Community Gardens Australia (formerly known as Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network) is an incorporated non-profit association. We are a diverse, skilled, and capable team working to link people interested in community gardening around Australia.
Our community-based organisation provides a platform for people interested in city farms, community gardening, food gardening in schools and other community food systems. We help people share their stories, their knowledge, and their ideas.
Within its limits, the CGA:
- advocates on behalf of community gardeners and city farms
- provides education and information on our website and social media
- provides a mapping service to document city farms, community gardens and other community food systems around Australia
- provides email discussion lists nationally and in some states
- advises local government, institutions and communities interested in establishing community gardens
- documents the development of community gardening in Australia
- is available to the media.
See more about us...
Community Gardens Australia is all of us: gardeners, organisers, administrators, funders, patrons, neighbours, and all the living biota we collaborate with.
Please allow us to introduce some of our special people:
We operate under an appropriate governance system that is appropriate for a network off our size and scope. The Constitution was first adopted when we incorporated in Victoria, 2001. It underwent a major revision and was re-adopted in 2016.
In 2020 we updated the Constitution to reflect the organisation's name change to Community Gardens Australia.
The organisation has continued to step forward under the leadership of John McBain and the current President, Naomi Lacey
This decade was facilitated by the steady and inspired work of Fiona Campbell, Russ Grayson, and Morag Gamble amongst others.
(History and comments to come)
Dr Phillips founded the Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network. Below is an edited version of the introduction to the 1996 Australian City Farms, Community Gardens and Enterprise Centres Inventory.
The Inventory, published by Dr Phillip’s Hobart, Tasmania-based company, Symbioun Australia, and now out of print, went into two printings to cope with demand.
Even before it was published, people in different states surveying known community gardens realised that the Inventory would be incomplete as previously unknown gardens continued to be discovered.
Dr Phillips' Introduction
City farms, community gardens and/ or living-come-enterprise centres, as urban agricultural-based activities, are playing an increasingly important role in communities in Australia.
This is particularly true in many urban areas hard hit by rapidly changing work, economic and social environments where many people have been displaced without any job security and means of sustaining themselves, for which long-term solutions and restructuring are required.
City farms, gardens and living/ enterprise centres are increasingly being recognised by community groups, businesses and government bodies alike as helping provide several component solutions to these wider problems in the longer term.
- job skill training programs tailored to the needs of unemployed youth
- small business enterprise spin-offs such as organic food retail sale and supply, arts and crafts, on-site cafes, plant nurseries and visitor interest-based activities/ programs
- personal and social wellbeing to socially and emotionally displaced people through on-site contact, nurturing and managing of animals and plants, horticultural therapy
- enhancement of communications skills and cultural exchange, particularly indigenous cultural heritage, through living systems and specialist food gardens
- rebuilding or strengthening of community relations and communication
- experience and stimulus in project design and development for on-site participants
- an extensive range of educational programs, particularly to school groups focused on future directions for sustainable development and the integrated use of urban space and resources.
The value and benefit of such centres has also been recognised and highlighted more recently by:
- populist magazines and TV shows such as the ABC’s Gardening Australia
- major reviews of food self-sufficiency and ‘food bank’ service measures for poverty relief by large community welfare organisations such as Anglican Community Services, based in North Adelaide
- a burgeoning list, locally and internationally, of major publications documenting the social and economic benefits of urban agriculture, particularly in the developing world.
In short, they are becoming places or examples of holistic management, of both the human and wider environmental condition, helping to reknit and/ or enhance the social fabric, wellbeing and functionality of many communities and environs.
The Australian City Farms, Community Gardens and Enterprise Centres Inventory currently lists over 40 centres for Australia drawn from all six states and the Australian Capital Territory, bar the Northern Territory.
Many other centres are believed to be in existence or in the very early formative stages of development.
Most of the projects were begun from the early 1980s up to the present and all indicate an ‘ongoing’ direction. Participation in the projects often occurred through word of mouth, suggesting a network type approach and the ‘power of individual comment’.
Survey data indicated that site users predominate in the under 20 and 20 to 40 age bracket, thought his varied considerably between location and focus of acivities of each centre. On average, slightly more than half the site users were female (~60%).
Differing sites all offered varying features, emphasising the problem of actually finding a suitable site or simply having to take what was offered.
This initial hurdle often presents problems in itself but sometimes also offers inspiration and optimism in the success of projects using land declared ‘unusable’ or ‘degraded’ by authorities. CERES, in Melbourne, and Planetary Action Networks in East Perth are good examples of this.
Most sites were on state or local government land and leased. Equipment provided on site was usually of the kind most readily available and affordable, such as tools and compost. However, some sites require site users to provide their own tools but provide storage facilities.
Surveys of centres in Australia revealed that approximately half received funding from government, commercial enterprises, grants, corporate sponsorships and affiliated organisations.
Most groups charge a membership and site fee of between $7-$35, and/ or obtain income from donation or public entrance fees.
