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Australia's Open Garden Scheme
The formatting of this submission may have been altered due to the processing required for publication on the Department's website.
On behalf of Australia's Open Garden Scheme (AOGS), I would like to present our submission in response to the Federal Government's discussion paper, The ABC and SBS: Towards a Digital Future.
AOGS is a national, not for profit organisation, dedicated to opening the very best private gardens to the public. AOGS's mission is to increase the knowledge and enjoyment of gardens and gardening across Australia. In its most recent season (2007-2008), it opened more than 600 gardens nationally, including city and country gardens, special purpose gardens, dry climate gardens, organic farms and other innovative garden spaces, raising in the process more than $370,000 for charity as well as funding a range of community garden grants in all states and territories.
Founded in 1987 in Victoria, AOGS was the brain child of the ABC Rural Department's John Henwood, whose belief that it would be a community project of great merit was embraced by Rob Batten and others in ABC Radio management in Melbourne.
From the beginning it enjoyed great success and soon metamorphosed into an independent organisation, extending its reach nationally in 1992. Today it is the second largest not for profit garden scheme in the world after the National Gardens Scheme in the UK.
The relationship between AOGS and the ABC is thus a long and very close one. For the ABC, support of AOGS is one of many ways in which it has sought - and continues to seek -- to fulfill its community obligations by nurturing and promoting important aspects of Australia's cultural identity.
From local Saturday morning gardening talkback to 'Gardening Australia' on ABC television, the ABC recognises that gardening is one of Australia's most popular pastimes, and in broadcasting details of AOGS garden openings around the country, it has played a central role in highlighting this important aspect of our national character.
Section 3 of the Government's discussion paper asks the key question: What is the role of the ABC in promoting Australia's cultural identity?
Our response is unequivocal: the ABC's role in promoting Australia's cultural identity is even more critical in the 21st century digital age than in the past. New technologies should be seen as providing new ways and even greater means to fulfill this responsibility. The ABC must continue to invest in, nurture and promote a broad range of Australian community interests and initiatives. The important role and impact of 'localism' - particularly emphasised in the Mansfield Review into the ABC -- and the need to build and maintain partnerships in all their forms are as relevant for the ABC of the future as they are for the ABC of today. 'Localism' is the instrument by which the ABC is building and must continue to build a stronger, unified Australian voice and identity.
Community projects are a proven way of building greater social inclusion and increased understanding of the hidden strengths of the nation. Australia's Open Garden Scheme and the Rural Woman of the Year, both of which were breathed into life by the ABC, ultimately went on to independence and self-sufficiency, taking their place in the public's imagination as examples of what Australia and Australians do best.
AOGS is indeed an excellent example of a local ABC project that became a solid, national partnership, benefitting ABC's audience and the country as a whole. There is nothing more 'grass roots' than gardening in all its forms and the Scheme provides a unique platform for education, for diversity, for tolerance, for understanding of other cultures, as well as for informed television content and active live local radio. Thanks to the ABC-AOGS partnership, 98 percent of the population via 60 local radio stations can be inspired by other Australian gardeners.
Another key aspect of the partnership between ABC and AOGS has proved directly beneficial to the community. At the end of each season, AOGS's surplus is returned to the community via a community grants program which is promoted by the ABC, thereby cementing the partnership in the public consciousness. The community grants program could well take advantage of the ABC's new technology, in particular the new delivery platforms, to enable Australians to be informed of such initiatives at both local and national levels, and especially in regional and remote areas.
In essence AOGS, conceived in an ABC studio, realises many of the objectives of its parent, the national broadcaster. It celebrates at once universality and localism; it is entertaining yet educative; innovative but comprehensive; and above all, its programs and its reach celebrate the diversity and quality of Australian life.
We trust that the ABC of the digital age will continue to create, support and promote highly successful community programs of this kind.
Chief Executive Officer.
Summary of key points:
- As part of its responsibility to promote social inclusion, the ABC must continue to initiate, invest and nurture community projects. AOGS is a perfect example of a highly successful, socially inclusive, on-going community program that started life as an ABC Rural Department community project.
- AOGS is also a vivid illustration of a solid partnership between the ABC, its audience and the Scheme's 650 garden owners in metropolitan, rural and regional areas of Australia. Gardening in all its forms is a 'grass root' activity and recreation. Support for programs like AOGS is a unique way in which the ABC can promote important aspects of Australia's cultural identity.
- The ABC's pivotal role in the genesis of successful community programs like AOGS, and its on-going support for such ventures, reflect and revisit the 'Mansfield Review' into the ABC, which highlighted the relevance, role and impact of 'localism' and the need to maintain and nurture partnerships in all their forms to help generate a stronger, unified Australian voice and identity.
- The partnership between the ABC and AOGS provides a platform for diversity and understanding of other cultures, education in a unique way, informed television content and active live local radio coverage to 98 percent of the population via 60 local radio stations throughout Australia
- The aim of any ABC community project should ultimately be self-sufficiency and independence. AOGS and the Rural Woman of the Year are examples of ABC community projects that quickly became successful, self-sufficient and independent.
- The primary objectives of the national broadcaster - universality, localism, broad content, comprehensive scope, diversity, education, innovation and quality - can be reflected in ABC community projects. AOGS typifies this.
- AOGS, as an active contributor to the Australian community through its Community Garden Grants, could well take advantage of the ABC's new technology, in particular the new delivery platforms, to enable Australians to be informed of such initiatives at local and national levels, and especially in regional and remote areas.