The role of gardens in neighbourhood houses
AffiliationSchool of Geography
Document TypeMasters Research thesis
Access StatusOnly available to University of Melbourne staff and students, login required
© 2018 Tharaka Kaluarachchi
While there is plenty of literature on most types of community gardens, there is none in the space of neighbourhood house gardens. Neighbourhood houses are places focused on community development, targeting the needs of residents in the local area, with a particular focus on disadvantaged groups. Gardens in these contexts are different to stand-alone community gardens due to their attachment to a service provider, in this case, one that provides for individuals and groups attending the neighbourhood house for programs, classes, assistance, and leisure. How the garden is in turn used may reflect what these spaces are trying to achieve for the disadvantaged community members they serve. This research investigated neighbourhood house gardens in Melbourne. The aim of this study was to understand what roles the gardens fulfil, their purpose, who uses them, and how they function. Comparing them to stand-alone community gardens reveals how these spaces deal with the issues associated with community gardening. A mixed-methodology was employed to uncover information about neighbourhood houses across Melbourne, using a desktop review and phone survey to provide an overview of gardens, and semi-structured interviews with four garden coordinators in four houses across Melbourne, to gain a more detailed look at how some of these gardens are used. Most gardens are governed by the house and operates both as an extended classroom and as a productive garden servicing the house and its attendees. Neighbourhood houses use gardens for purposes that extend beyond food production, most notably, as educational spaces for learning outcomes. People from culturally diverse backgrounds use them to learn about food in Australia, and to learn English. Produce is used to supplement the diets of severely disadvantaged groups. Gardens are also places of leisure and interaction between people who use the neighbourhood house but do not necessarily garden in the space. Gardens are operated with a communal system, with only a handful of houses using individual plots and paid memberships, like those found in most stand-alone gardens. Gardeners volunteer their time and labour in the space, and will harvest produce for their own use, for the house to use in its own programs or distribute to other house attendees, or produce is made available to the wider public by ensuring the garden is open access. Neighbourhood house gardens can potentially overcome some of the issues related to ownership and exclusivity found in stand-alone gardens due to their operation as communal and collective spaces. However tensions are ever present and are managed accordingly by staff. The house plays a major role in shaping the space, choosing what outcomes are to be prioritised, and deciding the direction of the space. Volunteers are often consulted when deciding plants, however this is mainly under the control of the house and its representatives in the garden: coordinators and employed garden staff. While much is intended for these spaces, the perspectives of house attendees who tend the garden would further shed light on what outcomes are experienced in these spaces, and as such, should receive ongoing research attention.
Keywordscommunity gardens; neighbourhood houses; Melbourne
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