Friends of Merri Creek
Of the community groups MCMC works with, Friends of Merri Creek is the group MCMC works with most closely. This is because the two groups share similar objectives, and were designed to be complementary. Areas MCMC works with FOMC include:
- Activity days including planting weeding and mulching etc.
- Issues of joint concern such as the Hume Freeway/Craigieburn Bypass, the Merri Creek Park proposal, Sewage treatment strategies,
- preparing FOMC grant applications
- Liaison regarding input into policies affecting Merri Creek
- In-kind support - computer use, photocopying, access to resources like photos and library
- Information provision about the role of FOMC and MCMC
MCMC acknowledges the traditional ownership of the Merri Creek Catchment by the Wurundjeri people. It consults often with Wurundjeri Elders, either directly or via the Wurundjeri Tribe Land Compensation and Cultural Heritage Council, or the Kulin Nation Cultural Heritage Organisation.
MCMC's book People of the Merri Merri involved a number of Wurundjeri people early in its preparation, and the text was checked by Wurundjeri Elders prior to publication. The book presents information mostly collated from early records of the Aboriginal 'Protectors' about the early days of settlement of Melbourne, and the impacts of settlement on the Wurundjeri and other nearby groups. It is a colourful and readable account rather than a dry technical report.
The book was produced partly with funding from the Australian Heritage Commission National Estate Grants Program, and JobSkills. MCMC funded its production.
Culturally and Linguistically Diverse groups
Standard methods of contacting an audience assume the audience are fluent readers and speakers of English. Because people of non-English speaking background make up a relatively high proportion of the population of the Merri Creek catchment, MCMC makes a particular effort to work with these groups. Improving the quality of the Creek needs everyone in the catchment to behave appropriately. But also every individual deserves the right to access the information available.
Activities MCMC undertakes with or for CALD communities include:
- Multicultural Planting Festivals
- Teaching English as a second language resources
- Multi-lingual publications
- Multilingual approaches to businesses
Multicultural Planting Festivals
Since 1996 the City of Hume has been organising highly successful Multicultural Planting Festivals "celebrating the connection of community, culture and nature" in spring each year. Planning for each festival begins with planning meetings involving representatives of the target groups, to get their ideas, identify their needs and what they could contribute to the day. Each year the festival is named after the natural characteristics of the site. For example the 1997 festival along Yuroke Creek was called the Reeds and River Red Gums Festival. One main aim of the festivals is to give people the opportunity to develop a positive relationship to their environment - to create roots in their new country. Planting is a powerful way to generate this relationship with the land and with other community groups in the area. The festivals are also a celebration. The groups provide musical or dancing entertainment and food to share. The groups' costs are mainly covered by Council. Some festivals, for example the Black Shouldered Kite Festival, received grants from Festivals Australia, and supporting funding from Austcare, and sponsorship from a range of local businesses. Key to the success of the festivals was the presence of several cultural groups so that they could get to know each other. Commonly 200-300 people attended each festival.
MCMC participates in the festivals by attending the planning day, assisting with site design, and helping staff the festival on the day, particularly in terms of supervising planting.
From 2000 the City of Moreland has contracted MCMC to run its Autumn Planting Festivals. This involves contacting groups often through neighbourhood houses, or through MCMC's established networks. Formal letters inviting participation of the groups are sent out, including a poster for the day. The letters and posters are translated. One or more workshops are held with each interested group (typically 10 groups are involved each year) during their regular meeting time. The workshops are an opportunity to introduce MCMC and the Festival to the members of the group, to discuss the ideas behind the festival, to gauge the group's interest in the festival, what they would like to provide, and what their needs for participation would be. For example many groups lack transport, and MCMC arranging a bus on the day to pick the members of the group up from a central location can facilitate a group's involvement on the day.
Participating groups are encouraged to provide food to share and cultural performances. As with the Hume festivals, costs are covered by the festival budget (up to around $500 for food in total and $600 for performances).
On the day, marquees are hired and set up by a party hire contractor, who also provide tables and chairs. Other set up includes a sound system, decorations, plant and planting tool layout, etc. Participants arrive around 11am, and either begin planting, with assistance from MCMC staff, or begin setting up their food table. Around midday, entertainment begins, and participants eat and listen to the music. Formal speeches are made including a formal welcoming ceremony from the Wurundjeri people and a speech by the Mayor. Music and dancing continues until around 4pm. Simultaneously other activities are available for participants including Waterwatch, creek walks, and art and craft activities.
MCMC has run a number of programs to take people from CALD backgrounds on excursions to local waterways. For example in 1999-2000 MCMC ran a project called Creek Talk which celebrated the connection between the richness of local cultural life and the diversity of indigenous wildlife in the local waterways. Participants were introduced to local environmental issues through a series of workshops that included displays, slides, plant clippings, bush tucker tastings and an environmental touch-table. New Migrants from Moreland and Whittlesea (the funding Councils) participated in the program which culminated in a waste-free picnic.
