First Nations peoples have been sustainably nurturing and farming this country for tens of thousands of years. Prior to invasion and the arrival of British ships, there was no food crisis on this continent. Food sovereignty, including control over food production and distribution systems, is a crucial element of resisting and counteracting colonial imperialism and racist exploitation.
The Gabba Ward office works within a settler government on occupied lands of the Jagera, Yugara, Yugarapul, and Turrbal Peoples. We pay our respects to the rightful custodians of these lands, and we acknowledge that many past wrongs and continuing injustices are yet to be rectified. Sovereignty was never ceded. This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.
Background to the Project
We were inspired by the spontaneous surge in local residents wanting to grow their own food as the COVID crisis emerged. At the same time we were contacted by local residents with a similar vision to our own, wanting to empower the community to grow healthy locally-grown food in public spaces that is not reliant on big corporations. So, at short notice our office swung into action committing some office resources and local grant budget to support a range of local community-led initiatives that we called the ‘Food Resilient Neighbourhoods’ project.
As part of this project we were able to support the creation of edible verge gardens, seedling hubs, urban farms and community orchards. These community-led projects were not just a response to the COVID crisis but also a positive protest against the power imbalances, inequities and the resulting crisis (like climate change), that undermine secure access to nutritious food. Consequently our project was not only focused on producing food, but it was driven by a larger vision to participate in a reconstruction of our whole food system, based on principles of food resilience, food justice and mutual aid. Many of the projects also utilised principles of guerilla gardening, including the reclaiming of unused land and not waiting for ‘official’ permission, which often never comes.
How secure is our food system?
As the pandemic emptied shelves and supermarkets became bare, people became more aware of the inadequacy of our food supply systems and the corporate supermarkets’ inability to provide food security. It is not just overseas supply chains that are vulnerable to disruption, but also food that is grown in the northern parts of Queensland and then trucked down the east coast. As a result, and to prepare for future moments of crises, more and more people began to grow their own food, which meant that food seedlings were hard to come by for some months.
What is food resilience & food justice?
Resilience implies more participatory food systems, where communities can cope with the shocks and uncertainty facing food systems today. Food resilience ensures all people at all times have access to sufﬁcient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.
With a really large network of verge gardens, backyard gardens, community gardens and urban farms, we could potentially grow a lot of produce within the city core and make our communities less reliant on commodified sources of food production. Our project also embraces the philosophy of food justice. Food Justice envisions a food system that is inclusive, community-led and participatory, without the exploitation of people, land, or the environment. To achieve this means removing the structural inequities that exist within our food and economic systems.
One of the first projects that got off the ground was a collective of 3 seedling hubs in West End and Highgate Hill. The seedling hubs are a space where residents can swap locally-germinated seedlings and seeds without having to go through big commercial plant suppliers.
Germinating and swapping heirloom plant varieties helps preserve genetic diversity and prevents the homogenisation and monopolisation of seed stock by big companies that patent seed species for profit. Seedling hubs provide a perfect tool for networking with our neighbours and also fostering a connection to plants and growing our own food, which effectively creates more resilient and self-sustaining communities.
This project has been set up by the residents themselves and our office has provided funds for the initial purchase of soil and seeds.
We have three hubs so far:
- Corner of Crowther & Victoria St, West End
- Gertrude St, Highgate Hill
- Rosebery St, Highgate Hill
How to Participate
- Participating in the seedling exchange is free and everyone is encouraged to bring their excess to share or swap with their neighbours.
- Label any plants you bring along and please return pots and labels so the team can minimise costs and keep putting plants out.
Give the Facebook Page a like and keep up to date with the project.
We are keen to make the Gabba Ward notorious for having vibrant and lush gardens along the footpaths rather than just concrete or bare lawns; that’s why we are big fans of verge gardening. Planting up your verge is not just a great way to green your street, but it will also help create more shade which can improve walkability and reduce city temperatures.
Verge space can be used to grow more fresh food locally helping to reduce food mileage, positively impact mental health and develop community resilience during times of crisis, such as the one we have been experiencing during COVID.
Projects like this, that essentially reclaim or repurpose public space, are about reminding people that they can have control over their immediate neighborhood and that they do have a collective right to curate, and regenerate spaces.
Brisbane City Council allows residents to plant out their verges and take care of this public space, as long as you garden with care for your neighbors, don't block pedestrian flows or parked cars and don’t intervene with underground pipelines. My office is happy to support a more creative use of this public space including the planting of fruit trees if residents plan out the planting and upkeep of the plants responsibly.
As part of the planting project, we sponsored three rounds of verge planting days where residents planted out their verges.
Crowther St Planting - March 14th 2020
Our first round centered on Crowther Street with 8 households planting over 120 seedlings in their verges. One of our visions was for this street to act as an inspiration to other local streets on how verge planting can transform the streetscape. We closed off the street for half a day and put on an unofficial planting party with BBQ, music and scooter races. The verge gardens have been blooming on Crowther street and we recommend you go there for a wander one Saturday morning and get inspired by the collective spirit of the residents to beautify their quiet West End street. One of the beautiful parts of this project was that the compost was supplied from the local community garden, it was compost created by the community for the collective benefit of the ward’s residents.
Here is a great little video of the day, produced by Christine Schindler (on a voluntary basis). You can see more of her work here.
Photos from Crowther St Planting Day
Gabba Ward Wide (COVID safe) Verge Planting - May 30th & 27th June 2020
50 households across the Gabba Ward planted out their verges with free fruit trees, under-story perennial greens and herbs on two sunny Saturday mornings. We partnered with Jane St Community Garden who helped design and coordinate the project. Our office supplied Verge Garden Starter packs to each household of 2 fruit trees, 8 under-story seedlings, approx 150 litres of mulch and 200-300 litres of high grade organic soil.
