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Canberra Urban Agriculture Forum: Churchill Fellows Speak with Senator David Pocock

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Sustain: The Australian Food Network, is hosting our third signature event for this year's Urban Agriculture Month in Canberra. This Urban Agriculture Forum: Churchill Fellows Speak with Senator David Pocock at the Endeavour Centre on 7 December will discuss the importance of urban agriculture and edible towns, cities and suburbs. We feel strongly this is a movement whose time has come.

The Churchill Trust of Australia was established in 1965 to support Australians realise their dreams of a better and fairer future for this country. In recent years the Trust has funded several Fellows to investigate important dimensions of community-led food system change, which has been underway for several decades overseas. The goal: to super-charge the process of building a path to a better and fairer food future. 

This event in the nation's capital will feature four Churchill Fellows whose passion is urban agriculture: three just back from their travels to North America and Europe, and one who made the trip in 2014. The presentations and discussions will be followed by networking drinks and canapes.

Sustain: The Australian Food Network, has long advocated for a mass expansion of urban agriculture across the country to make Australia's towns and cities edible. Our research (most recently, Growing Edible Cities and Towns: A survey of the Victorian urban agriculture sector) has shown that resourcing is a key constraint. Which is why hosting this Canberra Agriculture Forum on 7 December in Australia's capital, is so important.

In the national Pandemic Gardening survey (9,140 responses), we called for a national $500mn Edible Gardening fund, as a necessary investment in preventative public health, to tackle the mental and dietary health crises that cost Australian taxpayers over $200bn annually in direct and indirect costs. 

Food system change requires government engagement at all levels: local, state and Federal. So we're thrilled that newly elected independent Senator for Canberra, David Pocock, will be attending and speaking at the Canberra Urban Agriculture Forum to hear from returning Churchill Fellows and Canberrans passionate to see the nation's capital become more edible. 

Please note the venue is Level 1, Endeavour House, 1 Franklin Street, Griffith ACT. We'd love you to join us.

Speaker bios 

Senator David Pocock

Senator David Pocock migrated from Zimbabwe with his family as a teenager, and went on to captain the Wallabies and Vice-Captain the Brumbies as part of a stellar rugby career in which he has been awarded for leadership on and off the field. 

With a Masters in Sustainable Agriculture, David also has a track record as a powerful advocate on issues ranging from climate to marriage equality. 

He is involved in multiple small businesses and has co-founded numerous not-for-profit community initiatives in Australia and overseas, including with his wife Emma.

In 2021, David attended the COP26 climate summit and led The Cool Down campaign that saw over 470 Australian athletes from 40+ sports call on the Australian Government to lift its ambition on climate change. Upon returning home, he announced his run as the community-endorsed Independent Senate candidate for the ACT. After campaigning on a platform of integrity, doing politics differently and making Canberra count, David was successfully elected at the 21 May 2022 Federal Election.

Michael Claessens

Michael Claessens is the Executive Director of the Canberra Region Food Collaborative (CRFC). Michael heads up Regional Development Australia in the ACT.  Michael has over 20 years’ experience in industry and investment, NFP’s, food/agribusiness, transport, and advanced manufacturing.  I understand the value of building collaborative networks as a vehicle for delivering profound, sustainable improvements in wellbeing.  I believe that social responsibility and inclusion should go hand in hand with business success. Currently focused on building an Australian-first integrated and sustainable City Region Food System. Proudest moment in the last three years:  conceiving Seeing Machines’ Guardian Center employing many autistic/neurodiverse people; establishing Canberra’s First Vertical Farm Installation and helping establish Tuggeranong’s first major sustainable food project.

Fiona Buining 

Fiona Buining is passionate about growing plants, especially food plants, and is inspired to create pathways for future food growers in urban areas. She has grown vegetables wherever she has lived. Working with teenagers as a teacher she has seen first-hand the physical and mental health benefits of learning to grow food. As a grower she has observed an unmet demand for locally grown fresh food. Her question was: how do you become an urban grower in Australia?

