Tag Archives: Moora Moora


Live. or Live. How do you say it? It depends. When your crowd fund goes “live”, how does it feel? I feel relieved. It’s been two and a half years of film-making. Five months of screening, feedback, re-edits and, quite frankily, stress. It’s time to let this baby go.

Will you help her stand alone?

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Intentional Communities Conference

Peering through the foggy window, I can see the tall gum trees which line the windy road up Mount Toolebewong. Max wipes his sleeve across the glass and points his tiny pocket camera out into the rain. We are headed to the Australian Intentional Communities Conference, but instead of the desert summer we might have expected, a storm has arrived and it is a dramatic welcome.

If Melbourne is famous for “four seasons in a day”, then at 750m, this mountain sees them all. The view stretches down to the sea – by day a sprawling spiderweb of a settlement; by night a twinkling performance. When we wake, the clouds have scattered and all that remains is a blue parasol over the city and bright sunshine. That’s more like it!

Over the next three days, a parade of eloquent and erudite speakers expound on all things community. Bill Metcalf gives a talk about the history of intentional community in Victoria, with pictures of earnest church people in the 1800s serving a vision and joyful kibbutz-ers in the 1950s practising for communal life in Israel.

David Spain and Peter Cock founded the communities at Tuntable Falls and Moora Moora 40 years ago. They have lived at opposite ends of Australia and never discussed policies, but in discussion find so much in common it makes them laugh with amazement.

In Jeremy Shub’s workshop, which advertises itself as “creative and fluffy”, people travel inward, sharing stories of their dreams. We play community games with Kate Lewer from Commonground– bonding over giggles and breaking down boundaries of personal space and appropriate behaviour. These spaces allow balance between the head and the heart – showing us how both are essential for us to thrive. All of life is here.

From the kitchen, comes music and joy and deliciousness. Meals are on time, plentiful and frequent. At breakfast, warm pears and home made granola; for lunch, fresh green salads with wholesome veggies and for dinner, steaming bowls of lasagne or curry. Susannah, the chef, dusts moroccan spice over a fresh bowl of humus and the table is dressed with flowers for morning tea. It’s what every conference needs – and so much more.

The community at Moora Moora manage us all with care, attention and patience. No-one seems to bristle when the tour is guided over their way. Everyone is open and helpful. For me, the conference seems to bring out the best in this community, drawing the members together around a common purpose.

Holding a conference about intentional communities in an intentional community seems like an obvious thing to do. They are set up to house many people and usually have communal facilities such as kitchens and meeting spaces. Moora Moora is well equipped. The Lodge house has dorms, a large lounge area and a dining room. The Octagon can hold fifty people comfortably. There is ample ground to set up a marquee. They even have a stage to host the evening’s entertainment! Esme, the compere, is looking forward to becoming a member next weekend after two years living here on probation. He’s both excited and nervous. It’s a big commitment.

But aside from the physical space and the obvious capability of the crew, this conference has something else which is special. There are so many people here who know how to forge relationships. They understand how to help us create connections and when you add that to the enthusiasm and passion of the participants, it’s not surprising that as they leave, people hug with shining eyes.

On the last night, the remaining delegates are invited to join the residents for a final gathering. In the state of Victoria, this is the beginning of their bush fire season. A drum circle calls the community together in ritual and small children carry hand painted lanterns into the labyrinth as the chant rises. A blessing is spoken.

For a newcomer to Australia, my eyes and ears are opened again to the very real threat of wild fire. While I wish for warm weather and a respite from the unpredictable spring rains, I see that for these people, up here on the mountain, the summer is not just a time for barbeques and swimming.

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Moora Moora Intentional Community

I’ve just come back from a weekend at Moora Moora, an intentional community about an hour and a half out of Melbourne. It takes about an hour to even get out of Melbourne, since the suburbs spread for miles and miles. The train passes out through Camberwell, Chatham, Canterbury and Croyden – all brought from the old country to help the settlers feel at home. They look nothing like the originals.

Eventually, sprawling suburbs turn into sprawling homesteads, with large farmhouses stuck in vast pastures. And trees appear.

My train connects with a bus and after the bus, someone waits to take me the last 20 minutes to the mountain. We wind up Mount Toolebewong through tall gums and emerge at the top into an open green.

