How nature seduced us at FLOAT — by Andrea Lane
FLOAT. Such a simple, snappy word.
Who’d have known how HARD it would be.
To build a FLOATING ART STUDIO.
Our intention was simply to… ‘Love our lake’.
To gaze at the stars above it.
To ‘navigate by nature’.
To make art.
But ‘reality’ made it hard. Rules and regs were hurdles.
It took three years of hard slog to build it.
And thousands of hours of volunteer sweat.
Poured into an artistic vision — it was not always
an easy load to bear.
But we made it! And what a thing it is.
Truth be known — we made something even
In the end, we love it a LOT.
On the 1st of December 2018, we launched our FLOAT VESSEL here at Fisherman’s Landing. It’s a floating studio for artists-in-residence, writers and researchers. We are wooing them to come inhabit our world. To spawn groovy ideas and nurture nascent activists with art, in the floating workspace we’ve made.
And in return, we’ll be surrounded by fabulous experimental, adventurous, curiously wild art. We will grab everyone’s attention. And talk.
But what got us here? No doubt it was the passionate thinkers who committed to real transformation. Following our exhausted conversations by the campfire — after paddling hard into the headwind — we’re fed venison by Stuart before crumpling into bed.
Our talk slowly became full of hope for a community underpinned by this ‘Rights of Nature’ chatter we were hearing. A curious expression to us, back then, it has since come to explain our world — celebrating, protecting, conserving the place of Lake Tyers. Here was a strategy for loving our lake — devised in SUCH good company.
Our first conversations led to deep and heated debates on citizen democracy, transforming governance, and the new economy – all built from the grassroots up. But now we had a vocabulary for the way we were operating instinctively – and it felt like a ‘communiversity’ (a melding of community and university). Communiversity. Such a daggy word, but it feels real now.
Along the way, we have come to love the lake very, very much. Observing and sharing its rhythms.
We know it MUCH better now. We watch over it. We kayak it. We paddle in its gooey shores and watch the jellyfish oomph past us. We pick up bits of stinking rubbish around the edges. We make art about it and write poetry to it. We pay homage in the frocks we sew for it. And the plastic jewels we make from the man-made debris. We have begun to learn the stories of it – hidden stories of immense significance.
The challenge now, under this evolving (and made-up) philosophy of ‘creative environmental stewardship’, is to make the vessel come alive while also making a living.
How can great art + environmental passion + dare we say ‘kindness’ create jobs and drive our economy?
As a community, we have begun the process of giving these ideas time — a lot of time. Our hearts and our souls, as well as our life savings, are a little worse for wear. But we did it. We did it with rhythm. We did it with good manners. We did it with generosity. We have unearthed a commonality among us. A love of learning and connection to place. A huge stash of local knowledge — here for the sharing. We just had to scratch the surface, and it would ooze among us.
It seems that we have indeed built… the FLOAT COMMUNIVERSITY.
Local knowledge shared in ‘free’ public spaces: halls, gardens, beaches, jetties, forest walks and abandoned sheds. Endless chaotic connections being made between us, but not bound by old rules of hierarchy and outdated thinking. We can simply be what this community aspires to be. Mostly caring, progressive, generous, creative and entrepreneurial introverts.
It seemed to us that this was a model to work on. How do we all become the honourable custodians of this extraordinarily beautiful nature? Maybe we shift the economics that guides its care?
Building a new economy within a vibrant healthy bioregion — by Dr Michelle
Maloney (National Convenor, Australian Earth Laws Alliance)
The Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA) is excited to collaborate with FLOAT and other members of the East Gippsland community to develop a multi-year, bioregional ‘GreenPrints’ project.
GreenPrints is a program designed to help civil society groups and interested government authorities understand, and take very practical steps towards, creating governance structures to help us live within healthy ecological limits.
This approach has been created by AELA to fill an important gap, because while we have ‘blueprints’ to document the design of building and engineering projects, we don’t yet have effective ‘greenprints’ for helping us construct Earth-centred human societies and economies that can nurture the Earth community and flourish in a post-carbon, climate-changed world. Sustainability is critically important, but few communities really know how to be fully sustainable and live within their ecological limits.
GreenPrints has three key objectives: to create a practical and easy-to-use approach for building truly sustainable societies in Australia; to showcase the approach through practical pilot projects with civil society groups; and to develop a long-term advocacy plan to help civil society organisations, local governments, state governments and the Federal Government understand and implement the approach.
Why don’t our towns and communities already live within their ecological limits?
Modern, industrialised countries like Australia are built on legal and economic ideas from the past. Since the Industrial Revolution, modern societies have created a pro-growth economic system. This means we use up and destroy our natural environment, rather than have a society and an economy that ensure we regenerate and replenish the living world upon which we depend. The full impacts of living beyond our safe ecological limits can be seen through symptoms such as runaway climate change, biodiversity loss and the loss of clean water and healthy soils.
What this all means is that living within limits is new and challenging for our governance and legal systems. Our existing governance systems — our institutions, regulatory systems, environmental laws and ‘environmental management tools’ — are all built to support, or only gently mitigate, human-centred growth, and are not yet sufficiently sophisticated or in tune with the Earth Community to help us live within our limits.
Created from an Earth-centred perspective, GreenPrints aims to make it easier for people to understand their ecological limits; to work with their head, heart and hands; to create the culture, ethics and societal rules; to work towards degrowth where necessary, and then to implement a steady-state economy for the long term. The approach is designed to offer hope and alternative ways forward.
Stories, place… and a communiversity — by Dr Helen Sheil (Founder of the Centre for Rural Communities)
Community is always geographic — the place where people interact is not determined by portfolios or classification.
