Growing together through gardening

Growing through gardening: Exploring the benefits of therapeutic horticulture for people with cognitive disability residing in supported independent living accommodation.

Growing together through gardening is a research project with Aruma disability services through the Centre for Children and Young People, Southern Cross University.

This project explored the benefits of participation in horticulture for people with disability living in supported accommodation sites.

Kate collaborated with residents in planning and establishing and managing onsite gardens between August and December 2020, while collecting data about their experiences using a range of accessible and inclusive methods.

The findings of the project show time spent in gardens at home impacted  resident wellbeing, fostered belonging and a sense of pride in their home, and contributed to individual’s NDIS outcomes. 

There are a number of outputs from the project:


The full report outlines the entire project, methods involved and details of each of the findings. It also makes recommendations about how to better support gardening in similar sites. It is 78 pages long.


This summary talks about the main details of the project using words a bit easier to understand. It still goes through all the same information as the full report.


During the project, the residents and researcher came up with lots of ideas to help get everyone gardening. We created a book of ideas.


Kate will be presenting at the Australian Therapeutic Landscapes Conference in September and the Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability Conference in November, 2021.

Project funding through Southern Cross University DVC-Research Seed Grant and industry partnership with Aruma.

Aruma logo

Project lead:

Dr Kate Neale: 

Dr Kate Neale is a childhood studies and disability studies researcher with a particular interest in the therapeutic benefits of time spent in greenspaces. She specialises in ethical methodologies for involving kids, people with cognitive disability or vulnerable communities meaningfully in horticulture to foster esteem, wellbeing and belonging. Kate's work takes a sociological approach by considering not just the individual benefits of therapeutic horticulture, but also the role therapeutic horticulture has in fostering a sense of belonging and inclusion at a social or community level. She does this with a view to better understanding the potential impact horticulture can have on the social status of communities when their participation and presence is illuminated through horticulture.

Danielle Davidson – Research Assistant and garden co-facilitator (Southern Cross University)

Danielle Notara – Research Lead (Aruma)

Elyce Shearer – Human Rights Advisor (Aruma)

The research team wish to formally acknowledge and thank the many Aruma staff and families who have given so much time and effort in supporting this project. Your warmth, enthusiasm and continued engagement in this project has enabled the gardens to flourish and their impact felt. You always met requests with positivity and were generous in seeking solutions. Every text message, email or phone call to describe a perfect moment in the garden, or to send photos of meals being prepared with produce in the garden provided not only incredibly rich data but so much encouragement for the research team. Thank you. We hope you continue to enjoy your gardens, the beautiful food and flowers they produce and moments of shared togetherness they foster.