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CERES Community Environmental Park
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General information
Type 4.5-acre Green land
Location Brunswick East, Melbourne, Australia
Opened 1994

CERES Community Environment Park is a 4.5-hectare (11-acre) environmental education centre and social enterprise located in urban Brunswick East, Victoria, Australia. CERES (pronounced series) stands for Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies. The name also connects with Ceres the goddess of agriculture in Roman mythology.

Established in 1982 on a former rubbish dump, Ceres operates on land owned by the Moreland City Council. CERES is managed as a not-for-profit incorporated association governed by a Board of Management. It provides a range of programs and services including environmental education programs and workshops, an urban farm and community gardens, cafe, grocery, plant nursery and various other social enterprises. Ceres is managed with the principal purpose of "protecting and enhancing the natural environment, including by providing information and education to increase understanding of human impacts on the natural environment".

History

CERES is located on the banks of the Merri Creek, land that was occupied by the Wurundjeri, prior to European invasion. The creek was subjected to heavy industrial use throughout much of the 20th century and the East Brunswick site was quarried for bluestone, and then eventually turned into a landfill for household and construction waste. The water became more polluted as a result of this. In 1982, some locals of the area suggested making use of the land to grow vegetables and make compost as part of a “work-for-the-dole” program. Shortly afterwards, invitations for school kids to learn about these emerging programs in green technology, recycling and organic farming. Along with Merri Creek Management Committee and Friends of Merri Creek, CERES and volunteers planted hundreds of trees and shrubs and lobbied governments to clean up the creek. The first Sacred Kingfishers which returned to the land were spotted in 1994. Ever since, the community park has been a place for education, practice and awareness for the environment and sustainability, as well as a location for social gatherings. The first tree was officially planted on the site by Dr Barbe Baker—founder of the Men of the Trees—on 16 September 1981.

Features

The CERES environmental park offers various features and programs for visitors and learners. Some of these include:

  • A nursery specializing in permaculture, natives and bush foods.

As a permaculture nursery, their aim is to encourage backyard food production. They supply a vast array of plants, as well as knowledge and support. They believe that planting a beautiful, healthy and productive garden filled with food is one of the most creative and peaceful ways to sustain individual and planetary health.

  • Organic Grocery

They offer a unique and engaging shopping experience in inner suburban Melbourne. One can get some snacks from the local bakeries, listen to the band, meet the local craft producers who sell their wares at the weekly Makers and Flea market, grab some eggs still warm from their Isa Brown chooks and so on. They do not have any plastic in sight, however one is permitted to bring their own recycled plastic bags if necessary.

  • Community gardens.

For people with insufficient household space for gardening, CERES has around 50 plots on-ground where people can grow their produce. These are rented out yearly to those who require it. They also have social event for the gardeners to meet and discuss their shared interest in the environment among other things.

  • A café open 7 days a week.

The Merri Café is one of the most popular attractions in their community. They are open for breakfast and lunch and even cater to dietary restrictions and vegan meals.

  • A community kitchen.

The community kitchen is a large kitchen area, which can comfortably fit up to 12 people. It is meant for catering to big events and for social cooking etc. They also rent out the kitchen to companies looking to hold charity events or display their food products.

  • Educational walking trails.
  • Energy Park.
  • CERES bee group

This is a membership-based group that is open to the public. It is a long-standing group dedicated to education and mentoring beekeepers and to advocating for bees. They meet once a month to discuss beekeeping, the Victorian Apiarists Association and bee hive equipment.

  • Chook Group.

The group was founded in 1986 as one of the original site groups of CERES. It consists of a group of locals who tend a flock of chooks, humanely. There are up to 50 chooks in the flock and each member volunteers one day in a fortnight to take care of them.

  • Multicultural exhibits.
  • Facilities for hire.

CERES offers up venues for rent for occasions like weddings, birthdays, meetings, festivals and more. Along with venues, they also allow hire of equipment required for such occasions.

  • The Bike Shed

The Bike Shed is an on-site group at CERES, which promotes travel on bicycles in the community. A bunch of volunteers recycle old donated bikes that might otherwise end up in landfills and fix it up for people to use within Community grounds.

  • The Urban Water Conservation, Demonstration and Research Facility - sustainable water projects.
  • The Eco House

The CERES Eco House is an example of a residential building that shows sustainable living retrofit options, which could be implemented in various other houses. Some of the features shown in this house include insulation, grid interactive PV power systems, energy efficient appliances, passive solar extensions and additions, etc.

Many events are held at CERES including weekend guided tours and private functions. There are three regular festivals each year - Harvest in March, Beautiful Darkness at the winter solstice, and the Return of the Sacred Kingfisher festival in November. The latter celebrates the first time a sacred kingfisher was seen on the site after re-vegetation and the transformation from rubbish tip. CERES is a popular site for school excursions and research students with around 60,000 students visiting each year. The property is readily accessible from the Merri Creek Trail. Entry is free. CERES also manages Joe's Market Garden (formerly known as Harding Street Market Garden or Merri Creek Market Garden), a heritage market garden located on the Merri Creek, two kilometers north of the main site. CERES is partially funded through its own programs, café and events as well as project grants from a variety of Government and private sponsors. While the park is open to the public freely, donations and memberships are appreciated. A popular volunteer program is also available.

Design

The main park consists of the following areas within its compound: • a visitors' centre • a cafe and community kitchen • permaculture and bushfood nursery • organic market, grocery and coffee stall open every day • two certified organic market gardens located over two sites, Honey Lane Market Garden and the Merri Creek Market Garden • community gardens for local residents • an ecohouse featuring the latest green technologies and ideas in sustainable design • portable worm farms made from recycled Council bins

Awards

Victorian Premier's Sustainability Awards 2017 - Education

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