The Tomaree High School Growing Together Reconciliation Garden is in the process of receiving a complete overhaul.
In addition to refurbishing and upgrading the garden’s physical appearance, an impressive undercover barbecue brick structure was last week constructed through the efforts of students and teachers.
While the project has been some time coming, all key stakeholders agree that the finished product has been definitely worth the wait.
Real Futures Foundation has helped coordinate the project, liaising with a host of business and professional organisations, along with school staff and students to achieve an exceptional outcome.
The brick barbecue structure was constructed by up to 12 students through three days of searing heat.
The students were identified and chosen by the school’s Wellbeing teacher Scott O’Hara and construction was completed under the expert tutelage and guidance of Brick & Blocklayers Training Foundation’s (BBTF) Brendan Coyle.
Many of the students had never laid a brick or mixed cement before and yet the team was able to complete the mammoth structure, including rendering, in under four days.
“It’s been a real learning curve. I have enjoyed the work and Brendan has been great to work with,”Year 9 student Cody Pool said.
“It gives you a real sense of achievement.”
The barbecue has only been made possible through the generous donations of a number of organisations, including the BBTF, a $5,000 grant from Port Stephens Council, Valley Homes, who provided the bricks and mortar, Bunnings Port Stephens, and school staff, most notably Jim McColl and Ron O’Neill.
The surrounding garden has also undergone a makeover, with the planting of more than $500 worth of native and edible plants (courtesy of the school P & C), painting of decking and seats and the design and laying of new pathways.
The school’s Aboriginal Education Engagement Officer Lisa Martin has worked tirelessly with her students to ensure the area bears the true essence and representation of an indigenous meeting place.
“We have spent many hours clearing fallen leaves and branches, planting natives and edibles, painting structures, building pathways and generally tidying up both the gardens and smoking pit areas,” Ms Martin said.
“It is something not only the Aboriginal population, but the entire school community, can be proud of.”
An official opening is expected to be performed before the end of the 2016 school year.