A severe acquired brain injury (ABI) cruelly takes away many of life’s simple pleasures. Daily routines, work and hobbies can all become too hard for people who have a severe ABI and they need help to do many things they once easily did on their own.
A new accessible garden is giving 10 people with an ABI something wonderful back at their Alphington home, operated by Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH).
Austin Street is Victoria’s first purpose-specific residence for young people with an ABI and VMCH has raised about $30,000 through fundraising to create the new accessible garden space for them.
The generous donations have paid for three accessible and landscaped spaces for residents to enjoy.
The main courtyard is paved with bluestone and includes a raised pond, now home to some goldfish. A sensory garden surrounds the pond and features plants that stimulate the senses. It is a safe, tactile and relaxing environment to enjoy nature.
Austin Street manager, Joanne Herbert, said the layout of the previous spaces stopped many residents, particularly those in wheelchairs, from fully enjoying Austin Street’s outdoor spaces.
“Residents always enjoyed coming out to the garden, but it was difficult for some of them to enjoy it,” she said.
“Now they have this lovely space that is paved and accessible to people in wheelchairs. We love the pond and the sound of the trickling water and the goldfish. It gets a lot of use.”
Landscape gardener, Damien Carmody, from YMCA ReBuild said the aim of the project was to make it accessible to all residents.
“It was a nice area, it gets a good amount of sunlight throughout the year,” he said.
“But there wasn’t anywhere really suitable for them to sit and congregate, so we wanted to open up what was a pretty poorly maintained garden and put the paving down so that there was access and somewhere to sit that was pleasant.”
He has also created a smaller and more private garden in a courtyard off a spa room. It is a lovely space with a timber deck, landscaped garden and retaining wall.
He has also landscaped an aviary where residents enjoy watching two playful blue-throated parakeets fly around and sing from the comfort of Austin Street’s dining room.
Acquired brain injury (ABI) refers to any type of brain injury that occurs after birth. It can include damage from infection, disease, lack of oxygen, a stroke or a blow to the head.
About 730,000 Australians have an ABI. About 160,200 of those people have a severe ABI and need daily support.
Austin Street provides accommodation and innovative therapy for 10 young people with an ABI who might otherwise be living in aged care.
It has helped them achieve many goals they once thought were out of their reach, since opening its doors in 2010.
Two residents are preparing to move out, something they dreamed about, but thought might not happen.