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Celebrating the art of different story (from outside the tent)

Last weekend Castlemaine Free University (CFU) hosted an event featuring two new books: Terry Leahy’s The Politics of Permaculture and Pam Nilan’s Young People and the Far Right. The day before the event we had spoken to the organiser to ask if CFU would be willing to host the event in a way where it was possible for everyone to attend. After our request was declined a small group of us, including permaculture elders David Holmgren and Su Dennett, decided to hold a peaceful protest outside the venue.

There were a dozen or so of us who brought deck chairs and sat outside on the footpath, and another small cohort of people who could have gone inside but chose to show solidarity by staying outside with us.

A huge thank you to Maggie from The Northern Arts Hotel who installed a speaker on the street so we could listen in, and who arranged for jugs of water to be brought out in the heat of the afternoon. Thank you for your compassion, Maggie, and thank you to community elder Nikki Marshall for always lighting a path of love, for helping to bring people together and stating the case for our inclusion.

Many thanks to Miles from Ideas Agency for filming on the day, and to Ian Lillington for the additional photos and footage.

We hope your week has been full of compassionate and generative conversations, and that you find this video useful for your current thinking.

Signing off for now from us here,
Artist as Family x


  1. Vicki says:

    Thank you. Soooo heartening to read. Love and compassion are the new future and we’re creating it NOW.

  2. Chelsey Reis says:

    I’m only 8 minutes in and already alternately crying and laughing at the juxtaposition of the capturing on film of the kindness of a child offering sustanance to the ‘other’, v/s the seems fly unconsciousness of ‘included’ adults who are participating in their version of kindness which apparently includes exclusion based on discrimination.

    1. Thanks Chelsey, life in the control group, eh.

  3. El says:

    Really needed this today. Great work. It really brings a lift each week what you so generously contribute to the cultural discussion.

    1. Thanks El, we’re glad to be part of the movement to maintain diverse cultural discussion and story.

  4. Truth “bomb” is the expression the woman (who answered) Patrick’s question, struggled to recall.

    1. uh ha. Thanks Joanne.

    2. Kathryn Pegiel says:

      An insightful video. Thank you so much.

  5. trace balla says:

    Hello dear artistasfamily, and other readers,
    I really liked this film and much of what it spoke of and feel a strong urge to respond.
    I too wanted to attend this event and wrote to the organiser to request it be moved outdoors for inclusivity. However I speak for not just the inclusivity of the unvaccinated, also for that of the health vulnerable. Our town has many cases just now – many of my friends are quite unwell, some with lingering symptoms, and yes many vaccinated and ill and perhaps like one man says in the film the vax is may not be so affective with omricon… I don’t know I’m not a doctor, researcher or scientist etc…. But what I do know is that as a person with multiple ongoing complex health issues and immune compromised, I did not want to be indoors for the event. neither did other friends. So it was disappointing that I was not told that cool drinks and a speaker were being allocated to the outdoor listeners. I would have been there in a second. I have found myself in what I am calling “the invisibles” a lot these days – as with others we are living our own version of an almost lockdown laying low life… where are the invisibles mentioned in the conversation about the local solutions you speak of. I live by much of the permaculture ways, and work hard every day to maintain some version of wellness, and yet I shuddered when David kind of shrugged off that about 1/3 of the population may die in a pandemic… the invisibles would be pretty high on that list. What I’m asking is how to find a way where it is not about the vaccine or not, but rather about acting in a way which is inclusive of the invisibles, the ones who didn’t come, regardless of vaccine status, because they believe they are health vulnerable in the current situation. How do we care for and include all in community self sufficiency and the well needed transition. Outdoor shelters is one thing id love to see the councils get happening so events like this would be far less problematic… id love to hear your thoughts.

