We bought a 95 acre bush property near Seymour in Victoria and began what has been and continues to be an amazing journey. At the time we had the blind optimism of youth and our passionate idealism. We also only had 2/3 of the asking price for the property.
We believed that we could attract funding for the organisational work we intended to do with disadvantaged and community based groups. A specific not-for-profit entity was established to take on our custodianship of the land, and to be able to receive donations. Commonground is a charity with tax deductibility status. We spent a lot of time chasing the philanthropic dollar. It was made somewhat easier because the Brotherhood of St Laurence gave us substantial backing because of our work supporting groups experiencing or working to alleviate injustice. Because of their lead, others followed…
We attracted over $500, 000 up to the mid 1990s. We only accepted grants for capital works where there were no strings attached. We were keen to maintain our independence.
We worked extremely hard, raising funds constructing roads, dams and buildings and washing nappies! Soon after buying the property another couple and their baby joined us. We then had a three year old boy plus three baby girls almost the same age so there were lots of nappies!
[alt] There were great times when we worked brilliantly together, supported each other, had lots of fun and felt proud of our achievements. Then there was times when it seemed a great struggle with too few of us doing too much. There were conflicts, power dynamics to deal with and struggles at times to keep our relationship collaborative. But, we stuck with it practiced and continued to develop our interpersonal skills and the processes to deal with challenging conversations and conflict. We were motivated by the belief:
Together we can achieve more.
It is a high benefit, high demand way to live and work!
Commonground started at the radical end of the Intentional Community spectrum. We had a commitment to one roof, one table and one purse. We lived together at the residential wing of the main Conference Center complex, called ‘The Wedge’. All adults have their own bedroom, so there is one space that is their own! Here we shared all meals together, co- parented and home educated our children for many years. We tried to live lightly on the land. By ‘one purse’ we mean that we had contributed our income according to our means, and drew our living expenses according to our needs. This worked very well, and was never a source of conflict. Later on, we relaxed this approach as people wanted more flexibility.
People often ask us about our spiritual base. It is very simple and low key. Maybe it can best be described as an honouring our relationships with each other and the Earth. Our key celebrations are:
Summer Solstice - this is our alternative to Christmas.
We celebrate the winter Solstice as well as part of our annual Tree Bee (working bee)
Easter – this is our biggest public celebration. On Good Friday we hold a ritual of solidarity with the oppressed people’s of the world. At Sunrise on Easter Sunday we hold a counterbalancing ritual of hope. For the rest of Easter, we enjoy to company of kindred spirits, and gather wood for the ensuing winter.