Running morning teas, weddings, funerals and birthdays in the local Eastlakes Department of Housing estate are all in a day’s work for Marion Cartwright.

Despite a string of recent health issues, Marion, who lives in the estate herself, is the picture of community leadership.

She’s worked hard to instigate change over the last 15 years – and it’s paid off.

Apart from transforming the run-down lot into a thriving community space, she’s single-handedly produced a great deal of social change within Eastlakes.

The Chairman of the Tenants’ Committee, Marion regularly brings the local community together for morning tea in the garden, which was built up with the help of Community Greening through donations of plants, materials and support.

Marion (second from left) with her recent award from Bayside Council.

Marion, who recently celebrated her 80th birthday, was “in a pretty dark place” after moving from Alice Springs and ending up in a women’s refuge home.

“After moving to Sydney in 2005 to this complex, I started planting a little patch of annual flowers – at the time I didn’t’ realise what I started,” she says.

“This garden has saved my life. I was diagnosed with Bipolar and with the help of medication and a good dose of social and therapeutic horticulture – I’m here today, alive and in good mental health.”

She was over the moon to finally get an irrigation system last year as part of the grants she applied for. This meant no longer having to carry water jugs and negotiate with the hose. The grant also included new raised garden beds that are engaging more people in the complex and producing fresh veggies.

Involving more community members

Every second Saturday a local church group helps run a morning tea and lunch in the garden and community members from a range of cultural backgrounds come out of their units to share home-made food and cakes.

Marion also works to advocate for people who don’t speak much English and coordinates the community room so it can be accessed by all.

Marion was “honoured and surprised” to be recently given the Bayside Citizen of the Year Award for 2019, which recognises the exceptional contributions made by an individual to the local community.

Other recipients included Cooper Kilpatrick (Bayside Sportsperson of the Year) and Winola Su (Bayside Young Citizen of the Year).

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