action · community · gardening · Uncategorized

The Melbourne Model David Holmgren


For the last 50 years, the debate about suburban sprawl vs high rise has been repeated ad infinitum with very little questioning of the assumptions behind the debate. Adam Carey & Timna Jack’s article in The Age 22 Feb, 2018 is a current example of the restatement of these outdated options in the context of the supercharged apartment construction frenzy that is taking over inner Melbourne.The article references Infrastructure Australia’s latest report including a third model for Melbourne’s future; medium density London instead of high density New York or sprawling traffic bound Los Angeles. This deft pitch assumes that we must put up more buildings to accommodate the projected 2.8 million extra people who will make Melbourne home by 2046.

The entrenched interests of Australia’s largest industry, property development and construction, myopia and lack of rigor in the academia and politics and a mostly disempowered public have combined to see the debate intensify but never consider any real alternatives, including my RetroSuburbia strategy which aims to create the Melbourne Model of urban renewal.

RetroSuburbia involves making full use and creatively repurposing what we have already built over the last 40 years, the longest running property bubble in human history, before we build and develop over more water and carbon absorbing land that we need to feed ourselves into the future. In this maddening frenzied rush, we condemn our children to live disconnected from nature that we depend on for our daily life and well being.

RetroSuburbia is based on the lived reality of a growing number of ordinary Australians who have been influenced by the permaculture concept, a vital emerging global movement, first taken root in the suburbs of Melbourne 40 years ago. The impact of permaculture, and UK spin off, The Transition Towns movement is at the progressive edge of communities building resilience in a climate changed world. Locally, Permablitz activism that continues to empower young people to hack their habitats for the better, has also spread around the world from Melbourne.

Those questioning the policies favouring population growth with alternative ideas continue to be ignored, or at best, overlooked. But even if we accept the projected population growth as inevitable, the current options to accommodate these numbers all involve constantly putting up more buildings without redressing the results of doing so for the last 50 years. Over that time the orthodoxy accepted by the majority of planners, academics and even environmentalists is that higher population density is the key to improved urban amenity, viable public transport, infrastructure efficiency (read water based sewerage), lower environmental impact and even resilience to climate change and other future stresses.

This orthodoxy is built on many flawed assumptions including;

  • Economic growth is an unquestioned good that will, in any case, continue into the future more or less perpetually.
  • The elimination of soil, plant and animal life in favour of more building is collateral damage that can be compensated for by token symbols of our ongoing metabolic and psycho-social dependence on nature.
  • The daily movement of the majority of residents beyond walking or even cycling distances is an essential element of urban life.
  • The just-in-time movement and on-demand availability of food and all the other essentials of life to this constantly moving population is necessary and sustainable into the future.
  • The provision of our needs within the household and community non-monetary economies is an unnecessary remnant of the past that can replaced by new forms of consumerism in the monetary economy.
  • That more residential construction ranging from high rise redevelopment to infilling the backyards of suburbia is an efficient and effective to achieve the higher population density in existing urban areas.

The Melbourne Model avoids these flawed assumptions, instead focusing on how we can turn the problem of suburbia in the solution of RetroSuburbia.

Apparently 30% of new apartments are speculation chips kept in mint condition rather than homes for anyone. There are roughly 8 million vacant beds in Australian homes. There are endless rooms, garages, sheds and other space full of stuff no one has time to use. The storage industry holding the stuff we can’t fit in our houses continues to grow.

Even the more widely accepted assumption that we need a major increase in public transport infrastructure echoed by the Infrastructure Australia report never considers the way information technology already allows RetroSuburban home based livelihoods and lifestyles to bypass the need to commute. The potential of garden and urban farming to more efficiently displace so much of the resource burning centralised food supply system is beginning to be articulated by advocates and activists but the 20th century land use planning paradigm that hold sway over our public policies assumes it is sustainable to feed mega cities with just-in-time logistics controlled by corporate monopolies.

In my essay Retrofitting the Suburbs published by the Simplicity Institute, I show how policies, affluence and other factors driving more construction in our residential streets lead to a decrease rather than an increase in population density. When we multiply the declining residents by the declining hours of occupancy, as all activity is sucked out of the home and community and into the monetary economy, we find that our cities are mostly crowded by cars carrying one person constantly rushing between buildings that are poorly used.

