Southbank sustainability champions find friendship in the garden

30 August 2023

Head to Boyd Community Hub to tend to neighbourhood plants and make new friends at workshops designed to help Southbankers live more sustainably and reduce their environmental footprint.

From a group of proactive gardeners who began growing plants near the A60 flyover in 2017, Southbank Sustainability Group has grown into a group of dedicated community volunteers.

It now welcomes a diverse group of people from the neighbourhood to enjoy practical sustainability workshops and care for planter boxes provided by the City of Melbourne outside Boyd Community Hub.

The group has seen strong friendships form and life-bonds made.

We sat down with Southbank Sustainability Group members Lily, Seema and Faye to discover how they came to be part of the local community, why sustainability matters to them, and why they love getting their hands dirty.

Meet Lily Bednikov

Lily Bednikov moved to Australia as a child from a peaceful and connected community in China where everyone had bicycles.

The big city buildings of Melbourne seemed overwhelming at first, and Lily lived in Southbank for more than 20 years before taking a career break, when she became more connected to her neighbourhood.

She was drawn to the Boyd Community Hub and saw the Southbank Sustainability Group advertised on the noticeboard.

“I thought: I’m not good at gardening, having killed a cactus previously, so why not go along and see what I can learn,” Lily said.

“It’s amazing what you can learn if you put effort in – planting things and watching them grow. I learnt about when to plant, plant propagation, zero waste, and gardening for small spaces. There’s a real community spirit in the group around sharing ideas and knowledge.”

Lily Bednikov

Lily meets fellow Southbank Sustainability Group members at Boyd to garden, socialise and chat about all sorts of things that impact the community. They’ve had dinners out together, too.

“I have friends in the building opposite mine and I walk my neighbours’ dog. I often go to Gordons for coffee and people always pass who I know,” Lily said.

“Really, once you get to know the area it has a village feel. Southbank is really a group of small sub regions or neighbourhoods.

“For me, Southbank used to be a great place to walk to work from, now it’s more than that. I really enjoy living here and have a strong sense of connection.”

Read more about Lily’s journey on the Southbank Neighbourhood Portal.

Meet Seema Misra Thakur

As a school-child in 1970s Mumbai, Seema Misra Thakur lived in a green area and learnt about the environment and pollution. She went on to major in botany and biochemistry, and complete a PhD on micro-algae as an energy source.

After falling in love with Southbank and moving here with her family, Seema has enjoyed reading hundreds of books from the local library at Boyd and living car-free, which reduces her carbon footprint.

A chance encounter while exercising in the Boyd garden during the pandemic led her to deepen her community connections, and share her deep scientific knowledge in her own backyard.

“One day, Maria from Southbank Sustainability Group saw me looking at the planter boxes and asked what I thought we should plant next. That’s how serendipitously I first became involved with the group,” Seema said.

Seema Misra Thakur

“For me, this has been a true journey of over 50 years, from when I first heard about the environment as a girl in India to being part of this sustainability group in Melbourne. From Mumbai to Melbourne, it all tied up beautifully for me.

“This community is a home away from home. Now, when I think about going away, I think about missing the family I have made here through the community in Southbank.”

Seema is also involved in the City of Melbourne’s Garden’s for Wildlife program, helping local people turn their balconies, backyards, community gardens, school veggie patches and green rooftops into havens for birds and bees.

Read more about Seema’s journey on the Southbank Neighbourhood Portal.

Meet Faye McDonald

Retired nurse Faye McDonald has lived in Southbank for 27 years. It was a major shock when she first moved, coming from a house with a half-acre garden to the eighth floor of a high-rise building, but she’s come to love living in the city.

“I don’t take it for granted. Every morning I stand at the window and look at the view and it’s magic, it really is. When the sun comes up it’s quite exciting to watch. I just love the big sky and clouds,” Faye said.

“High rise living suits us well. There are so many benefits, including access to public transport.

“At the beginning it was a struggle to foster a community feeling in a high-rise, but after 27 years we know what we’re doing. There are book clubs, the canasta club, and of course the Southbank Sustainability Group is very important to me.”

Faye McDonald

Faye was one of the Southbank Sustainability Group’s earliest members. After a group of “guerilla” gardeners started their plot near the flyover, she stepped in to care for plants including broad beans, artichokes, passionfruit and flowers.

“The City of Melbourne saw what the group was doing and became interested in supporting us. They gave us some green planters outside Boyd Community Hub and asked us to help look after them,” Faye said.

“Suddenly we had 12 wicking beds and we were beside ourselves – we had dirt! Council has been very supportive right from the start.”

Over the years, Faye has enjoyed watching the Southbank Sustainability Group grow its impact and diversity. The group has even helped introduce children from local playgroups to gardening and dirt – sometimes for the first time.

“We are a culturally and age diverse group and I have learnt a lot from the other members,” Faye said.

Read more about Faye’s journey on the Southbank Neighbourhood Portal.

How to get involved

Southbank Sustainability Group is a solutions-focussed community group of Southbank residents working to bring positive change in sustainability practices.

If you’re interested in getting involved, send the group an email at or come to one of the fortnightly meetups, listed on the Southbank Sustainability Group Facebook page.

About our neighbourhood model

We’re working to better understand and respond to community needs in a highly localised way through a new neighbourhood model.

Led by passionate neighbourhood partners, the model aims to ‘connect the dots’ between the City of Melbourne, residents and businesses, to empower local people, build community capacity and guide city projects through our neighbourhood portals.

To find out more and have your say on what matters, explore the Southbank Neighbourhood Portal, and get to know the priorities for all City of Melbourne neighbourhoods.

Share this story

You may also like
A wild life: park rangers rescue roos and reptiles

A wild life: park rangers rescue roos and reptiles

A roo on the hop in Carlton. A blue-tongue lizard basking in a laneway. Ducklings in distress. Our park rangers have seen it all and know just what to do. So – before you step in – give the experts a call. Our park rangers do important work – helping visitors, keeping...

Guide to parks and gardens in Melbourne

Guide to parks and gardens in Melbourne

Enjoy re-leaf from the daily grind in one of our city’s many parks and gardens. We have 480 hectares of green space to explore, including bushland, wetlands, suburban reserves and heritage gardens with majestic avenues of trees.  These soothing sanctuaries for...

Planning for the future of Royal Park

Planning for the future of Royal Park

There are many reasons to love Royal Park. It’s our city’s biggest open space spanning 169 hectares. It serves regional and local sports teams and wildlife lovers, fitness junkies and picnickers, horticulture devotees and playground adventurers.  It‘s home...

Five thrifty, healthy and sustainable ways to get around Melbourne

Five thrifty, healthy and sustainable ways to get around Melbourne

Save time, money and the planet by making small changes to how you get around the city. Transport accounts for 16 per cent of all emissions in the municipality. To achieve our goal of net zero emissions by 2040, we need to rapidly reduce transport emissions. We’re...

Subscribe to our newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the City of Melbourne by subscribing to the Melbourne newsletter.

You have successfully subscribed!