Kenmore Park community aims to re-establish APY Lands orchard to improve fresh produce access

Kenmore Park community aims to re-establish APY Lands orchard to improve fresh produce access
  • PublishedDecember 7, 2023

Kenmore Park, or Yunyarinyi, is an Anangu community in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia, about 460 kilometres south of Alice Springs.

For residents like Pitjantjatjara woman Lois Fraser, fruit and vegetables are expensive and often have a short shelf life, but Ms Fraser wants to revitalise the town’s neglected orchard to improve the community’s access to fresh produce.

“We’ve got grapes, oranges, mandarins, lemons, apricots, and peaches and, in the past, there were strawberries growing in this garden as well,” she said.

“If there’s no money, we can survive on the fruits here. That’s the plan.”

Ms Fraser hopes one day there will be enough fruit and vegetables to start a store and sell the produce in the community.

Lines of green trees stand out from the red soil of the desert at Kenmore Park.
The Kenmore Park orchard is surrounded by the red sand of Central Australia.(Supplied: Murray Miller)

Orchard could have ongoing benefits

The burden of disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is 2.3 times that of non-Indigenous Australians and they also have a shorter life expectancy at birth, according to federal government figures.

National Rural Health Alliance chief executive Susi Tegen said rejuvenating the orchard could improve the health of Kenmore Park residents.

“The communities around Alice Springs suffer worse diet-related health of all the population groups in Australia,” she said.

“If you had more fruit and vegetables, the chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and some cancers would be reduced.

“They [the diseases] are responsible for at least 75 per cent of the mortality gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other Australians.”

An Aboriginal woman wearing a bright purple shirt, stands in front of overgrown orange trees on red sandy soil.
Lois Fraser wants children like her granddaughter to have access to fresh fruit and vegetables.(ABC Rural: Victoria Ellis)

It was an important consideration for Ms Fraser, who wanted to teach the next generation how to make healthy food choices.

“It’s good for the kids to have dried fruit, rather than the chocolate or a lolly from the shop,” she said.

Ms Tegen said the exercise and a sense of achievement from maintaining the orchard could also improve the community’s health.

She said the community’s desire to maintain the orchard was an opportunity for the health and agriculture departments to collaborate, and to improve education and employment outcomes.

Thriving orchard ‘the dream’

Ms Fraser’s father, Donald, shares her vision for a thriving orchard to increase food security for the remote community.

It’s an issue close to Mr Fraser’s heart, as he can still feel a pang of hunger from his childhood at the nearby Pukatja or Ernabella mission.

“A piece of bread and a cup of tea, and that was it

Mr Fraser also remembers the orchard flourishing about a decade ago during its prime.

“The gate was open for anybody, non-Aboriginal people and Aboriginal people, to come and pick what they wanted because it became too much food,” he said.

Support needed to maintain orchard

The orchard was established and maintained for a number of years by a retired couple from Clare, but as the pair became older and their health declined, they moved back south and the orchard fell into disrepair.

An elderly couple sit at a table
Brenton and Margaret Pope used to run the orchard at Kenmore Park.(ABC Alice Springs: Caddie Brain)

Kenmore Park has about 20 residents, but none of them care for the orchard consistently.

Ms Fraser said Central Land Council staff from Alice Springs visited the community to investigate fixing irrigation lines in the orchard, but residents needed more support.

“[We need to] look at getting funding for them to work on the garden every day to get it up and running again,” she said.

“And maybe getting a mentor … so they will be well trained to look after the orchard properly.”

Kenmore Park orchard in disrepair 2023-11-02 09:11:00
The neglected Kenmore Park orchard has fallen into disrepair.(ABC Rural: Victoria Ellis)

Central Land Council general manager Mischa Cartwright said traditional owners of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park had used some of their rent income from the park to investigate the feasibility of restoring the orchard.

“We’re working with the community and an Alice-Springs-based landscaping company to scope the project, and have supported the community with project planning and administration as well as meeting facilitation,” she said.

“If the project turns out to be feasible, we’ll plan a sustainable orchard with the community and our project partner.”

SOURCE: ABCNEWS

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