Collective Action Workshop with Michel Bauwens for the City of Greater Bendigo in Australia

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Excerpted from a report by Elsie L'Huilier:

"The workshop marked the first gathering in Australia of a local government and community activists interested in the pursuing the principles and practices of the Urban Commons within their own city. It has positioned Bendigo for partnerships at the National and International level that could provide recognition of COGB as a ‘City of the Commons’.

On September 16th, 2018 a ‘Collective Action’ workshop was held in Bendigo with International Commons advocate Michel Bauwens. The workshop was auspiced by the Bendigo Sustainability Group and facilitated by Commoners Co-op. As a result of growing interest within the community and Council about the Commons approach, Council provided a $2400 community grant to support the workshop.

Mayor O’Rourke opened the workshop and met with Michel Bauwens for a brief discussion about the Commons Transition Planning that has been completed for the City of Ghent in Belgium. A number of Council staff participated in the forum and have had ongoing discussions about possible follow up from the workshop.

Trevor Budge and David Williamson participated in the workshop on behalf of COGB

Bendigo Sustainability Group was represented at the workshop by Leanne James, Don Leversha, Chris Corr and Colin Lambie.

Commoners Co-op was represented by Rob Eales, Jodie Hampson, Vasko Drogriski, Jan Hendrik Brueggemeier and Elsie L’Huillier.

Other participants presenting at the workshop included:

  1. Laura Ballantyne Brodie - Earth Law Advocate
  2. Philip Ingamells - advocate for National Parks
  3. Raylene Harradine - Bendigo District Aboriginal Co-op
  4. SeiSei Thein - Karen Community -COGB
  5. Laurie Whelan - The Good Loaf
  6. Elaine Atkinson - Growing Abundance Castlemaine
  7. Deb Bogenhuber - Food Next Door, Mildura
  8. Ian McBurney - bHive, Bendigo
  9. Theo Kitchener - Doing It Ourselves, Melbourne
  10. Ross Colliver - The Training and Development Group, Landcare
  11. Rob Bakes - Kyneton Public Square
  12. Cathie Steele - Foodshare, Bendigo
  13. Nikki Marshall - Localising Leanganook
  14. Michelle Fisher - Melbourne Repair Cafe
  15. Carolyn Suggate - Organic & Regenerative Investment Co-op
  16. Elene Pereya - Co Housing
  17. Antony McMullen - Incubator.Inc

A range of ‘urban commons’ projects are already operating in the city:

  1. Bendigo Sustainability Group
  2. Renewable Energy Group
  3. Bendigo Repair Cafe
  4. Community Food Hub - Foodshare
  5. Farmers Market
  6. Boomerang Bags
  7. Bendigo Recycle Centre
  8. Really, really free market
  9. Free Food
  10. bHive - sharing economy
  11. Tool library
  12. Urban Food Street Boxes

…to name a few.

A planning approach that recognises these initiatives and encourages their development could have a range of benefits:

  1. Community Engagement
  2. Community Planning
  3. Ethical economic infrastructure
  4. Local economic growth
  5. Social cohesion
  6. Place based planning - bioregionalism
  7. Liveability
  8. Bendigo as a City of the Commons


Strategic next steps

1. A Commons Transition Plan for the COGB would involve a partnership between the city and local community activists. It would take on its own shape and focus as a result of the parties working together. To start the journey we need to create a formal opportunity to continue the discussion. This could take the form of a workshop that focusses on articulating the next steps.

Participants could be:

  • interested Councillors
  • Council staff and
  • community organisations/individuals.

The workshop would provide a more detailed introduction to the Commons. It would also work to develop a plan out of the further actions suggested (see above) at the Collective Action workshop

2. Council can continue to support Commons initiatives that are already operating:

  • Repair Cafe’s, Library of Things, Plastic Recycling, Boomerang Bags - a Recycling Precinct?
  • Food Hub
  • Renewable energy
  • Sharing economy initiatives

3. Council in partnership with local ‘Commoners’ can work on implementing new developments as part of the newly developed Commons Transition Plan.

  • Trialling an Urban Commons approach in Eaglehawk through a Community Owned Town Hall Project/Precinct
  • Mapping Commons Activity
  • Hosting Commons Assemblies to workshop strategies for - Food as Commons, Transport as Commons … Housing as Commons… Local Manufacturing as Commons ….
  • Planning a ‘Commonsfest’ or National Assembly of the Commons in Bendigo in 2019