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Gillies Plains Community Garden

Evaluation of the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy

Gillies Plains Community Garden, A Case Study, June 2004

By Mr Brad Astbury and Dr Patricia Rogers, RMIT University Circle


The Australian Government’s Stronger Families and Communities Strategy is funding over 600 projects to help build family and community capacity to deal with challenges and take advantage of opportunities. Capacity, at a community level, refers to the potential for action arising out of the interplay between human capital (levels of skills, knowledge and health status), social and institutional capital (leadership, motivation, networks) and economic capital (local services, infrastructure and resources).

The Gilles Plains Community Garden, a project that received funding under the Strategy, provides insights into how this capacity can be developed and then used for a series of activities. These insights are relevant to a broad range of capacity-building projects, not just to community gardens. In this project, some of the capacity was very tangible – the physical infrastructure of the garden- but some was less tangible but equally important – the human capital of skills and knowledge; and the developing social capital of networks and trust.

The case study describes how the project was developed and implemented, its short-term outcomes, and the potential for further outcomes through further use of the capacity developed in the program. It analyzes the factors that have been important in its success, including significant time and attention to planning and consultation, appropriate physical location, the development of effective partnerships, and building on previous developments.

The case study also analyses the strategy’s contribution to the observed outcome. In projects such as these involving multiple activities and funders, support from the Strategy (through funding and assistance during project development and implementation) has been a necessary component, and effective in combination with others’ efforts.

A garden provides a useful metaphor for other capacity-building projects. Successful gardens and projects require thorough preparation and durable infrastructure. Once the initial construction has been completed, it creates opportunities for a range of new activities and involvements.

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