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Conference paper
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apo-nid60295.pdf 114.81 KB

Abstract: Community workers, public health officials and urban planners are increasingly concerned about declining levels of physical and psychological health of city dwellers. The reasons behind this alarming trend are complex. Much of the blame is being levelled at factors such as car dependency, long commuter distances, polluted and unsafe environments – all of which make it difficult to undertake the physical exercise needed to combat many serious diseases. Poor nutrition – particularly over consumption of high density foods – is another significant factor in the equation, especially in disadvantaged communities where fresh produce is often hard to find and expensive. Built environment and health professionals are gradually realising that they need to work together to better understand these issues if workable solutions are to be found. This is the background for our paper which discusses the role of community gardens in building healthy and sustainable communities. Focussing on a large high-rise public housing estate in Sydney’s inner west, the community garden scheme studied was part of an urban renewal program designed to ameliorate ongoing social problems on the estate. Our research found that this project resulted in a broad range of positive physical and psychological well-being outcomes for the public housing tenants. These included providing opportunities for individuals to relax, undertake physical activity, socialise and mix with neighbours, sharing across culturally different backgrounds and religions. The gardens also afforded opportunities to learn about horticulture and sustainable environmental practices, such as composting and recycling, as well as being an important source of low-cost fresh produce for a healthy diet. This research confirms that community gardens can play a significant role in enhancing the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being necessary to build healthy and socially sustainable communities. The importance of community gardens to Australian city dwellers is likely to grow as the trend for consolidated and densely populated urban areas increases.

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