Viewpoints: The lucky country? Social space and community gardens in Australian cities

Alec Thornton
The University of New South Wales, Australia

‘Australia is a lucky country, run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck.’
Donald Horne, 1964

Picture 1

Community garden under threat of council closure in Erskineville, Sydney, Australia.  Image Credit: Author

In 1964, Donald Horne ironically described Australia as a ‘lucky country’, having exceptional opportunities for wealth creation, largely due to its natural resource-base and vast spaces for expansive development. He was being critical of what he perceived to be a ‘lack of innovation’, compared to other modern societies, and challenged decision-makers to be more ‘proactive’ and ‘clever’ (Horne, 1964). Horne’s concerns are relevant to contemporary issues in Australian cities, in an era of urbanization (internal and international migration) and backlash against the global food system. Unlike many other western cities, these concerns have yet to unleash the potential for city-community partnerships in Australia, for advancing social equity and local food production through urban agriculture (UA). Based on recent research, this article will highlight ideas in critical urban theory within the context of UA in Australian cities, where urban densities are, globally, comparatively low. In doing so, it will highlight the structural and actual experiences and outcomes of social movements in producing urban food spaces, independent of—or despite—city involvement.

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