We sat and talked while feasting on homegrown chickens and vegies and a friendship started. With two young kids, a beautiful love story and big dreams, Annie and Genevieve were living an idyllic life with big plans for the property and their future. Since then, they’ve built their dream house, their kids are now teenagers and their handmade house has grown and evolved into home filled with love, cooking, craft and colour.
After years coveting a better way of life, environmental artist Liz Walker has found the home, time and space to do just that.
If you didn’t know better, you’d peg Liz Walker as an incurable hoarder. Countless boxes of rubbish fastidiously and lovingly collected from the beach and streets nearby her Mornington Peninsula home are dotted around her work spaces, while the downstairs room housing her stores of preserves would be the envy of the most earnest of doomsday preppers.
But Liz Walker is nothing of the sort. A highly accomplished artist, the piles of plastic, rope and objects – all washed and meticulously sorted – play an important role in her artwork which probes at the social and environmental issues affecting us all. And the storeroom? Well that’s just a labour of love.
In the little commercial kitchen of the Castlemaine Community House in central Victoria, the Murnong Mammas are in their happy place. A place that intertwines their love of cooking, the friends that support them, the food that stirs their souls and the ingredients that connect them spiritually.
There is something humbling about a group gathering in a kitchen to prepare food for others. A splash of laughter, a pinch of experience and a whole lot of love pouring out of them as they cook up a delectable yet intriguing feast for their growing clientele.
When they’re cooking, they share the ups and downs in their lives that have ultimately brought them together. But it’s also where they unite to combine age-old wisdom from bush tucker with the modern-day cooking that their wider community can’t get enough of.
Ross O’Reilly is the visionary behind High Valley Dawn, a 140-acre seaside off-grid property nestled in the Capricorn Coast in Queensland, of which the Darumbal people are the traditional custodians. Established in 2016, it has the optimal climate for growing food, allowing Ross to work faithfully to core permaculture ethical principles: land care, people care, fair share.
Ross, Judy and their family had a vision to create ‘an ever evolving, self-sustaining community model nurturing love and joy in harmony with nature for the greater good of all’. High Valley Dawn is cared for by a team of volunteers, working among free-ranging animals: cows, chickens, ducks, horses, sheep, turkeys, geese and pigs, as well as resident working dogs, all living in harmony together. It offers a dynamic eco-business model that includes farm tours, education, events, and its nearby paddock-to-plate restaurant, Beaches.
The farm also features a natural biofilter desalination plant, a powerless cold room, solar irrigation systems, an upcycled solar-powered house, a solar-powered education centre, and a mud brick pizza oven.
The words Men’s Shed conjures up images of old blokes tinkering away their days with bits of wood. And for many such sheds around Australia, this is true. But there’s a shed in country New South Wales prioritising gender inclusiveness, sustainability and growing food for the community, and it’s all the better for it.
It was 2017 when Matthew Day was asked to take on the role of secretary at the Gundagai Men’s Shed. The former committee had been disbanded and the place was in debt. Aged just 32, he reluctantly agreed, agreeing to step in until someone more appropriate could take over.
It wasn’t all bad. Aware he’d missed the opportunity to learn skills from his own grandfathers, he conceded he could probably do with the hands-on mentoring that came with it. And as a long-term renter, he could see the benefits of sharing tools, a workspace and resources.
In the small Northern Territory town of Mataranka, Yen Nguyen has created a swathe of green among red dust and termite mounds.
Situated on Mangarayi and Yangman country, Mataranka is a town famous for two things: its natural hot springs and the 1908 autobiographical novel We of the Never Never, written by Jeannie Gunn. Of the region, Gunn wrote, ‘This is the land of Plenty of Time; Plenty of Time and Wait a While.’
The ‘wait a while’ bit aptly describes the patient approach of Yen Nguyen, who has set up a paradise known as
Yen’s Green Corner, turning the red dust into an abundant permaculture garden. Yen feeds locals and tourists every week through her cafe. Patrons are able to find respite in the shade, wander through her productive patch and eat fresh, organic produce skilfully crafted by Yen into Vietnamese fare. She doesn’t advertise and has never needed to. Word spreads like wildfire around the local caravan parks, with organic produce difficult to find on the road. When told of her cafe’s 4.9-star online review rating, she was completely surprised: ‘Oh! Is that good?’
If you love plants, you’ll know there’s always more to them than meets the eye. For Bardi artist Juanita Mulholland, coming to know native plants and their uses through weaving, sculpting and eco-dyeing, has helped her find herself, and reconnect with her heritage.
Juanita grew up on Yawuru and Bardi/Djawi country in northern Western Australia, with her feet in the red earth and her heart filled with ancestral stories of the land. But after moving to Victoria to be with her father’s family, which she describes gently as ‘a bit of a sad story’, Juanita grew up feeling out of step – as though she didn’t belong in either mainstream or Aboriginal culture, despite the latter being an ever-present reality in her life.
That feeling, followed by the birth of her two children, prompted Juanita to want to reconnect with her heritage. She wanted her kids to engage with their Aboriginality, so Juanita began taking them to an Indigenous playgroup.
Seen by many as harmful feral animals, the humble camel has been put centrestage by a forward-thinking farmer at a regenerative dairy farm in Queensland.
In a classic case of ‘use what you have’, Paul Martin is not only addressing Central Australia’s exploding and problematic population of feral camels, he’s successfully integrating them into a diverse and sustainable farming business in southeast Queensland.
As well as transforming camel milk into a large range of low-lactose food products and skincare products suited to sensitive skin, Paul is finding ways to minimise the impact the large hard-hoofed animals have on his land.
But for Summer Land Camels, it goes far beyond simply minimising damage. Managed correctly, camels play an important role in biodiversity and weed control and, according to Paul, offer sustainable solutions to the challenges of feeding our growing future population.
As a visual artist, a business owner and a creative director, Cheryl Davison is creating and maintaining beautiful and important cultural connections.
Cheryl Davison is a proud Walbunga and Ngarigo woman. She is an artist who expresses her creativity and connection to Country in many forms. Best known for her prints and paintings, she is also the Aboriginal Creative Director with Four Winds Festivals and has recently opened Mungala Bugaali Gallery in Central Tilba, New South Wales, where as well as selling her own artwork and products, she sells the wares of other local artists and producers.
‘I come from here,’ she starts. ‘There is nowhere else I come from. I was born in Bega, my mother was born in Nowra, my grandfather was born in Wallaga, my great grandfather was born in Wallaga, my great great grandfather was born in Wallaga. That’s a real connection for me.’
Patricia Ellis has devoted her life to teaching Aboriginal language and culture. Not only helping Indigenous Australians reconnect to their heritage, but also teaching non- Indigenous people ways to develop a deeper connection to Country and a genuine respect for the oldest culture on earth.
For Aunty Trish, as she’s often respectfully referred to, teaching culture and language is about uniting Indigenous people, empowering them to connect with traditions that have been lost since colonisation. After 30 years working in Aboriginal-identified roles for government, schools, TAFEs and the private sector, she established Minga Aboriginal Cultural Services in 2017 to respectfully share the rich diversity of Indigenous culture and heritage.
As well as running tours, she hosts workshops in bushfoods and medicines, Dreamtime stories, fire making, cultural awareness, smoking ceremonies, tool making, as well as wood, grass, stone and shell technology. Her sessions are primarily for Indigenous people to come together and relearn culture, but she also includes those closely related to or working with Indigenous people, as well as making them available to non-Indigenous people.