Something special is growing in the Ecovillage

By Mike Hulme and Michelle Sheridan, Co-founders

It brings great joy to our hearts to see the level of community participation that is growing in the Ecovillage.

While I was walking through the cluster gardens last week, completing the final inspection of the community sheds in Stages 1-3, I could hear the wonderful noise of giggles and laughter coming from inside Cluster 1A’s shed. I was thrilled to find four women sitting around a table playing cards, having a great time. As we all know, laughter is infectious and so good for our health. I know that none of these women knew each other before they built and moved into the Ecovillage, but here they are, hanging out together and having fun, already so much more than just neighbours.

The card sharks of Cluster 1A.

Only a few days prior to this, another group of residents organised a Winter Solstice Lantern Walk through the Ecovillage and Witchcliffe town centre, especially for our Ecovillage kids. It was a wonderful evening, blustery and cold, with cups of Glögg (Swedish mulled wine) and soup to warm us up, storytelling, singing and drumming, and a heartfelt solstice welcome to friends old and new warming themselves together around the fire. A big shout-out to Anu from Cluster 1C for her inspiration, storytelling for the children, and the initiative to welcome and involve the existing Witchcliffe townsfolk in what we hope is just the start of the Ecovillage solstice traditions.

Both of these encounters brought so much joy to our hearts, as this is the essence of what we hoped to achieve here at the Ecovillage. There is nothing more important to human health than a sense of belonging and community participation. It is the one thing that all of the world’s Blue Zones (where people live long healthy lives) share in common.

Nothing makes Shelle and I more proud than the incredible people that have decided to make the huge commitment to build a new home and pick up their lives and move into the Ecovillage. Many have moved from Perth, some from over east and some from the other side of the world. They have done this because they believe in a better world, a more sustainable world, within a new community where the developer was installing a huge amount of civic and civil infrastructure that would bring residents together, to build a strong, diverse community.  

Our recent Australian Institute of Landscape Architecture Awards for our Gardens and Infrastructure highlight one of the most important features of the Ecovillage masterplan design – the shared community gardens located centrally in each residential cluster. The community gardens have been such an important part of bringing the new cluster communities together and we are so excited to see how they are flourishing across Stage 1 and 2 as more and more residents move in. Many Ecovillage residents are experienced gardeners and they have been sharing generously with those who may be new to gardening or just starting out in their veggie patches. We see regular busy bees taking place in the cluster gardens, with lots of chatting and camaraderie, children of all ages encouraged to take part, followed by shared meals and drinks in the meeting sheds afterwards. The lovely thing is that the community is really active across cluster boundaries as well, with people in the more established stages offering assistance and resources to owners in the newer stages.

We’re still facing lots of challenges, some outside our control, like the huge increases in building costs and interest rates, Western Power changing its solar export regulations and making us adapt our infrastructure after installing it, etc. But we just have to adapt and improve as we go, and our commitment to following through with what we set out to achieve has never waned, albeit I have a lot more grey hair! When coupled with the huge amount of energy, diverse skills, knowledge and wisdom of our growing community, it feels like there’s nothing we can’t resolve as a community, working together, and helping each other out wherever we can.

One of the changes Shelle and I have recently made, due to the significant increases in building costs, has been a reduction in the size of our home design, after the last set of plans came in way over budget. We sat down with our last plan and said, ok, what are the things we need and really desire, and within no time we’d shaved 30% off the floor plan. We then started drawing up options and I have to say that we’re just as happy with the final plan, which will not only be at least 30% cheaper (we’ve also changed the wall materials, without compromising thermal performance, to further reduce costs). But in large part, due to the reduction in footprint, the home will also be more thermally efficient and sustainable. We can’t wait to start building at he end of this year and move in next year, especially now that our goats have moved in onto our agricultural lot opposite our future home.

It’s been an incredibly difficult, challenging, and unrelenting amount of work over the past 14 years to get to this point. But we are so proud of how it’s coming together, and it’s wonderful to finally feel like it’s all been worthwhile and to see the light at the end of what has been a very long tunnel.