When Michelle and I started the journey of exploring the potential for building an ecovillage in Witchcliffe we consulted extensively with the local community. We made it very clear from the outset that we had no intention of proceeding with the extensive planning process to rezone the land unless there was strong support from the local community.
We ran a series of presentations at the Druids Hall in Witchcliffe in January 2010, for which we direct mailed all residents in the Witchcliffe town centre and region. We ran two presentations, one on a weeknight and the other on a Saturday and both were very well attended, in all over 100 people came to hear our vision for a highly sustainable community. Our presentations were extremely well received with resounding support for the project.
Once this process was completed, we engaged an anthropologist and indigenous heritage consultant based in Busselton, Brad Goode, to assist us in consultation with local Wadandi Pibblemun elders to discuss our vision for the project and ensure that the land we’d secured didn’t have any cultural heritage significance that would deem it inappropriate for development.
This was an extremely rewarding process where we met several indigenous families from the region, all of whom confirmed that the site didn’t have specific cultural significance and gave their support for the project. At the end of this meeting Brad informed us that Wayne Webb was the elder that we should engage with moving forward. From that moment on Wayne and his partner, Toni, and their son, Zac, have been both helpful and supportive of our vision.
I told Wayne at the outset that the future ecovillage community would never be anywhere near as sustainable as the Wadandi people had been for tens of thousands of years, but that we would do our best to build the most sustainable residential community we could build in this day and age, within our current ‘cultural’ construct, which is largely governed by Govt regulation (planning laws, sewerage act, etc), banks (what they will and won’t lend money for), levels of comfort people desire, affordability, etc.
I’m so very proud of how far we’ve been able to go towards achieving our dream levels of sustainability, and the people that the project has attracted from all over the country, and world for that matter, who want to live in a highly sustainable community.
Since meeting Wayne Webb and his family nearly 13yrs ago, Michelle and I have been blown away with how much they contribute to our community, with such incredible generosity. Whenever we have asked them for any advice they have been quick to provide it. A couple of years back we asked if they would give permission for our Ecovillage streets to be given the Wadandi names after the native animals found on site. They were thrilled with this idea and provided all of the names. They also named our main entrance and village square after the ocean spirit Wolghine, whose story is associated with a significant cave in the Witchcliffe area.
Toni told me one day that they had had the ability to make a lot of money consulting to mining companies and the like, due to wide recognition of Wayne’s broad depth of cultural knowledge, but they had made the decision that they wanted to dedicate their lives to educating their local community about Wadandi culture and how to look after the local environment. The list of ongoing events and programmes that the Undalup Association contributes for our community is endless: Wadandi Surf Academy, Bunuru Festival, Undalup Community Rangers land care programme, NAIDOC week, Seniors Week, ongoing Nature Conservation MRR events, the Margaret River Pro, to name just a few.
With all of this in mind, we are thrilled to inform our community that Zac, Wayne and Toni are going to be joining us in the Ecovillage and will be building two homes on a family lot in Cluster 2A.
While Zac is young and capable of borrowing the funds to build his home, Wayne and Toni are at the age where borrowing funds for a home is almost completely impossible, even when they own the land.
The Webb’s good friend Danielle Caruana has been helping them through this process and in the new year we will be getting together to work out ways to raise the funds and in-kind contributions to build a small ancillary unit for Wayne and Toni’s home.
One of the most exciting aspects about having the Webb family join our Ecovillage community is their keen interest in getting involved in providing their advice and experience to assist us to manage our conservation land, not to mention the eons of cultural wisdom they have to share with us. Zac is also keen to run Wadandi language courses in our community centre in the future.
Those of you that have lived in our beautiful region for some time or have been to one of the Webb’s Welcome to Country presentations, will know how fortunate our community is to have the Webb’s join us in the Ecovillage.