Fiona has just returned from her Churchill Fellowship to the USA, Canada, The UK and the Netherlands where she investigated urban farm ventures that provide vocational pathways for aspiring food growers. Fiona believes that growing good food is one of the most positive actions people can do for their own health and to heal the planet.

Fiona majored in plant ecology and physiology at Macquarie University graduating with First Class Honours. She completed the first Permaculture Design Course taught by David Holmgren in the 1990’s and later taught residential Permaculture Design Courses with David for 7 years.

Fiona and her husband, Michael, have used permaculture principles to design two of their own properties – their one acre in Hepburn Springs and their quarter acre in Ainslie. Their property in Hepburn Springs gained recognition and set a legal precedent as it was the first property in a sewered area to install an approved composting toilet and grey water system.

Fiona managed the Merici College Kitchen Garden from 2012-2019, a teaching garden that grows seasonal vegetables using organic growing methods to supply the school canteen and restaurant. Her work was recognised when Merici won the ACT Keep Australia Beautiful Sustainable Cities Award in 2012 and the ACTsmart Schools Sustainable School of the Year in 2019.

Fiona runs Ainslie Urban Farm where she grows microgreens, in green houses in her backyard in Ainslie, for local restaurants and cafes. Fiona’s property has over 50 fruit trees, nuts, berries, vegetables, two beehives, chickens and working rabbits.

Nick Rose

Dr. Nick Rose has been the Executive Director of Sustain since its establishment in January 2016. With a background In law and community development, Nick brings more than a decade of working at the grassroots and institutional level in several Australian states in food sovereignty and sustainable food systems. He is the editor of "Fair Food: Stories From a Movement Changing The World (2015)" and the co-editor of "Reclaiming The Urban Commons: The Past, Present and Future of Food Growing in Australian Towns And Cities (2018)." Nick is also a lecturer in food systems, food policy and governance and food movements for William Angliss Institute in their Bachelor of Food Studies and Master of Food Systems and Gastronomy.

Gavin Hardy

For 25 years Gav has been creating, teaching and writing in the areas of permaculture, environmental design and ecological sustainability, particularly in subtropical Australia. He created Eco-flat Brisbane, a remarkable example of urban subtropical permaculture and his family’s home and is a founder of - and regular contributor to - Northey Street City Farm. He has planned, designed, and built numerous sustainable landscapes in Brisbane and beyond. He has worked as a tree planter, gardener, surveyor’s chainman, engineer, miner, landscape architect, mentor, and teacher.

Gav is a qualified Living Smart and Retrosuburbia facilitator and studied permaculture under the tutelage of Bill Mollison (PDC1997), Robin Clayfield and David Holmgren. He is also the Queensland coordinator of Community Gardens Australia and holds bachelors degrees in engineering and landscape architecture, and a certificate level 4 in training and assessment. Gav is a professional member of Permaculture Australia, Renew Australia and the Australian Institutes of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.

He is also a multi-award winning landscape architect and engineer with over 25 years experience planning, designing and building numerous sustainable landscapes and food systems in Australia. Plus a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship recipient with a focus on community based agroforestry models.

Naomi Lacey

Naomi is a permaculturalist who is passionate about promoting healthy food systems, sustainable lifestyles, and cultivating community. She helped to establish the first community garden in the satellite city of Palmerston near Darwin and from there became involved with Community Gardens Australia (CGA) in 2015 then taking on the role of President in 2019.

Naomi believes that community gardens have a pivotal role to play in ensuring better health outcomes for Australians, building community, addressing the climate crisis, reducing waste, and educating people.

Awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2019 to learn from community garden networks around the world, Naomi’s vision for CGA is to build the organisation into one that supports the growth and needs of community gardens around Australia, providing them with education, support, resources, and sustenance to continue their work and therefore their positive impact on the communities they reside in.

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