With the growth of the intentional communities, land-sharing communities and ecovillages in Australia, the need to have a network organisation to support communities on the ground emerged in the 1980s and has become stronger in the last 10 years.
There have been loose networks in the past in Australia such as the Intentional Communities Conference (ICC) network and PAN in the 1980’s. The ICC ran for a number of years organising bi-annual community conferences in Australia with the last one held at Moora Moora Co-operative in 2013 and was attended by representatives from over 40 communities.
PAN was developed in the 1980’s as primarily a political lobby group to assist Land-sharing Communities in Northern NSW in relation with the government and was disbanded in 1990 when the need waned.
Emergence of GEN AUSTRALIA (2014 – 2019)
GEN Australia registered as a not-for-profit incorporated association in 2014 to support ecovillages and intentional communities in Australia. GEN International was however founded in 1995 at Findhorn Ecovillage in Scotland, with some of Australia’s ecovillage elders, including Max Lindegger (Crystal Waters), Helena Norberg Hodge (Local Futures) and John Talbot (Narara Ecovillage).
A small group of Australian ecovillages saw a need for GEN presence in Australia, in addition to the regional branch, GEN Oceania and Asia (GENOA). Shane Sylvanspring (formerly Bruns Ecovillage) and Andrew Olivier (Narara Ecovillage) had previously learned about and experienced GEN at Findhorn and in other parts of Europe and felt excited to start the Australian chapter. A few others also interested in creating a national network joined to create the core team, including Wendy Armstrong (Tasman Ecovillage), Sue Gibley (Christie Walk) and Peter Gringer (Gaia Education). Chris Gibbings (Bellbunya) also was active in the GENOA network as the Australian representative.
GEN Australia has met every month for the last 5 years, networking and discussing issues with communities here in Australia primarily with the founding committee members. A small but tight network has developed as a result.
Significant things were achieved:
The Tasmanian Ecovillage Conference in 2015 hosted by GEN Australia
This brought together around 20 communities at Tasman Ecovillage and the future of a national network was discussed. A loose agreement for a group represented by Co-housing Australia, Co-operatives Australia and GEN Australia were to form to continue intentional community conferences into the future. This never eventuated due to lack of resources and time commitments.
Regional Gathering Nth NSW and SE Qld at Currumbin Ecovillage 2018
A gathering for communities in the SE QLD and Northern Rivers area. A intimate group gathered from various communities and networks, with learnings, exchanges and networking taking place.
Representation at The Sustainable Living Festival (VIC) and other various festivals and events
Throughout the years various members representing GEN at events and festivals.
Members including Shane, Andrew and others have also brought GEN Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) programs and GEN principles into their work developing and supporting communities.
Other Similar Networks
Recently there has been an emergence of networks and groups that include intentional communities and ecovillages in Australia.
Fellowship of Intentional community has an online directory with many communities in Australia registered.
Co-housing Australia – a volunteer group representing cohousing in Australia. Constitutres are mainly from South Australia and Victoria
Alliance of Intentional Communities Australia (AICA) – A South Australian group that has no projects and is unclear of its intentions. Founded by Ed Wilby.
Co-operative Living Australia – primarily established by Mark Snell from Moora Moora and specifically interested in communities that established as a co-operative.
Ecovillages Australia – Established by Andrew Mclean and Clare Odgen – recently purchased first property in Maleny to establish an eco-community. They do however want to be a larger network.
Polkadot Ecovillages – founded by Jimmy Hirst to raise awareness of tiny homes and ecovillages.