Elderly Greek migrants locked out of historic communal garden

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A community garden within the Collingwood Children’s Farm in Melbourne was a lifeline for many Greek migrants in the decades leading to it’s sudden closure this month. 

Anna Krouskos is one of more than 100 locals who have been shut out of their communal garden following safety concerns raised in an external consultant’s report over risks posed by snakes and star pickets.

Anna Krouskos is now left with just the memory of the work she put into the garden with her late husband Dimitri who died of COVID-19 last year. 

“He was a Greek farmer, and he just grew everything beautifully and I just couldn’t step into those big work boots,” she tells the Sydney Morning Herald.

The garden will be bulldozed and rebuilt beside the Yarra River but Mrs Krouskos has continued to keep his work going as a link to the past and a way of growing the future. 

Anna Poulentzas’ grandchild Jordan Oakley at the Collingwood Children’s Farm. (Credit: Anna Poulentzas)

The Collingwood Children’s Farm management has left Greek migrants like Anna Poulentzas in the blue by canceling appointments and narrowing their pool of consultants to help envision the rebuild. 

Mrs. Poulentzas is Mrs. Krouskos sister-in-law and has helped see the garden grow for decades. 

Her now 92-year-old father gardened there from the mid-1980s. 

The gardens have a rich history within the Greek and other migrant communities (Credit: JUSTIN MCMANUS)

Chief executive of the farm, Conor Hickey, maintains that the farm will remain a “[non-for-profit and social enterprise]”, but says falling revenue and visitor traffic brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the farm to “explore a number of new ways to raise revenue.” 

“Our funds will always go to directly supporting those in the community experiencing adversity,” he says. 

Greek and Turkish migrants have used the garden as a staple since its inception in 1979, with European farming on the site dating back to the 19th century.  

Collingwood Children’s Farm is the oldest continually farmed land in Victoria and has been used by migrants and those without a garden of their own for decades. 

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

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