North-east of Melbourne, the village of Warrandyte is a well-known tourist attraction filled with galleries, art and craft shops, restaurants, coffee shops and historical places of interest.
It’s also now home to a spectacular man-made raingarden, thanks to the efforts of the Warrandyte UC.
And towards the end of last year, the Riverflow Community Raingarden was officially opened, marking the completion of a project conceived four years earlier.
Church Council secretary and project team leader Leeanne Keam says the raingarden, designed by her husband and water engineer Ken, came about as the congregation looked to explore and expand on the theme of how to best look after the earth in their own backyard.
As such, it was consistent with the congregation’s key vision of “peace with God, peace with each other and peace with the earth”.
“We read a lot about how children feel a bit down about their future and the fact that climate change is one of the biggest things they are worried about,” Leeanne says.
“So we thought of this idea of a raingarden about four years ago and received grants from the Bendigo Bank and Manningham City Council, who have been amazingly supportive.
“We then went about designing the raingarden, and also thinking about how we could get the local children involved.”
Leeanne says the response from Warrandyte schools was so encouraging that the project became much bigger than anticipated.
“The community support has been amazing,” she says.
“So we ran sessions on water treatment and the importance of looking after and caring for our local river.
“We also had sessions with the local community around looking after our backyard, and organisations like Melbourne Water and the Yarra Riverkeeper Association were involved in that.”
Leeanne says community input was further strengthened as local kinder and school students were invited to paint more than 500 stones for the raingarden’s islands, using the “peace on earth” theme.
“What we have created now is a fully functioning raingarden, created with earthworks, which runs between two properties owned by the church,” she says.
Leeanne says the raingarden has played a major role in bringing the Warrandyte community together.
“Warrandyte is an area where people might describe themselves as atheist or having no faith at all,” she says.
“What we have found is that people like that have fully embraced the church’s peace mission and have come to understand that we stand for that theme of peace with the earth and looking after the environment.
“People are very open to that and, whereas they might not come to an actual church service, they really embrace this concept of looking after the land and sharing our resources, as well as looking after each other.
“It has enabled us to build some precious relationships with the community, and to establish a pretty special level of trust.
“Warrandyte is a highly ‘green’ area where people highly value and care for the land, and I think our raingarden project has touched a real chord with the community because it is consistent with their own values.”
Leeanne says the raingarden has become a space for the whole community to enjoy and she encourages members to take a walk through it.
Any who do might even meet two if its newest residents, as a wombat and kangaroo have become frequent visitors since the raingarden was established.