    1. Thanks Trace for bringing your story to light here. We have many health vulnerable friends who opted not to get vaccinated because they felt they’d become more vulnerable, so our groups are not necessarily coming from a completely different place. This interview gives insight into that world where an immunocompromised woman is being punished for following the health advise of her doctor: This story is an elegant reminder that there’s a great diversity of people who are vaccine-free for a plethora of reasons.
      As far as the organisation of the event is concerned, you cld direct that question to Anitra Nelson, who has left a comment below. But as the vaccines have been a colossal failure and they don’t stop transmission or protect people, vulnerable or otherwise, it seems bizarre to us anyone would be defending this position. So, yes, in a time of Covid, outdoor gatherings are essential, and so much more achievable in summer months. But as Alec says in the video, give some white folk an inch of authority, they’ll take a mile.

      1. trace balla says:

        thanks family peeps, will have a look at the vid… gratitude for swimming in deep peace today at the waterhole… we all really need the same things, and to listen to one another and look for ways forward is so important at this time- feelin balm-y today

  6. Re claims that Castlemaine Free University events are ‘exclusionary’, please go to a response that can be downloaded from —
    Click the ‘What is ‘inclusion’?’ link at the end of the About CFU section.

    1. Thanks Anitra. We left you last Saturday after the CFU event, with a hug and with warmth. It was a beautiful coming together for many of us, as the video captures.

      But then we received the email you sent the CFU email list, putting the boot into us, misrepresenting and misquoting our private phone conversation, sending it out (bcc) to a group who were not privy to this conversation, without a possibility for a right of reply, and our hearts sank.

      Furthermore, we read Trace’s comment (above), and realised it wasn’t only us you excluded, but a health-vulnerable friend as well. We both requested of you the sensible position of holding the event outside. Then we read your ‘What is inclusion’ statement. Woah! We think it’s a stretch to associate such a poor piece of scholarship with a university, free or otherwise. Better to call it an ideological hit-piece on people you disagree with. Is a university one person acting as a take-down artist or is it a place for diverse ideas to be discussed and engaged with?

      Inclusivity almost always has a cancelling effect; diversity, not inclusivity, is what makes cultures sing.

      You reference in your ‘inclusivity’ statement four links, all of which are pre-Omicron. The Conversation (Nov 18), ABC (Dec 4), AFP (26 Nov), Vic Uni (18 Nov). The vaccines failed pre-Omicron to a serious extent, but Omicron is next level vaccine failure, as explained by Professor Cohen – the senior immunologist advising the Israeli government we referenced in the CFU video. ​

      After our phone conversation with you before the CFU event, we felt so much warmth between our households. You didn’t accept our request to have the event outside, but we finished that conversation with warmth and mutual respect, and we let you know we would assemble outside because we didn’t want our story to be disappeared from view. It is clear by your actions since, your attempt to shame and defame us, you do not value our friendship or colleagueship. It is tragic how many friendships have collapsed in this pandemic, esp around vaccines that don’t work, and are not even vaccines by any meaningful definition.

      We cannot change your low opinion of us, Anitra, but we hope at some point you’ll engage in the material we produce and can see it as worthy to the discussion and part of a diversity of ideas, not just around the pandemic, but beyond. We do not ask you to agree with us, but please stop cancelling, shaming and excluding us.

  7. Alexandre Prado says:

    Wonderful action and spelling out of the current state of the polarised politics of the body issue. Thank you, I am very grateful for your courage, commitment and much needed work 🙏

    1. Thanks Alexandre, we appreciate your warmth and solidarity.

  8. Al says:

    Thanks for the video guys very interesting, especially great to hear David and Patrick’s thoughts towards the end. The clip of Alec Willie Stanley Dumaji was awesome. I loved his term Jabby Jabby, Siccy Siccy. That’s the best term I’ve heard to describe the COVID 19 vaccine debacle.

    1. Al says:

      Have you guys seen the video by Dr John Campbell – Great News from Africa. With the Doctor from Uganda and his take on herd immunity and natural immunity due to children being outside and playing in the dirt and in non sterile type environments. Plus alot of other very interesting information. He was quoted as saying ‘Omicron is the vaccine we failed to create’

      1. Thanks Al, yes, we have heard that one. Thank the goddess for doctors like John who have followed the science over the past two years and not relied on press releases from gov officials.

  9. EMT says:

    Thank you for your continued compassionate work. It’s so refreshing to see such intelligent argument combined with a gentle approach, shown here when faced with the problems you faced on the day of the book launches.

