JCU Community Garden | Mayi Tjulbin Ma Bugarra

Design Feature
Type of Project
Landowner strategy

The James Cook University (JCU) community garden seeks to provide an attractive dynamic and engaging space where the University and broader Cairns community can come together and raise awareness and interest about sustainable and regenerative agricultural practices. ‘Mayi Tjulbin Ma Bugarra' enables individuals to remember what vital, nutritious produce looks, smells, and tastes like. 

Thank you to Djabugay Traditional Owners for giving the JCU Cairns Community Garden its language name, ‘Mayi Tjulbin Ma Bugarra'. The name translates to ‘food and fruits, vegetables, trees and berries from the rainforest’ and covers all the clans of the Djabugay Nation (James Cook University, 2018).

Bringing the community together through a shared love of food

Students, staff and community members can visit the community garden as a rejuvenating study break; a place to socialise and de-stress; learn about permaculture; food systems and community development. 

The garden is located on the JCU campus grounds providing immediate walkable access for staff and students, especially those living on campus in high-density unit style accommodation. The garden provides space and expertise to support community to participate in the processes of growing, harvesting and eating produce that many would not typically be able to engage with otherwise.


Chempadak Fruit and seedlings. (Karoline Testad, 2017).
Chempadak Fruit and seedlings. (Karoline Testad, 2017).

The garden working group members have chosen to showcase climatically suited tropical exotic fruit trees, greens and vegetables not readily available in supermarkets. 

Tropical fruit Tasting and PNG culture sharing buzz. (Karoline Testad, 2017).
Tropical fruit Tasting and PNG culture sharing buzz. (Karoline Testad, 2017).

Some of these foods are culturally important to visitors, whilst others are rare or unusual and invite exciting new experiences that regularly inspire the cultivation of deeper connections with healthy food or the sharing of culture.   

The JCU Community Garden was borne out of a need for a green public space and a community asset for everyone to enjoy. The garden’s official opening was in October 2016, after five years of planning and development (James Cook University, 2018). 

A core team of dedicated JCU staff and students engaged relevant departments and higher university management to complete a development and approval process. Strategic governance of the garden and reporting to upper levels of university management has been the responsibility of a Community Garden Working Group. Initially the working group consisted of a larger group of interested university staff and students, however after 1.5 years of establishment the group’s responsibilities have lessened and the group has been reduced to one of representative from select departments and the COG. 

The TropEco team and Community of Gardeners Club initiate physical development of the garden and community engagement events / workshops. 

Project Team

  • JCU Community Garden Working Group
  • The Community of Gardeners Club (COG) including executive committee, volunteer lead coordinator positions and general members (JCU Student Association affiliated club)
  • TropEco Staff Team: JCU Community Garden Coordinator, Sustainability Officer, Environmental Managers Assistant, TropEco Sustainability Interns.
  • JCU Campus Services maintenance staff
  • Local members of the community
  • Cairns Regional Council

Project Cost

Funds provided by JCU:

  • Initial capital investment, including nursery development; approx. $150,000
  • All other costs, including but not limited to equipment, garden coordinator wages and events, Approx: $30,000 (over 2 years) 

Funds provided by Community of Gardeners Student Group:

  • Fundraising $1,190
  • Grants received $5,800

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