From the Architect

In setting out to transform the Australian Technology Park (ATP) in Eveleigh, Sydney, Mirvac’s goal was to create a significant destination for work, diverse retail and the community. The new precinct, renamed South Eveleigh, opened in 2019 and will be completed in 2020.

Celebrating the Indigenous culture of the site was paramount in the community and placemaking strategy. Partnering with Yerrabingin, Mirvac has created a unique and authentic cultural heritage experience paying homage to the rich history of the site. Yerrabingin, which translates to “We walk together”, was founded in 2018 by Clarence Slockee and Christian Hampson. It is a visionary start-up that seeks to disrupt conventional approaches to ending Aboriginal disadvantage and create intergenerational capital for future generations to thrive. Bringing together over 30 years of experience within the Aboriginal and eco-tourism sector, Yerrabingin has developed a world leading, and Australian-first Indigenous rooftop farm within the South Eveleigh precinct.

Yerrabingin Indigenous Rooftop Farm

The unique partnership with Mirvac has allowed Yerrabingin to interweave tacit knowledge and collaborative design thinking into the new public domain at South Eveleigh. The pioneering rooftop farm offers the community and visitors cultural and environmental knowledge from the oldest living culture in the world, providing one of only a few sites in Australia to offer an array of compelling engagement and educational experiences focused on celebrating and remembering Aboriginal culture.

The farm is a 500-square-metre urban food production garden four stories up on the roof of Yerrabingin House, located at Mirvac’s South Eveleigh precinct in Sydney. The garden features over 2,000 native plants and grows 30 different types of native bush food including finger limes, warrigal greens, native raspberries, sea celery, ruby and seaberry saltbush, river mint, finger lime, lilly pilly, grevillea and thyme honey-myrtle. The garden has been designed from a point of experience rather than just a technical, functional garden to facilitate use by the community. Workers, visitors and the local community are encouraged to participate in the wide range of educational workshops at the farm to learn about Indigenous culture, native plants and tend to the garden.

Yerrabingin Indigenous Rooftop Farm

The farm provides fresh produce to local cafes, who are encouraged to forage in the garden, creating a new, sustainable supply chain model, and converting food miles into food steps for many chefs based in Sydney’s inner west suburbs.

An economically sustainable project, the farm is self-funded through the delivery of 16 events per month for visitors, the surrounding community as well as South Eveleigh’s population of workers. The engaging and educational events contribute to the environmental consciousness of visitors and help to address the loss of biodiversity in Australian cities; inspiring visitors to apply Indigenous approaches to their own gardens and create more biodiversity by using the plants and seeds that they can buy at the farm in their own green spaces.

The education component will also include involvement with local schools and tourism boards in addition to workshops, with Yerrabingin designing curriculum modules for Years 4-6, as well as a cultural tourism package that will include walking tours, cooking and foraging. This project represents a significant step forward in embedding reconciliation into placemaking while harnessing the potential of Indigenous social enterprise. In its first four months of operations, Yerrabingin has successfully engaged 500 community members through over 70 educational events.

The Indigenous farm is located on the rooftop of Yerrabingin House, which is a carbon neutral building, with a 6 Star Green Star rating and As-Built v1.1 design review. The building is also targeting NABERS Energy 5 star and 4 Star NABERS Water ratings.

The Yerrabingin co-founders, Clarence Slockee and Christian Hampson, have established an ongoing partnership with Mirvac, and occupy offices at South Eveleigh.

They employ five Indigenous staff to support operations and maintain the farm and green areas at the precinct. The farm has designed a popular event program for visitors and South Eveleigh’s workers and residents, this has ensured the project is economically sustainable with the farm being self-funded through the delivery of 16 events per month. The farm was created as an invaluable educational resource and Yerrabingin manage workshops, events and tours that focus on native permaculture, environmental sustainability, physical and mental health.

Yerrabingin’s sustainability workshops on topics like native permaculture design, pickling and preserving produce, making beeswax wraps and introduction to bush foods in the garden contribute to the operational and environmental sustainability of the farm by educating the wider community on sustainable horticultural practices.

Yerrabingin Indigenous Rooftop Farm

Importantly, these hands-on workshops have been designed to contribute to the ongoing cultivation of the farm and its plants and produce, feeding into the farm’s economically sustainable model. For instance, the farm’s small greenhouses have been built to allow workers and volunteers to propagate plants. Tree trellises were also incorporated into the farm’s design in order to attract local birds and wildlife in the absence of physical trees on the rooftop. This establishes a habitat for pollinators, encouraging biodiversity on the farm and also providing a natural method of lowering the number of plant-eating insects without using harmful chemicals. Ensuring the farms’ continued environmental sustainability, Yerrabingin also built 10 worm farms on the roof and operate a recycling/reuse cycle, which sees them utilising waste organics, such as coffee grounds and vegetable offcuts from the farm and several surrounding cafes in the farm’s operations.

Images: Supplied