Shoukry Sidrak’s garden is a bounty for any food lover. An assortment of fruit, vegetables and herbs are thriving in the carefully manicured Mill Park yard.
While the keen environmentalist happily shows off the contents of his garden, he is most proud of the sustainable way he keeps it alive: using recycled water.
Sustainability is at the heart of everything Sidrak does, a passion he shares through Environment Victoria’s GreenTown project.
Through the project Sidrak, who came to Australia from Egypt in 1991, visits Arabic-speaking homes in the northern suburbs, teaching people how to be more environmentally friendly.
The project is also being run for a range of different ethnic groups in the northern suburbs, including East Africans in Flemington, Turkish speakers around Coburg and Aboriginal people in the Northcote area.
“We were interested in teaching Arabic-speaking people because they are not always able to understand what the media says about saving the environment,” Sidrak says.
Sidrak and his wife Magda visit people’s homes together, as they say it helps to have a man and a woman present when dealing with some cultures.
“We always conduct sessions with them with two people, one man and one woman, because some cultures they don’t accept a man to come in and talk to them especially during the day if there is no man at home,” he says.
Once Sidrak goes into a person’s home he explains the bigger issues such as climate change while helping with smaller tasks such as changing to energy efficient light globes, water-saving showerheads and giving tips on how to save water and electricity.
“Some people don’t know anything about climate change, so we introduced this to them and showed them how we have to save water and our natural resources,” he says.
After getting involved in the GreenTown project in 2007, Sidrak says he believes it is making a difference in changing people’s behaviour.
“We did a follow-up with some of the people who participated in the program and many of them were doing a lot to help the environment,” he says.
On and off the job, Sidrak is a man who practises what he preaches. Within his own home, he has installed two water tanks, grows his own vegetables, uses buckets in the shower to recycle water and avoids using his car.
“We have limited natural resources in Australia so if we don’t limit the use of those resources one day we’ll run out, so I believe we have to take action to advise people on how they can help,” he says.