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Dharmananda: from individual title to a multiple occupancy
Well let’s talk a bit about this place. What is the land title history?
Ray: Well the original title was in Dudley’s name I think, but they – Dudley and Carol – had a plan to set it up as a community all along. By the time I came I think they’d already had this agreement drawn up which was a partnership agreement – they’d gone to see a solicitor in Byron and this was a partnership agreement that had been set up for a group of shops on an arcade. There was nothing really available at the time that suited a community necessarily, so he came up with this idea and said ‘look this might fit what you want to do.’ So they had this partnership agreement drawn up with Dudley as the trustee. So he officially held the title. Ah, yeah so when I came I was the first new member of the trustee – person on the trustee list. I think it was a limited number of share, of trustees, I think it was ten or something. So it would have had a used-by date anyway. So it wasn’t until after Trish and Simon came I think [Leigh – about ’82] – there were enough people here then that we started thinking, well this whole trustee thing doesn’t really look like it works that well. At that stage we had quite a few members of the community and we thought we should look at something more appropriate. So we had many, many meetings about [laughs] what to do and people looked into the various options and eventually it was sort of a bit of a tossup between a particular type of company or a co-operative. And in the end we opted for the co-operative.
And then the community actually bought Dudley out cause he figured he still owned most of the shares in the partnership, so he wanted to b – well he and Carol had half shares each. And so a number of them had been sold obviously to Leigh and Ellen and myself, Simon and Trish. So we eventually agreed on a price to buy Dudley out so that he was compensated for the remaining shares. Carol didn’t want anything for hers, so hers, she more or less donated hers to the community. I’m not sure what year that would have been?
Leigh: About ’85, roughly. Cause I remember Rod was here and he was a lawyer….
Ray: Yeah, he did a lot of work to work out what was most appropriate. I mean there are some limitations with a co-operative because we can’t, well it’s not that we are likely to sell it, but it’s much harder. You can’t actually just go off and sell it. You’ve got to give the proceeds to another co-operative, so you can’t split up the money and just walk away with a pocket full of money; whereas you could do that with a company.
And food production was always be a core part of the community?
Ray: Yeah, yeah that’s always been there and we all always strove to grow as much as we could. I mean it was quite difficult in the early times because, you know, a lot of our daily hours were spent just on basic survival. I remember when I first came because we didn’t have a proper house. We were living in the old laundry shed at the time, that was our living room and kitchen and we didn’t have running water when I came, we used to have to walk a hundred metres down the hill and collect buckets of water, tip them into a big urn in the kitchen.
Leigh: That makes growing veges hard in the dry season.
Leigh: I remember when I arrived in ’79 the garden was watered – there was a centrifugal pump down by the garden and you’d take the old lawn mower down, right, and there was a pulley on the lawn mower and you’d put a v-belt …
Ray: That’s right, I’d forgotten about that.
Leigh: between the pump and then you’d have to get the lawn mower to start [laughs] and then you’d have to get the pump to suck about like four or five metres up from the creek all, all, all huge challenges. So just watering the garden; now we just go down there and turn on the tap. So there was virtually no infrastructure here. So growing food is hard when you don’t have that infrastructure.
Ray: But we were milking cows right from day one. Ah we had a sort of motley crew of various types of cows – Jerseys, Guernseys, a few beef cows –so we always milked at least one cow when I came. And to begin with we did that twice a day. We only milk once a day now, so we always had milk and milk products.
Leigh: The bails were right down the far end there where the loading ramp is, right where you drive in and, and it was just a few posts ….
Ray: You used to have to go on holidays to go down to milk [laughs].
Leigh: It was a long way to go [laughs]. And then you had to get the cow in, which could be …
Ray: And then you’d get a foot in the bucket and you had to walk all the way back to wash the bucket.
Leigh: To wash it out [laughs].
Ray: And start again [both laugh].
How did you learn about milking cows?
Ray: Dudley knew a bit about cows when I came. He’d been down talking to Noel Warne and various other locals I think, and getting a few tips. That’s what you do – you just talk to the neighbours that are doing that sort of thing. There were more people that had cows in those days. Yeah, so he had a few ideas and we just learnt a lot as we went, just trial and error I suppose as well.
Lots of communities had the idea to be self-sufficient about food, but few accomplished it. What was different about Dharmananda?
Ray: Well I think because we always had a fairly tight community structure and we stuck to it, for example our eating together. I think that enabled us to focus more on a community and a garden. Cause we were all going into our community meals, which we were all there for, certainly for the first few years. And we always had some sort of structure around getting the work done. I mean it was pretty loose in the early days, because we all pretty much spent one hundred percent of our time here, or close to it. But then as people started branching out and started doing other things we kind of started to formalise it a bit more and structure it a little bit more, so everybody pulled their weight. Rosters, that sort of thing.
And was that part of what interested you in Dharmananda JJ?
JJ: Yeah it definitely was part of what interested me. Because I had a young family, I was actually living next door for about ten years and I would come over and occasionally work in the garden on a Saturday morning. And I always had a real admiration for how things were done. I liked the structure and I saw myself next door, you know, I had a garden and at various stages had various animals – or we did as a family, had goats and so we were – I was very interested in food production and that side of sustainability. But it was always a thing that fell to the back of my busy schedule. So I’d find myself every two, three weeks – in the half hour before dinner just trying to till a bed in the garden or trying to weed this or trying to, you know trying to fit in those jobs which are – which I’ve grown to find very pleasant and relaxing. I’m communing with nature while having dirty hands. But I just was rushing that time and not getting to it, so I could see if I came to Dharmananda I would have that stuff as a priority. It would be rostered in, cause I would be able to put it in my diary as a commitment on a day, and a regular commitment too. So that definitely was one of the things that I wanted to do and was drawn to the place by.