Happy Valley’s tree of life garden

The 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria were the most devastating in Australian history. Although some communities were physically destroyed, their members also displayed ingenuity, strength and resolve in the face of this calamity. Recovery for people, communities, local economies and the environment is difficult and requires a long-term approach.

The small communities of Havilah and Rosewhite in north-eastern Victoria were directly impacted by the fires, and residents continue their journey of recovery. The Happy Valley community has created a tree garden in a two acre area beside the local Community Hall. The area was seen as a fire risk to the hall, and so local families cleared the area of rabbits, blackberries and St John’s Wart and planted 60 mixed species of trees. This project assisted to bring together a fragmented community after the 2009 bushfires destroyed significant property, pasture and livestock.

Happy Valley Tree Garden

The Happy Valley Hall Committee received $5,940 via the Grants for Resilience and Wellness (GR&W) program, funded by the Victorian Bushfires Appeal Fund (VBAF). They used this money to carry out the second stage of their project, which saw the construction of walking tracks between the plantings, leading to a rock feature at the centre of the arboretum. When viewed from the air, the paths within the garden have been designed to look like the tree of life.

The Happy Valley Tree Project has received support from a number of local community groups and funding partners including Myrtleford Men’s Shed members who crafted wooden name signs denoting Valley families, past or present, which are staked at the base of each tree. There are future plans to create picnic tables and seats among the trees for comfort, and garden sculptures in strategic positions to add interest and enhance the tree garden.

Happy Valley Hall Committee member Robin McDonald said that this ongoing community project is building resilience and community wellbeing throughout the fire affected neighbourhoods. There is great interest in the arboretum and locals and visitors call in to walk the tracks and note the progress of the trees.

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