations of Aboriginal students, and some schools in isolated areas, but Rawa Community School at Punmu in north-west Western Australia stands out as the most remote Kitchen Garden School.

The nearest town (Port Hedland) is 640 km away by road; temperatures range from zero in winter to over 50°C in summer and there is almost no rainfall. The distance and extreme conditions add considerably to the cost and time it takes to get things up and running, so Stephanie Alexander and CEO Ange Barry recently joined other Foundation staff on a trip to get to know the Mardu people better, and to learn from the unique challenges they face in delivering pleasurable food education to their students.

As part of preparing for the visit, the Foundation has been meeting with the WA Education and Health Departments and non-profit organisations such as Foodbank WA, who shared this visit with the Foundation. We’re particularly excited that the Indigenous languages section of the Education Department is keen to look at ways we can use our Program to provide Language and cultural connections in communities such as Punmu. This spirit of collaboration continued in the community itself, and we saw many parts of the community come together to support the school’s Kitchen Garden Program.

Once on the ground, Foundation staff helped the school’s enthusiastic children expand their garden beds, plant trees and sow plenty of seeds to help boost the supply of produce they need to cook with in their regular kitchen classes. A scavenger hunt was held at the local tip, where plenty of planters, scrap metal and pieces of fabric were found and used to create a jaunty scarecrow, among many artistic structures made to beautify the area and personalise the garden space for the students. Foodbank WA also led some fantastic cooking sessions using ingredients from the community store.

On their arrival Stephanie and Ange first toured the garden, where the youngest children were planting out their pumpkin patch and the middle school children were planting out their new mandala herb garden. Stephanie then led the older students in a pizza dough session, before everyone gathering together for a shared feast.

The school had recently finished a new wood-fired oven and the tables were soon filled with delicious pizzas and salads, all of which were enthusiastically enjoyed by the students and guests. There were no lizard pizzas this time, as one of the children suggested, but lots of traditional and native foods will be featuring on the school’s menus in the future. There are also plans to develop a bushtucker garden with the support of community elders, whose knowledge of local food sources, seed collection and storytelling will help the youth of Punmu to re-engage with their heritage and community.

The Foundation thanks the Mardu community and Rawa Community School Principal Lorraine Silgar and her staff for all their assistance and support during our visit to Punmu – we look forward to sharing more stories from the Rawa CS community in the future.

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