Equal standing at heart of sustainable hub

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It has been 40 years since The Wolery, an ecological community near Denmark, opened its doors.

The community thrives on its strong environmental purpose, with each member of the group trying to live a sustainable life-style.

With that goal comes the rumour it is a hippie commune, which founding member Bob Gretton said was misplaced.

Mr Gretton said most residents living at The Wolery came from an environmental career background. He previously worked for Landcare, where he used to rehabilitate salt land in the region.

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He decided to join The Wolery community as he enjoyed living in a close-knit society where everyone knew each other and aimed to create a low environmental impact.

“We have eight vegetable gardens in here and everyone likes to share everything with the community,” Mr Gretton said.

“We minimised outgoings by sharing, but we don’t share houses.”

The Wolery is different from other intentional communities as everyone owns everything together and equally.

“The reason why early comm-unities fell to pieces is because someone owned the community land and decided they will own the community,” he said.

“Most of those communities do not last.” At The Wolery, every member of the community has equal powers and most decisions will be made by consensus.

“Everyone has an equal vote, but that makes the decision making process tricky,” Mr Gretton said.

“Some simple decisions actually take months or even years sometimes.”

The Wolery community grows over the years and now holds 40 members in its 60ha site. But members of the community still struggle with many outsiders having misconceptions about The Wolery.

“People often think we’re a hippie commune but The Wolery is an ecological community where people with similar mindset lives in a community,” Mr Gretton said.

He said the misconception came from the early days, when people connected the word “commune” with a stereotypical image of a hippie.

“One time, somebody wanted to do tours at The Wolery, so they could catch a glimpse of someone frolicking around in the nude,” he said. “We just laughed and said ‘no’ to the idea because they would not find anything close to that in here.”

Mr Gretton said he hoped one day everyone would try to understand what The Wolery stood for.

“We’re not so different to a simple neighbourhood,” he said.

“I know a street in Perth where people share things — they share lawnmowers, they have street parties, the kids all grow up with each other. That’s what we have here and that is what we try to set up to achieve.”

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