Our Garden: An oral history documentary

When I started the process of historical engagement with the Randwick Community Organic Garden, I asked a question: what story is the garden telling?

Today, I’m thrilled to be able to show you the answer.

Over close to thirty years, the garden has been telling a story of survival against the odds, unnerving determination, and community bonds as strong as an oak tree.

In order to support the Randwick Community Organic Garden in their two-fold goal of creating stronger community ties and making the case for community gardens in the area, I have produced a short documentary based off oral history interviews conducted with several members, past and present, of the garden.

Tracking the development of the garden from over 20 years ago, to the present day, I tell the story of a small and committed garden community working together to play their part in combatting climate change and creating strong community connections on the way.

There are already histories of the concept of community gardens around the world and in Australia, and there’s even a National Oral History Collection of the Australian Garden History Society.

But this work does something a bit different, I think: it takes the broad conceptual works of the community garden movement and applies it to a specific community garden in a specific context. Also, I’ve taken the sometimes inaccessible oral history format (who really wants to listen to a conversation between strangers for an hour or more? I’m looking at you, podcasters) and assembled my conversations into an accessible, cohesive and complete story line.

I’ve done this by grouping sections of our conversations into key themes:

  • the early days of the garden and the need to relocate following a selloff of their land,
  • the establishment of a new garden
  • the ecological and permaculture foundations of the garden
  • the community within the garden, and the garden’s outreach into the Randwick community
  • the challenges of development and the opportunity of urbanisation

And in all of this, here’s my point: the Randwick Community Organic Garden, like many community gardens across Australia, plays an essential role in cultivating climate-conscious sustainable practices on a local level and creating significant bonds across the community.

This is all to the benefit of my audience, I hope. The audience make up the people who are in the garden currently or in the past, or are looking to join (as this will help give a sense of history and belonging in a time and moment of community) and also a wider group of people who may watch it to understand how a community garden works at all, or are searching for novel ways to build an environmentally-conscious community in an urban area.

If nothing else, I hope people will finish the video with a sense of the joy to be found in investing deeply in people and the world — all for the common good.