There had been community gardens in the past, during times of war and depression, but the first Australian community garden of recent times was established in the Melbourne suburb of Nunawading in 1977. It was inspired by the UK’s garden allotment scheme. There were 65 four-metre by nine-metre garden allotments and plots were offered a one-year renewable lease at a cost of $22 plus a $3 membership fee.
During World War II, ‘victory gardens’ were encouraged by the government as a way to avoid food shortages resulting from the scarcity of skilled labour and economic depression. The community garden re-emerged as much as a response to the need for social interaction as a way to produce fresh food.
The Nunawading garden was established on vacant council land and the project was led by Dr Gavan Oakley, a local councillor. He believed that it would contribute to social interaction and development, reducing social isolation and providing the unemployed with something to do throughout the day.
That garden was followed by projects in other states. The first in Sydney was Glovers Community Garden in Rozelle, created in 1986. The first in Brisbane was the Northey Street City Farm, established in 1991. The Perth City Farm was founded in 1994.
During the 1990s, the idea of the community garden began to take hold and many more were created around Australia. In the following decade, local and state governments began to take an increasing interest in community gardening as a social and health promotion initiative, with professional community workers starting to get involved.