Jane Street Garden Coordinator Melissa Smrecnik, Gardening activist Morgyn Quin and the Gabba Ward staff created a template verge garden which could be easily adapted to any verge. The simple design was two focal fruit trees with 4 easy growing perennial greens and herbs around each of the trees.
We produced an instructional video for our verge planters, which we hope will help other residents with their independent planting in the future.
And some photos from the Gabba-wide verge plantings
Three new urban farming projects have been established by a group of local gardening activists, with the support of our office. The gardeners are working collectively under the umbrella of Growing Forward Brisbane (Meanjin), a social movement which is about trying to reclaim government land that has been misused or abandoned. The collective has engaged a lot of local residents in learning about growing food, learning about community and learning about how to be more resilient in the face of pandemics and climate induced natural disasters. Growing Forward is about connecting to each other, and to the land that surround us, and also challenging systems that aren't serving us.
The farms have been set up at the following locations. Message the Growing Forward Facebook page if you live nearby and would like to help caring for the veggies.
- 250 Boundary St, southern riverside end (on abandoned State Government land).
- Dutton Park hilltop, near the basketball court (on Brisbane City Council parkland)
- Raymond Park, cnr Wellington Rd & Baines St (Brisbane City Council parkland)
End of Boundary St
Dutton Park Hilltop
Another part of the project has been supporting initiatives to create community orchards of fruit trees planted in parks and other public spaces. In many places the earth is really diluted and dry and needs to be cared for in a genuine way. There's nothing that can do that as well as the roots of trees and the relationships between the microbiology of the soil. Trees have so many benefits for the environment and when they provide us with fresh produce it gets even better.
Highgate Hill Park
For sometime a small community orchard has been growing in Highgate Hill Park, looked after by a few volunteers. With our support this has now been upgraded with another 25 fruit trees added to the boundary of the park and sloping areas that are not used as open green space. We have about 35 trees there now. If you would like to help watering or nurturing this orchard please contact our office.
We held a community planting day of over 20 local residents who planted approx 30 fruit trees, including avocado, mulberry and a few citrus varieties at Raymond Park, Kangaroo Point. The plantings are in coordination but also separate to the Raymond park urban farm. They are being cared for by a group of local residents. if you would like to get involved please contact our office or the Growing Forward FB page.
We are doing what we can to support local composting to divert more waste from landfill. We are supporting residents to set up new household communal compost hubs to share with their neighbours. The best way to do this is through the ShareWaste system (see below). Composting is a great way to build an understanding of where our food comes from and reminds us our valuable our kitchen scraps can be in the composting and growing cycle.
Home-based Composting Hubs / ShareWaste
We already have about 16 households in the Gabba Ward open to receiving food scraps. We have surveyed the composters and they are really happy with using the ShareWaste system, but they need more people delivering their food scraps to their home composters.
To contribute food scraps to one of these hubs, it’s simple:
- Get on the ShareWaste website, register yourself, then
- Find the closest home composter on their mapping system. Once you have found someone nearby
- Send them a message to let them know you will be dropping off food scraps from time to time so they can manage the loads.
- The composter will then send you their exact address details.
To set up your own compost hub:
- Once your compost system is set up in the front yard (easily accessible for drop offs), you can register with ShareWaste.
- Your address is only given out by you individually to neighbours who message you directly through the site - so you can control how many people are delivering food scraps.
- We may be able to support you with vouchers for free compost bins. Email our office on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community Composting Hubs
Brisbane City Council has partnered with a number of community gardens around Brisbane to help residents turn kitchen scraps into nutrients for soil. We currently only have one official BCC composting hub in the Gabba Ward
- Jane St Community Garden, West End.
It's a lot of work for the volunteer gardeners and as this is the only Community Composting Hub in our ward it gets a lot of food scraps delivered.
Free Compost Caddies
BCC are also providing free kitchen compost caddies to collect your food scraps at home and then take them to your nearest community composting hub. We have them available in The Gabba Ward office for collection. Just jump online and register for one via this link.
The council registration system is only set up for larger composting hubs and we only have one in our Ward at Jane St Community Garden - so when you register via the website, just indicate that Jane St is where you will be dropping off your scraps. It's fine to use it as part of the ShareWaste program instead.
BCC Home Compost Vouchers
Brisbane City Council have recently set up a new compost rebate program. The program provides eligible Brisbane residents a rebate of up to $70 off the purchase of eligible composting equipment. Make sure you register first to get your voucher number before buying your compost bin, worm farm or bokashi, otherwise they won't refund you.
Food Justice Resources: www.communitycentredknowledge.org/food-justice/food-justice-resources/
What is Food Sovereignty? (a Graphic): https://www.instagram.com/p/CHtppkzFuhx/
Sovereign Soil Farm in so called Adelaide: https://www.instagram.com/sovereign_soil_farm/
Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe: https://avidreader.com.au/products/dark-emu-1
Ron Finley: Urban Gangsta Gardener in South Central LA | Game Changers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7t-NbF77ceM&t=3s&ab_channel=UPROXX
Foodshare - Get Building & Growing (Helpful Resources from a Project in Toronto): https://foodshare.net/resources/printable/
Mutual Aid (Big Door Brigade by Dean Spade): https://bigdoorbrigade.com/mutual-aid-toolbox/
Pod Mapping for Mutual Aid (by Rebel Sidney Black): Here
Care Work by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha: https://www.akpress.org/carework.html