Soon after commencing the ATWORK program in October 2011, the learner group began work down at the ‘Garden of Reflection’. This garden is located at the Desert Peoples Centre, Alice Springs, within the Desert Knowledge Precinct, and is a significant space for Stolen Generation people of this country. These men, all Indigenous and long term unemployed, had been referred to the program from Alice Springs based job service providers.  All of the learners were currently living in Alice Springs, but some had had grown-up or spent time in the smaller communities or outstations spread across central Australia. The learners included two cousins, from John Holland North Community. As a result of an agreement between the Central Australian Stolen Generations, Families Aboriginal Corporation and the Desert Peoples Centre, the learners were invited to work on a number of projects associated with the ‘Garden of Reflection’ Site.

How it all started

At the beginning, the group met with Harold Furber, Chair of the Desert Peoples Centre,  to gain an understanding of the Garden, including its history and its purpose.  In the garden are a number of plants planted by Stolen Generations members and their families. Permanent plaques will be placed where the trees are planted to remember who planted them and to welcome them back year after year. Visitors to the garden are encouraged to reflect on the impact of past policies and practices on the lives of Aboriginal people and their families. The group discussed with Harold potential projects for the site.  The ideas that emerged from these discussions included:

  • Making a path
  • Installing a drinking fountain
  • Making additional bench seating
  • Installing irrigation for existing and new plants
  • It was decided that the first project to be tackled by the group was the construction of a walking path around the garden.
  • Making the Path: planning and preparation

As a part of the planning and preparation phase the learners completed a number of tasks including:

  • Pegging out the path;
  • Measuring the distance of the path;
  • Calculating the quantity of laterite needed;
  • Clearing debris, tree roots and weeds from the site

With a ready supply of laterite already on the precinct, it was easy for the group to decide on the material for the path. However, there were a number of other decisions and questions that needed to be considered. These included:

  • How best to  move laterite from where it was stockpiled to the worksite?
  • How much laterite would be needed for the path?
  • What would be the best way to prepare the ground prior to laying down the laterite


The learners enjoyed perfecting their manoeuvring skills on the ‘dingo’ and ‘bobcat’ as they moved the laterite to and around the site. The learners decided that it would be best to place the laterite onto weed matting and to use lengths of timber as formwork to keep a consistent depth and width for the path.

Finally, with all the laterite placed, it was time to use the roller to compact the laterite. With the job done it was time to pack-up and go home. However, the story didn’t end there.  With the path completed the group were keen to keep going.  In agreement with the Central Australian Stolen Generations and Families Aboriginal Corporation and the Desert Peoples Centre the learners went on to install irrigation to the site and a highly original drinking fountain for all to enjoy.