For the sake of corporate profits and government tax take, we are continually blindsided to commute each day to work, school, childcare, gym, cafe and mall while our homes lie vacant and unused.

So why should we even consider the creaking cities at the heart of empire as models for Melbourne when our own lineage of Permaculture, Transition Towns, Permablitz and RetroSuburbia are already influencing the progressive edge of urban and community renewal around the world, including New York, Los Angeles and London.

The Melbourne model would give us the potential to survive and thrive challenging futures without submitting to the sterile alternatives of the current urban development debate.

action · climate change · Uncategorized

Lentil as Anything: Pay as you feel Supermarket.

Opening at the back of Lentil’s Thornbury restaurant in the coming weeks, The Inconvenience Store will be the state’s first-ever pay-as-you-feel supermarket. The shelves here will be stocked with goods rescued as part of the group’s Food Without Borders initiative, which collects quality food from shops and markets which is otherwise destined for landfill. With a Foodprint Project report estimating that Melburnians alone turf more than 900,000 tonnes of edible food each year, this promises to be a great way for locals to do their bit in the war against food waste.

action · gardening · Uncategorized

Found on Twitter, engaging with grumpy neighbour.

As a way to engage my grumpy neighbour, I planted tomatoes on our property line and called them “community tomatoes”. He loved it and we shared the plant. This year, he planted 3 plants on the property line and the community garden grows. He seems less grumpy this year.

action · local · Melbourne · Uncategorized

Building Melbourne (AU) local economy

Dear readers

Transition Yarra is looking for ideas and content for building and supporting our local economy.

Please make contact if you’d like your small business to be included. There are so many incredibly industrious people out there doing amazing things.


action · Uncategorized

National Reconciliation Week: Sat 27/5/18 to Sat 3/6/18

Reconciliation Australia have announced the theme for 2018: “Don’t keep history a mystery – Learn. Share. Grow.”

NRW 2018 is a key activity in the Reconciliation Movement’s strategy to support Australians in making progress in the reconciliation dimension Historical Acceptance. This dimension addresses whether all Australians acknowledge the injustices and actions of the past and their impacts (both historical and contemporary) and are making amends for past wrongs.

This year, NRW invites Australians to Learn, Share, Grow – by exploring their past, learning more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and cultures and developing a deeper understanding of our national story.

What is National Reconciliation Week?

National Reconciliation Week is an annual celebration and is a time for all Australians to reflect on our shared histories, and on the contributions and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.  The week is framed by two key events in Australia’s history that provide strong symbols of the aspirations for reconciliation.

NRW runs from Saturday 27 May –  Saturday 3 June, bookended by two significant milestones in Australia’s reconciliation journey: the 1967 Referendum and the historic Mabo decision. 2017 marks 50 years since the ‘67 referendum, and 25 years since the Mabo decision. This year’s theme –  ‘Let’s Take the Next Steps’ – reminds us that all big changes take persistence and courage.

May 27 marks the anniversary of Australia’s most successful referendum and a defining event in our nation’s history. The 1967 Referendum saw over 90 per cent of Australians vote to give the Commonwealth the power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and recognise them in the national census.

June 3 is Mabo Day – On this day in 1992, the High Court of Australia delivered its landmark Mabo decision which overturned the notion of ‘terra nullius’ and legally recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ connection to their country, a connection that existed prior to colonisation and continues today. This recognition paved the way for the Native Title system.

What can you do?

Plan events that celebrate and build on respectful relationships shared by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians and that show how non-Aboriginal Australians can be active supporters of reconciliation.  Some examples of events or activities you could plan for your community include:

  • Public forums on Reconciliation (e.g. at the Town Hall or local library).
  • Aboriginal heritage walks and cultural tours;
  • Film screenings, festivals, concerts, poetry or book readings;
  • Exhibitions, talks or performances by local Aboriginal artists, musicians, craftspeople or businesses;
  • Supporting the permanent display of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags or banners where they haven’t been before;
  • Reconciliation Breakfasts or festivals featuring indigenous cuisine;
  • Dreamtime story-telling and displays in local schools, libraries, council offices or public spaces.
Or you could support activities within local schools such as arranging guest speakers or workshops, or support an Aboriginal flag raising, an art competition or display.


