Mourning the death of the good old Aussie backyard

Jul 17, 2019

Most people here have grown up with a big backyard.  800 square metres, 1000 square metres, and even larger was not uncommon for the over 60s across Australia when they and their children grew up.  It was the good old Aussie dream to own your own plot of land and everyone, or almost everyone strived for it.  People used to have a hills hoist smack bang in the centre, and a swing set to the side, and a great big open space for the kids to enjoy playing outdoors.  There was room to park the cars, sometimes even a carport if you were lucky, and as the years went on… a shed!   Even those whose kids had grown up and left home enjoyed the backyard and outdoor living that Australia was so famed for, planting veggie patches, flower gardens and natives that attracted the birds.  But it seems sadly that those good old days are over and our grandkids in the cities will never again know what it is like to kick a footy to a brother 30 metres away on the other side of the yard or grow carrots and corn in their own backyard plot.  I for one think it will contribute to a different way of life in Australia and that we should mourn this change in our culture and loss of such a special part of the Australian way of life.  Do you feel the same?

The Urban Development Association has found that the average size of new residential lots in Australia has fallen by almost 30% in the last decade, from 620+m2 to a mere 1/10th of an acre (423m2 ).


“Unfortunately this means that for new home buyers, the good old days of tossing the footy around with the kids or having a game of backyard cricket are well and truly over.” Sydney and Brisbane saw the greatest declines in median lot size over 2012/2013, with lot sizes plummeting by 16% and 12% respectively.” said Cameron Shephard, the UDIA National President.

In most urban areas, the cost of owning a big backyard is becoming prohibitive, and the potential returns that developers can get by cutting up beautiful grassy backyards into smaller and smaller land sizes is far exceeding everyday people’s ability to hold on.

The average median price of land paid by new home buyers across Australia’s five largest capitals is now $504 per square metre, up 148% over the last 10 years and that, quite frankly means that with a generational shift in property about to occur, we have to wonder just how many of these stunning old backyard open spaces will still be here in a decade to come.

In capital cities, the desperate need for density is causing councils to allow for smaller and smaller lots, even calling upon developers to develop in this way to take pressures off the construction of new infrastructure for growth.

“Density targets have been introduced and, over time, lots have steadily have decreased in size,” says the UDIA representatives.

Do you think this will change our culture forever?  That is the big question we have today.

I remember a time when I could hang out under the mulberry tree  with my friends and pick our afternoon tea, getting covered in red mulberry juice, jump on my scooter and ride around the yard, and then finish off with a play under the sprinkler before dad cooked dinner on our outdoor brick barbecue (just a few bricks and a cast iron sheet). We had a labrador, a lemon tree, a passionfruit vine and a picket fence, and the hills hoist had a concrete path so mum could get to the line easily.  I was pretty lucky I guess.   It was the average boomer and gen-x childhood.  I am very fond of those memories.  My Baby boomer father doesn’t remember it so fondly.  “The mango tree constantly dropped leaves in the pool, I would spend my life cleaning, hosing, mowing and maintaining our large green plot of land after work – and that barbecue made such a mess he says with a grin, remembering”.  He now chooses to concrete everything in his retirement house built only recently and has a shiny new barbecue.  Is that wrong?  Not at all.  But is it a different way of living that we have actively thought about changing our culture to as a nation, urban planning, lifestyle planning and culture planning would probably say no.


The concrete under the hills hoist made my mum so happy when dad installed it. Remember the dirt from where a path was worn in!


Today’s children come home to a small, perfectly manicured backyard small enough to be a courtyard, just big enough for the toy poodle to poop in before reentering the house.  They boot up their WII or Playstation for half an hour before tripping off to their long list of extra-curricular activities designed to keep the children so busy they wont notice they are still kids.  They go to the local park for shared open space, something Americans and English in dense cities have been doing for years.  Not wrong in my opinion, but definitely worth mourning.

Share with me your childhood backyard story and mourn the things your grandkids are missing out of… Or do you think they have the best of both worlds?


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