Just up from Little Beach is a thriving oasis of endemic plants housed in a community facility called the Ngioka Horticulture Therapy Centre.
Ngioka specialises in local and other native plants suitable for the Port Stephens area.
“We grow native species which are then made available to a range of groups including LandCare, government departments, developers, the Worimi people and, of course, the general public,” coordinator Steve Crooks said.
Ngioka is a purpose-built centre for people with disabilities.
The plants are propagated and nurtured through Ngioka’s Horticulture Therapy program which provides a supportive space for people with disabilities to learn skills under the guidance of experienced staff.
People participating in the program are referred via a range of organisations and Mr Crooks described it as a “neutral service” open to any groups within the disability framework.
Regulars Warwick Rumble and Peter Madden participate in the Horticultural Therapy program as well as other activities.
“They do a great job. They are very much a part of Ngioka,” Mr Crooks said.
Mr Rumble said he enjoyed taking part in the different programs on offer.
“I like everything. I like the planting,” he said.
Program Supervisor Jenny Megson has worked at the Horticultural Therapy Centre for almost nine years.
She coordinates the horticultural program as well as a range of other programs including the monthly disco, arts and crafts, cooking and musical activities.
“I have a horticultural background, so the job is very rewarding,” she said.
“But most of all I love seeing the guys enjoying themselves and developing new skills as well as socialising with other members of the community.”
The Ngioka Horticulture Therapy Centre is reliant on funding and local residents can assist in a number of ways.
“Members of the public can buy our stock, which then helps to support and continue our programs,” Mr Crooks said.
“Volunteers do not require any specific skill set and can get involved in maintenance and propagation activities.”
For more information, call Ngioka on 4984 3487 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jo FINN