Two of Earth Co-op’s founders, Giselle Wilkinson and Iain Walker, began nurturing the seed of an idea for a cohousing project in the 1990s. In 2005 they took the idea to Common Equity Housing Limited (CEHL), the housing association that administers the co-op housing program of which Earth Co-op is part.
In 2009, support from CEHL and an injection of funds into the social housing sector made the project possible. Giselle and her family made the decision to give up their home and beautiful productive garden for the new building, which got underway in 2010.
Interest in the project was overwhelming, with hundreds of people expressing interest in living there. Earth Co-op and CEHL undertook an exhaustive information, training and selection process, which in November 2010 led to the selection of eighteen diverse households to occupy the main cohousing site in Heidelberg Heights.
For the next year, those individuals, couples and families met regularly, along with other members of the Co-op interested in being part of the cohousing ‘cluster’, and sharing in the benefits of cohousing.
Regular dinners, many meetings, a weekend at Commonground and other activities together led to a shared vision, a growing sense of community and some of the agreements and systems needed to make the cohousing community work. Regular gardening bees in cluster members’ gardens confirmed the value of sharing work and delicious home-grown produce.
During this time the community found its name, Murundaka — a Wurundjeri word meaning ‘a place to stay; to live’ — and went through the proper protocols to gain permission to use the name.
In September 2011 community members were first allowed onsite to see their nearly-completed new homes, and they began living in their new homes in late November. On the first of December 2011, the community enjoyed the first of many wonderful shared meals in the common house. New residents took the opportunity to express grateful thanks to Iain and Giselle for their many years of work and commitment to making the project happen.
Murundaka residents now enjoy regularly eating together, sharing our good fortune, celebrations, being there for each other in tough times and the best times. We know each other’s families and friends who are regularly part of our communal activities. Each Murundakian has strived in their own way to bring their best to the community, to each ask ourselves ‘what is in the best interest of our community’ when making decisions that impact us all.
Murundaka residents hope theirs is the first of many similar cohousing communities in Victoria (and elsewhere) and are keen to offer their experience to support other such projects.