A garden of hope in face of homelessness – CQUni duo’s Big Idea a national award winner

Published:30 November 2015

The Big Idea finalists Elisha Vlaholias and Tessa Benveniste. Photo courtesy The Big Issue.

A proposed social enterprise known as The Garden of Earthly Delights has tonight (Nov 30) been announced as a national winner of the 2015 Big Idea competition, in the postgraduate student division.

The Big Idea, co-ordinated by leading social enterprise, The Big Issue, seeks to find new social enterprise ideas that can deliver benefits to society.

At an evening ceremony in Melbourne (Nov 30), CQUniversity research students Elisha Vlaholias and Tessa Benveniste accepted the award, which includes support to develop the proposal.

Taken to fruition, The Garden of Earthly Delights will see part of Adelaide’s Southern parklands revitalised as a community garden providing flexible and transitional employment, education, and training opportunities for people experiencing homelessness.

This social enterprise would be grounded in the ethics of permaculture, earth care, people care and fair share and would be associated with CQUni’s new permaculture program led by Dr Keri Chiveralls (as a working lab). Its innovative ‘continuity of care’ mission would make it truly unique among community gardens ( for details) .

“The Garden will offer students, professional workers, and men and women struggling with homelessness the opportunity to work in garden beds of flowers, vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, and crops to grow fresh produce to enrich their own lives and the community as a whole,” Ms Vlaholias says.

Ms Benveniste says previous research indicates “participation in gardening promotes a sense of dignity among individuals experiencing homelessness, and has positive effects on self-esteem and self-efficacy”.

As well as creating work opportunities – including hosting Work for the Dole projects – the Garden can sustain itself through fruit, veg, flower and herb sales to local markets, with food surpluses donated to local charities.

The Garden project aims to bring together community partners, including CQUniversity/TAFE, local schools, Adelaide City Council, local businesses, and the Hutt Street Centre. The Garden would also feature public lectures, workshops and cooking demonstrations, as well as school excursion visits.

The project is scalable and the unique business model could be used as a template for sites across Australia.

Last year, a team of CQUniversity engineering students were announced as winners of The Big Idea, with their ‘Shelter Project’ envisaging temporary housing for disaster victims, by reusing industrial pallets.

CQUniversity’s Big Idea entry organiser, Lara Carton said that "to win national finals in both years that we’ve entered the competition is testament to our students’ high quality business concepts and their desire to improve education and employment opportunities for disadvantaged people in their communities".

This is another example how CQUni is progressing to become one of Australia's great universities.

PHOTOS via or embedded BELOW.