Ten years ago a group of Brunswick locals seeded an idea that would make their neighbourhood much greener, healthier and more connected.
Edward Street in Brunswick, Melbourne, is a treat for residents and wildlife alike. Trees, shrubs and flowers fill nature strips and otherwise empty spaces. Birds bounce from branch to branch. People actually know each other.
And it all started with a few local residents with a simple idea – what if we could make our neighbourhood much greener, healthier and more connected?
They got to work letterboxing their neighbours, and met as a group down the local pub to share their ideas and vision for Edward Street.
Now, Friends of Edward Street comes together regularly for planting days and community activities, attracting old faces and new – and plenty of birds, bees and butterflies too.
Together, they’ve planted hundreds of native trees, shrubs and flowers along their nature strips and otherwise empty spaces, and have built a connected and resilient community in the process.
Thanks to Friends of Edward Street, local kids can play outside in fresher air and even enjoy the local cubby area that the adults built for them. Their parents can relax better knowing their kids are playing outside in an area where people know and look after each other.
And in the face of a climate damaged future, getting kids involved in nature restoration can give them a sense of hope – and show them what we can achieve when we work together.
As our climate gets warmer, big old trees can help keep us cool. Friends of Edward Street see planting trees as a way to build resilience in their community.
For Lizzie – one of Friends of Edward Street's founding members – this is one of the most powerful actions she has taken to help solve the climate crisis.
“Plantings are so important because they bring people together. They create habitat for wildlife and make us more resilient in the face of climate change.”
– Lizzie, Friends of Edward Street
Friends of Edward Street often collaborate with other community groups, too. They work closely with Brunswick Communities for Nature (BC4N), who propagate local Indigenous plants (in their back gardens!) and sell them on at a cost price to community groups. Many of the plants that Friends of Edward Street use on planting days come directly from them – and they often lend a hand in planting them too.
It's not just Melbourne communities harnessing the benefits of greening their neighbourhoods. Community groups right across Australia are running similar nature projects, with many of them collaborating and supporting each other where they can.
And the number of community nature projects is growing across the country!
"I was in regional Victoria and in the Landcare group. And I think since I've come back to the city, it's good to see so many [more] planting groups."
On top of all the amazing projects already happening, nearly 700 ACF supporters have shown interest in running an all-new Nature for Neighbourhoods project in their local community.
Are you one of those incredible people? Register your event today and let’s get to work making Australia amazingly greener and more connected!
Lizzie's advice for anyone unsure how to start a project in their neighborhood? Just start!
"Invite people to meet together just talk about what [you all] want to do. A planting-bee maybe. Get people to come along and just make that starting point."
"You probably find that there's a whole heap of people that are really interested in the same sorts of things. And if you can get a core group of, you know, at least three people that's enough to really, you know, get it happening and grow."
And on a very practical note, Lizzie recommends getting in touch with your local council – who can sometimes provide free mulch and even grants to help pay for plants.
“The first step is planting the seed – putting the idea out there to your community. You’ll probably find that there’s a whole heap of people in your street who are interested in the same things.”
– Lizzie, Friends of Edward Street
Images: Annette Ruzicka/MAPgroup