I’m writing to share some very exciting news. We are the lucky and honoured recipients of an international award celebrating leadership in sustainability – one of 15 initiatives across 54 Commonwealth countries, representing 2.6 billion people, to receive the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Award for Innovation in Sustainable Development.

It’s a pretty big deal. Normally we would be flown to the UK to meet with members of the Commonwealth, and in 2019 the awards were given out by Prince Harry. In 2021, it was a virtual ceremony that started at 11pm in our time zone, but it was inspiring and energising nonetheless. The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland was so enthusiastic about the initiatives selected for these awards, their “human genius” that would help people, the planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships, and their ability to lift people’s spirits by giving them hope and a blueprint for a better world.

We also met with the Governor-General of Australia His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) and Her Excellency Mrs Linda Hurley yesterday who congratulated us on our achievement.

What a big week!

It is a testament to the value of permaculture, the power of social enterprise, and to the efforts of so many in the community who have built Green Connect up from an idea and an identified local need into what is now being pointed at internationally as a leading example of sustainable development. No matter what your involvement in Green Connect, past or present, I hope you know what a difference your time, energy, ideas, money and support have made and will make in to the future.


Here’s what else has been happening across Green Connect…


We’re recruiting!

This summer is shaping up to be a busy one for us once lockdown lifts, so we’re hiring more young people and former refugees who are interested in doing outdoor work and could do with a supportive organisation to help them to overcome barriers to employment (get a foot in the door, figure out what they’re good at and want to do, and set them on a pathway to getting and keeping a long-term job that they love).

If you know a young person (from any background) or a former refugee (of any age) in Wollongong who wants work, please let them know to sign up for Paid Work – Green Connect Illawarra (green-connect.com.au)


Welcome to our new Fair Food and Farm Manager

This is Cal Champagne’s final week at Green Connect, after almost eight years of turning disused land in Warrawong into the award-winning Green Connect Farm. An award from the Commonwealth is quite the high note to finish on!

We are very excited to welcome Emily Henderson to the team to take up where Cal is leaving off. Emily joins us with lots of business management and community development skills, and a passion for sustainable farming. She officially starts on Tuesday 5 October but has already spent as much time as she can learning from Cal, and working alongside our amazing farm team (Lindsay, Rod, Shay, Su, Eh Moo, Jaycob and others), she’ll be up and running in no time.


Plans to re-open the op shop

Like many in the retail sector, we’re watching the government’s announcements about re-opening carefully and are working towards opening the shop doors from 11 October (TBC) if the roadmap stays on track. We’ll put the word out on the op shop’s Facebook and Instagram accounts as soon as know our opening date for sure, and will be following all public health orders and restrictions.

We have really missed seeing our customers and community face-to-face and look forward to opening the doors again!

We know lots of people have been clearing out their cupboards, spare rooms, wardrobes and garages while staying at home. We would love your gently used goods over time, but if you can hold on to donations for 2-3 weeks after we open, we would really appreciate it. Despite hundreds of care packages being made up and delivered to people in need from our op shop, we have had more donations than we can handle so we need to empty the shop out a bit first before taking in more. Every op shop we know is in the same boat, so please help us all out by coming and purchasing some great second-hand goods before donating the items from home you no longer want.


Care package update

What started out as a feel-good project where we thought we could help a few dozen people doing it tough a week in to a three week lockdown has turned into a huge community support effort over almost three months. With the support of generous community members and funders (including Wollongong City Council, Scanlon Foundation, Multicultural NSW and two corporate matching programs – thank you!), and the incredible partnerships with Merrigong Theatre Company and Flavours of the Valley, we have delivered 2,373 care packages, food hampers, fruit and veg boxes and frozen meal packs to people in need.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who donated, volunteered, nominated themselves or someone else doing it tough, and helped in any way. The stories of hardship have been heartbreaking, right here in our own community, but more than matched by the kindness of strangers. You’re an amazing bunch!

The Centre for Social Impact heard about what we were doing and put out this lovely article this week.

We currently have 241 more requests for care packages than resources to provide them so if you’re in a position to donate, it isn’t too late! Veg boxes and frozen meals are in particularly high demand but any donation is greatly appreciated.


Meals and grazing platters – final days

On that note, this is our second-to-last week of home-delivered frozen meals thanks to the beautiful humans at Merrigong Theatre Company and Flavours of the Valley.

Jump online and order Meal Packs by 3pm today (Thursday) for delivery this Friday and keep an eye out for our final round next week. I’ve been ordering loads of these, not only because every meal pack purchased covers the cost of us delivering another to someone in need, but because they’ve been absolutely delicious!

Flavours of the Valley are a kindhearted catering company who cater for weddings and wanted to help so they have been putting together some delectable Gourmet Grazing Platters. They are amazing! A special treat not to be missed as we celebrate the start of spring and a hopeful end to lockdown, so also get in quick to order yours for this Friday (savoury) or next Friday (sweet).


Gardening and landscaping

Word has been spreading about our gardening team and they’ve been sprucing up gardens all over the Illawarra as the weather warms up as well as designing new gardens for residents and businesses (including a rooftop garden that was particularly interesting!).

We’re also working on some large landscaping projects including helping plant and mulch along 150,000km2 of road and rail corridors in Sydney.

All of these projects deliver on our goals of creating employment that’s good for the community and the planet. We would really love to do a little more commercial garden maintenance to provide some more stable employment for our young people and former refugees so if you manage or know someone who manages a site that needs regular pruning, weeding and tidying, please get in touch with [email protected].


Tours of the Green Connect Farm

We’re waiting to see what happens with restrictions but are fairly confident we’ll be able to open the farm up for public tours and workshops again from 1 December.

We’re taking bookings for corporate days and private tours in the meantime, with a couple of groups already reaching out to lock those in for November. Please contact Lindsay at [email protected] if you’d like to know more.


Veg boxes now home delivered to Kiama and Shellharbour 

As highlighted in the Commonwealth award, Green Connect was created in response to community need. 10 years later, we’re still shaped by what the community wants and needs.

Kiama and Shellharbour residents have been asking us to deliver further south and now we do! If you know someone in that neck of the woods who might not know we’re one of only three market gardens left in the Illawarra that people can buy from directly, please let them know to check out our Home delivered fruit and veg boxes


Phew, I think that’s the update for now. Thank you for your support and for reading to the end!

Best wishes,