Teaching English as a second language resources
In MCMC's Putting Down Roots project, five groups with non-English speaking backbrounds explored the Merri Creek environment and learnt about Wurundjeri culture. Later in eight workshops, participants told stories about where they came from and discussed how to understand and care ofr their new local environment. Their stories were blended with information and images about Merri Creek's environmental attributes and recreational opportunities as well as tips for householders. The final product is a practical language learning resource for courses in English as a second language titled "Putting Down Roots".
Over the years MCMC has produced many multilingual publications, including posters, pamphlets and booklets. The benefit of producing written publications in other languages needs to be balanced by the fact that many people with English as a second language have difficulty reading both their first language as well as English. For these people personal contact with someone speaking their native language is much more effective.
Nonetheless MCMC has produced multilingual material. Languages chosen are based on ABS statistics about the region. For example a poster about the catchment and its issues was produced in English, Turkish, Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Greek. A pamphlet was produced jointly with the City of Darebin about snakes in the urban environment - learning to live with snakes and what to do if you see a snake. It was produced in English, Macedonian, Greek, Arabic, Portugese?, and Italian.
With funding from Parks Victoria MCMC has produced a number of multilingual interpretive signs. The signs are very visual, using original art which emphasises the message of the board, with text in languages used in the sign's locality.
A weekend in the life of Merri Creek
This project, run in 1992 by MCMC, Place Inc and David Tatnall comprised 4 elements:
- The preparation by David Tatnall, highly respected photographer, of a 20 minute Image and Soundscape of the Merri Creek, taking people on a journey along the Creek from Whittlesea to Collingwood. This is a presentation ideally suited to non-english speaking audiences.
- David photographed an entire section of the Creek valley, producing high quality black and white archival photos, which were lodged with the State Library.
- A community panoramic collage project which involved about 20 different non-english-speaking background groups visiting sections of the Creek, and taking phototgraphic collages of scenes that interested them. Collages were photographed in colour using film and processing donated by Kodak. David guided and where needed instructed participants, who in some cases had never used a camera before. the collages were laid out suitable for display.
- An event was held, launching the Image and Soundscape, and displaying the collages from the participants.
Multilingual approaches to businesses
Over the years MCMC has made a number of major approaches to non-English speaking background small businesses in the catchment. Non-English speaking workers were employed under the Jobskills program to approach shop-owners in Sydney Road to encourage them to adopt the Merri Creek Considerate Business scheme.
Later the Jobskills program worked with traders at the Preston Market to have them adopt a trial waste composting scheme, which would only work if a sufficiently low level of contamination was achieved. This required the cooperation of all participating stalls, many of which were staffed by people of non-English speaking background. It was found that considerably more interest and cooperation was achieved through staff with the same language background.
Learning Grounds Project
This project (also known as the Sustainable Schools Project) enables school communities to plan indigenous gardens for their school grounds. In 2001 MCMC visited eleven schools across the Cities of Moreland and Darebin, meeting school representatives, preparing site assessments and planting recommendations for each school. Visits were supported by materials prepared by MCMC, which were in 3 parts: a guide to creating an indigenous garden, a fundraising toolkit and a manual of ideas for using the schoolgrounds in learning activities. A report gives more detail about the project
Streets and Streams is a resource for secondary students and teachers published in 2000. It is a 100 page book aiming to provide a bettter understanding of the environment, encourage its exploration and promote active involvement in its protection and restoration. Ideas for student activities accompany the information presented in the three sections of the book. They are for dipping into, for modification and for adaptation by teachers for use with their students. They are not presented as a formal curriculum sequence, or for particular year levels. They are there to inform, and to provide a spark for teachers wishing to include activities about the Merri Creek within their day-to day teaching activities. The book was published with funding from the Parks Victoria Agency Grants Program 1999-2000.
Making the Merri Merry is a grade 5 and 6 primary school education resource published in 1994. It is a 400 page book with teachers notes and blackline masters suitable for photocopying in 9 sections:
- The Merri Creek Catchment
- The Wurundjeri
- European settlement
- What a load of Rubbish!
- Pollution in the Merri Creek Catchment
- Flora and Fauna of the Merri Creek Catchment
- The future of Merri Creek
Making the Merri Merry was produced primarily by employees employed by MCMC under the Jobskills work and training program and is currently out of print.
Stream Life was a student resource produced in 1998 with funding from the Parks Victoria Agency Grants Program. Stream Life is a local flora and fauna education kit for teachers of year levels 3 to 8. Part of the development of the project involved testing the draft with teachers, the target community.
MCMC employs one staff member who act as Waterwatch coordinator for the Merri and Moonee Ponds Creeks. Participants in the program are mostly secondary school science classes, however interested community groups are also involved.
