Since opening its doors six years ago, Austin Street has had wonderful success in helping its residents, who are young people living with an acquired brain injury (ABI), achieve their dreams.
However, one big goal that has eluded them has been a garden that would be a healing and restorative space for its 10 residents.
The only garden they have is a courtyard with a beautiful maple tree in the centre. But the layout of the space means the residents, several who are in wheelchairs, cannot enjoy it.
That will soon change – thanks to the generosity of Villa Maria Catholic Homes supporters, more than $30,000 has been raised to build a sensory garden at Austin Street.
With no government funding available, VMCH asked for donations to help fund the redesign and landscape of the existing garden into a beautiful sensory garden featuring walkways for wheelchairs, raised planter boxes, a water feature, colourful flowers, vegetables, mood lighting and much more.
We all love a beautiful garden – but for people with physical, cognitive, sensory and memory impairments a garden can be life changing.
The new garden will give Austin Street residents a safe, tactile and relaxing environment to enjoy nature.
Austin Street manager Joanne Herbert said the new garden will make a huge difference to the majority of the residents who are unable to leave the house alone.
“A lot of our residents have lost at least 90 per cent of their independence,” Joanne said.
“If you pick five things you really like to do – take four of them away and you’re left with one – that’s what the residents feel like.”
“Anything that they can actually have control over will give them back a bit of that independence … it’s awful having to wait for someone to open a door for you or go anywhere.”
There are also plans to start a new therapy – plant therapy – where plants and garden activities will be used to improve body, mind and spirit.
It is hoped that the sensory garden would provide stimulation for all the senses and improve residents’ motor skills by working in the garden and touching the plants.
Austin Street is Victoria’s first purpose-built residence for young people with an ABI who may otherwise be forced to live in a nursing home.
Regardless of the severity of their ABI, the short and long-term goal for Austin Street is to return each resident to the community as soon as possible and to improve their independence.