NRW Resources

Reconciliation Week posters and online resources are now available via Reconciliation Australia’s website:

action · Uncategorized

Reconciliation Victoria’s Position Statement on Treaty and Constitutional Recognition:


For more information about Reconciliation Victoria please visit

Reconciliation Victoria’s Position Statement on Treaty and Constitutional Recognition:

Reconciliation Victoria supports the calls of the Aboriginal community in Victoria for the long-overdue negotiation of a Treaty, and commends the Victorian Government for its commitment to enter into these discussions. We are excited by these developments.

A Treaty – an agreement between governments and Aboriginal people – will address the nature of Australia’s settlement and colonial history and the ongoing impacts these have had on Aboriginal people, and provide Aboriginal people self determination over their own lives and futures, as shown by evidence to be the key to creating wellbeing. We believe a Treaty has the potential to create the foundation for a brighter collective future in which all of us can share: a more courageous future that embraces and learns from the cultures of our First Peoples, that acknowledges our often painful shared history and connects all of us to the fifty thousand or more years of human history of this country.

We also believe that the Australian Constitution needs to be changed, as it currently includes racist clauses and at the same time omits Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australia’s First Peoples. Our support for constitutional reform is conditional on the proposal of a model that is supported by the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have legitimate concerns and understandable skepticism about the constitutional reform agenda. These concerns must be better understood in the community conversation about constitutional change, so that they can be acknowledged and addressed in the development of a model for change.

The concerns stem from the legacy of brutal dispossession, illegal settlement, forced assimilation, failed policies and continuing injustices that still result in ongoing suffering and disadvantage among many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. To date there has been limited opportunity for Aboriginal people across Victoria to discuss and share their perspectives to inform the proposal for change. We believe that the Referendum Council’s Indigenous Conventions and further community meetings convened by the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Minister later this year must provide a genuine opportunity for input. The recently appointed Co-Chair of the Referendum Council Pat Anderson has recently stated that nothing would be precluded from consideration as to what form constitutional recognition would take, or indeed if it should progress at all.

It is our understanding that both state-based Treaty discussions and the national constitutional reform agenda can be progressed alongside each other. Both will represent significant milestones in our country’s history, but they must be informed by the diverse voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples if they are to be achieved.

action · community · Mentoring · Uncategorized

Scrubs at iEmpower

In a bid to tackle the problem of youth unemployment, the Federal Government through the Department of Employment devised the “Empowering YOUth Initiatives” scheme whereby service providers could propose innovative schemes to assist 15-24 year olds to become more employable or ultimately employed. iEmpower Youth Inc, a local not-for-profit, tendered successfully for this program and has now commenced preliminary work on the project, called “Scrubs”.

iEmpower has been working with young disadvantaged people for over 10 years and identified that young people from diverse backgrounds such as migrants and refugees were far more disadvantaged in the job market than the general population for a variety of reasons, the main point being that they are 2.5 times more likely to be unemployed. We also identified that people from these backgrounds are far more likely to start their own businesses and are far more likely to succeed than the general population. Finally, we looked at areas of skills or general labour shortage, one of them being cleaning and maintenance, and Scrubs was born.

The Scrubs project will engage young disadvantaged people of diverse backgrounds from the western, inner western and inner Melbourne catchment areas and train them in cleaning, graffiti removal, maintenance and eventually a variety of other property services. When trained and qualified, they will then become a member of a cooperative, effectively becoming owners of the business that they work in along with an equal democratic vote about how that company operates. They are also provided with mentors and career counselling to ensure that their future is bright.

iEmpower CEO, Abeselom Nega, a well known community leader, said that “the Scrubs project is a very daring venture but it will not only help up to 200 young people into work over the next 2 years, we think our template will set an example for many others in the future. We are very excited with the program and have now commenced recruiting young people into the program.”