    1. Thanks for seeing us, EMT!

  10. Cam Demarco says:

    Great little vid, we’ll done.
    So interesting and ironic how a tiny gathering for a book discussion in our little town can be such a metaphor that aptly reflects the divide between those “inside and outside the tent” more broadly both nationally and internationally.

    Also how the act of offering water and a 25watt speaker can bring inclusivity and connection.

    Thanks for your continued courage working in this space.
    May we find a way through these messy times and come together with unity and non-judgement – just like your young fella handing out snacks to the crowd with a beautiful smile 🙂

    Camilo Demarco

    1. Thank you Camilo, yes we are so grateful for that speaker and the water Maggie provided, and for all the punters there who showed kindness and helped to break down the binary of inside and outside, and engaged in conversation. As the gov health narrative crumbles, who is perceived as clean and unclean, and who gets the green tick at the door, and who remains outside must be closely critiqued.

  11. Beth says:

    I’m a long time follower of your work, with many mutual friends, and a Castlemaine local. I need to find community here and gather in person with others following this journey from our perspective. I am of course on Telegram and Clubhouse, and following all the right people. It’s more about having a community of people in the flesh! Can you recommend some gathering spaces for deep discussion that I can attend? You can email a response or private message me – I feel quite isolated in this pursuit thus far. Not to mention, I’m also at home a lot!

    1. Yes, of course, Beth. Please send us an email to

  12. Megan says:

    Thank you for another great video Artist as Family. Each week I look forward to hearing your analysis & ideas.
    I have been shocked by the number of ‘progressive’ ‘permies’ &/or people that support social justice in my networks that have supported the mandates & not questioned this governmental control or profits of big pharma.
    It’s just makes me feel isolated & wanting to pull away further… as it seems we ‘ugly people’ ‘anti-vaxxers’ must live with the consequences of loosing our jobs or being excluded for the decisions we’ve made…
    If we’re not being seen as selfish, we’ve just been forgotten as most people in society now have their ‘freedom’ back.

    But you have reminded me pulling away just perpetuates being forgotten & it’s important to show up. We need to show we are all human. Having a difference of opinion can lead to constructive conversations. Let’s hope there are more inclusive spaces for this to happen that encourage listening & respectful understanding of each other. It just feels like there needs to be a big narrative shift for this to be possible…. for positive interactions to begin & networks to be restored.

    1. Thanks Megan, we feel things are shifting right now. Just this week people are reaching out who have avoided us for several months. The efforts of the truckers in Canada are helping to reunite jabbed and unjabbed folk, and the authoritarianism in that country is falling apart, despite the desperate smear campaigns from the legacy media. Those of us in the control group have been through a very different story these past 6 months than most, but everyone has been through two years of highly dysfunctional and at times sinisterly corrupt health policies, so as the official narrative falls apart and increasing numbers of people understand that the cries for ‘do it for vulnerable people’ with ‘safe and effective vaccines’ has been a monumental propaganda exercise. Our next video will explore what post-segregated, community-organised gatherings look like in this time.

