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(Special Interest Group of “Community” )

Envisage living in a vibrant community which is environmentally aware, energy efficient. With willing, fun loving, diverse people sharing the many household tasks across the community, creating more free time to live your dreams, and reducing your cost of living! Home grown veggies!

 (Bridges (2010), cited in Gilo Holtzman’s paper “Introduction to Cohousing & the Australian Context”)

This description, along with the old saying “It takes a village to raise a child” goes to the heart of “Intentional Community”, an inclusive term for a variety of communities (e.g. eco-villages, cohousing communities, communes and cooperatives) where “people strive together with a common vision” (from the Foundation for Intentional Community’s website).

SLA Village is a sub-group of the “Community” action group, and has a particular focus on “intentional communities” – sustainable residential communities in the local area.

In the first six months of operating, our focus was on collecting and disseminating information and ideas, mainly through this website and the IC mailing list.  Most of the 50 people who initial expressed an interest in this concept are interested in either the “cohousing” (urban) model after they retire or developing an ecovillage on acreage when they move to Armidale.  Four groups are actively forming right now:

  • Crabapple Community Hub (“Retrofitting” cohousing by renting or purchasng homes in a street in Central East Armidale) – contact Cathie Lamont
  • Etherion Ringing Cedars Community (Proposed ecovillage 40km West of Guyra – contact George Neo Yogaplex)

If you would like to join, start or support others in forming an Intentional Community, do join our mailing list or contact the groups above.

To connect with other “villagers”, contact the convenor or register as a member of “Village”, in which case you’ll automatically receive all emails from other group members.  Convenor: Cathie Lamont

For other pages relating to Village including Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), “hover” your mouse over the “Village” button.

Vision Statement

We are currently working on a vision statement.  We think it’s easier to explain what we’re about by imagining what we might look like in, say, two years’ time.

(In two years’ time), SLA Village is a “hub” for intentional community activities in Armidale.  The website will provide a number of resources (especially links to useful websites or documents) and facilitate the linking up of like-minded people to form intentional communities that operate independently of SLA Village, but remain connected to it.  We do not see SLA Village as being an Intentional Community in the strictest sense – more the “spawning ground” for one or more intentional communities in the local area.  SLA Village will host a number of activities that would be relevant to all intentional communities – e.g. information and film nights, workshops relating to community-building (e.g. conflict resolution!) public fora, displays at SLEX and some social events.  And of course links to all the communities’ websites to facilitate communication amongst them.

Members are interested in community for many different reasons.  In the early stages we intend to create a safe space for people to express and explore different ideas to find where the energy in the group lies.  To facilitate this, we have a shared meal on the second Friday of every month.  Do come and meet some like-minded people so we can get to know you.

Initial Response

Cathie sent an email to the SLA Heart and Soul distribution list and then put an article in SLAM in March 2011.  This elicited responses either directly or indirectly from 28 people.   Some responses include:

  • “I’m very interested in this, and moved/am moving to Armidale because I think it has the right “vibe” for this sort of thing” (5 people)
  • “I’m very interested in this now/tried to get this going before (already living in Armidale)” (4)
  • “I currently live in a mini intentional community, and here are some tips” (1)
  • “I may be interested in something further down the track (but I’m happy where I am)” (5)
  •  “Not just at the moment, but have you heard about the following successful communities …/ people who tried to start a community here before/DVD?” (4)
  •  “I would like to support the group, but I’m not looking for an intentional community myself” (5)
  • People who tried to establish an IC in Armidale before but not currently interested (2)
  • People from out of the region wishing to offer resources, such as Gilo’s report (1)
  • Etherion Ringing Cedars near Guyra is an Intentional Community that originated in Melbourne.  The owner commutes from Melbourne in the school holidays.
  • Homes North has also indicated an interest in innovative housing models.

Who we are

There were 48 people on the Village distribution list on 13 August 2011.  This represents 45 separate “household units” (noting that a household unit could be a single person, a couple or a family) and about 60 people (including spouses and children).

We already have considerably diversity (one of the indicators of success!) in the group.  As far as expertise goes, we have:

  • architectural/ecodesign experience
  • social change strategists/group facilitators/teachers/counsellors
  • people with direct experience of setting up intentional communities
  • secretarial experience
  • families
  • farming experience
  • gardening expertise
  • please tell us about any skills that you feel could be useful

Specific Communities

As members get to know one other, they identify groups with similar interests and begin to articulate their vision.  Here is a description of the main groups.  For privacy reasons, we have used codes to name each group. Please contact the convenor if you would like to add your own group or contact one of these groups.

