June 27, 2011

Cultivating Community - Hannah Moloney

What sort of woman makes a livelihood out of creating places where people can grow food in the city, teaching permaculture and small-scale organics and working as a Community Food Systems Officer with Cultivating Community in Melbourne, where she co-manages a number of community gardens?

An extraordinary woman and a social entrepreneur,  that’s for sure... and a woman some of us had the chance to meet when we joined Hannah Moloney at Transition Sydney’s Café Conversation in June. True to the growing milieu around sustainable living in the Eastern Suburbs, people from that part of town were not lacking among attendees. There was a strong crew from Transition Sydney and others from Transition Bondi including, appropriately enough, some from the new Waverley Park Community Garden.

The day following the Cafe Conversation, we took Hannah for a whirlwind tour of community gardens in Randwick, Waverley and the City of Sydney areas. She also visited the City of Sydney's Sustainable Streets-Sustainable Communities Demonstration Project in Chippendale, a municipal-scale sustainability development. In the Eastern Suburbs Hannah visited Transition Bondi's Bondi Road apartment garden development as well as Barrett House, the three-Eastern Suburbs council energy and water efficiency education centre. After that, it was on to the Permaculture Interpretive Garden and the associated energy and water efficiency retrofit and educational facility at the Randwick Sustainability Education Hub.


Interestingly for someone who made her can-do reputation in Tasmania, Hannah came from far-away Brisbane.

“I grew up on an inner city herb nursery in Brisbane where my dad had the nursery in our backyard," she told attendees by way of explaining her life-long association with plants".

I met Hannah through the Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network for which she was a local contact person. In association with the local network, the Tasmanian Community Gardens Network, Hannah was instrumental in organising a statewide conference in Hobart a few years back, then she took on last year's state community garden conference.

“As a Tasmanian, I’ve been one of the key drivers of the Tasmanian Community Garden Network and co-initiated the state-wide Growing Communities Conference in 2007 and played a supportive role in other conferences."

"While working with Eat Well Tasmania I co-developed a statewide community and school garden resource kit which included a garden manual and an educational DVD."

"I’m also on the executive team of the Australian City Farm & Community Gardens Network which does education, advocacy, networking and consulting for community food systems".

The DVD and manual Hannah co-produced is 'Eat Well Grow Well', which, according to the blurb on the cover, focuses on empowering communities and inspiring local and state government, schools and other organisations to support innovative garden programs and to educate people on the benefits of growing their own food.

“For the past ten years I have worked with school and community gardens to create and improve food security and paint a picture of what urban food systems look like.

"I’m an ever-curious permaculturalist and over the past three years I have taught permaculture and small-scale organics independently and through polytechnic and permaculture organisations.

"I’m what you call a ‘city farmer'. I don’t have a large home garden… I have raised beds made from old packing crates that sit on concrete."


Currently, Hannah is a Community Food Systems Officer with Cultivating Community in Melbourne where she works with culturally diverse groups in a number of community food gardens.

Cultivating Community is a community-based organisation that assists the development of community gardens and other community food initiatives on social housing estates for the Victorian Government.

It's the only community organisation carrying out this type of work for state government in the country. The only other initiative like it is the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens Trust's Community Greening program, which makes do with a fraction of the staff available to Cultivating Community.

"The community gardens I co-manage for Cultivating Community in Melbourne have a real multicultural membership and the gardens form a bridge from their country to Australia. While they’re growing food they’re also growing community connections," Hannah said.


She may not be doing that work for all that much longer although she may return to it when she comes back to Australia. Hannah has just been selected by Action Aid to document food projects in Tanzania and to blog what she finds so the world can learn of what people are doing to create a secure food system for their families and communities.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are in Australia or Africa—we are the same people in that we need equitable, sustainable, just and nutritious food systems now and for future generations to thrive. I am so deeply committed to working with people and food—it is my life’s work and passion to help create a food system that improves soil, produces nutritious food and nourishes people. This is the stuff I know, love and live for”.

Seems we have a community leader well into the making here.

View photos of Hannah's whirlwind tour of community gardens.


Story written by Russ Grayson.


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