Crystal Waters was born during a wave of creation of communities in Australia in the 70s. This wave carried throughout the world reached Australia under the shape of a huge festival in 73, the Aquarius festival.
Before this time, end of the 60s, Bob Sample buys 640 acres of land in the Mary Valley, with the idea to raise endurance horses, perfectly fit for australian long distances. He also develops a touristic business of horse trekking.
As the hippie wave goes through the country, Bob Sample decides to create a community. It starts with his close circle then ends up attracting people who wish to join a Community. Bob Sample makes land available and the community life starts organising itself spontaneously. At the end of the 70s, the community feels the need to create a legal entity in order to exist and creates a coop where all community members take shares. The financial participation to the coop is not fixed and later on set at a very small amount.
In the middle of the 80s, the community of Crystal Waters contains a dozen homes and about 100 people in the coop. However a disagreement arises and the community splits open, nearly half of the members leave. Distraught, the members of the community look to renovate the implicit fundations of the community. Finally they get in touch with the council and divide the domain into lots. Each member will have a lot, an acre each. The entry ticket which was only symbolic with the coop, becomes 20 000 AUD in order to really commit the members of the community. The common indrastructures and the rest of the land are attributed to a body corporate directed by a board of members of the community. The coop is kept, more for sentimental reasons that real use but also because it is hoped that the entrepreunarial activities of the community could be hosted by this structure.
Crystal Waters becomes an eco-village with common management for its infrastructures, notably those set in place after the council got involved and the normalisation of the village. It keeps the possibilities open for common projects to be created but the original community is no more. Our guide explains that for certain members there is enough Community as it is and for others, as himself, it misses more common activities, common places and projects. The private lots are already quite big and it is difficult to take care of one and at the same time put in time and effort in the common activities on the common ground. That may be a design flaw, he muses.
It is a succesful eco-village as it hosts now nearly 250 members that are living there permanently and more even come regularly. The village is based on a permaculture design, its implementation remains to be terminated notably regarding common projects that do not have a big success. However, the arrangement of the different lots and the infrastructures is well-thought, the paths and roads of the village follow the land contour. Lots are clustered together to create within this big space small mutual aid and common life spaces. According to the inhabitants, some clusters work better than other.
There is a project to create a small hamlet for people who are getting older and will need care from others. Some of these, amongst which some are there since the begining, do not wish to leave the village but the lots are too big and they also wish to leave the space for new people to settle in. Moreover this project will create jobs for those of the village that would get involved.
Most of the people have jobs outside the community and others work either at the café or the bakery, which are individual enterprises to which the coop makes available its land and infrastructure, or for the body corporate in the overall management of the village infrastructures, or they offer their services to the community such as massages or language courses for example. It is not easy to make a living entirely within the eco-village but it is possible when living frugaly which is the case for a lot of its inhabitants.
Regarding self-sufficiency, water is available through various rivers and associated dams and each house has its rainwater reservoir (as often the case in countryside houses in Australia apparently), there are a few solar pannels for electricity but given the huge trees, their yield isn’t terribly good, the village is thus connected to the electric grid, even if many still warm their water with solar power. There is is no global project to reach energy autonomy at the village level, nor regarding food since everyone has its own lot of land to cultivate and use as one sees fit.
Rather than a community or a permaculture village today, some simply say it is a lifestyle village. One comes here to experiment a different way of living but not something too drastic. Which is perfect for some and less so for others, as it goes in general. The human factor is still and always the predominant factor in the way communities function and its evolution shapes the form and content of the Community itself. During our visit, we enjoyed the very well set-up camping grounds and here as everywhere in Crystal Waters the wild life has been well preserved and invites itself nonchalantly. Kangouroos hand out everywhere closeby. In the Morning we find ourselves on the village place with a café and a bakery around, there many inhabitants take their breakfast, discuss, laugh, play with the numerous kids. We take some pastries at the bakery, it is a french couple who holds it. It is the end of the morning so they give us on top what is leftover for a couple of dollars as the bakery is closing. Practical and nice. It is a very nice lifestyle in a wonderful natural setting. Perhaps it isn’t the original Community where life has structured itself spontaneously and with solidarity but you can still feel this will to live a simple and joyful life all around.
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