We were surprised to find a story in the Inner West Courier by Ben Pike about an angry resident named Colleen Robinson, who was upset that she was left out of the allegedly exclusive Ultimo Community Garden Club.
Here’s the front page story from the Inner West Courier onMay 3, 2011.
The story starts by claiming:
“It’s Sydney’s secret garden club, tucked away in the city’s inner-most western suburbs. It cost $16,000 of ratepayers’ money to build and has 25 members who pay $20 a year to help nurture vegie patches on some of Ultimo’s most expensive land at Wattle Lane Park. But it seems the club is not as ‘community’ as some hope it would, with membership only open to ‘approved’ applicants.”
We admit to being rather surprised at this claim, since all of our run-ins with the Ultimo Community Garden people have been extremely positive, welcoming and enthusiastic. So we wondered whether this was just one big fat misunderstanding, coupled with a few personal differences between Robinson and others. The article goes on to say:
“Ultimo resident Colleen Robinson has accused Sydney Council of gifting an ‘exclusive’ garden group 60 per cent of an 1100sq m public park without automatically allowing members of the public to join.
“Nearby residents have joined Mrs Robinson in her angry response to the construction of a vegetable patch in the middle of Wattle Lane Park, which they say is used by children and people walking dogs.
“ ‘They (the garden club) got this through council without stating how many members it is going to have,’ Mrs Robinson said.
” ‘The council also gave them more than $10,000. I find that very strange. They have been given a private allotment on public land.’ “
Those delinquent gardeners, doing their pesky garden-like activities! It must be so hard for the other residents, having to suffer through mornings of digging, planting, watering, chatting, and offensive-looking overalls … while they’re just trying to walk their dogs in peace.
While Pike tried to provide another perspective from the Garden “club” people, he didn’t do it very clearly:
“To join the club, applicants need to be approved by the committee of the Ultimo Community Garden Club. The club has 25 members. It costs $20 to join and $10 per year thereafter.”
This isn’t actually true, it’s not a club. It’s a not-for-profit incorporated organisation that is currently experimenting with management methods. The article does quote the Ultimo Community Garden’s Susan Rymer, acknowledging that:
“This is a learning experience for everyone involved. We are gardening as a group. There are no private allotments in the garden.”
Perhaps it is the lack of private allotments, and the need to work together, that has partly caused the confusion? But really, the fact that this story is front page news is ridiculous, even for a local rag like the Inner West Courier. It’s basically an article about a miscommunication and a touchy woman (who possibly has a serious complex about being “left out” of things, dating back to school days. We don’t know that for sure… just musing inappropriately here.)
We had great fun reading the comments on the online version of this article.
Here are a few examples of comments following the article’s publication:
Ultimo Community Gardener, Pauline, clarifies some of the things that were not clearly spelled out in Pike’s story:
“Just to correct a few issues with the article. We thought the following points were made clear in the email sent to Ben Pike, but they do not seem to have made it into the article. We are not a ‘club’ - we are a not for profit incorporated association in NSW: Ultimo Community Garden Inc. Anyone within walking or cycling distance of the garden can join the incorporated association. [our emphasis] We expect members to participate by contributing in some way to the upkeep of the garden. Overall the response to the garden has been very positive and we have new members joining on a regular basis. I guess a positive spin doesn’t make for a good article these days - more’s the pity. More info: http://www.ultimocommunitygarden.org.au“
Susan Rymer also commented:
“Mrs Robinson was offered membership of the garden when she phoned a member of the group a couple of weeks ago. She was given the date of the next build day so she could come and meet us all for a chat and take up the offer of membership. Obviously Mrs Robinson doesn’t want to join the group after all. Shame, she doesn’t know what she’s missing.”
Much a trowel about nothing.