SELF SUFFICENT: Professor Leigh Davison looking after some crops at the multiple occupancy community at The Channon.
SELF SUFFICENT: Professor Leigh Davison looking after some crops at the multiple occupancy community at The Channon. Marnie Johnston

All for one and one for all

NEAR The Channon, there is a group of people who live with an open mind, exploring options and 'breaking the norms' of how society lives.

Hidden in the hills is a 102 hectare property under multiple occupancy - a community, as Professor Leigh Davison, one of the residents, calls it.

This community, which now holds 24 people in 10 different households as well as a communal house, was established in 1972 - in fact, it celebrated it's 40th birthday on Saturday.

The community land includes a half hectare vegetable garden, fruit trees, chickens, and a herd of jersey cows that are milked each morning.

"We're very big on self-sufficiency," Prof Davison said.

The creek that flows naturally through the field is a reliable source of water, Prof Davison said, having never run dry in all the time they've been there.

Prof Davison said that in 1972, when he was working as an engineer, he read The Limits to Growth report and realised there were "more important things in life."

He said he began thinking about what our basic needs as human beings really are, and the possibility of living sustainably, and that thought journey took him to the community, where he has now lived for 33 years.

Prof Davison said the community relies on three principles: respect for each other, respect for the land, grow as much of their own food as possible.

Another idea they hold close, Prof Davison said, is the idea of 'TEAM' - Together Everyone Achieves More.

"It is breaking the norm, but we'd like to think a lot more people might want to try it," he said, while noting that while people can take aspects of what they do there on board without going all-out.

So what are the benefits of communal living?

Prof Davison believes the benefits are more than just single handed - while there's obviously some environmental benefits, he believes the strongest positives are financial and social - and the flexibility of such a lifestyle.

"It's a very unusual social structure, but we're happy to share what we've learned."

In fact, Prof Davison believes that in the future a lot more people are going to be forced to live more communally, with the housing crisis and resources being depleted so quickly, he said.

"In the future people are going to have to be more cohesive and resilient in the face of climate change and all the rest of it," he said.

While having a communal morning tea, the group holds an impromptu singing practice, reciting songs they've written especially for the 40th birthday celebrations.

One tune is aptly titled From the Mainstream We're Turning Away, a tale of day-to-day life in the community.



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