Working where it counts…

Conference opens new paths for community food initiatives, permaculture

Okines Neighbourhood House hosts Okines Community Garden and food co-operative. The garden was the scene for the conference’s first dinner—pizza prepared in the garden’s wood-fired pizza oven.
Tamania’s Minister for Local Government, Nic Street, opened the conference.

Surprise number one

The conference started with a welcome to country by Theresa Sanity who raised the issue of Aboriginal dispossession in that the land is, legally, no longer Aboriginal land to welcome people to.

A presence of permies

cooperation is more effective than working individually…

Let’s diverge a little to think about the permaculture presence at the conference and how it came to be there.

  • Goodlife Permaculture’s Hannah Moloney, who lives not far away from the conference venue in Hobart and whose effervescent personality captured the attention of the audience
  • Tania Brooks from the far distant corner of Tasmania that locals call the Northwest
  • Fiona and I, the lone male of the troupe.
Tania Brookes talks about how she goes about her community work while Good Life Permaculture’s Hannah Moloney looks on.
Hannah Moloney, permaculture educator and designer speaking at the confrence.
  • has been instrumental is setting up the online branch of the Country Womens’ Association (CWA), something that seems to be like a CWA version 2.0
  • is associated with the RESEED Centre, a community education initiative of permaculture people and their allies in the Burnie-Penguin region of Tasmania’s Bass Strait coast
  • is involved in the permaculture-inspired Down The Road Farm and-education-centre-to-be in the coastal hinterland
  • is active with Permaculture Tasmania
  • works with Live Well Tasmania, an organisation that , in collaboration with the RESEED Centre, maintains seed libraries in Wynyard and Penguin, the cashless Community Exchange Network Tasmania trading scheme and a community supported agriculture scheme with Down The Road Farm.
Tania Brookes spoke about the necessity to communicate with people across the political and social spectrum in our community work. She set up the online branch of the Country Womens’ Association and makes use of permaculture ideas in her community work.

Surprise number two

Day three. It was time to wrap up a conference that brought people from all over lutruwita to the shores of Iron Creek Bay. Raffle prizes had been drawn and the event took on that winding-down vibe that many of us will have experienced towards the end of multi-day events like this.

Fiona Campbell sets out Community Gardens Australia’s table at the Neighbourhood Houses Tasmania conference.

The value of collaboration

What are the learnings coming from the Neighbourhood Houses conference?

  1. Integrate rather than segregate—the value of cooperation and mutual assistance
    We can accomplish more as a social movement by joining with others even if we don’t tag what we do as ‘permaculture’. To do that, to insist on naming, would be to put form above substance.
    It is like Bill Mollison said in his set of principles: Cooperate rather than compete. Or, as David Holmgren put it: Integrate rather than segregate.
  2. Be approachable, listen carefully, don’t be dogmatic
    When permaculture people present themselves as reasonable, nonjudgemental, undogmatic and cooperative they open channels of communication and collaboration that enlarge the application sphere of permaculture.
  3. Work where it counts
    Taking Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a pointer, and in cooperation with existing organisations, directing our permaculture work towards places where basic needs are greater enlarges the application of permaculture and makes it more-relevant to the circumstances that people face in the world. I remember, years ago now, when Bill Mollison was talking to us in Sydney, he said that permaculture is best directed to where needs are greatest.
    This is to work where it counts, and that is one of Bill Mollison’s permaculture principles.
The Neighbourhood Houses Tasmania conference ended with a tree planting ceremony.

Video interviews

Watch interview with Hannah Moloney at the Neighbourhood Houses Tasmania conference:

Summary of Fiona and Russ’ interview session

The main points covered in the impromptu session.

  1. Food security in a changing climate
  • possible food shortages triggered by heat stress on crops
  • inability of crops to naturally adapt rapidly enough to a warming climate
  • crop loss due to severe weather events such as flooding, drought, storm and cyclone damage.
  • in relation to community gardens, we developed a template for new community garden organisations to work collaboratively through the planning process, including landuse and the social planning of decision making
  • in Sydney, Paddington Community Garden shares the skills of helping community gardeners deal with disagreement and conflict.
  • there are many reasons, one of which is that community gardening is a means of addressing the social isolation that some people feel
  • there is also the informal education that happens in gardens — the skilling-up in both gardening and working with other people
  • some people bring their art, such as mosaics or botanical drawing and music to community gardens, adding another use-layer to their value as community gathering places
  • there are other things like setting up seed libraries to share plants, sharing meals and more.
  • all of the community gardens practiced composting organic wastes from their gardens
  • some invited people living nearby to put their organic wates into the community garden compost as well
  • the City trialled a community composting system in inner-urban Chippendale where local people could recycle their household organic wastes; it was managed by the Sustainable Chippendale community group
  • recycled materials were used in garden construction and I developed notes about materials in community gardens.
  • from the media, primarily the question of how many community gardens there are in Australia; journalists need to know this to context a story on community gardening and to gain an understanding of the scale of community gardening
  • from people, how to find a community gardens and how to start them; the online community gardens map points people to the gardens and allows new gardens to register their garden; the Community Gardens Australia website has information on starting community gardens
  • we developed online information sheets to answer peoples’ most common questions and these can be downloaded from the Community Gardens Australia website
  • there are Community Gardens Australia state coordinators who can assist people in their regions
  • Community Gardens Australia’s role is in producing advice useful to people getting their community garden started, networking community gardens across Australia and advocating for them.
The NILS interest-free community loans scheme at the conference.
From left: Conference organising team’s Shelby with Tania Brookes, Hannah Moloney.



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Russ Grayson

I'm an independent online and photojournalist living on the Tasmanian coast after nine months on the road in a minivan.