Nourishing Culture and Developing Social Capital in a Community Garden

Community Garden site

The bottom-half of the community garden site

Aboriginal elder Steve Widders with Colin Ahoy

Steve Widders (left) and Colin Ahoy turning the soil of the community garden

Community Garden Committee Meeting

Community Garden Committee Meeting

A University of New England Postdoctoral Research Project

Dr Katherine Wright's postdoctoral research project Nourishing Culture and Developing Social Capital in a Community Garden, is a collaboration with members of Armidale's Aboriginal community to develop a garden of vegetables, flowers, herbs, bush foods, medicinal plants, and native plants and shrubs in East Armidale on the border of Narwan Village, a former Aboriginal reserve adjacent to residential properties and opposite the local Aboriginal Primary School, Minimbah. The garden will be a place to experiment with alternatives to anthropocentric, neoliberal and colonial ways of thinking and living, and will act as a focal point for a cohesive and positive engagement with place through caring for Country. The site where the garden will be established was initially being used as a dumping ground for building refuse but has now been cleared of waste and noxious weeds with garden works set to begin in February 2015, with an Open Day in March 2015.

Through focusing on inter-species and inter-cultural interaction, this project aims to expand notions of 'community' into ideas of 'mixed communities' of humans and nonhumans, and to ask innovative questions such as, Can a plant be a mentor? Can bush foods retain cultural knowledge? Can worms teach us how to develop more sustainable modes of living?

The idea of developing a community garden as a research site in Armidale was raised by the local Indigenous community and aims to serve community interests. The project is integrated with an innovative training and education pathway program that links Aboriginal environmental knowledges with sustainability and environmental science. This program will be conducted through the garden in partnership with TAFE New England, Jobs Australia, Best Employment, BackTrack Youthworks, and the Clontarf Academy (Armidale Highschool).

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