(re)visioning Jarlanbah Permaculture Hamlet

April 3, 2010 – 9:44 am


It’s Easter weekend: a time for reflection on renewal, blessings and hope.


I am awash with fresh insights following a fascinating community mediation about the dual occupancy (accessory dwelling unit) issue on this community.


Sometimes people leave intentional communities. See “Leaving Utopia”, click here: Leaving Utopia – MARY GARDEN


Things are different now. We’re settled in, the toilet is built, the deck is a daily marvel and my three books have been birthed and are now for sale.


I realise that I can no longer turn my back on the goings-on in my own immediate community and focus only on other communities.


There is much to learn from this small eco-village and much that needs to change.


The Jarlanbah archives


With the help of my elderly artist neighbour, Shirley, a founding resident, I have been exploring the Jarlanbah archives from the early 1990s.


What a tale they have to tell us!



Robyn Francis


The birth of this community in 1993 was accompanied by deep reflection and much dreaming, bearing in mind the state of the Earth and a deep desire to care for Nature in all her wondrous beauty. The developer was completely aligned with these ambitious social and environmental objectives. The designer, eminent Permaculture educator and designer, Robyn Francis, keeps in regular contact with many of us and recently has been helping us understand the deeper intent of our founding principles with respect to intergenerational equity, density, community infrastructure, inclusion and sustainability.


She’s reminded us of the strong focus on inclusion in the founding documents. Given that today there’s a lot of exclusionary thinking about in the world, it’s a salutary reminder!


Those of us who live on Jarlanbah are blessed to have Robyn as a neighbour. Awarded NSW Rural Woman of the Year a few years ago, she’s a Permaculture designer and educator of international eminence.


For Robyn’s award-winning teaching, education, training and design work, see:








How I wish I could have been part of that early planning process!


The far-thinking developer, John Hunter, his planners and designers (and then the first residents) spent long hours exploring alternatives for the social and physical design of this place. It was a dream that was both far-looking and practical; resilient and able to be modified.


We’ve lost our way”¦


For reasons that I will explore in this blog, I believe that we’ve lost our way here in the Jarlanbah Permaculture Hamlet.


But I am confident that it’s not too late to bring the original vision up-to-date, realign with it and and move forward in cooperation, self-reliance and harmony.


I’ve pasted in below the poster that used to be on our sign at the front gate: the original dream. The sign went missing but the dream is still alive in the hearts and minds of many early

Jarlanbah Hamleteers. And the newbies are now learning what our founding mothers and fathers had in mind.


The details of the dream are spelled out in a detailed Management Statement and fascinating early newsletters, which I will also post for people to read.


We need to understand our history here.


I need to understand it!


Blessings on you all this Easter weekend! May we all live in peace, cooperation and harmony.


The promise, if not (yet) the reality”¦


Why is community engagement central to achieving sustainability?

15 June 2009 at 2:38 pm



Sustainability Fatigue


I’m getting the feeling that our communities are being engulfed in a wave of “sustainability fatigue”.
“Don’t talk to me any more about climate change,” a friend says over coffee in the Village. She cradles her coffee and mumbles, “I’ve had a gutful of all that pessimistic talk!”


Two small Aboriginal children are playing in the courtyard of the Rainbow Cafe. I look past them to the mountains, the landscape, our home”¦



Deep breath. I turn back to my friend.


“I mean it, Wendy,” she groans. “A gutful!”


Breathe again and think”¦ I’m worried that her response will translate into wider community overwhelm, frustration, even apathy.


We cannot afford to have that happen!


So why is community engagement central to achieving sustainabilty – and the other way around? We write about this quite a bit in Chapter 3 of KTS. Here’s a short summary:


First good reason


First are ethical and practical reasons: in a democratic society, those whose livelihoods, environments and lives are at stake should be engaged and involved in decisions that directly affectthem. Community-initiated projects and processes empower people to take action in local community development. Canadian planning academic and practitioner, Peter Boothroyd, recently reminded Nancy, his student, `To participate is to be human’.


Second good reason


Second, community engagement provides opportunities for developing a holistic sense of sustainability, where people make decisions using local wisdom, values, information and knowledge.


Third good reason


Third, community engagement contributes to the efficiency of a project or program. Targeting local needs and preferences always saves time and money.


Fourth good reason


Fourth, by addressing local social and cultural needs, community engagement processes can help develop micro-scale policy approaches that fit the community and its particular resources, skill sets and preferred approaches.


Fifth good reason


And finally, community engagement helps to build local accountability. (1)


Perhaps these arguments will be helpful when you are encouraging communities to engage with sustainability.


And sustainability practitioners to engage with communities.


I am sure there are lots of other good reasons.


Please tell me your ideas. I welcome your comments.




Sarkissian, W., Cook, A. and Walsh, K. (1997) `Core Practices of Community Participation in Practice’, in Community Participation in Practice: A Practical Guide, Murdoch University, Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy, Perth, pp. 33-82.