Group Status Dist HHC HHF Size Description
Town Idea <3km 5 ¼ ac Cohousing with significant Seniors membership
Edge Idea <7km 1 3+ 5ac+ Sustainable, within cycling distance
Flex Idea <15km 2 8+ 5 ac+ Community, Affordable, Sustainable, Diverse
CD0 Land 10km 1 8 43 ac Farm for  Sale
CD1 Exist 16km 2 4+ 34 ac 2 families
SP Exist 15km 2 9 100 ac Working Farm; 1 owner rents out. Existing DA for 9 temporary-stay dwellings
Magpie Form 80km 1 8+ 1700 ac 40km West of Guyra. 1 house.  Owner Melbourne.

Abbreviations

Dist = Distance from a town

Status Codes:

–        “Existing” means that the property has been set up as a community and has at least one household already living on it

–        “Land” means land owned by a group member who wants to sell it to a community.  The current owner may wish to remain in the community.

–        “Buying” means a community that has established its governance structure and is at the stage of buying land

–        “Form” means a group that has formed a clearly defined identity and made a commitment (usually financial) to create a community

–        “Idea” means that the community is in the “ideas” stage yet and no commitment has been made to form a community

HHC = households either currently living there (existing communities) or households in “Village” that have expressed a preference for this concept

HHF = preferred number of households for initial community

+ means that there are plans for more households

JT = Joint Tenants

Communities

“Intentional Community” is an umbrella term for a variety of residential communnities living together with a shared vision, including: cohousing (or cooperative neighbourhoods), ecovillages, communes, housing cooperatives, retirement villages and farming commons.

A good website for IC developments in Australia is http://www.communities.org.au/

Descriptions and examples are provided below.

Cohousing or Cooperative Neighbourhoods

Cohousing usually refers to communities structured as small neighborhoods featuring independent homes sharing a large common house (or a common floor in an appartment building).  Cohousing communities generally share some meals together as well as some other resources but generally don’t share income. A cohousing community is usually designed and built all at once with a pedestrian focus but some ‘retrofit” cohousing communities utilize existing dwellings and gradually buy out the neighbourhood.

http://www.cascadecohousing.com/ (Cascade Cohousing in Hobart)

Eco-village 

Ecovillages (or eco-villages) are communities with a strong ecological focus. An ecovillage might be urban, suburban, or rural and they can range in size from a few to hundreds. Some eco villages are attempts to shift existing neighborhoods or towns toward more sustaainable living and more of a sense of community. Others are newly built, often featuring green or natural building techniques. Ecovillages vary a lot in their degree of community connection and their ecological focus.

http://www.sustainablegreen.com.au/ (Currumbin Ecovillage)

Commune 

The term ‘commune’ is often used, espeecially in the press, to mean all types of intentional communities or cooperative living. We use commune only when referring to communities that share their income and resources completely, or nearly so. These communal groups range from small to large, urban to rural, and christian monastery to secular anarchist collective. They are found throughout the United States and around the world. Most do not resemble the sterotypical ‘hippie commune’ but a few hippie communes from the sixties are still around.

Housing Cooperative 

Co-ops are cooperative communities that are generally expense sharing (rather than income-sharing) and often found in cities and towns. Many of those listed below are student coooperatives which limit membership primarily to college students. Coops can range in size from just a few people sharing a small house to hundreds in some of the larger housing co-ops.

Retirement Villages

Retirement villages have various structures and have been included in this list because the concept of retirement villages would be familiar to most people living in Australia.  Most villages are age-restricted to over-55s, but age restriction is not a requirement for all retirement villages.

