Finding my roots through the EcoCentre

By Francisca Alliende

I moved to Australia in 2018 as an experienced landscape architect. I’ve always had a passion for plants and wanted to help people connect with the land, and also learn more about my local community and environment. A year later, I’ve found my home in Australia through the Port Phillip EcoCentre. 

Garden volunteers Francisca Laura friends close up
EcoCentre volunteer Francisca (right) with fellow volunteer Laura.

I discovered the EcoCentre while walking through the St Kilda Botanical Gardens, but never expected a simple walk through nature would change my life. I’m now a regular garden volunteer at the EcoCentre, help to maintain the Wominjeka Garden, and am using the skills I developed through the EcoCentre to volunteer on special community garden projects in the City of Port Phillip.

The EcoCentre is such an inspiring place and I’m grateful it gave me the opportunity to connect with a colourful group of people and find my tribe in Melbourne. I’ve gained a lot of beautiful new friends, like Laura, who volunteers with me in the EcoCentre community garden every Friday. My EcoCentre family has taught me about local wildlife, reducing my waste, and how to cultivate a garden filled with indigenous plants. 

Francisca and compost volunteers group photo garden
Cam, Jennifer and Francisca work the community compost at the EcoCentre.

Most of all, the EcoCentre has helped me grow confidence in being able to integrate into Australian culture. It’s often difficult for recent immigrants to participate in events or make a diverse group of new friends, particularly with language and cultural barriers. This wasn’t the case with the EcoCentre – I’ve been able to actively participate in the garden group, trusted with the responsibility to help manage our Wominjeka Garden.  

I’ve always had a connection to nature, but thanks to the EcoCentre I feel much more connected with our local environment. I want to pursue a career that helps our local community to connect and care for our local wildlife in an urban context. I also want to inspire other people to take new sustainability actions, whether it’s as simple as avoiding single-use plastics, buying local food, bringing food waste to the EcoCentre’s community compost bays, or advocating for climate action in Australia. The EcoCentre has given me both confidence and the community I need to support me to achieve my dreams for our environment. 

The EcoCentre relies on donations to support its Community Garden program, helping our community develop practical skills and lifelong friendships.

$50 funds a half-hour workshop on composting, worm farms, or gardening skills.

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The EcoCentre acknowledges the Kulin Nations, including the Yalukut Weelam clan of the Boon Wurrung language group, traditional owners of the land on which we are located.

We pay respects to their Elders past and present, and extend that respect to other Aboriginal and Elder members of our multicultural community.