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.
Mycelium Film Documentary
Two local film-makers Christine Schindler and Nathan Gibson, in conjunction with our office, created a beautiful and inspiring short film profiling the local radical food activism projects the our office supported. This 12 minute film tells the story of how urban farms, community orchards, seedling hubs and edible verge gardens have proliferated around Kurilpa, Woolloongabba and Bennung-Urrung as a community response to crisis.
This film has been accepted in four national and International Film festivals. If you are interested in organising a film screening we can support the event with: a PA system, large outdoor screen and projector (for Brisbane), copies of the Zine (below), speakers and posters (below) and help with promotion.
Creating Food Resilient Neighbourhoods Zine
Our office created a zine about this project. It has much of the information on this page and some extras like a handy little map showing where the projects are.
Its available as a downloadable pdf here or from our Gabba Ward office in printed form.
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 [email protected]
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
Council has finally released proposed plans for the partial redesign of Davies Park…
Here’s what they’re spending money on:
- Roughly $200 000 on a large new toilet block (six cubicles including 2 wheelchair accessible)
- About $400 000 fixing up drainage issues and patching the internal roadway
- About $100 000 converting the beach volleyball courts into a flat gravel area, which will be fenced off from the public and will stay within the Souths Leagues Club lease boundaries
- About $1.3 million removing and reshaping some of the mounds around the edge of the rugby field, planting new trees and opening up new useable green space (particularly the new circular lawn at the Jane St/Montague Rd end)
- I’ve also allocated $150 000 from my local park upgrades budget to partly cover costs of a small skate facility on the Montague Rd side (this is marked as the ‘multiuse games area’ on their diagram) and I’m trying to convince the council to chip in the rest.
(Most of these figures are a bit rough because the council hasn’t publicly released its exact cost estimates and hasn’t yet gone out to tender to get detailed quotes)
The council conducted a small amount of ‘consultation’ into public priorities for upgrading the park earlier this year, you can read the comments I made about the proposed plans on my Facebook page earlier this year, the draft design concept plans that were released in July 2018 can be viewed here. They received strong feedback that residents wanted more open green space and not too much concrete, which is why they have prioritised reshaping the mounds along the Montague Rd side to free up more land. Relocating the mounds is so expensive because they are full of old contaminated material (various heavy metals, old rubbish, perhaps even rusted car bodies from when Davies Park was used as a speedcar track in the 1930s).
My impression is that the forms of outreach and consultation used by the council may have tended to more heavily favour the views of older residents. From what I’ve heard in the local area, there’s strong demand from a lot of people for both a multiuse court and a small skate facility in Davies Park, but council is saying that this did not come through very strongly in their ‘official’ consultation.
Jane Street Community Garden
Happily, it looks like the council has at least heard the community's strong feedback regarding the earlier proposal to relocate Jane St Community Garden. Neither I nor the majority of local residents wanted the garden moved, and it seems like the council has backed away from that plan. I'm very pleased with this small positive outcome and I will continue to support and be guided by the wishes of the Jane St Community Garden volunteers.
In general, I’m a bit disappointed with what the council is proposing. Fixing the drainage and relocating the mounds are important first steps, and it would be possible to then put a lot more money into the park to deliver more features. But unlike other major park projects (e.g. Hanlon Park), the LNP have not clearly committed to any more funding in future years beyond the $2 million announced so far. So my big concern is that this is all they’ll do.
Crucially, they have not committed to funding/installing:
- lighting through the park
- new pathways (e.g. a circular pathway around the proposed open lawn at the eastern corner)
- a full-sized multiuse court for basketball, netball, indoor soccer etc (as was floated in their initial consultation)
- Any kind of nature play/playground area
- BBQs or picnic seating
- New stairs/ramp leading up the slope from Riverside Drive to connect to the ring road
- Partial funding for the skate park
They have also ruled out including a shower facility in the toilet block, despite my repeated requests.
As a result of outsourcing to the private sector, the work council is proposing for Davies Park is costing way more than I consider reasonable. But if indeed those are the unavoidable costs, the council is simply going to have to commit more money to this park so we can get some serious improvements.
I’m particularly perplexed by the council’s proposal to convert the volleyball courts to a flat gravel surface on the vague promise that they will install new basketball courts/multiuse courts there in the future. Unless the LNP is willing to publicly commit to funding a multicourt here in the next financial year, we can have no faith or certainty that it will happen.
As a result, all that is going to happen for certain is that the BCC is spending up to $100 000 converting the beach volleyball courts to a flat gravel surface, which will most likely be used by Souths Leagues Club for parking. Rather than improving sport and recreation facilities in Davies Park, council’s current proposals are actually reducing them.
I’ve made an offer to BCC to put more funding from my local park upgrades budget into a small skate park on the Montague Rd side of the park if they’ll chip in some of the money, but I haven’t heard back yet. (In case you’re wondering, I can’t use my park upgrades budget for work on the beach volleyball court area, because that area falls within the boundary of the Souths Rugby League Club)
If you agree that council should not be spending $100 000 converting the beach volleyball courts to a fenced gravel carpark, and would prefer to see other kinds of park upgrades, can you please send an email to [email protected] and [email protected] and CC my office at [email protected]. Tell them you support planting more trees and creating more green space, but that we also need a multicourt, a skate facility and perhaps some kind of play area for smaller kids.
If this is all the work they intend to do for the 2018/19 financial year, we need to demand a clear public commitment from the Lord Mayor that they will spend more money on this park in the following financial year so we actually get some new facilities.