Category Archives: Community Gardens

Find Inspiration in a New Place

Social Fabric website
Dear Readers:
This blog has moved.
You’ll now find it within the cosy confines of the Social Fabric website.
Don’t be a stranger, come and visit me there!



Do you want to support WA community gardens?

growing communities forum 051

Spread the word…  an exciting opportunity exists for people that are keen to support the development of the WA community garden sector to takeover the administration of the Community Gardens WA website, the WA Community Gardens Network Facebook Group and $5000 funding!

Some online resources and funding have been held in trust for the WA community garden sector since the conclusion of the Growing Communities WA project that I managed back in 2008-2010. The intention of these resources is to provide networking platforms (online/offline) for people involved in, or who are supporters of, community gardens in WA that facilitate:

  • Relationship-building between people with a shared interest in community gardening in WA
  • Information-sharing related to community gardening in WA
  • Discussion about community gardening issues and challenges in WA
  • Coordination of broader activities to support the development of the WA community garden sector
  • Anything else that the people involved in these networks decide is worthwhile and will meet their needs

Expressions of Interest are currently being sort from individuals, groups or organisations that are keen to support community garden sector networking in WA through taking over the administration of these resources.

Full details can be found here.

New grant funding for WA community gardens

I want to share some exciting news!

Today the WA Government announced a new Community Gardens Grants Program. $400,000 is available over four years to assist with the establishment or development of community gardens in WA.

I took a welcome break from my office this afternoon to join Local Government and Community Services Minister Tony Simpson, the Mayor and CEO from the City of Stirling, Department of Local Government and Communities staff, and local community gardeners at the always charming Joondanna Community Garden for the official announcement.

In addition to funding for individual gardens, grants can also go towards activities or initiatives that build the capacity of the WA community garden sector (think networking events, bus tours, training, and so on – like the support provided during the Growing Communities WA project).

Full details and application forms can be found on the Department of Local Government and Communities’ website. The closing date for applications for the 2014 round of funding is 5pm Thursday 27 February 2014.

Social Fabric provides specialist advice and support services to new and established community gardens and their partners. If you’d like to know more check out the Community Gardens page or get in touch with me.

CF Funding launch

Today’s launch event for the new grants program, at Joondanna Community Garden

Joondanna Community Food Garden

Last week I had the chance to visit the Joondanna Community Food Garden (corner of Stoneham and Wade Streets in Joondanna). Through my role as Coordinator of Growing Communities WA (2008 – 2010), I provided advice and support to the garden during its feasibility and start-up stages, so it was great to finally have a chance to visit to see how the community’s plans have borne fruit (sorry it’s hard to resist a gardening pun!).

The garden is nestled in the middle of a suburban neighbourhood in Perth, surrounded by houses and blocks of units. It has some lovely established native trees onsite that shade a gathering area that can be used for events, as well as allotment gardens and fruit and olive trees.

Here are some snaps from my visit:

A striking community art piece next to clear garden signage makes a good first impression

Allotment garden beds that are leased to community members

Garden art adds personality to the garden

A type of garden edging I haven’t seen before – paving slabs

Social activities and working bees are an important part of sustaining the gardening community and maintaining the garden

Giving some produce away for free is a useful strategy for minimising theft in a garden that’s open to the public at all times

A worm shed onsite = happy vegetables!

Gardeners enjoying a pleasant Saturday afternoon

For more info about community gardens in WA and to find a garden near you visit Community Gardens WA.

For info about the specialist advice and support services that are available to help you at whatever stage you are up to with a community garden – feasibility, start-up, visioning and design, construction and development, ongoing management or partnering with a garden – check out Community Gardens.

All juiced up: good things for communities in 2010

By nature, I’m a reflective person. So I enjoy the end of year/new year period for the opportunity it offers to sit back and take stock of the year that’s been. I’ve been doing just that over the past few weeks and wanted to share some of my community development and place making highlights for 2010 (I got all excited and inspired pulling this list together!).

These are some of the good things that kept me juiced up last year:

1. Developing the new Community Gardens WA website as a virtual hub for the WA community garden sector was a highlight. The site gives people easy access to information, connections and avenues of support for their community gardening initiatives. This should be your first port of call if you want to know about community gardens in WA!

community gardens WA, website

The virtual home for community gardens in WA

2. After two years of working intensively in the community gardening sector through managing the Growing Communities WA project, I felt grateful to have the chance in 2010 to put some of my learnings about community gardens down on paper in the form of two new resources – Community Gardening Success Factors and Funding Your Community Garden – to help WA gardens grow. These are free to download at Community Gardens WA.

