Ecovillager Profile: South West dreams come true

By Paul Jurjevich, Cluster 1A resident and Ecovillage Vineyard Manager

My family own a table grape vineyard in the Swan Valley and I was brought up working on the farm. I have always had a strong passion for horticultural practices and aquaculture since I was a child. I remember developing microfarm systems at the back of my Dad’s house when I was a young boy and my favourite memory is hand-feeding my native catfish (Tandanus bostocki) friends. 

I always knew I wanted to live a life that involved aquaculture and food production while supporting local wildlife, but I didn’t know how it would manifest into my life’s plan.  

Since 1996, while working summers on my family’s vineyard in the Swan Valley and in multiple nurseries in the Perth region, I spent the winter seasons in Margaret River and all along the Capes working in the local vineyards.

I have always felt intimately connected to the region. My Great Grandad was a worker on Mill Rd at the timber mill in the 1930’s and his ashes are scattered on Redgate Beach. It is these ancestral ties and my love of the land that kept calling me back to the region every year as a young man. 

In 2007, I met Mike Hulme and Michelle Sheridan, which marks a pivotal moment in my life, as it is this relationship that led me to the Witchcliffe Ecovillage. I began working for Mike, eventually carrying out the pruning of the Foxcliffe vineyard on the property that is now the Ecovillage.  After working seasonally for Mike for many years, I made a big decision in 2015 to leave my family’s vineyard in the Swan Valley. This was a daunting move for me, leaving a life of security for the great unknown. However, a whisper in my mind said follow your heart. So, I did.

It was that same year that I met the love of my life, Trish, who lived in Perth. After four months, we decided to make a go of it. She moved to Witchcliffe where we began creating a life together. During this time, we lived in an old groupie settlement house, which was located in what is now Stage 3 of the Ecovillage.

Trish found it difficult to find her feet in the first two years of moving from Perth to Witchcliffe.  She said she sometimes felt lost, isolated and struggled to find purpose. However, she also describes this period of depression as her greatest gift, as it was during this time that she developed a strong connection to country and found a deeper sense of herself. 

During the three years of living there and during my continued employment with Mike, we learned of the workings of the Ecovillage and fell in love with its concept and beautiful vision of sustainability and community. We knew in our hearts we wanted to be a part of it as this place was home to both of us. But economically, it seemed out of reach. 

Fortunately, Trish’s work prospects then improved. As a Carer in the disability sector, she secured full time employment supporting people with disabilities to navigate their way through the NDIS; a challenging yet rewarding role within the local community.  

After our daughter Madelyn turned one, we decided to take a leap of faith and call the banks. Miraculously, our finance was approved, and we signed onto a cottage lot and a Bungalow home in Cluster 1A. Dreams really do come true. Our hearts sang as we started planning for our new home.  

Just last month, we welcomed our second daughter, Daisy, into our lives. The idea of our little family growing among such diverse, open-minded and caring people in the Ecovillage gave us the drive to keep going through the tough times. 

Our house is nearing completion and we have already made strong friendships in the Ecovillage community. Our hearts are full with the promise of what’s to come for our family.

For as my forefathers have walked before me, we shall walk again, this time with our new family.

Love you all, Paul❤️👍.