Doorstop Community Garden North Wagga Wagga NSW

Michael McCormack: It’s fantastic to be here in Gardiner Street, North Wagga Wagga. And who would have thought that tucked away in North Wagga would be a veritable Garden of Eden? It’s promoted here by the Wagga Wagga Multicultural Council but more importantly by people who’ve come to call Wagga Wagga home - people who’ve come here as migrants, people who’ve come here as refugees, people who’ve come here and are growing a fantastic garden, the produce of which will be used in not just Wagga shops but also perhaps most importantly at the annual fusion festival. And even the gods are very happy about that.

The produce here, grown with loving hands, is going to made up into very flavoursome treats at the Wagga Fusion Festival which is now held each October. The Fusion Festival started seven years ago, a multicultural celebration of all things that make Wagga Wagga great – and that is immigration, that is multiculturalism, and that is all the traditions that we’re so proud of here in this city. But seven years ago, it started with – Belinda Crain tells me – a couple of thousand people. I would have thought it was a little bit less than that but the fact is it’s grown now into one of the must-go-to features of the Wagga Wagga calendar, the Wagga Wagga social calendar, the Wagga Wagga festival calendar. It’s now attracting nearly 15,000 people each and every October, where the main street’s blocked off and people come together from all races, from all faiths, from all creeds to celebrate the great things about living here in this fantastic city, the best city in Australia, but also to celebrate what’s great about multiculturalism as well.

The Federal Government is partnering with the Wagga Wagga City Council and partnering with the Wagga Wagga Multicultural Council, and we’ve put $18,400 on the table for a strategy - some analysis to see how we can even grow this festival into even bigger and better things. We want to make sure that this is one of the best festivals not just in Wagga Wagga but indeed in the entire Riverina region, indeed in entire country New South Wales. That’s why we’ve put $18,400 on the table for this important festival - to see how we can grow it even further, to see how we can get even more people to the festival and to ensure that its success is guaranteed into the future.

This is part of the community investment stream under the Building Better Regions fund. It’s a good investment. It’s a wise investment. It gives Belinda Crain and her fantastic team at the Multicultural Council something to ensure that the future festivals are a success, but it also gives the council something to look at to ensure that they can grow this festival into something that’s even bigger and better.

Journalist: You’ve had a look around; are you impressed with some of the produce you’ve seen?

Michael McCormack: Well, I couldn’t grow it. I’m no green thumb, I couldn’t grow produce as good as this; they’re growing everything from eggplant to tomatoes. You name it, they’re growing it here at the North Wagga Community Garden. They are very good at what they do. This fruit, these vegetables, all the produce here will be used at this year’s fusion festival which is going to be so much better thanks to that Federal Government grant, but it’s also finding its way into Wagga shops, it’s finding its way into Wagga Wagga homes, and I’m sure it tastes pretty good too.

Journalist: Mayor, what’s the grant going to do? What does it mean to council?

Greg Conkey: This is a great project. As mentioned this is a little bit of an Eden right in the middle of North Wagga. It’s great; it’s a community project, and as Michael mentioned the produce will be used at our Fusion Festival. Fusion Festival is one of the biggest festivals that we have in this city. Michael mentioned between 14,000 and 15,000 people will be attending this year. It’s in the middle of October. It’s one of the highlights of our social calendar. We are very much a multicultural community and the Fusion Festival celebrates the fact that we are a multicultural community. So full credit to all these people who are standing behind me. I share with Michael, this is a fantastic sort of garden and I was really blown away when I came here earlier today. So a lot of work’s gone into it. It’s a great community project - full credit to all those people within the community and Multicultural Council for putting this together.   

Forough Ataollahr: My name is Forough and I’m from Persian community.

Journalist: And tell us a bit about some of the work that you do here?

Forough Ataollahr: I’m coming from a farming family and my parents are farmers as well, so we used to have all of these veggies back at home in Iran. So we thought, why we are not using these skills here? So we have tomato, eggplants, okra, all of these things back in here, feeding the community, and we always love to share our veggies as well. So we are sharing these things with our neighbours, friends, colleagues as well, at university and work as well.

Journalist: It seems like a bit of a way to connect with your home and your heritage.

Forough Ataollahr: That’s right. I mean living in Wagga, the fantastic thing about living in Wagga is that it just reminds us of our home because I am coming from a farming family. Here in Wagga - a regional area – people are friendly so I never think that I am in a foreign country, it’s just like we are at home. And having this sort of the lava soil, definitely is like home.

Journalist: And what does it feel like interacting with other people in the community here?

Forough Ataollahr: It’s great, because we’ve got many friends through this sort of communication. We have many friends from the Yazidi community, Afghan community and the other communities as well. And working with Multicultural Council is a great opportunity for all international people here.

Journalist: What’s happening in Junee as well?

Michael McCormack: We’re opening a new classroom space and a new facility there at St Joseph’s Primary School. It’s a significant investment, more than a million dollars. We’re making sure that schools right throughout the region get the very best outcomes for their students because your outcomes in life shouldn’t be determined by your postcode. As Liberals and Nationals we believe that you should have the very best start to life, the very best start to a career and you get that with a good school and you get it with an even better school facility. St Joseph’s has been delivering for the Junee Catholic school students and others besides for many, many decades. With this new facility with these new amenities in that great little school they’ll be able to do that for many more years to come.

Journalist: Thank you Michael.