Catherine Driussi assists North Perth Community Garden develop a Policy and Procedure Manual

North Perth Community Garden (NPCG) is an 820m2 space that is more than just a place for individuals to garden. It strives to be an integral part of the local community by being a hub for people to meet, share, socialise and learn. The garden is predominantly for growing herbs, vegetables and some flowers. There is also a greenhouse for propagation of seeds and strikes. For larger plants, there is a small orchard and a native garden area. It aims to operate on organic principles, nurturing its soil using low toxicity, naturally derived products and limiting any type of chemical use.

NPCG is a relatively new community garden group. It was transformed from a desolate, weedy, neglected space in the winter of 2013. After much hard work by a small band of dedicated volunteers and with the support of the City of Vincent, it became the vibrant, urban North Perth Community Garden we see today. Since then, it has been operating without any properly defined policies and procedures. As its member base grows, NPCG identified a need for these policies and procedures to ensure the NPCG committee and its members had a clear understanding of how tasks associated with the community garden are done and to ensure they are done in a consistent and transparent manner.

Run by a small team of volunteers, there was no capacity within NPCG to undertake this task, so they engaged Volunteering WA to find a volunteer with the right skills and experience to help out. Catherine Driussi, Lead Process Safety Engineer at Woodside, had the skills required for the project and also demonstrated a keen interest in gardening, which lined up with what NPCG is all about. Catherine had a background in Health and Safety and Safety Engineering. She had developed policies and procedures for Mining and Oil and Gas companies as part of her roles over the past 12 years. To support their development, she had also completed workshops and risk assessments and had lots of examples she could draw upon while reviewing NPCG’s policies and procedures and providing recommendations. A keen gardener herself, having grown up on a small dairy farm, Catherine was excited by the idea of getting involved in a community garden, and NPCG was excited at the idea of having her on-board with this project.

Cath and EmmaVolunteering WA and Emma from NPCG met Catherine to kick off the project. After their initial meeting, Emma collated all NPCG’s current documentation for Catherine’s review. Catherine then got to visit the community garden to get an insight into the scope of NPCG’s operations, the site itself, and the tasks that required policies and procedures. The policies and procedures to be developed dove into specific aspects of how the organisation functioned. They also had to detail components of complex systems, as well as administration and troubleshooting guides.

At the end of the project, six detailed manuals were completed:

  • Administration
  • Water
  • General Garden
  • Fruit Tees
  • Composting
  • Wormfarms

These manuals were presented to a Community Garden Conference in May 2018 and they attracted a large amount of interest, which did not come as a surprise. The professional nature of the documents impressed many, and many gardens expressed a desire for a similar style of documents.

Emma was extremely grateful for these manuals as she explained they made it easier to attract NPCG’s members to take on more responsibilities as there were now guidelines to help them. Individuals within NPCG are now able to easily troubleshoot problems based on the information in these guidelines. The manuals also captured historical knowledge of when utilities are used and why systems are set up the way they are. These documents will make it easier for NPCG to continue contributing to Sustainable Development Goals #11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, and #15: Life on Land, well into the future.

Both Emma and Catherine walked away from the project with only positive things to say. Catherine was proud to have provided operational structure and guidance for NPCG’s volunteers, and was excited to recommend volunteering to her peers and to do it again herself. Her advice to her peers was, quite simply:

“Just get in there and give it a go.”

Catherine Driussi, Woodside Volunteer

That ‘can do’ attitude has made a world of difference to NPCG with Emma claiming Catherine’s assistance was “priceless”. She explained she would choose a skilled volunteer over a cash donation any day of the week, and appreciated having Volunteering WA play matchmaker in their relationship.

“Skilled volunteers for particular tasks is really helpful, having a resource base to find them saves huge amounts of time. They choose you, rather than you knocking on someone's door and asking if they'll give you a freebie.”