Wiradjuri Garden: A Winning Combination

Dubbo, around 5 hours drive from Sydney, has grown to become one of NSW’s largest inland cities; nearly 40,000 people now call Dubbo home. As part of its drive towards providing excellent community facilities, together with a genuine desire to recognise and celebrate the area’s native landowners, Dubbo Council, in partnership with the NSW State Government, launched a project to build a new spectacular garden in the heart of the city.

As part of the Council’s Open Spaces agenda, the project was to be built in two stages, with the first stage laying the ground work for the second.

A history of inappropriate land-use practices in earlier years has left Dubbo with a range of land management issues, including salinity, soil degradation and contamination. To be able to reclaim the land for community parkland is a massive boost for Dubbo inhabitants. Council selected a 1.2-hectare piece of land on Coronation Street in the Elizabeth Park Precinct. The site needed considerable rehabilitation after massive over grazing and then further use as a construction staging. The site represented a blank canvas with nothing of any real worth to be retained.

Design and function
Wiradjuri Garden, as the park was named, honours the 40,000 years of national cultural heritage by the Wiradjuri Nation. Designed by Moir Landscape Architects, the extraordinary garden design uses three paths, representing the three main rivers in the district. The paths are used to roam the gardens but also to connect the many recreational facilities nearby. The usual picnic-type facilities are complemented by a number of indigenous features, such as a firepit and yarning circle, and the entire site showcases only vegetation native to Wiradjuri country.

Part way through the project, Council also introduced another gorgeous feature, a 50m long Rainbow Serpent, designed to enhance the parallel/natural play opportunities provided by the site.

A massive project for Dubbo Landscaping
The Landscaping tender for both hard and softscapes was won by TLA Member Dubbo Landscaping. These kinds of largescale, ground-breaking projects are not very common in regional areas and the Dubbo Landscaping team were certainly taking on a project far larger than any they had undertaken before. Fortunately, the team rose to the challenge, producing stunning results with first-class finishes.

Dubbo Landscaping, founded by Behn Monley around nine years ago, has steadily grown to become one of the three largest landscaping businesses in the region. Offering a full range of services, Behn has created a business that is both of the region and for the region. Servicing both urban and rural clients, residential and commercial, Dubbo Landscaping offers design, installation, maintenance, machine hire and even custom stone engraving. They also have a complementary Landscape Supplies business.

But perhaps the most admirable quality of the business is its deep community roots. As a regional city, and with a proportionally large Aboriginal populationof approximately 15 per cent, the area has its fair share of employment and youthrelated issues. Behn’s approach to caring for his community is two-fold: to offer youth mentorship with opportunities for hands-on experience, and also to align with local Aboriginal employment agencies wherever possible. Behn’s mantra is, “If you look after your community, your community looks after you.” Behn is only too aware that Dubbo has a number of underprivileged and disaffected youths who have never had a chance to work or to gain skills and selfesteem. He chooses to work alongside notfor- profit organisations such as LeaderLife that aim to support children, young adults and families doing it tough to develop life skills, confidence and opportunities to transform their lives.

Practicing what he preaches, a large focus of Dubbo Landscaping’s tender for the Garden was to employ local Aboriginal labour as sub-contractors and to use Aboriginal suppliers for the materials wherever possible. They also

used a range of partnerships in the area for specialist parts of the project such as bulk earthmoving for land contouring, as well as expert irrigators and electricians. This regional community approach to the project has meant the benefits of the project have been distributed to a wider base of the landscaping industry in Dubbo.

Behn is the first to admit that taking on a project four times larger than their previous largest project was initially “terrifying”.

Taking six months to complete, employing around 40-50 landscapers and managing a range of supplier and sub-contracting relationships, Dubbo Landscaping actually thrived under the pressure. The scope of works included all aspects of hard and softscape elements, ranging from largescale land contouring and soil rejuvenation, through to hydroseeding, mulching and mass planting. A range of plant sizes were used, meandering paths were built and recreation facilities were created, with every aspect of the work executed to perfection.

Project significance
Wiradjuri garden is a true boon for the community providing a culturally rich celebration of our indigenous heritage. The Garden’s design and landscaping installation is a triumph, providing an accessible and connected environment that is both grand and graceful, with a restful ambience. It is also the ideal addition to the Elizabeth Park precinct where it resides, sitting alongside the Dubbo Botanic Garden that features a range of garden spaces, including a new adventure playground composed of over 40 kids’ active-play equipment pieces.

Wiradjuri Garden is a place for passive recreation, meditation and relationship building. It has a stately poise and a sense of space, reflective of the native landscape and its First Nations people. Stage 1 of this project has already provided the broader community with an important and enticing, purpose-built space for storytelling and meeting. It is also a wonderful backdrop for the suggested elements of Stage 2 of the project, such as an amphitheatre, artworks and further plantings. Plans are also underway for building a Wiradjuri cultural centre next-door and Wiradjuri Garden is an important part of the educational plans for the city.

The outcome
Reaction to the space has been overwhelmingly positive and is certainly a win for Dubbo and its surrounds. And the outcome for Dubbo Landscaping is also a huge win. In 2021, the company entered the TLA Landscape Excellence Awards for the first time, with Wiradjuri Garden winning both a Gold Medal and Best in Category for Commercial and Civil Construction, $750,000 to $1.5 Million.

Behn said, “Entering the Awards gave our staff a real kick, it was a huge morale booster for the whole team. When we won the category, we were thrilled. It has been a complete game-changer for us. It has solidified our position in the area and big projects are coming our way organically. Honestly, I’m pinching myself.”

Dubbo Landscaping plan to enter the Awards again in 2022 with a project on Little Timor Street. If you or your company would also like to enter this year’s awards visit The Landscape Association website at www.landscapeassociation.com.au. Entries are open now to TLA Members across all areas of the modern landscape sector. Congratulations to the whole team at Dubbo Landscaping and we wish you all the best again this year.

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