Redfern is now home to an urban food production farm, inspired by indigenous design. It is believed that this farm is unique in Australia. However, its creators believe that this prototype might be interesting to other people, like indigenous communities.

The inspiration for this farm is the First Nations rooftop garden located in Toronto, Canada. The design of both farms is modelled with financial, social and environmental sustainability in mind. The only difference is that the one in Redfern is built with additional inspiration from Indigenous Australia.

Christian Hampson (Woiwurrung and Maneroo man) and Clarence Slockee (Mindjingbal-Bundjalug man) are the pair behind the project, both working at the start-up Yerrabingin. The main goal of the pair was to get the balance of right. The farm takes up 500 square meters, and it is located on the top of Mirvac’s technology and innovation park, and it has various plants that are edible, like sea celery, raspberries and finger limes.

Slockee said that the idea was to create a completely functional ecosystem on the roof that will be able to attract birds and insects. He said that people often forget how important insects are, and added how their goal was to get more organisms to come. Furthermore, he said that it made sense to put native species on the rooftops because they are already accustomed to the local climate.

Junglefy, known for their work on One Central Park’s green walls, helped with the hardscaping features. The hardest thing when building a native farm on a rooftop is the weight restrictions, said Slockee. Initially, the team planned to plant a couple of hero trees, but then they realised that these trees would become too heavy in a few years. Instead, they planted trellises accompanied by climbing plants.

Financial sustainability is one of the features of the farm

Slockee said that one of the ways for the farm to be financially sustainable is to sell edible plants to local coffee shops. However, the farm is more about teaching people about the local indigenous community and their culture by sharing the produce and plant clippings with visitors.

The farm to host events and workshops

There are more ways for the farm to support itself. The plan is for Yerrabingin to organise workshops, tours on the roof and events about the native culture and many other topics. All the proceeds from these events will go to the farm. Slockee finds that sustainability is important, and he hopes that the events on the farm will show its role in placemaking.

He also said that they want people to feel a sense of place, how he calls it, even if they are not Aboriginal.

The idea for this project was born when the plans for garden rooftop fell through. Mirvac and Yerrabingin already worked on another project, and this is how they came to this idea.

Christian Hampson, the co-founder of Yerrabingin, said at the launch how this is a step forward in adding reconciliation into placemaking while harnessing the Aboriginal social enterprise. He said that working with Mirvac was a way to set an example for the industry on how Aboriginal heritage and culture can be incorporated.

Slockee said that in the future it is important that Aboriginal communities are the ones that benefit from projects like these.

Another project on which both Hampson and Slockee are working is the South Eveleigh Aboriginal Cultural Landscape Garden, which also has bush food and medicinal plant species.