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2 May 2018

New research reveals the extraordinary benefits of community gardens

Community Greening is one of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney’s most celebrated and awarded outreach gardening programs. It has touched the lives of over 100,000 people in the last 18 years and has helped shaped the lives of participants across NSW.

Over the last year we have partnered with Western Sydney University to understand and research the social impact of the program. We have known for a long time that being outside and gardening can improve our health and wellbeing but we now have the data.

Key outcomes of the research

79% of participants reported that the garden had made a difference to their complex, building and community as a whole. These new greenspaces helped build stronger community relationships by socialising, meeting neighbours for the first time, having the opportunity to learn a new hobby and an increased time outdoors.

The research also captured what improvements the volunteers and participants noticed in their communities. One of the benefits being that the relationship between staff and residents improved. Housing managers and social workers were working alongside tenants helping to foster trust and healthy relationships. There is also genuine enthusiasm, increased cooperation, social consciousness and social cohesion between staff and tenants too.
Feelings of social connection and connection with others was often expressed in each of the focus group interviews. The connection with one another was demonstrated in different ways across the participating communities, including through helping each other with gardening tasks, and meeting new people and engaging in conversation. The garden was described as a space that “brings people together” or an area in the community with a “draw-in factor”.

Community Greening can:

  • Enhance social connection
  • Enable inclusivity: Intercultural and intergenerational interaction
  • Cultivate a sense of community pride and achievement
  • Build social capital Foster safety and security
  • Encourage aspirational change and community development
  • Change self-reported beliefs about public perceptions and stereotypes regarding social housing.

The key takeaway is that we are now equipped with research that supports what we knew - these programs have a direct impact on mental and physical health, a sense of empowerment and pride and positive safety and education messages are being taught too.

Phillip Pettitt Community Greening coordinator

The impact of socialising

Connection was perceived as valuable to community members, particularly in the garden sites where there were a high number of units in a small geographical space, yet low interaction amongst residents. In some communities, it was common for residents to just stay inside their units.

Community Greening research Western Sydney University
Research prepared by Western Sydney University

Without a garden, you know, it would be just taking out the bins and checking the letterbox. But this gives you a reason to get together and spend a little bit of quality time.

Community Greening participant

 What the future holds

Sponsored by the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS), Bloomberg and supported by several philanthropic foundations, this program empowers vulnerable communities while providing a broad range of health, training, economic and social benefits.  The demand for Community Greening continues to grow, so our aim is to deliver 850 gardens and engage 150,000 participants by 2021.

Thank you to everyone involved in this research project. To learn more about Community Greening or to become a volunteer or sponsor please visit the website here

The Community Greening and Western Sydney University Team gather at The Calyx for the research presentation
The Community Greening and Western Sydney University Team gather at The Calyx for the research presentation
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