Mayor and Costa celebrate successful council courses
If enthusiasm to do something positive in the world is anything to go by, then the last Living Smart cohort to graduate from the ten-topic, 24-hour Saturday afternoon course marks it as a success.
Living Smart was developed by Murdoch University’s School of Behavioural Psychology and was first adopted by the City of Fremantle. The course has a strong goal-setting component and is structured in an interactive format.
Living Smart is presently being localized in Sydney by Randwick City Council’s Sustainability Education Officer, Fiona Campbell, assisted by solar energy specialist, Susie Hunter. Fiona is an approved trainer authorised by the Western Australian owners of the course to present it.
Guest presenters make an appearance, including Transition Sydney’s Peter Driscoll, who presents the personal health content; Council’s transport officer, Jacqui Symond; waste officer, Guada Lado; council Bushcare officer, Matt Leary; John Caley, an engineer by trade and a water systems consultant; Terry Bail, an architect specialising in the design of sustainable buildings; Steve Batley, landscape architect and permaculture educator and the author, who presents the component on global issues and food systems.
This is a practical course full of activities. From the first meeting, much focus is put on making course participants a cohesive group. Making people comfortable with each other enables open conversation and group bonding as participants investigate opportunities for sustainable living in the areas where they live. Topic areas include Move Smart (transport), Power Smart (energy), Water Smart, Waste Smart, Smart gardens for productivity/biodiversity, Healthy You, Healthy Home and Community Smart, which encouraged participants to become active in their communities.
Snapshot Talks, five minute presentations on a topic of a participant’s choice, have proven a popular component. These allow people to get to know each others and their interests better and has helped develop the cameraderie that becomes evident as the course progresses.
The Living Smart course this session was held at the same times as Council’s popular Sustainable Gardening course, which goes for five Saturday afternoon sessions of four hours each. Timing allows the two participant groups to mingle at afternoon tea and scheduling the courses simultaneously produces a buzz of excited activity at the Randwick Community Centre, where they take place.
A great benefit to both courses this time was the availability of the PIG garden (Permaculture Interpretive Garden, designed and constructed by Steve Batley’s Sydney Organic Gardens). The PIG was built as part of the sustainability makeover of the community centre. This included a state Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, and a Sydney Water funded energy and water retrofit of the Centre and includes educational features around these topics. A schools program around the energy, water and gardening/food elements is under development by Mary Bell, a sustainability education specialist with a certificate in Permaculture design.
It was impressive to see the large circle of participants gathered in the community centre hall on the last day of Living Smart. They were joined by the crowd from the Sustainable Gardening course for the closing ceremony in which Randwick mayor, Murray Matson, and telegardener, Costa Georgiadis, presented certificates of completion, after which there was an organic feats supplied by O-Organics.
Having got to know each other during their time together, people hung around for quite some time after the proceedings to further enjoy each others’ company. But that might not be the end of the friendships that were created through the course. Some said that they want to stay in contact and to do something more at the Centre. Participants set up an email list so that they could stay in contact with each other. To enable this, Council has engaged well known sustainability education consultant, Greame Collier, to design and set up a Living Smarties group, an opportunity to further develop skills and deepen relationships created during the living Smart courses (see other article).
For Fiona, doing this will help her set up the Centre, now also known as the Randwick Sustainability Education Hub, as a ‘third place’, an informal centre where people can come to participate in the garden and engage in peer-to-peer education, as well a participate in further educational and community opportunities at the Hub. The idea of the third place is that of US academic, , who said that a sense of place and community is developed by setting up locations like this. They complement the ‘first place’ of the home and the ‘second place’ of the workplace – the other places where people spend much if their time. according to —–, third places should be cheap to visit, located reasonable close by where those that visit them live and informal in structure. Third places are locations where people can hang out with those with similar interests. Clearly, the potential for the Randwick Sustainability Education Hub to become such a third place would provide not only a sustainability education and demonstration centre for the area but would also fulfill informal educational and social needs.
The idea to develop the hub as an educational-social space would make real a proposal of visiting sustainability communities development catalyst and ex-NASA astrophysicist, Dr Robert Gillman, who during his visit in the 1990s said that what was needed by sustainability advocates were centres where people could see and learn about sustainable solutions so that they could introduce the ideas and the technologies at home.
This Living Smart course was the latest in the pilot series designed to localize the course in Sydney. Initially, Council funded the course through its Environment Levy, but now funding for the pilot series has come from the NSW Climate Change Fund.
What is interesting about Living Smart is the number of people involved in the planning and training who have Permaculture in their background. Few of these are associated with Permaculture organizations… most practice it through their employment or community work. This is surely a legacy of Permaculture education that will make the Randwick Sustainability Education Hub a Permaculture education node for the city east region.
For those who might be interested in experiencing Living Smart, your opportunity comes up in May this year. Enrollment is through the City East Community College.
Clarification: The author teaches in Randwick City Council’s Living Smart course.