US-backed research uncovers benefits of Indigenous rooftop garden

First Nation’s ‘give back’ core principle helps Jiwah build community and connection. 

The far-reaching cultural, social and environmental benefits of the South Eveleigh Community Rooftop Garden have been acknowledged by a UNSW research project, funded by the US-based Landscape Architecture Foundation.
The project, undertaken through a collaborative partnership with the 560sqm garden’s custodian, Indigenous cultural landscape and design company Jiwah, was underpinned by the First Nation ‘give back’ principle, a core of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
“Throughout the research journey, we have honoured Jiwah’s commitment to sharing their knowledge with us,” says Dr Sara Padgett Kjaersgaard, on behalf of the UNSW Research team, in a letter of thanks to South Eveleigh developer Mirvac.
“We have respected Jiwah as custodians of this knowledge for a short period of time and acknowledge that they have an obligation to choose how and when they share their knowledge. 
“This is because the principle of ‘give back’ recognises that Indigenous knowledge does not belong to an individual, because knowledge has been derived and accumulated from the knowledge of others,” she says. 
“Importantly, we recognise and respect the ethical and moral responsibility we have when collaborating cross-culturally with Indigenous People and acknowledge and respect their right to self-determination.”


LAF’s Case Study found that in the first year of operation the environmental and social benefits of the Community Rooftop Garden included:
• Diverting 4.68 tonnes of food waste from landfill.
• 7 on-site worm farm bins producing 336 litres of liquid organic fertiliser and 1260kg of solid organic fertiliser.
• The promotion, celebration and sharing of Indigenous cultural knowledge with over 4000 people attending workshops, classes and social events in the first nine months.
• Positively communicating Indigenous cultural knowledge on social media.
• Providing employment and training opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
• And finally, being the first of 171 case studies to have engaged a First Nation research partner, a significant milestone in the work of the LAF.
Read the full study here.