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Ceres and the Community Gardens of Melbourne

Russ McPherson responds to an article on Metalkova social centre in Slovenia in PN 2535 with his own experiences in Australia

ImageSpread across 10 acres of land in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, is the Ceres Community Environment Park. Pronounced “series” the name has several connotations, the most appropriate perhaps being with the Roman goddess of agriculture.

Dotted with wind turbines and solar photovoltaic panels, Ceres certainly lives up to its founding principle to “initiate and support environmental sustainability and social equity.” The 4 hectare park includes a farm, community gardens, a café selling delicious vegan food, a market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings which sells organic foods and handmade/recycled crafts, a training kitchen, educational nature trails, a volunteer-run bicycle repair group, and various sustainable water and permaculture projects.

The EcoHouse demonstrates sustainable living retrofit options, while other buildings are designed to contribute to a wider knowledge of indigenous cultures and lifestyles. It was in one of these that I discovered the aboriginal map of Australia, which illustrates more than anything the diverse culture that was lost when the white man came.

The Return of the Sacred Kingfisher festival celebrates the first time a sacred kingfisher was seen on the site after its re-vegetation and transformation from being merely an out-of-town rubbish tip to a thriving centre for environmental awareness.

ImageCompared with other eco-communities I have been to, Ceres operates on a much more secure legal footing, which says a lot about the city authorities, even if it may have led to certain compromises. The lease was first secured by a group of environmental activists in 1981 who immediately began landscaping the neglected site before opening it to the public the following year.

What is remarkable about Ceres is not so much its continued existence, as its scale, for this is a city which abounds with community gardens, far more vibrant and colourful than most British allotments. This is because they provide space not just for vegetable growers but also chicken coops, artists’ studios and adventure playgrounds, creating haven’s of cultural diversity.

For more information visit: http://www.ceres.org.au/

Russ McPherson is a cartoonist and freelance writer from London. He blogs at http://thefreakydoodlesofrussmcp.blogspot.com/