Mourning the good old Aussie backyard’s death 316



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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?


Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

  1. Society forges on. We can’t go back to how things were. Children are missing out! Parents are both working. Children are placed in Day Care or After School Care where the expectations for duty of care are a nightmare for the carers! How much time do parents actually have with their children over a 24 hour period or over a week? Incomparable to the unorganised play that spontaneously happened after school and on weekends in my youth.

    5 REPLY
    • Unfortunately not working isn’t an option always. And of course the expectations for care should be ridiculously high, parents are trusting these strangers with their children for extended hours throughout the day and I wouldn’t want any less than the best for my children!

    • So lucky my daughter is bringing up her children they way she was brought up, they love the land and all the farm animals, and arnt afraid to get their hands dirty as well as a bit of rough and tumble.

    • Well that is all very well but things are so different now lifestyles change and I remember back not to mine own thankfully, but a lot families didn’t grow up differently because Mum was home all day and Dad was the only breadwinner, some families were very poor and lived sad lives!

    • No Ros we can’t go back , but we can still remember them and talk about the good times we had , don’t know what some of the kids today will talk about, respect your comment , your right of course not many kids today are lucky enough to enjoy the backyard as we did

  2. Remember Aunty Ada Haddens mulberry tree Liz Mulraney?I remember falling of the ladder lol !take the lattice of the front of this house and it reminds me of the old Brookwood!!

  3. Our grandchildren won’t miss out on those things as we grow those fruit trees, have a Vege garden which the eldest grandson loves helping Pa pick fruit, tomatoes etc & loves being able to pull out the carrots, & after picking the corn & taking some home for mum to cook well mum didn’t get any he ate the 5 of them himself, so looks like more will be heading their way! He also loves playing outside, but saying that he loves using his tablet too, but if given the choice he would rather be outside playing.

  4. I have to ask my children if they miss it. I certainly don’t. There is more to life than cutting grass, and cleaning gutters.
    (Both time consuming and not safe, especially the second one). The only thing I miss is the space to have the dog and the cat.

  5. We hav a mulberry tree in our backyard right on the corner of our block our kids and all the neighbours kids would love picking them i love it … its also a haven for birds and bats !

  6. I remember the old mulberry tree just outside the kitchen window …and being yelled out to get down out of the tree before I fell ….used to love a feed of mulberries ….miss the taste …never see them in the shops …memories ….

    1 REPLY
    • I remember someone was put in a Hessian sack and hung from the mulberry tree and spun around till
      They were sick ……..trials of the youngest..

  7. There’s lots of things we did that kids dont get to do these days

    2 REPLY
    • Times have changed yes but kids today get to do just as much outside, my grandies play out in the yard with the neighbour kids, they spend lots of time in the pool, play in the street with the other kids while the parents have a catchup, are in nippers, do dance classes, & are in their footy club, are in little athletics, ..just because they do different things than we did when we were kids doesn’t mean they are missing out on a great childhoods, I also think parents these days are more involved in kids activities with them than our parents were.

    • mmmmmm maybe, I know some kids just sit inside watching tv all day, my kids used to play with other kids in the street, and do ballet and other stuff

  8. Yes Ros is right society moves on and it would be lovely to continue with the old backyard cricket match . It still happens in my grand kids lives but we also visit lots of wonderful parks in our town . One thing I do miss is the sound of kids in my neighbourhood squealing and laughing during the holidays….. Hardly hear a child these days. Now that is sad.. We really had it good.

    2 REPLY
    • We have always had Boxing Day here and the cricket matches were very popular. This was only up until the last three years. All our kids have grown up

    • The other day I Had some children over the toad come over and ask me could they have a game of cricket in my front yard. I was so pleased to say yes. Their yard is very small. We are a passionate cricket family so like you the Christmas afternoon cricket match was a must. On the farm we actually had a practice wicket which was used every afternoon by our family and the neighbours boys ….. And girls…. Gish they were good days.

  9. I feel sorry for kids these days we were always in our backyard playing climbing trees and making mud pies building cubby houses or playing cricket out in the street with all the other kids . We had the first television in our street our lounge room looked like a picture theatre after school to watch the Mickey Mouse club mum would bring apples for all the kids in the street but we always went back outside not like the kids today sitting inside all the time it’s very sad

    4 REPLY
    • We had to be dragged inside in Summer, it was usually only the mozzies starting to bite that got us back inside before full dark.

    • I remember, coming home from playing & Mum saying “Have you been eating Mrs …. ? mulberries , again?” Me “No Mummy” but of course my mouth was stained purple. We had a huge hill at the back of our house & we (the neighbourhood kids) would slide down on thin bits of board, greased with kitchen fat. Dad always mowed an area for us to slide. Such happy memories!

    • They were the good old
      Days when you were aloud to get dirty and play in mud and come home when the lights come on , my brothers had good old wheelbarrows down hill and we also had cardboard down hill but didn’t know about the kitchen fat that would of
      Gone faster . One of our
      Mates cut his foot on a bit of glass at bottom , my
      Brothers also had a waterhole they use to
      Step on logs they use stand on and try roll on
      A lot times they fell off ,
      These days it’s not safe
      In their own back yard or your own bed and they don’t play outside anymore , I think they have
      Missed out .

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