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From extractive to generative lifeways: Tweed Heads to Stradbroke Island

Seven – Artist as (extended) Family – split into five after Meg’s parents departed Tweed Heads and we, the remaining, took to the border.

We rode a mere 10 kms into Queensland to the Gold Coast suburb of Tugun, where we stayed with the former sustainability officer from our hometown, and her man.

Meet Jill and Trent, soon to become parents, and their dog-kin Hippo. Jill was very much part of the success of getting our community food network up and running. She played a pivotal role as an insider becalming the council and encouraging them to work with us when we took over two council sites for the purposes of community food production.

You may well be asking how are we going to segue from community food production to the schmaltzy imperatives of Surfers Paradise? Well, we’re not even going to try, although we will say Jupiter’s Casino hasn’t dated a day. Oh boy, what a cultural wasteland! But we can see, or rather feel, why Surfers became such a destination of leisure. The swim was wondrous.

We have to confess we had a little fear coming into Queensland, especially concerning state politics and the police, some likening today with the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era. The guy from the Tugun bike shop added to our fears when he told us Queensland drivers don’t see or care about bikes. Needless to say we made ourselves as bright as possible.

We’ve been documenting roadside memorials as we travel and are constantly amazed at the regularity of them on Australian roads. This one was by far the most extensive we’ve come across and we contemplated the young lives lost and the taboo subject of car violence.

We later came across our first cyclist memorial, and were starting to think that maybe the guy in the bike shop was right and that this state isn’t such a good idea for a family on bikes.

However, after arriving on dusk in the little town of Pimpama, it felt extraordinarily safe to openly pitch our tents and cook dinner in the local park. This was just intuition, but one we nonetheless trusted. All was well in the world on that night and, as the saying goes, nothing beats fear like knowledge.

Since arriving in Queensland people have been extremely friendly and many more people have tooted us encouragingly with our Lock the Gate sign on the back of Patrick’s bike. We guess the reality of the fracking industry is more concrete here and people are therefore more worked up about it. In any case, after just a few days we found ourselves acclimatising to this sunny state.

Sadly, Pimpama was to be where we said goodbye to Brett. We so loved travelling with this delightful international-aid-nurse-poet-man. We will miss him dearly and all that he brings to such an expedition. Thanks Brett, we love you heaps!

Because Brisbane is a large centre and we assumed therefore more difficult a place to free camp we surfed Warm Showers and found Chris on the southern outskirts of the city. What a delight! Chris got off work early (a truck driver by profession) and did a full workout on our bikes (a cyclist by passion).

He cooked us a beautiful meal and we stayed the night in his awesome caravan, our first for the adventure. Thanks Chris!

Our ride into Brisbane city was intense. Bike paths appeared here and there and certainly made it easier, but the immensity of industrialised culture bore down on us little ecological beings with simple ecological needs.

Once in the city we bee-lined to a little book and music venue where Tim and Ahliya, who we met back in Uki, were playing that evening.

It was a special gig and we got to meet a small posse of Brisbane folk all doing great things. Meet another Tim, who works both as a water specialist for Brisbane City Council and as a permaculture consultant for his own business.

We also found Tim through Warm Showers, saw his collective interests on his profile (permaculture et al) and contacted him enthusiastically. We had three lovely days staying with Tim. He took us to the Northey Street City Farm on a day that coincided with the weekly market. Tim gave us a tour of the twenty-year-old site, which included a market garden, private garden plots, a food forest and an example of urban mirco-forestry. Tim showed us Soursop (Annona muricata), which is indigenous to Central America and a relative of the fruits cherimoya and pawpaw.

The market had an excellent range of stores from food to massage to textiles. We bought Woody a pair of soft leather shoes from this happy lady, who makes all her hats and footwear herself, based on traditional designs.

While we were at Tim’s, Artist as Family held a chicken killing workshop for a small group of budding locavores. There are many different ways to kill and dress a chook,

and we demonstrated our version in Tim’s backyard permaculture garden. For those interested in the discourse of butchering an animal, Patrick’s essay on accountable killing can be read on his blog.

While we were in Brisbane, with the help of the locals, we were able to finish our support video for the activists, local community and Jonathan Moylan, who are all bravely and tirelessly protecting the Leard State Forest from the imperatives of extractors.

Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) was calling us and after farewelling our wondrous new friends in Brisbane we hightailed it to Cleveland to catch a barge across to the island, joined by Ko, another cycling-permie-ecologist working his good intellectual toolkit towards systemic change.

The afternoon got away and by the time we arrived on Minjerribah it was dark. We thought we’d find a park and bunker down for the night, but Ko called a work colleague, Shelley, who with great cheer invited us to stay in her family’s Dunwich home. Shelley, with her daughter Milla, shared a hearty porridge with us and passed on some local knowledges.

Shelley told us that the extractive sand mining industry on the island was being challenged by many in the community who were attempting to transition the local economy to regenerative industries such as Indigenous education programmes for Brisbane school students and ecological tourism on the island.

Minjerribah is the second largest sand island in the world. But we didn’t come to make homage to small-minded men and their moneying ways:

We originally came because of Oodgeroo Noonuccal, the Indigenous poet and activist who was born on the island in 1920, and who became the first Indigenous poet to be published in Australia.

It is her spirit that we have immediately found here on this island, and feasting on midjim berries (Austromyrtus dulcis) has given form to this spirit.

Woody is becoming our most committed forager.

We think we’ll get truly swallowed by this place.

We stand against our economic model

We’ve been thinking a lot about the destruction of the Leard State Forest lately, and how we came to hear about it in the first place. Jonathan Moylan is the young dude who last year let Australia know that ANZ was bank rolling Whitehaven Coal Ltd (whose director is the former deputy prime minister Mark Vaile) to devastate the Leard and nearby farmland. As a result he is facing a ten year jail sentence.
 

Active activism

We, Artist as Family, stand firmly with our feet on the soil, as we stand with Jonathan Moylan.

Photo by Rasha Tayeh

For those of you who are out of the loop, Jono is a 25 year old from Newcastle who is facing up to ten years in prison and a $765,000 fine for sending a press release highlighting ANZ’s role in funding the Whitehaven open cut coal mine in north-west NSW. The mine threatens community health and food producing land at Maules Creek, and the health and survival of Koala populations in the Leard State Forest.

We reckon we’re in pretty good company too:

Vandana Shiva

The photo of AaF above was taken by our dear friend Rasha Tayeh. Rasha is, among many things, a documentary filmmaker whose most recent work is The Growing Food Project, a short doco that explores some of Melbourne’s urban agriculture practices and community food initiatives, where people are coming together to build local, fair and sustainable food systems. The film features Patrick’s award winning poem Step by Step.

The film’s premiere is on Wednesday 20th Nov at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) at 7pm.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion of food activists inviting the audience to discuss the benefits of supporting local food systems.

You can purchase your tickets here.

And while on the topic of Patrick’s poetry, a huge congratulations are in order:

Patrick has just completed four years of doctoral research. In a nutshell, Walking for food: regaining permapoesis is:

a biographical thesis that investigates how we might transition to fairer, more just and sustainable communities. It draws on Indigenous knowledges and permaculture modelling in the attempt to demonstrate achievable societal change from the household and community economies out. The thesis contends that modern living is inherently damaging; and on such a scale that personal accountability is degraded. The ecological and social consequences of this are clearly evident, and the thesis challenges us to transition to radically different forms of living where permanent making replaces disposability, and personal accountability is once again performed.

If you’re interested in receiving a PDF of the final draft, please contact us.

And while we’re on the topic of positive and inspiring activists, Perth based singer songwriter Charlie Mgee, AKA Formidable Vegetable Sound System, recently visited the Hepburn Shire during the Swiss Italian Festa where he played a fabulous set of some of his songs from his album, Permaculture: A Rhymer’s Manual.

Charlie’s album focuses on bringing simple concepts of sustainability into the spotlight using the power of music, rhyme and humour to convey the permaculture principles in fresh ways to new audiences. If you get a chance to see Charlie play, we highly recommend you grab it.

And, while on the topic of grabbing: there has been much handlebar grabbing in these here parts as the departure date for our adventure draws near – 6 days!! We have been spotted all over the place as we ride with our panniers fully loaded on practice rides from starboard to port.

If we don’t get a chance to post again for a while, see you on our way up the continent!