Project Leader

Dr Helen McGregor (Redefining Agriculture)


This project builds directly on outcomes from project PBSF027. Similarly, this project takes an interdisciplinary approach appropriate for the sophisticated and complex context offered by culturally diverse communities in urban and periurban areas. The academic literature, as compiled in PBSF027, identifies biosecurity preparedness benefits in building social capital. Improved social capital at a local level in turn drives meaningful collaboration and engagement. In this context, it also supports biosecurity compliance and involvement through targeted, local-level community-based engagement strategies and community facilitated information transfer, and therefore removes reliance on more traditional approaches that are based on a homogenous cultural demographic.


The academic literature, as compiled in PBSF027 (Lye & McGregor 2020), and as focussed upon most recently in the National Biosecurity Strategy (DAFF 2022), identifies biosecurity preparedness benefits in building community accountability and a culture of biosecurity. Community level change may be more readily leveraged where existing networks based on trust and reciprocity, social norms and strong social governance are already established. In this context, these attributes also support biosecurity compliance and involvement through targeted, local-level community-based engagement strategies and community facilitated information transfer, and therefore remove reliance on more traditional approaches that are based on an assumed homogenous cultural demographic.

On that basis, this report focuses in more depth on exploring the implications for engagement via existing community and social networks, the diversity in those networks in relation to the broader community and if a diversity of needs can be met through this approach. We conclude by exploring what strategies and program design features are most supported in this context and applicable or adaptable to other biosecurity extension.

This study sought to determine how existing, open-source data can act as a proxy to provide a strong indicator of cultural and/or language barriers in urban environments – in this case among the broader urban gardening community of Melbourne (using community gardens as test cases). This work used insights from the investigation to suggest novel methods of engagement that community gardens may use to improve pest knowledge, learning and sharing capacity within and between gardens and gardeners in culturally diverse communities in Australia. The concept and value of community gardens as sentinel nodes in a broader surveillance and information network is revisited in line with the findings from the previous study (Lye & McGregor, 2020) As such, we used grass-roots social enterprises (community gardens) as a model system to investigate education and engagement methods for different locality types, and hypothesised these community nodes and networks are a viable model system for testing training and engagement methods for broader community and industry outcomes.

A number of key research questions probed the hypothesis that community gardens offer an appropriate, innovative, and accessible framework for community engagement and extension for plant health and biosecurity and that via a variety of approaches and methodologies, a deeper understanding of these communities may be ascertained, such that a strategised, targeted and more efficient and effective approach to engagement/education design and delivery may be undertaken to achieve these aims. As such, a range of data collection and investigative methodologies were applied, including collation and analysis of demographic data, interviews, and the physical assessment and classification of type and activity of gardens.

The findings in this project offer insight into both the value and limitations of the community garden networks in Melbourne as a representative model for evaluating plant health education and engagement at a local level. Most notably the importance of a tailored, strategic, integrated approach to community engagement and education, and the opportunity to leverage existing and build new social capital within communities, to support positive biosecurity outcomes.

The work also identified a number of areas for future investigation, including further exploration into the motivations for joining community gardens in a highly diverse community, to conduct longitudinal data collection and analysis of community garden membership and knowledge needs, to track changes to their potential role as an important community and knowledge hub and for exploration of overseas models for garden governance, resourcing, engagement and as educational hubs and networks to inform the future Australian context

Download the Final Report.