3. Working with the Vincent Reconciliation Group and the Town of Vincent on the Banks Reserve Reconciliation Place project and seeing the positive impact for people of being involved in visioning processes was truly special. The project aims to make a local contribution to fostering reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians by building relationships across cultures around a shared connection with a special place in the Town – Banks Reserve on the banks of the Biliya (also know as Derbarl Yerrigan or you might know it as the Swan River!).

It was particularly touching to receive the following feedback from Noongar elder Doolann-Leisha Eatts who has been closely involved in the development of the project: “I never thought I would see this day come: when people would be gathering together to heal the wounds of our past and present. I really feel hope now – I really feel that my grandchildren and great grandchildren have a future. I really feel that we are being heard and we can walk together”. Wow. This is the reason I do the work I do!

Banks Reserve, Reconciliation Place

Community members talking about how Banks Reserve can be a place of reconcilation

4. In the course of working on a cultural plan for the City of Melville I had the privilege of chatting with a wide range of passionate and skilled community members who are contributing to creating a lively and inclusive arts and cultural scene in the area. I was blown away by the contribution all of these people are making to their local community, on a voluntary basis. And the people I met would just be the tip of the iceberg. Isn’t it awesome what people do to help build strong and vibrant communities?

Heathcote playground

Did I mention I also discovered possibly the best playground in Perth? You'll find it at Heathcote in Applecross.

5. Having a hand in helping Perth City Farm obtain funding to realise their 8-year dream of opening a training cafe on site was a real highlight. The café is generating numerous benefits for City Farm. If you haven’t already, make sure you cycle down there soon to check it out. The food and ambience is ace.

Perth City Farm, cafe

Soaking up the sun at City Farm's garden cafe

6. I enjoyed some travels within WA and interstate during 2010 and relished the opportunities to discover, explore and connect into local places and pick up some new ideas to add to my place maker toolkit. If you like travel diaries, you can dip into mine here and here.

7. Bringing a little piece of the East St Jetty to Eighth Avenue for the launch of creative maylands during the Maylands Festival was a lot of fun and reinforced for me how effective it is to take standard community engagement tools and give them a ‘flavour’ of the place where I am using them. We chatted to lots of people throughout the day about what they think is special about Maylands and recorded their ideas on colourful fish that gradually filled our ‘river’ to the brim.

creative maylands, East St jetty

We had lots of fun designing this East St jetty-themed interactive display and people seemed to love it

8. Building on my work with Growing Communities WA, in 2010 I began offering a new range of development support services for community gardens called How Does Your Garden Grow. This paved the way for me to support an exciting initiative to develop a new community garden in Armadale, under the auspices of a local Indigenous Corporation, that has the potential to bring significant benefits to the local community. Yay!

So, what about you? What community development or place making initiatives got you fired up 2010? I’d love to hear about your highlights for the year and how you plan to build on them in 2011. Let’s have your comments…

Travel diary of a place maker

When you’re into place making like I am, visiting cities and towns in other parts of Australia provides a great opportunity to expand your knowledge of what makes places tick and gather up some images and examples of what’s possible, exciting or interesting. I thought I’d share a few snaps of some of the things that inspired me during a recent trip to Canberra to speak at a community garden conference and visits to Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast. They just might inspire you too!

Solar panels, church, Canberra

Love the solar panels on the roof of this church in the suburb of O’Connor in Canberra. Great example of how form and function can be successfully combined to add a quirky, interesting element to a local area. Cute.

Developing a community garden or another type of community place? These gloves provide an example of how really simple elements can add personality to a place, making it more attractive for people.

There’s lot of beauty in community gardens (like these lovely leeks). Can you perhaps design seating areas or gathering places that maximise opportunities to sit back and soak up the beautiful elements of the public space you’re working on?

Or maybe you have a spectacular view of your surroundings (like this view of our national parliament from the Cook Community Garden) that you can make the most of? A seat, a sign, a viewing platform or even providing some binoculars would all provide a simple invitation for people to stop and notice what’s special about this place.

Ah, public artwork that you can interact with, it’s so great isn’t it? If you’re a drover on Brisbane’s city streets, be sure to watch out for small children with umbrellas! This artwork was originally created as part of a temporary exhibit at Brisbane’s Expo in 1988, but was later re-cast and installed on the street as a permanent feature. Perhaps there are some temporary artworks in your local area that could become permanent, endearing aspects of the place-scape?

