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Centrefarm Growing to Grow Model from RIG News #9

2010 October 30
by Webmaster

Feature article – Centrefarm Aboriginal Horticulture Limited

Fresh approach to community gardens

The value of indigenous community gardens for remote nutritional food supply, community well-being and potential commercial enterprise has long been recognized in central Australia. Many projects have been funded over the years and proposals for new projects keep coming.
However many of the projects have also been dogged by a cyclical demise most often caused by key personnel leaving the community. Funding has also been an issue because community gardens have never fitted into any government programs.

This pattern is now being addressed in a macro context by Centrefarm Aboriginal Horticulture Ltd with the development of a new model to provide overarching support.

Set up by traditional owners through the Central Land Council, Centrefarm is a non-profit company designed to create wealth and develop economies on Aboriginal land in central Australia through the establishment of commercial agriculture and agro-forestry.
Its main function is to identify large-scale commercial horticultural opportunities, but a constant stream of requests for project help from communities has led to the preliminary development of a new approach to the management of small and medium scale gardens.
Community gardens workshop.

In 2008, Centrefarm successfully applied to the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) to fund a workshop bringing together remote community stakeholders, potential project funders and potential alliance partners, such as Outback Stores (which currently operates stores in communities across central Australia). It explored stakeholder interest in developing community gardens.
The workshop confirmed a pattern of the ebb and flow of energy in the community for such projects, often caused by the departure of key project personnel.

Historically the gardens are funded, operate well for a period of time, the key person leaves the community, community energy ebbs, the project collapses, the trees/gardens die, expensive irrigation systems deteriorate, new energy arrives and a new project is proposed. There are examples of single communities being funded several times to establish and then re-establish gardens. (See figure 1 below).

Figure 1, the cyclic event with current community farm funding

Figure  1,  the cyclic event with current community farm funding

New approach

It was unanimously agreed however that this pattern could be overcome with the development an over-arching entity. To continue funding projects without recognizing the real issues facing long term maintenance of gardens is funding to fail – an outcome with far-reaching negative effects.
Centrefarm proposed a possible model, which would provide governance, operational cover, technology transfer, marketing, sales, distribution and logistics assistance. But most importantly, in the case of departure of key personnel, the overarching entity would provide interim management and maintain community energy and involvement. This would end cyclical wastage. The workshop proposed calling this the Growing-to-Grow (G2G), (see figure 2 below).

Figure 2, Possible G2G corporate structure

Figure 2, Possible G2G corporate structure

It is widely accepted that community farms have the potential to be as valuable to remote well-being as the clinic, the school and the Shire services. It was agreed at the workshop that community farms should be supported at Federal policy level and that core-funding for the over-arching entity and on-going support for the farms was critical.

The cost of core-funding will be significant but should be measured against the significant wastage evident in the current cyclical demise pattern. And from a macro perspective, the short and long term benefit of guaranteeing the gardens as a source of work, training, nutrition and in some cases commercial enterprise, would afford other major health and welfare savings.
Fresh food summit

In early May 2010 Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) convened a Fresh Food Summit in Tennant Creek where Centrefarm and RIG were presenters. The determination of Aboriginal stakeholders to pursue the establishment of community farms to grow and distribute fresh food from Aboriginal lands throughout the NT was clear.

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress men’s health leader John Liddle, and public health nutritionist, Mr.Roy Price, spoke about the positive effects of healthy diets and recommended a cost benefit analysis be undertaken immediately to quantify cost savings to the health budget, especially in the incidence of diabetes and heart disease, if funding and energy could be put into local fresh produce production, distribution and most importantly consumption.


In response to the 2008 workshop Centrefarm successfully applied to FaHCSIA/ABA to further research interest, capacity and operational support requirements.

This resulted in two reports, which can be viewed at

  • Scoping study for the development of Community Farms/Gardens in remote Aboriginal Communities in Central Australia (I Warchivker 2009)
  • Operational structures for the development of Community Farms/Gardens in remote Aboriginal Communities in Central Australia (I Warchivker 2009)

Further case studies are now proposed to broaden the research base required for a core-funding proposal. FaHCSIA is currently considering an application to fund the studies.

Article kindly provided by Vin Lange, Manager Project Development, Centrefarm Aboriginal Horticulture Limited. Centrefarm are a member of the RIG Network Advisory Group.

RIG News is written and produced by Anthea Fawcett for RIG Network.

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