A Transition Towns Forum took place recently in Melbourne, Australia discussed the Transition Town/community process and rationale, and proposed the way forward, and how it can be supported by councils across the state.
The Municipal Association of Victoria (an assocation comprising the 79 local councils across the state) recently held a forum entitled “Transition Communities: ‘not business as usual’.”
Attended by approximately 60-70 people, its aim was to tap into the positive influence local government can have in facilitating energy descent. It was emphasised that local government should play a proactive and supportive role, but should not and cannot undertake to drive action – rather, a “bottom-up” approach needs to be encouraged.
Currently there are 500 community plans in the state of Victoria, and it was realised that these plans had a similar framework to Transition Towns. To avoid duplication, it was decided to link the two.
Two excellent speakers addressed the forum – Sonya Wallace (of Transition Town Sunshine Coast), and David Holmgren (co-originator of the permaculture concept), followed by lunch and open discussion.
Australia faces some unique challenges in that unlike the UK, there is no possibility of “relocalisation” – we don’t have any cosy, compact village roots to return to. As Sonya Wallace stated, all Australian towns are built on the assumption that “every adult has a car”. Demographically those living in outlying suburbs tend to be poorer, which means that in the event of expensive oil and petrol, our poorest will be most isolated. According to CSIRO modelling forecasting petrol at $A5 per litre by 2018, this scenario is not as far off as it might seem.
The next action for the Municipal Association will be to send out an “Alert” document to all councils, asking whether they have a risk management plan to address the challenges of more expensive oil and food etc. They propose that each council nominate a contact person in relation to the Transition Town initiative. Participation will remain voluntary for all councils.
While it is likely that conservative shires such as my own (reliant on coal mining and rainforest logging) will be reluctant to participate, it is very encouraging that so many councillors from other shires gave up their time to attend this forum. It is certainly very rare and perhaps unprecedented internationally that local government has engaged with Transition ideals on such a sector-wide scale. Workshops and training sessions will follow in the next few months.
Report written by Rosemary Abetz