Curtin Family Home Lecture 2019

Is it time to resurrect the wartime ‘Grow Your Own’ campaign?

A real-world experiment in urban gardening for food security took place in Australia under John Curtin’s leadership during the Second World War. Now, more than 70 years later, community gardens, school vegetable gardens, urban apiaries and similar initiatives are popping up in cities at unprecedented rates, while local governments are giving sustained attention to the role that urban agriculture can play in health and wellbeing.

In this lecture, Associate Professor Andrea Gaynor explored how we can use history to inspire and inform urban food production for resilient and sustainable cities. She traced changes in the amount and kind of food grown in Australian cities over time, with a focus on initiatives launched during the second world war. This historical story illuminated the potential of urban agriculture as well as its pitfalls, from the possibility of increased production and the necessity of preparedness to the danger of military-influenced attempts at mass mobilisation.


Andrea Gaynor is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Western Australia. An environmental historian, her research seeks to use the contextualising and narrative power of history to assist transitions to more just and sustainable communities. Her most recent book, co-edited with Nick Rose, is Reclaiming the Urban Commons: The past, present and future of food growing in Australian towns and cities (UWAP 2018). She is currently researching histories of Landcare in Western Australia, water in Australian urbanisation and nature in Australian urban modernity, and teaching world environmental history and Australian history. At UWA she is Chair of the History Discipline Group and Director of the Centre for Western Australian History; she is also convenor of the Australian and New Zealand Environmental History Network and endeavours to influence policy as a member of The Beeliar Group: Professors for Environmental Responsibility.