To be eligible for this new venture, young people who are interested need to be aged 15-24, currently unemployed and reside in the western, inner western and inner northern suburbs of Melbourne. Participants are still eligible even if they are currently in receipt of other services such as jobactive, DES or Transition To Work.

Any further enquiries can be directed to:

Ahmed Dini (Marketing Manager) 0402 695 879 or contact our office in Kensington on 03 9372 2333

action · climate change · Minimalist Me · Uncategorized

Tiny house movement becoming a bigger player

Tiny Go Lightly

Big Tiny, Tiny Footprint, Tiny House2Go, Tiny Consulting, Tiny Go Lightly. The names are too cute to be true but according to Jan Stewart, cofounder of Tiny Non-profit, an advocacy group for tiny homes in Australia, there’s a small industry of tiny home builders springing up around Australia. An educated guess, she says, would put the figure for these homes at about 150 Australia-wide, but interest is growing.

Thousands of people visit tiny home open home events like the one she and her partners are organising, as part of Melbourne Knowledge Week next month. Three tiny homes have been towed in and will be on display.

The impetuses are several, but mostly, it’s about environment and cost – for people wanting to get their foot on the housing ladder or wishing to have a small footprint and live more modestly.

A tiny home, Stewart says, is generally defined as up to 12.5 metres long and 2.5m wide. It has to be self-contained, with a kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, and can be on or off the grid. They can cost between $30,000 and $80,000 to build, with the cost of land on top of that. Some people build a tiny home near an existing house, like a granny flat. Others build in the country to have a tiny home away from home. Others build in “collectives”, with a few homes clustered together to make a tiny community.

In different states and depending on local councils, would-be builders work in different legislative frameworks. In Victoria, in Mount Alexander shire, there is a proposal to put up a few tiny houses with the site classified as a “multi-dwelling”, while in NSW, Stewart says, it is easier to work within the boarding house regulations.

Tiny houses can be on wheels or not. On wheels, they are generally classified as caravans, but, for example in Victoria, it is illegal to live in a caravan for more than six weeks. In NSW, a court win against Camden Council in early April has reportedly paved the way for “mobile structures” in backyards by upholding a Sydney family’s right to put a small holiday cabin on wheels (which could be classified as a caravan) on their land without development consent.

Stewart became interested in tiny homes when she was living and working in Sydney and teaching yoga at the Wayside Chapel, and had to watch her “yoga friends” go out into the street, homeless after the class.

“That got me thinking… [at first] it was about looking at this for disadvantaged people, but then I realised the movement was much bigger and people were choosing them for their smaller footprint and environmental reasons. They tick all the boxes. Many people find they just don’t need a big home. They are “super cheap”, less space means less stuff, they’re easy to clean and fix, cheap to heat and cool and you can pick them up and move them.”

She hopes one day to build one for herself. While there are builders who specialise, many tiny houses are DIY and use recycled and sustainable materials. What distinguishes a good tiny home is clever design, Stewart says.

“For myself, I’ve always been a minimalist. I like the idea of living in small space. I like the aesthetic, the small footprint, that it’s simple and cosy.”

America is way ahead of Australia, she says. The movement is huge and has been growing since the GFC, and she feels very positive about her organisation’s mission here.

To get back to cute: “Great minds make small footprints… Tiny homes do more with less.”


Anne Susskind 11 April 2018

action · community · Minimalist Me · share · Uncategorized

Clothing Story Swap: 21 April North Fitzroy Library

Want to pass on your unwanted clothing to someone who’ll love each piece the way it deserves? Bring your clean dresses, pants, shirts and skirts to the Clothing Story Swap. Drop adult clothing off before 1:45 on the day and receive up to 5 swap tokens in return. Share a short story about a piece you’re swapping for the chance to win a prize! Return at 2:00 to browse the racks and leave with something new.

Remaining items will be donated to charity. To qualify for swap tokens items must be in as-new or gently used condition without significant stains or faults.

Date and Time

Sat. 21 April 2018

1:00 pm – 3:00 pm AEST


Bargoonga Nganjin, North Fitzroy Library

182 St Georges Road

North Fitzroy, VIC 3068