Publication Details

This article was originally published as Head, L, Muir, P and Hampel, E, Australian backyard gardens and the journey of migration, Geographical Review, July 2004, 94, 3, 326-347.


Gardens have been an important site of environmental engagement in Australia since the British colonization. They are places where immigrant people and plants carry on traditions from their homelands, and work out an accommodation with new social and biophysical environments. We examine the backyard gardens of three contemporary migrant groups in suburban Australia, Macedonian, Vietnamese and British-born, and a fourth group of first generation Australians with both parents born overseas. There is strong emphasis on the production of vegetables in Macedonian backyards, and herbs and fruit in Vietnamese backyards. British backyards were more diverse, some focusing on non-native ornamental flowers and others favouring native plants, however the coherence of the respective groups is partly an artifact of our sampling strategy. These Macedonian and Vietnamese migrants share an affinity for productive humanized landscapes that reflects their rural subsistence backgrounds, and crosses over into their attitudes to the broader environment and national parks. The rural and village backgrounds help to explain why intensive backyard food production breaks down very quickly among the next generation in (sub)urban Australia, becoming part of heritage rather than everyday practice.