A new sensory garden for Morgan House

Posted on 01 November 2017 by Rachel Dale

The new sensory garden at Morgan House

Infants learn about the world through their senses: touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell. Sensory experiences in safe outdoor environments can provide enormous developmental benefits to babies and children. Smelling flowers, touching leaves or watching birds and insects are all wonderful ways for little ones to learn about the world.

Morgan House is a residential care unit supporting vulnerable young women and their babies. Part of the Cara program in Melbourne’s East, the house is unique in providing pre and post-natal care to pregnant and parenting young women who are involved in the child protection system.

Until recently, the house had a small garden which wasn’t very functional. The young women had limited opportunities to visit public gardens due to their involvement with the child protection system.

Then Morgan House Team Leader Andrea Dunbar had a dream of an outdoor area where the girls could be with their babies; a space where the babies can learn through their sense – a real lawn to lie on, trees to listen to in the wind, plants to touch and flowers to smell.

Anyone who has dappled in landscape design will understand that revamping a garden is no easy task. It takes significant time, coordination and funds. With the support of the broader team, several grants, donations and volunteers, Andrea’s vision is now a reality.

The new sensory garden is a safe and developmentally-appropriate space for the young women and their babies, featuring flowers, shrubs, trees, shade sails, as well as a cubby house, lawn and BBQ.

  

Above: new shrubs and trees in the garden; Landscape Gardener Mark Okulski, volunteers from Wheelers Hill Lions Club and the team from Morgan House.

One of the greatest benefits of being outdoors is the health impact of natural light which stimulates the pineal gland, the part of the brain that regulates the biological clock. This is vital to the immune system and helps not just with health, but with wellbeing and happiness. Needless to say, the completion of the garden has been a much-celebrated event at Morgan House!

The project demonstrates what can be achieved by a team of people working together and pooling resources. It all started with a vision, but would not have come to fruition without community participation, volunteer design and labour and philanthropic funds.

Bringing a dream into reality also sets a powerful example to the young mums of what can be accomplished by having a vision and the dedication to realise it, providing fantastic role-modeling of this important life skill.

Special thanks to the following for generously supporting the project through grants, labour, financial and in-kind donations: Australian Catholic University Midwifery society, Freemasons Foundation, Wheeler Hill Lions Club, Glen Waverley Women’s Golf Club, Country Women’s Association, Beta sigma phi, Dulux, Cabots, Bunnings and Maximum Landscapes.