SOWN and the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre, a high security remand prison, have a nursery partnership program.

In 2019, the partnership produced over 100,000 native plants for distribution through the SOWN nursery, Councils and other catchment groups.

Our nursery manager, Dick Harding, has run the AGCC partnership program since 2010 and deserves a huge vote of thanks.

Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre (AGCC) at Wacol


A nursery partnership with the then Wacol Correctional Centre was first trialed in 2009 by Brisbane City Council to supply native plants to south side Habitat Brisbane groups. In 2010 SOWN became involved with the renamed Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre (AGCC).

Since then, a small group of dedicated staff and inmates at AGCC have worked with SOWN to expand the nursery, increasing propagation capacity and variety of plants by many times. In 2012 the Arthur Gorrie nursery was producing 15,000 tubestock plants per year.

Lomandra are in high demand for SOWN planting projects. These hardy native plants help stabilise creek banks and create a buffer to filter water as it flows into the creek. With the AGCC nursery taking over most of our lomandra production, SOWN volunteers are able to concentrate on seed collection, cuttings and other strategies to increase the nursery’s biodiversity.

How it works

SOWN volunteers collect seeds from a variety of local native plants. Some of these are germinated at SOWN’s nursery and taken to Arthur Gorrie as seedlings to be transferred to tubes. This is called ‘potting-on’. Other seed is supplied direct to Arthur Gorrie to germinate in their greenhouse.

Organic fertiliser is produced ‘in house’ through the Arthur Gorrie worm farm, an innovative system using modified wheelie bins.

Dick Harding unloading lomandras collected from AGCC

Another chore done ‘inside’ to free up volunteer time is pot washing. Previously a never-ending job at SOWN, this task has been mainly taken on by the prison.

When the tubestock is ready to plant, Dick visits the prison to collect and deliver them to the SOWN nursery and other catchment groups. The prison security is strict. Volunteers have to pass through three check points accompanied by guards. Cameras, mobile phones, ropes and metal are not allowed inside and must be checked into lockers at the first checkpoint. Volunteers must wear identification and have proof of identification to get in. Vehicles must be locked when unattended.

The prison workshop area also makes nesting boxes, breeds red-claw crayfish for Australia Zoo, collects koala food plants, and makes steel benches and wire mesh trays for carrying tubestock for SOWN.

SOWN brings supplies to the nursery including plant tags and books on native plants for the prisoners to learn about the plants they are helping to grow. SOWN helped out with their vegetable patch by supplying protective bird netting.

The benefits of this partnership for both the prison community and SOWN make it a multi-dimensional project with huge benefits to the South East Queensland community and the environment.

Who is involved?

The Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre is a high security prison, and has been privately administered by the GEO Group. From July 2020, AGCC will be run by Queensland Corrective Services.

Having something worthwhile and making a contribution to the community gives prisoners a boost. Inmates involved in the nursery program have the opportunity to gain formally recognised qualifications in horticulture.

New purpose designed SOWN plants trailer

In the first few years of operation, SOWN substantially funded the program with Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre and the Energex Fund. Subsequent discussions with Queensland Corrective Services have secured ongoing funding for the expenses of the partnership.

In 2019, SOWN purchased a new purpose designed trailer, in conjunction with Paten Park Native Nursery, to transport plants from AGCC to our nursery. Funding from Brisbane City Council’s Environmental Grants program and grant ‘ENV18-19324 SOWN Nursery Plant Propagation and Distribution’ contributed significantly to the purchase of the trailer.