Backyard Breakthrough: Meeting the big recovery challenges at Ashbury

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The people who live at Malleny Street, Flourish Australia’s residential service at Ashbury, are dealing with large and complex challenges on their recovery journeys. Most of the residents are making their journey with little or no contact from family members. Because of this, it can be easy to overlook their dreams and their very real achievements.

Just in time for Spring, the long-planned gardening project at Ashbury has come to fruition. It is a miniature herb garden in a bathtub complete with a colourful mural (see photo on opposite page). This program is called High And Complex Support. Although it may differ on the surface from, say, our business services, the principles behind it are the same, with the individual participants being at the centre of their own recovery journey.

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“We’ve all come a long way at Ashbury over the last year,” says peer worker Dan Hayden. “The residents have made great strides towards gaining greater independence, improving their physical health and emotional wellbeing, and becoming more involved with the community. We have been working long and hard to improve our service and the lives of the people who access it.

Emma at Marrickville IMG_0207.jpgResident Emma, left, starting back at work at Marrickville, with Christine Colagrossi on the right.

“Once our service had settled on a team the residents knew and trusted, the gardening project was part of an initiative to brighten things up. We encouraged the residents to participate in the project to whatever extent was possible for them. This presented some real challenges. For instance: take a person who is extremely withdrawn and generally doesn’t participate in activities. Their dreams and achievements may seem somewhat modest, but they deserve to be celebrated equally. How can that person be encouraged to tap into their strengths and be the best they can be?

“Two residents experience extreme anxiety, and so they’d decided not to be hands-on with the dirt and paint and so forth. But just because a person declines to be physically involved in the project doesn’t mean they can’t be involved at all. There are other ways of taking part, such as offering suggestions on where and how to plant each type of crop and which colours to use for the mural.

“Almost everything in the garden will be edible, and it was chosen by the residents,” Dan added. “Many of them have either never cooked before or simply forgotten due to prolonged periods of hospitalisation. At the start we asked each resident what herbs or foods would make them the most likely to get back in the kitchen. It sounds small, but I think it has led to a big breakthrough.

“In the last year, the residents at Ashbury have made tremendous strides in their personal lives. One resident rarely went outside. On the rare occasion they did go out in public, they’d have severe anxiety attacks the second they lost sight of a staff member. Now, this same person confidently navigates his way around our local shopping centre solo, and even catches public transport. Another regular, Emma, is getting back to work at Prestige Packaging after a five year absence (see separate story on page 12).

“A third resident has had a long history of hospitalisations over the years, and had difficulty in expressing their anger in the past. Now they’ve become a kind of ‘house mother’ figure at Malleny Street, making people coffee and plying them with cakes on a daily basis.

“These wonderful people have been through a lot, and deserve to see their achievements celebrated by the community.”

Flourish Australia’s Ashbury service is located on 21 Malleny Street, Ashbury. You can call them on (02) 9393 9380

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