Having grown up in Poland, my memories of our expansive countryside backyards are quite different from memories of most of my Aussie friends who do not come from the country. When I moved to Australia, I became so fascinated by the old Victorian houses and the mystery they hold that I planned and eventually managed to buy one, renovate it and while doing so, uncover stories and artefacts. Some of these historical artefacts included pieces of hessian that once covered the walls, torn bits of newspapers and bottles found in the garden at the back of the house.
Or other various Aussie inventions, like the Hills Hoist – an adjustable rotary clothes line. When I first saw it at a suburban Melbourne garden bayside more than 11 years ago, it made me laugh but also amazed me. I thought to myself: there’s so much more to discover.
But the Australian backyard, an iconic feature of the Australian suburb is changing fast. A large backyard is no more – it is getting smaller these days and it has largely disappeared from new Australian suburbs substituted by much smaller outdoor spaces. Whatever the size of lot, the house dwelling now covers most of its area. The current urban planning does little to prevent it. Land developers are transforming the very core of a suburban life by creating large aggregations of compacted houses squeezed into the tiny blocks for the biggest profit. What follows is en masse of roofs, concrete and identical houses, rapidly inhabited by growing urban population. With no or sparse amount of green spaces and very small number of trees, the suburb becomes an icon of missed opportunity. And nostalgia for the Great Aussie backyard is growing.