Brisbane, citycycle

When is Perth getting it’s own ‘citycycle’ network (like the one in Brisbane’s CBD)? Hopefully soon. While we’re at it, a car sharing vehicle parked at each of Perth’s train station would be awesome too. Is it easy for people to get to (and get around in) the community place that you’re working on? Improving accessibility will increase use of your place and introducing sustainability measures will build the resilience or your place.

"obi obi creek", maleny

These local residents of Obi Obi Creek in Maleny, Queensland, remind me of how important it is to think about the non-human users of our public spaces and to find ways to make our community places welcoming and safe for our furry, feathered and slippery friends. What’s the ecology of your public space? How can your place making activities enhance biodiversity, provide habitats for wildlife or help to reconnect people with the natural environment and systems?

Have you been travelling recently and been inspired by places you’ve visited? Send me a postcard with your ideas or, better yet, write a comment and share your thoughts with everyone.

A taste of community hubs on WA’s south coast

Whenever I travel (whether to the next city/town or far away), I enjoy discovering, exploring and connecting into local places that are vibrant hubs for creative community activity. On a recent break to Denmark and Albany on the south coast of WA I found three such places:

Centre for Sustainable Living (CSL), Denmark

I arrived at the centre and was greeted by the enticing smell of an Indian feast being cooked up in the centre’s kitchen, in preparation for a fundraising dinner being hosted their that night. No surprises I came back that evening to support the cause!

The centre is managed by Green Skills and a lot of great stuff happens there. I was visiting specifically to check out the community garden that’s been started (I think) in the last 6 months. A feature of the garden is a bush foods area where plants that will provide food during each of the six Nyungar seasons are being grown. I was struck by the ephemeral artwork that has been created as a centrepiece for this garden.

Ephemeral artwork at CSL community garden

Ephemeral artwork made using natural materials

It’s not a new idea I know, but I’m currently feeling really excited about how community artwork (including ephemeral, impermanent works and performance) can help bring life to public places and I’m finding ways to incorporate more of this sort of process into my work with communities and places. Check out these lovely urban nests inhabiting the scaffolding of a building being renovated in Madrid for example.

A highlight of the CSL is a special place called the Sanctuary. Look at it – don’t you just want to spend time there!

The Sanctuary, Denmark

The Sanctuary, Denmark


Inside the Sanctuary

I love the garden on the roof and, again, the artwork interwoven into the place that imbues it with story, life and colour.

The Tip Shop, Denmark

What’s a trip to Denmark without a visit to the Tip Shop I say? Some other time I’ll have to tell you about why I’m excited about waste and creative reuse. On this visit though, the thing that stayed with me most was being reminded of the diversity of types of places in our local communities that can become hubs where people can meet, connect and make interesting things happen. And how the principles of place making can be used to enhance such very different places – main streets, community gardens, small bars, public parks and tip shops!

At this one in Denmark, they’re working to expand the range of activities that happen there – one of the key strategies for attracting more people to visit and stay awhile. There’s a children’s sand pit play area, an education and training venue, the Tiporium Teahouse Sunday Session events, ‘junk’ musical instruments to play with, a casual tip shop ‘cafe’ and outdoor eating area is being set up and, of course, plenty of shopping for reuse goods and bits and pieces. Having this diversity of activity and uses bodes well for the future of this developing community hub.

Bikes at Denmark Tip Shop

Need a bike?

Rainbow Coast Neighbourhood Centre Community Garden, Albany

It was a rainy afternoon when I visited the Rainbow Coast Neighbourhood Centre Community Garden. Arriving on foot, I actually walked past the garden because it’s set back from the road, but I was lucky enough to score a lift back to the right spot by a friendly staff member of the youth centre at the other end of the street (otherwise I would have been soaked!).

Only around a year old, the garden already has a lovely feel. Those involved in developing it have paid attention not only to getting the veges growing but also to creating a vibrant and interesting community place (again the contribution community artwork can make to building a sense of place is evident). The garden is one of the few in WA that I’ve heard have managed to grow enough surplus produce to warrant selling some off for fundraising (what a difference climate can make).

Communal garden bed enlivened with simple mosaic crazy paving

The old wheelbarrow adds interest to the garden and extra growing space

community artwork

Decorated bicycle tyres add colour to the fence

At the garden I met Mitch, who’s currently supervising Green Corp participants in the building of a large circular garden bed cut into quarters by pathways. One quarter will have a children’s sand pit and another a covered socialising area. Mitch mentioned that the following week he was booked to deliver his first public talk on what we need to do about climate change. It reminded me of how being involved in places like community gardens leads people to feel more inspired, empowered and interested in being active citizens. This is one of the reasons hubs like these are so important and special.

I’d love to hear about community hubs in your local area and why they work; how about posting a comment?