  13. Richard says:

    I’ve almost entirely dropped off social media at this point. Subscriptions to your whanau via this site and YouTube have kept your content trickling in, but to be honest I haven’t been watching all of it, as the polarising push and pull of competing ideas and opinions is what drove me away in the first place.
    I’ve struggled sometimes (less at other times), to resolve the actions I’m taking (following the herd to retain a secure lifestyle and stable family – getting the jab, wearing the mask, trusting the science), with the things I’ve been feeling (distrust of the mainstream media’s version of events, unease with ongoing vaccinations, disapproval of centralised power and authoritarian and questionable vaccine mandates. This has been countered by individuals on my social media (albeit invited by me to engage in discussion) posting clearly false information and images, which both alienated me from social media (i.e: out of the conversation, and actual communities) and towards the risk-averse course of just adapting to the changing status quo.
    In short – my instincts, both politically and personally have been to question both sides of this debate, but a combination of the awful (often toxic) quality of information and debate from the vaccine-hesitant side – and the threat of being ostracised and losing my job/home/security – has left me feeling confused and powerless.
    Your content, and in particular this video, presents the case strongly for questioning this new status quo, and refusing to instantly allocate people offensive political affiliations due to specific, peaceful protests and actions.
    How absurd to accuse Homlgren and Dennett (and yourselves, or anyone else at that protest) of affiliation with fascism for attending a protest that may have also included individuals with those abhorrent beliefs irrelevant to that event?!
    My political beliefs lean towards left-libertarianism (anarchism), and for me that is the niche permaculture fits best. When the vaccine came, it seemed to me best to accept it as a means to supporting my community and family (which I believe has worked in Aotearoa thus far, as evidenced by our low mortality rates). But that is a decision my family have made. I don’t believe the state should be able to make that decision on people’s behalf, or punish people for making the ‘wrong’ decision.
    I don’t know exactly why I have felt the need to leave you such a meandering and lengthy comment here, except to say kia kaha – stand strong – and let you know I’m still listening, and supportive of you. It happens that my family have chosen to take the vaccine (so far), for a variety of reasons. But I strongly support your right to choose for your own family, and stand up for what you believe in.
    Thanks for continuing to provide nuanced, positive and interesting points of view and information. I don’t always agree with all of it, but it’s always warmly recieved.

    1. Thank you so much for leaving this valuable comment, Richard. We completely resonate with where you have arrived in this pandemic. We think the term ‘left-libertarianism (anarchism)’ is useful here and contributes to a less reductive discussion of permaculture politics and politics more broadly. We feel, however, more politically aligned to Indigenous conservative politics. That is First Peoples’ lore that derives foremost from country – from land, from sea, from sky – and therefore is the kind of more-than-human politics we feel we need right now. Maybe this is what cld ironically be called ‘lore anarchism’, that is a politic that begs for a return to de-centred bioregionalism where the only role for the state is to protect the sovereignty of those in the bioregions.

  14. Andy Stretton says:

    It is patently obvious, from both the video and the myriad of words spoken on numerous internet sites, that the academic elites / courtesans of power, have seized on the opportunity of the pandemic to orchestrate a divisive political takeover of the permaculture movement. The ‘positioning’ of Holmgren as ‘out of touch’ by those same academic elites / courtesans of power, is a sure sign of their agenda. It was to be expected of course. I remember articulating my thoughts on this in a house in Daylesford many years ago, and being labelled as ‘negative’ for doing so. My thoughts have not changed since that time. It is really quite straightforward – If you build an ideologically driven tribal group premised on emotional narratives and stories, in an attempt to attract and recruit followers from an already existing ideologically driven tribal group that is also premised on emotional narratives and stories, you will at some stage be subject to the whimsical nature of those very followers. If one wishes to evolve beyond such vagaries, it is necessary to encourage true critical thinking in each individual and to dispense the culturally determined attachments and ‘life meanings’ that one has previously derived from the ‘leader / follower dance….

    1. We so enjoyed reading this comment Andy. Thanks for leaving it. It opens dialogue, unhinges old patterns of thinking and makes most movement – philosophical, communitarian and pragmatic – impossible, all at the same time. We do not share your negative (at least to us) readings around terms like ‘ideology’ (as long as people know they’re being ideological; which you and we are being right now), ‘tribal group’ (there are of course both pejorative and meritorious uses of this word), ’emotional stories’ (this is the human condition; our species’ way of meaning making), ‘culturally-determined’ (not too much trouble if culture is ‘well’ in the true – not corporatised-Left/libertine-Right – communitarian use of that word), and ‘leader/follower dance’ (depending on the power relations established in a given group/tribe/community/clan). What if you change the language to elder, not leader. Does that change anything for you?. It seems to us that you, Andy (but hey, only a face-to-face would really tell) have a struggle with a positive view of the sacred and of sacred story as it applies to both ecological and low-carbon ancestral lifeways that (don’t make people pure and ideal, but) at the very least enable folk to live a one-planet existence. Would that be fair? Thanks again for the mind playtime. Next time we’d be much more interested in hearing about your projects, philosophy and activities in the positive, for example, what you are doing in exchange for the ecologies that have provided the nourishment that your life so surely sits upon.

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