From Impoverished Settlements to Sustainable Communities

From Impoverished Settlements to Sustainable Communities

From Destitution to Abundance

Sustainable Subsistence

Subsistence Living is about having the important basic needs provided to ensure good, ordinary living, without unnecessary accoutrements. Sustainable subsistence living is about having these important needs met with abundance and surety, now and into the future, without unnecessary accoutrements, which a full basic life has no spare time for anyway.  

Remote Aboriginal settlements are generally:

  • a long way from major supply centres,
    • are difficult to get to,
    • exist in hot, arid areas,
    • with minimal water, topsoil and vegetation,
    • and must survive on a shoestring budget

In such circumstances, even in the very best of times, it would be difficult to ensure a well functioning settlement, and the need for community solutions becomes imperative.

Creating a Full Life for All

A Community can be thought of as a whole system, like a living organism, that needs all of its parts working before it can function in its entirety, and resonate, as happens to a well performing sports team when they find their groove. If any aspect of community functioning is faulty, it affects the entire community functioning. This is why life-affirming, sustainable, community-orientated solutions are needed to ensure harmonious functionality.

Life-affirming, sustainable community living can offer permanent involvement in a myriad of interesting things for all people of all ages. Everybody can be involved in making life work – for themselves, for each other and for the community, as overlaps increase and distinctions become blurred. The entire community can become a permaculture village. Each property can become a permaculture haven, with organic gardens and fruit trees. Gardening is a wonderful way to balance and integrate people. Everybody can learn and practice the fundamentals of preventative medicine and return to good health. This book only scratches the surface of many highly interesting and vitally important fields of knowledge that are complementary and mutually supportive, yielding a vast, deep, understanding of how life really works without the problems.

The Community, Family, Self-Actualisation Dynamic

Communities function from a different dynamic than towns or cities. This is fortunate, for the town model is prohibitively expensive, and has never been funded to succeed, and this has caused much failure already. To make it work, a significant proportion of the people would require high paid jobs, and the infrastructure would be far, far greater than what is now spent. These are never going to happen, so the sustainable community model needs to be seriously embraced.

Communities function on a similar dynamic to the family – honesty, openness, goodwill and trust – extended over the whole community. To the extent that these qualities are present, life within the family is harmonious and comfortable. To the extent that these qualities are absent, life within the family is conflicted and difficult. This is true also of each individual. To the degree that a person lives within him or herself with honesty, openness, goodwill and trust (all of which amounts to integrity, or being true to oneself), then that person will experience greater self-actualisation. Likewise, to the degree that a person does not live these qualities, that person will suffer inner conflict, and likely, a fair amount of denial and suppression, and the problems that follow as a consequence.

The difficulty for many people is to be able to extend these qualities beyond their own nuclear and extended families, and immediate circle of friends, even when they are able to master those qualities in more familiar settings. The community dynamic, the family dynamic and the self-actualisation dynamic are similar. That which facilitates self-actualisation in the individual, will also foster and further greater family harmony, and community integration and upliftment.

Melding Tradition with Modern Sustainability

What is needed is the best of both worlds, which are traditional sustainable practices and modern sustainable practices. Much of what works in modern sustainable communities may be directly applicable without conflict or compromise. The best of both worlds are highly compatible and mutually enhancing.

Aborigines have always been masters of conservation and sustainable living practices, and wholistic spiritual practices. They have a huge amount of sensibility, specialised knowledge and wisdom to be released, made use of, and perhaps made more widely available. Much of their understanding of sustainable living can easily be resurrected, adapted and used to enhance basic daily life.

More than any other sector of our society, Aboriginal Australia is in urgent need of sustainable practices. It is their history and it is natural to them, and it will be the way of their future. They have been separated from living sustainably, and have been longing to reclaim that, as amply demonstrated by their disinclination to fit themselves into many mainstream societal norms, some of which they find bizarre.

Design for Sustainability

Virtually all methods and systems used in sustainable communities are relevant to Aboriginal communities, and should not be difficult to adopt and adapt.

Successful sustainable living is Aborigine nature, culture and tradition. It is simply a matter of making it their contemporary community lifestyle too, as it always used to be. A modern-day Aboriginal community functioning on sustainable principles would enable Aborigines to live a far more enjoyable, unproblematic and hassle free life with particular benefits in the following areas:

  • more affluence, providing more individual and community wealth;
  • full employed, as there is always much to do;
  • more compatible with traditional lifestyles;
  • more time for traditional pursuits;
  • elimination of community problems including crime, violence and substance abuse.


Traditional Aborigines are past masters of conservation and applied it in ways that suited their nomadic, subsistence lifestyle. Since the end of the mission days they have experienced continual highly unsustainable living, and are by now fully aware of the limitations, problems and pain caused by living that way. Today, they must practise conservation in a new way, suitable for permanent communities.

Conservation has 4 major principles:

  • living without damaging the planet’s basic resources of air, water, soil and living species;
  • not using renewable resources faster than they can be replenished, either naturally or with human assistance, this preserving the natural of life;
  • limiting the consumption of non-renewable resources, such as minerals, so that they may also be enjoyed by future generations;
  • preserving those things of crucial importance or of cultural significance.

Conservation is implicit in the principles of sustainable living. Reduce, reuse, recycle, repair, restore, renew, replenish and regenerate are the ways to live lightly on Earth where, by enhancing nature’s work, the ecology improves at an even faster rate than nature on its own.

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