Farming Commons 

A traditional form of farming where resources are shared under a “Common Property Resource Management System”.  Information about a local project, the “Tilbuster Commons” may be found on the following website.  A book is also available from the convenor.

http://www.ruralfutures.une.edu.au/projects/3.php?nav=Environmental%20Impacts%20of%20Change&page=6 (Tilbuster Commons, Armidale)

Existing communities in the area (all types)

The following communities have been identified in the area:

  • Bruderhof Community in Inverell is the only large-scale established Intentional Community identified in the New England area
  • Retirement Villages
  • University Colleges
  • Boarding Schools
  • House + granny flat
  • Farms with multiple dwellings inhabited by people working or sharing resources together
  • Tilbuster Commons project (now ended)
  • Rural “Joint Tenancy” miniature communities.  Two “mini” communities where two households have purchased properties as tenants in common exist.
  • Spontaneous communities – retrofit opportunity.  A spontaneous community is being established in East Armidale with one resident starting a community garden on his spare lot, which residents in the surrounding area are helping to build.  Solar panels, vege patches and low fences are characteristic of the area.  There is an opportunity to develop this as a “retrofit” community by gradually purchasing neighbouring houses.

Sites

Those that have been visited by SLA Village are marked with an asterisk (*).  Reports of these “site visits” are available.

Local properties for Potential Development

Land owned by members of SLA Village

Properties recently or potentially for sale

  • Rural
    • “Echidna Gully”
    • “Tylooma” House on 100 acres near the Pine forest ($759,000)
    • Subdivision of 7 100-acre lots 2km West of Uralla
    • Farm with a number of residences (rather run-down) and other buildings near Acacia Park
  • In Town
    • “Strathlea” (old nursing home, already set up as a type of Intentional Community, though needing work) – just sold for <$800,000 *
    • One of the retirement villages
    • Land near NERAM
    • 4 Kentucky St Cottage on 3000 sq m block
    • 35 Kennedy St (?3.2 hA land for $250,000)
    • Blocks of units or terrace houses (e.g. the new development in Butler St behind the hospital)

Resources

Reports

*** HIGHLY RELEVANT*** “Introduction to Cohousing and the Australian Context” by Gilo Holtzman – 

Books

A Pattern Language – in town library

We are in the process of acquiring these books:

Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities.  Diana Leaf Christian … New Society Publishers, 2002

Creating Cohousing:  Building Sustainable Communities 

Ecovillage at Ithaca by Liz Walker

Sustainable Community:  Learning from the Cohousing Model.  2005

DVDs

“Crystal Waters” near Maleny, Qld – in town library

“Designing a Great Neighbourhood:  Behind the Scenes at Holiday.”  Hope to get this!

Websites

The two most useful “general” websites we’ve found are the following – note the Australian content of the first one, which is adding a lot of resources for new communities.

Cohousing Australia (Incorporating Intentional Communities) – www.communities.org.au

(SLA Village has a page on this website!)

Foundation for Intentional Community – www.ic.org

Websites of Existing Communities

Listings of communities can be found through either of the above websites, but the communities that other members have found most useful are listed below:

Urban Cohousing

 4-household development being built in Perth

www.cascadecohousing.com Established cohousing development in Hobart

http://www.urbancoup.org/ Melbourne

www.cehl.com.au Victoria

Rural/Coastal

http://www.bundagen.com.au/    Established community near Coffs

ttp://www.bellingen.com/homeland/welcome.html  Thora, near Bellingen

http://www.patanga.org.au         Thora, near Bellingen

http://www.camdenhavenecovillage.com.au/index.html Proposed ecovillage near Port Macquarie

http://www.gondwanasanctuary.org  Established community near Byron

http://www.jindibah-community.org/ Established community near Byron

http://www.theecovillage.com.au/ Established ecovillage near Gold Coast

Farming Commons

What is involved in creating an Intentional Community From Scratch?

Very Rough Answer … Please email convenor with more ideas

While each community varies, the following activities generally need to occur (not necessarily in order)

  1. Finding the right people
  2. Identifying the needs of the community
  3. Overcoming skills deficits (e.g. communications skills)
  4. Overcoming knowledge deficits (understanding regulations or finding a consultant who can advise you)
  5. Selecting an appropriate legal structure to purchase
  6. Selecting an appropriate legal/governance structure to operate the community
  7. Costing the project (and your individual contribution, especially if it is non-monetary such as time)
  8. Getting the finances together
  9. Designing the general concept
  10. Promoting the concept (to attract investment and people)
  11. Finding and purchasing the right land
  12. Designing the physical layout
  13. Developing the Development Application/s and submitting to council
  14. Building the buildings
  15. Working out Fees, tasks
  16. Moving in
  17. Constant review
  18. Exit and Entry procedures
  19. Adapting community to your changing needs and yourself to changing community

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