Wurruk’an is a small intentional community in Gippsland, just outside Moe. The landowners have created space for people to come and experiment with communal living and a simple lifestyle, without the need to first buy land. The ‘land barrier’ is a significant reason many people are unable to explore their desire to take up a simpler rural lifestyle. David Holmgren would be quick to point out that retrofitting the suburbs is a legitimate and necessary response to the global challenges of climate change, environmental degradation and consumer-driven growth, however there are still people who hanker to get out of the cities and try something different.
In 2015-6, Wurruk’an conducted an extended experiment in radical simplicity where a number of people came to live on the property, grow their own food, build tiny houses or retrofit existing buildings while working out how to live together.
The resulting documentary, A Simpler Way, is available as a free documentary on Youtube and I highly recommend it. Including interviews with those involved in the experiment, plus thinkers like David Holmgren, Nicol Foss, Ted Trainer, Helena Norberg-Hodge and David Spratt, the film portrays both the highs and lows of the experience. It is obvious that projects like building a tiny house or retrofitting the old double garage shed into a communal kitchen and lounge space brought heaps of community energy together and resulted in massive satisfaction and achievement. The exuberance of such moments is balanced by participants interviews where they candidly talk of the struggles to live in community; the difficulties of resolving conflicts when systems for doing that hadn’t yet evolved, and the challenge of working in a cultural vacuum without rituals, songs or ways to celebrate, process, begin or end.
Perhaps this is one of the areas where we will all need to become more skilled – how do we create new communal rituals when old ones have been abandoned? Surely we can do better than stiff backs and hand shakes with eyes averted, but which way to go? Will we be like the fake druids dressing in white sheets and pretending we’re continuing ancient practices … or do we become tie-dyed hippies dancing in circles at the end of every meeting? I can imagine quite a few Aussies finding that all a bit much!
Anyway, have a think about that and no doubt we’ll discuss it more anon!
You can visit the Wuurk’an website which is a little dated but still has some great photos and information about the project, courses offered and future direction. They are currently seeking expressions of interest for long-term residents, so that might be of interest? (You can also follow Wurruk’an on the Book of Faces)
For broader information on radical simplicity, head to the Simplicity Institute website – with plenty of great content from Ted Trainer and Samuel Alexander, as well as many others. I really like the practicality of their Take Action page – but of course I should have expected simplicity from the Simplicity Institute, sholdn’t I!
[by the way, Elizabeth Wade and Taj Scicluna were two of the people involved in the experiment. Taj taught on our last Permaculture Design Course and Liz is now living locally with her partner and baby. Nice to have some local connections!]