The Lodge is a communal building, converted into lounge, kitchen and visitor dorms. This building was used by Melburnians who came to holiday here in the early part of the century, but the rest – about 30 hand built,  have appeared since. The community is about 40 people, plus children, living in small clusters of homes created mostly from mud brick, poured earth or straw. They are off the grid, and fought to stay so when the power company threw lines over the mountain in the 1970’s and insisted that they connect. They refused, making their point by standing in front of the bulldozers. “It was a defining moment in terms of our commitment not to use the grid and to make sure we got as much of our own power using the sun and wind as we could”, says Sandra Cock.

Peter Cock is one of the founders and somewhat of an expert in intentional communities. He wrote a book in the 1970’s as part of his PhD studies which analysed community in Australia and used his experience to establish Moora Moora. He explains that the cluster design protects the community against breakdown, since in theory, if one cluster has a conflict, the whole community does not need to “deal with it”. It’s a bit like saying that if you break a leg, the body won’t die, but I do get the feeling that Moora Moora, nearly 40 years old, is limping just a little. It may be that some of the newcomers crave the laid back lifestyle without wanting to put in the hard work which maintains a community.

This weekend, there is a course here on how to develop a fledgling ecovillage. The facilitator, Shane Schmidt, learned at Findhorn in Scotland and the group of 20-odd participants are all at some stage of setting up a community. They are here to learn about the “four core pillars” of sustainable design: social, worldview, ecological and economic. I am here, in particular, to research aspects of conflict resolution for my new documentary. I take part in a profound process called Forum, which was developed in Zegg community in Germany and facilitated here by Gero Van Aderkas. I hope to show you how it works in the film!

On Saturday, the weather is warm and sunny and supports a fun evening of wood fire pizza, dance and a screening of Ecovillage Pioneers. On Sunday, the mist and rain roll in and blanket the mountaintop in a damp chill which makes me glad to head back down the mountain to the city. I had enough of that in Wales 🙂

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Morning in Dharmananda

A Big Trip

I’ve been on a trip. A big trip. Two big trips, actually. The first one took me away from my lovely home at Holtsfield in Wales and right over to the other side of the world, to Melbourne, Australia. I’ve been living here for seven months now and taken many little trips to explore the area – up to the Grampian mountains in the north, down to the Great Ocean Road in the South and over to Tasmania, too. And then came another big trip.

When I came to Australia, I knew I wanted to make some films about intentional communities here. I have been making films on this subject for almost 15 years – the website tells the story of that. I had made contact with some people even before I landed, but it took six months of living here to gather what the story would be.

During those six months, I have been doing my research. I’ve been sitting in the beautiful domes of the State Library of Victoria and reading about land rights in Australia (shocking), about alternative lives here, about planning laws. I’ve made friends at two of the communities nearest to me. One is Commonground, a co-operative about an hour from the city, where their intention is to hold a space not only for individuals to live and work together, but also to host other groups who are working for social change. The other is Moora Moora, about an hour in a different direction. Their community is bigger, with around 100 people living in small clusters of the top of a mountain.

Visiting and staying at these communities gave me insight into the themes which are particular to Australia and I started to feel ready.

Then came the big trip. While talking to a journalist friend who also writes about living the simple life, it seemed to shout that I should be telling a history – a history of intentional community in Australia. So that is what I have set out to do. The big trip took me north of Brisbane, to Crystal Waters, a permaculture village near the funky little town of Maleny. From there I travelled to Nimbin, where I met, amongst others, a man associated with the Aquarius Festival in 1973, which brought not only a huge number of hippies to the broken-down town, but also the first multiple occupancy planning laws. Some of the communities established then still remain and have loads to teach us about how to live with each other and how to maintain such a project over time.

In Bellingen, further south, there are over 25 intentional communities a hotbed of activity which has spilled out into the surrounding area, including the local council, who have established radical waste collection initiatives.

Narara Ecovillage, an hour north of Sydney, is on the site of a horticultural research facility. This land will now be turned into one of Australia’s newest intentional communities.

I have some great stories to tell you and this is only the beginning. This blog will help me make sense of the film I am making and also of life in Australia, 18,000 km from the place I call home. Will you join me?

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