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Kunbarllanjnja Market Garden

2009 October 25
by rachel

Kunbarllanjnja Garden Goes Bush!

Kunbarllanjnja is the traditional spelling for Gunbalanya community, also known as Oenpelli located in Arnhem land on the edge of Kakadu National Park near the world famous Ubirr Rock Art site.

Kunbarllanjnja is located on Kunwinkju (Gunwiggu) country, in Arnhem Land, close to the world famous Ubirr Rock art site, and just past the border of Kakadu National Park.

Within a few hours’ drive of Darwin, access is by sealed road with the final 15 kilometres a graded dirt road, but is still impacted by remoteness as the road crosses a major floodplain. During the wet season, all access to Kunbarllanjnja is by air, and food prices are considerably higher.

Kunbarllanjnja has a population of 1043 residents, 91.6% of which are Aboriginal.

Kunbarllanjnja, established in 2007, is a large market garden which supplies fresh fruit and vegetables to the local community at a low cost. The garden has five Indigenous employees who work full time (for CDEP wages), a unique factor within this study. The market garden was established as an initiative of the previous Community Government Council (CGC) with the assistance of retired farmer, Don Einam. Einam’s plan was to continue to manage the garden for a further three years, training participants so that they may eventually take over the garden.

Produce output can depend on garden methods. Kunbarllanjnja garden makes dual use of banana trees, to provide bananas, and shelter watermelons grown underneath from birds, minimising wastage as shown below.

All garden participants had access to the produce, and they generally accessed produce on the days that they worked. Table 4-2 also shows that in five of the seven research locations, produce can be accessed five days per week, and in four communities, it can be accessed every day. In Kunbarllanjnja the produce is accessible to the wider population.



Area (m2)

Workforce Size   (number of garden participants)

Number observed who  access produce

Access Frequency observed

(days per week)

Number days worked per week

Kunbarllanjnja 1043


4-6 6 5-7


In Kunbarllanjnja, daily harvests are taken to a cool room located at the local store. The store then sorts, packages and retails the food at a low cost. Important to the success of this system is the vehicle for transport, funding for fuel and maintenance of the vehicle, access to the cool room and institutional co-operation between garden and store. In Kunbarllanjnja, community residents were observed purchasing produce from the store on several occasions, however time constraints prevented formal surveillance of this which would require significant measurement within the store. This is an area for future research.

Kunbarllanjnja harvested enough produce to supplement lunch for six or seven participants between two and five days per week. Kunbarllanjnja harvests were observed to be approximately 170 litres of produce measured according to the collection in ten litre buckets and 75 litre boxes and community residents were observed purchasing produce at the store. In Kunbarllanjnja, sales are not at a level that could support wages or the purchase and maintenance of equipment. Gardens are therefore dependent on short-term CDEP funding cycles of one to two years. This presents an economic challenge to the sustainability of gardens and can only be mitigated by secure, long term funding specific to gardens.

Kunbarllanjnja also produced ornamental plants which were sold or given to community residents.

Kunbarllanjnja Market Garden Foods Produced 2008-2009
Beans (snake)
Passion fruit
Paw Paw
Potatoes (sweet)

Vegetables make up more than 70% of Kunbarllanjnja produce..

Due to a lack of accommodation and family commitments, trainer Don Einam was unable to return to Kunbarllanjnja in 2009 and training ceased temporarily. Former Shire Services Manager Anthony Mischefski reported that decided not to employ a similarly experienced trainer to replace Einam, maintaining that after two years of horticulture training, the participants should be able to manage the garden on their own. Other reports from the community indicate that since Einam’s departure the cooperation between the local store and the garden, (previously coordinated by Einam) ceased and significant volumes of food were left to rot in the store cool room. However in July 2009, the West Arnhem Shire Council employed Alex Debono as a Community Development Officer to continue Einam’s work with the Kunbarllanjnja Community Gardeners.

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