Funding is obtained from member Councils as well as the City of Melbourne and the City of Moonee Valley. Federal Landcare funding via Melbourne Water almost matches the Council contributions. Reporting is via MCMC's website, and through very brief written reports.
Clean up Australia Day
Most years (depending on the availablity of staff for coordination and staff or volunteers for supervision) MCMC has run cleanup day events along the Merri Creek or its tributaries for schools in the catchment. School principals and science teachers are invited to participate and many are willing. MCMC provides its knowledge of suitable sites for each school, meets students and teachers at the school and accompanies them to the site, gives a short briefing on why it's worth cleaning up, a safety briefing (especially cautioning students about picking up needles and watching out for snakes). MCMC provides gloves. Bags are usually provided by Clean Up Australia. Full bags are counted and MCMC arranges for the relevant Council to collect them. A medical sharps container goes to each site and the MCMC supervisor is responsible for making sure needles go safely into the container.
This safety issue is becoming more and more important. Without cleaning up the site first (which destroys the whole point of the exercise) it is impossible to guarantee that no students will encounter a needle, or dangerous broken glass, or other hazard. This risk has discouraged MCMC from running Clean Up Australia Day for schools.
This program in 1995-6 aimed to have traders along Sydney Road adopt the Merri Creek Considerate Business Scheme. In order to participate in the scheme traders had to demonstrate compliance with a number of waste management criteria. These criteria included keeping the footpath outside their shops clean (but not sweeping waste down the drain), selling cloth shopping bags as an alternative to plastic, recycling their wastes, storing wastes responsibly, and protecting the stormwater from contamination. As a reward for participation, businesses received an endorsement as a Merri Creek Considerate Business and could put a sticker on their shop window. Multilingual staff were employed under the Jobskills program to get this program going. About 50 businesses joined the program. Additional rewards for participation would have helped increase this number. Unfortunately after JobSkills funding ceased, the ability to support the program was no longer there, and it petered out. At least six-monthly visits to participating businesses were required to asess compliance and answer questions.
This project aimed to set up one of the first commercial food-waste collecting and composting schemes in Melbourne. Multinlingual Jobskills trainees worked with traders to explain the scheme and its benefits, and to give them feedback on the process. In order to work a very low level of contamination was required. Glass and metal contamination proved to be a problem which didn't go away even with intense liaison with the staff of the stalls.
MCMC's Automotive and Construction and Demolition Industries Project (ACDIP) is currently working with small automotive businesses (mainly panel beaters and mechanics workshops) to have them improve their practices and reduce the contamination to stormwater. Many staff at these workplaces have no understanding of how their actions can affect the Creek. More detail. 2001Final Report
Ford's car production plant at Broadmeadows is one of the largest industries in the Merri Creek catchment. For many years MCMC's Manager has participated in Ford's Community Liaison Committee for its Environmental Management Plan. Much has been learnt by both parties as a result.
Ford also sponsors MCMC by providing a vehicle for the use of MCMC's waterwatch and other education programs.
MCMC has traditionally been an urban-focussed group. Over the last few years it has developed contacts with the Merriang District Landcare Group. With funding from the City of Whittlesea, MCMC and the MDLG produced a 28 page booklet Merriang Plants for Landcare, which describes 20 indigenous trees, shrubs and tussocks suitable for use in Landcare plantings, together with their propagation and growth requirements. The booklet is available free from the City of Whittlesea, MCMC or the MDLG.
The Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies (CERES) in East Brunswick is located very close to Merri Creek and MCMC's depot. The two organisations' aims are similar and they cooperate in a number of areas, such as CERES' Return of the Kingfisher Festival, which is held in late November around the time of the annual return migration of the Sacred Kingfisher to Merri Creek. The festival celebrates the revitalisation of Merri Creek, which after white settlement of Melbourne became very degraded. After the revitalisation work began, species such as the Sacred Kingfisher began to return to the Creek. MCMC staff and member representatives and friends participate in the parade, provide kids' activities, talks on Kingfisher ecology and lifecycle, and guide walks along the Creek.
General community contact
Community Streams is a comunity-based project being conducted across the whole Merri Creek Catchment. The project is a joint initiative of MCMC and five of its member municipalities. Their contributions to the project have been matched with funding from the Victorian Stormwater Action Program (VSAP) which is a State Government funding initiative. Community Streams aims to strengthen the sense of community, prevent stormwater pollution at source by understanding the impacts daily actions can have on our waterways. It brings people together and motivates actions that reduce impacts on waterways. These actions include composting and using public transport or bicycles. The project initially attracts people who may go further to Stage 2 Training and become volunteer team leaders who run their own "eco-team" and recruit from their street, club, shopping precinct, community group, unit block, church or workplace - whoever they identify as the people and project they want to work with. Community Streams will be completed by the end of September 2003. View brochure.
Funding for the project was organised by MCMC from each of the 5 councils, and MCMC auspiced by the City of Yarra applied for the funding from VSAP.