It was indicated that funding was most often provided for a project devised by an established organisation. Not unexpectedly, this habit often brings particular hardship to those centres in their embryonic stages of development.
It was noted that many of what are now large, well established centres started from very small beginnings and relatively small seed money grant allocations, along with donations of materials and resources in-kind and lots of voluntary support.
In-kind donations by local small business also often play an important supportive role in the successful development of new sites. Hence, the importance of even small seed funding to fledgling ventures should not be underestimated by funding authorities.
Some centres lead a tenuous existence with no guarantees long-term funding and hence rely heavily on volunteer or unpaid staff.
It is clear from survey data that volunteers are closely linked to the success of all projects and their community-oriented focus, and form a key component to the long-term survival of the centre/ program.
Voluntarism can present problems for groups due to its unpredictable nature, their numbers often fluctuating seasonally.
All survey respondents regard their project as successful in what they have strived to do. This extends from simply ‘surviving’ to attracting more enthusiasts/ visitors, negotiating legislative minefields, providing cheap and healthy organically grown food and reaching and sustaining commercial viability.
It is interesting to note that organic food production is stipulated by some organisations as a rule for users and contributors but for others it is not, and yet organic and companion planting methods are still the preferred techniques of garden users.
City farms, community gardens and enterprise centres are proving to be one tested and successful means which provide testament to the benefits and principles of urban agriculture and their related small business enterprise spin-offs.
Dr Darren Phillips contacted CGA and shared this early history of the organisation through the lens of mid-2020 realities:
Darren Phillips here.
After being contacted by an old friend (an ecologist) in recent days, with whom I'd lost touch from Melbourne Uni postgrad days back in the 80's, we were catching up and sharing stories. I mentioned the background to the push for a National Centre in Canberra for an Australian Centre for Environmentally Sustainable Systems Inc.(ACESS Inc.) back in the early 90's. How as part of the baseline research for that, so the Inventory (of community gardens) was borne along with the formation of ACFCGN to provide a mechanism for all that brilliant knowledge held amongst individual centres to become a shared / collective wisdom to help nurture and sustain fledgling new centres.
It is just wonderful all these years later to see how the network has grown over the years, and peoples' interest in growing healthy, organic food and living more kindly with Mother Earth, to whom we are ultimately all indebted for her unconditional service despite our absurd abuse of her living systems.
It is also interesting to see a major silver lining of COVID19 has been for many people to begin to reconnect with the cycles of the seasons, and their connection with the Earth by the humble act of growing food. Such a simple thing, and yet such an amazing thing. Not only that, but people have been shown what is possible for Mother Nature's capacity to begin to restore balance and health in ecosystems, if we were only to collectively relent and give her a chance to 'breath' again.
Tragically we humans have had a joint knee on her neck and throat for far too long and it must stop also, if there is to be a future worth handing down to future generations or worse still even allows the human race to remain present in it. We are at risk of writing ourselves out of the picture through our folly, ignorance, and greed. Maybe COVID19 is a basic message from her to tell us to get off her also.
Whilst sharing the link to the ACFCGN with my friend, I simply wished to make contact here and thank you all, particularly Russ and Fiona and Morag, for all your years of unstinting work and support of the Network to help nurture it into the multitude of community gardens and city farms it has become in contemporary Australia. It is a great thing to see, and something one felt would come in time. Hopefully many have seen the more recent film, "The Biggest Little Farm" and the great story and journey they tell, in the face of corporatised, big business, agriculture in the USA.
For me, I still love to see and am inspired by the small acts of kindness and networks at the grass roots level transforming small communities and individuals lives. There is so much inspirational content on the web these days, particularly the resilience, integrity and vitality of small scale environmental restoration projects you see featured on Channels like Eco India, Trees for Life, etc.
My great love and passion over the past decade or more aside from my specialist work as a biosecurity policy and regulatory analyst for the Tasmanian Government, seeking to safeguard this State from the never ending onslaught of exotic pests and diseases peppering our country with trade and movement of peoples, is what can be done to restore and protect Old Growth Forests. My focus in particular is through Buddhist/spiritual blessing of OGF, and supporting various people here and there overseas who are undertaking important actions to restore OGF.
Trees are going to be one of the KEY solutions to combating climate change and restoring carbon balance, and my personal dream and joy would be to see an International Network form, along the lines of an "Old Growth Forest Restoration Network" to share the collective wisdom and inspiration held by many small groups here and there around the globe fighting hard to both protect and/or restore these precious forests and ecosystems. What I'm seeing is a need now for this, just as much as there was a need for the ACFCGN back in the mid-90's to ensure that collective wisdom and inspiration was shared and guided to ignite many others actions to green their lives.
Wouldn't it be great if an international network of OGF Restorers came together to supercharge projects all over the world to take back our forests and save them from the combined onslaught of fire and chainsaw. Anyway. All the very best to you all.