Swinburne’s carpentry community is giving back the favor in Backyard Blitz

Move over Jimmy Dore. There are new legends about the city landscape vying for the Backyard Blitz crown.

Swinburne Croydon’s carpentry division has teamed up with Yellowstone Landscaping, run by Swinburne alum Doug Lord and O’Brien Electrical and Plumbing Vermont to transform the backyard of a needy family in east Melbourne.

The beneficiary of the giant “Blitz Team” effort was Steve Poppins, a 14-year-old with mitochondrial disease whose backyard is now a haven for the whole family.

hard way

Mitochondrial disease is a genetic condition that causes nerve damage and progressive deterioration of the affected organs.

For Steve, this led to hearing, vision and mobility problems.

She had cataract surgery at eight weeks old, developed scoliosis at age two, began using hearing aids at age four, and by eight was confined to a wheelchair.

She now meets with 17 specialists to manage her cases.

In 2017, Steve’s father died, leaving her mother, Kylie, to raise Steve and her older brother, Robbie, on her own.

Doug said that in addition to general maintenance, gardening, electrical, and plumbing in the backyard and around the house, the Blitz team is determined to make the backyard a place Kylie, Rob, and Steph can all enjoy.

“Backyard plans have to match the needs of the family and ensure that it works for them,” he said.

“We wanted Kylie, Steph, and Rob each to have their own space in the garden, and customized ideas for how each space would fit in with each of them.”

Video credit: Andy Gorrie of CodeSafe Solutions


The Poppins’ Backyard Blitz was the third Swinburne was involved in.

The program made an amazing comeback in 2022 after a temporary COVID-19 hiatus.

It’s a fitting partnership for the department, which already donates cubicle homes built by CII students in construction to individuals and organizations throughout the eastern suburbs, including local preschools, foster families, and community members in need.

“It’s a rewarding way for our students and teachers to give back to the community,” said David DeCourt, Senior Educator at Swinburne.

“We are always looking for ways to strengthen relationships with industry and give our students a chance to experience the real world, so that they also get a lot of this on a personal and professional level.”

Doug said Team Blitz is made up of at least 50 active volunteers who go above and beyond for the Poppins family.

“We have our regular volunteers who have helped out many times, and it’s been great to see new faces this year, knowing that more people want to be a part of the day,” he said.

“Everyone on site is determined to get things done, they ask what they can do next, and they’re excited about the end result.

“There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the joy at the end of the day when we hand our day’s work over to the family.”

Swinburne teacher Ian Tay, Yellowstone landscape manager and Doug Lord Swinburne Swinburne senior teacher David de Court, apprentice carpenter and volunteer Thomas Wiltshire on site in the Poppins family’s Backyard Blitz.

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