Community garden project boosts drought resilience in outback Queensland

What do the first Spice Girls music video and a community garden in outback Queensland, have in common? Andrew “Juddy” Judd was there for the creation of both.

The native Londoner come Winton local is part of a team building an oasis in the desert which he hopes will serve as both a meeting place and a fresh food hub.  

The Two Ducks Project is the brainchild of Juddy and his mates Amanda Lyn Pearson, Phil Kuhne and Phillippa Whitehead. 

The group went through the Drought Resilience Leaders Development Program (DRLDP) together and have since joined forces – and funding through the Community Extension Grants – to start a community garden. 

“A meeting place for people, where they could sit down and have a cuppa in the morning and dig in the dirt and see a result at the end of their labours,” Juddy said. 

Infrastructure and irrigation works have now begun, and they hope to one day use aquaponics to grow and supply fresh vegetables to Winton’s food distribution outlets for people in need.

As recently as May 2022, the town of Winton was still classified as being ‘in drought’. 

Juddy said while over the years there have been programs to help pastoralists and property owners during tough times that have provided important financial assistance, there has not been a program that offers wider ranging support to the broader community also feeling the impacts of drought.

“I think a lot of the time it’s the people from out of town, who come into Winton to buy goods and services, that really support the town during tough times. It’s not just property owners or pastoralists who are affected by drought, it’s everybody in the community. And it’s not just financial, it impacts people’s mental health too,” he added. 

The DRLDP has helped Juddy to focus his love of the Winton community and his passion for mental health support into something of benefit for many people, for many years to come. 

“During the initial Covid breakout, I’d done quite a bit of research into happiness, and one of the things that led me to happiness was gardening because you see the fruits of your labour. It gets you out in the fresh air and anyone can do it, you don’t have any special skills,” he said. 

Juddy’s journey to Winton couldn’t have started much further away – in kilometres or likeness – than one of London’s busiest train terminals. 

Juddy was the terminal controller at St Pancras Station – a place described by Juddy as where the Spice Girls recorded their Wannabe music video – when he decided a career change might be just what the doctor ordered. 

So, he turned his hand to the ambulance service and more than a decade later found himself taking a year-long contract as a senior paramedic in Winton. 

That year turned into two and in December 2021, Juddy accepted a permanent position in the town, and he can only put it down to one reason – the people. 

“They are very generous, not just financially to charitable causes, but generous in giving their time and experience and their love – there is a lot of affection out here,” he said. 

“It might not come through as huggy kissy type love, but I think there is a genuine respect and appreciation of other people.” 

There’s a telling pause followed by a clearing of the throat, before Juddy admits it makes him emotional to talk about. 

“The people drew us here and kept us here, their community spirit in whatever form it takes, it might be the smallest of things like someone bringing around scones when you are sick or making sure your post is picked up for you, it is those little things in life that make a huge difference.”  

Upon applying for the DRLDP, Juddy questioned whether the term “leader” quite fit with him, but since completing the program he’s changed his tune. 

“There was one particular part of the course that struck a chord with me – that was explaining the difference between leadership and authority,” Juddy said. 

“You don’t have to be in a position of authority in order to be a leader – a leader is someone who takes other people on the journey with them.”

Juddy could see himself in that sort of leadership role immediately and says he has developed further into it in the past six months. 

“Every time I come up against a roadblock or obstacle in life now, I can see there are ways to navigate around that block or hump in the road – there is always a solution.” 

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