It is the place where people make sense of the policies impacting on their lives.
It is the place where relationships are formed and reformed — depending on where we stand at this time in history.
Communities of interest — these functional groups can interact: artists, scientists, fishing folk, birdos, geomorphologists, cultural interests… all contributing to a wealth of knowledge and interaction for a locality.
The facilitation of involvement in community life is the business of democracy and intelligence.
What FLOAT has generated is a respectful forum where people meet to share thoughts that otherwise would exist only in a local forum. There are no boundaries and people are not redirected according to specialities or bureaucratic boundaries.
Communiversities generate integration of knowledge impacting on place.
This local knowledge and a growing sense of belonging accompanying the inclusive process is the heart of community life.
It has appeal to university students, it has appeal to those involved with regional development, it has appeal to all who come to the table. It can happen in any locality, with facilitation. Universities have resources, access to research, networks and knowledge that could enhance this process. Any partnership between local knowledge and established tertiary knowledge has the potential to form an iterative and two-way knowledge flow between the local and the academic.
The Art Camp — by Josephine Jakobi (Artist)
Had I not camped at the ‘ironbarks’ during the making of Halocline, I would not have come to imagine the possibilities of a shared art camp. Had I not felt the calm, steady beauty of the place, I may not have understood the depth of satisfaction in the quiet repetition of daily tasks simplified to the rule of the weather. Had I not felt the pull of solitude taking me into the patterns of ecology, the thought might never have formed that other artists might feel all of this too.
Thus the idea emerged and was realised. Now I am camped at the dear old Bee Farm. I like to think of it as a curated camp. The colours, shapes and ethics are prescribed to sit comfortably in this landscape with minimal impact.
This is my second spring here. There are notable differences to the first. It is dry. The bush is sparse. The native animals are hungry, with scant food and evaporating water. There are cicadas. Their shed skins carpet the ground under the black wattle trees and their sound vibrates the surrounding air.
I am here alone, setting up tents and organising my kitchen. Later this month I will have the company of people who appreciate good food and purposeful conversation. I do believe the former begets the latter. Together we will discuss the world and our place within it. Philosophers. They will come for three days of sharing the basic pleasure of a very simple way of living.
How do we face the future, with eight billion souls on the planet and a climate that is changing so rapidly that we can predict nothing but change? How do we make the best of it and help one another? How does art reflect this?
This place, the Bee Farm, sits in the forest of the Lake Tyers State Park, just a short walk from the waters of Toorloo, which is part of the Lake Tyers Estuary. There are tall ironbarks, ancient blue box, flora too numerous to name — an unusually diverse mix of species that make up this dry sclerophyll forest, where lush remnant rainforests linger in the gullies. Gang-gang cockatoos make their morning flight — always to the northeast. Sugar gliders forage in the black wattles at night and the powerful owl calls from the rainforest. Wallabies sip from puddles that will be dry in only a day or two.
It’s a treasure. All of Lake Tyers is.
Can we learn how to live with it? How to not love it to death?
I hope we can learn a gentle love of place. This is shared habitat.
View from the outside — by Lucy Cassella (RMIT research student)
I’m in my third year of university, studying Environment and Society at RMIT. I was particularly interested in learning about FLOAT and how it galvanises locals around environmental sustainability.
The following are 10 things I learnt from FLOAT:
1. FLOAT brings locals together through shared interest in Lake Tyers and its successful management.
2. This is successful because people are encouraged to share their individual knowledge, experience and expertise.
3. FLOAT is inclusive and recognises the value of embracing and listening to diverse viewpoints.
4. Outcomes are made richer through this diversity, such as the ‘Stories on the Lake’ event, which included local indigenous and nonindigenous accounts of personal history.
5. FLOAT acts as a forum for ‘democratic discussion’ which encourages everyone to speak and feel like their voice is heard.
6. People are attracted to the organisation’s passion and are then able to insert their personal skill set into the project.
7. Members aren’t rewarded monetarily, rather they trade time for emotional support and the opportunity to work creatively as a collective.
8. FLOAT acts as a network to connect activists, artists and enthusiasts to talk about, pursue and realise projects.
9. Members understand that you get out what you put in, and are empowered by seeing FLOAT grow.
10. FLOAT has a largely positive effect on the community by bringing people together for a common cause and giving them a sense of relevance and purpose.
Paddle Club — by Liz & Amy Allender
Paddles on the lake have been a part of FLOAT events since the very first community gathering with jam and scones at the Tavern.
When we paddled as a group, I realised the scope of the networks that were being created within and beyond the FLOAT community. It wasn’t a small art movement in a small town, it was people from far and wide connecting and interacting because of a common love of the arts, the environment, good food and of course our beautiful Lake Tyers.
I have tried to be involved with my family in as many events as I can because I believe it is important for us all to get out and support our community. I want my children to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. I also want to foster a sense of stewardship in my children to build knowledge of the environment in which they live, and learn how to respect and care for it.
I had been looking for ways to offer my support. There has been so much enthusiasm and support for the development of the paddling club that it is clearly filling a need within our community. All FLOAT-ish things tend to grow organically and the paddle club is no different. We have tried to FLOATify the paddle events, incorporating the elements of community gathering, delicious food and the environment. It’s a good mix.
It’s exciting to see FLOAT link up with the Lake Tyers Coast Action group. It gives us the opportunity as a community to take responsibility for the continuing battle to preserve our local coastal region. It is such a precious resource and it makes me proud to see our community put their hands up and say ‘Yep, I’ll help’. The best way I can see to encourage others, including my children, to take action is to live by example. That is why I have chosen to be involved in setting up the paddle club and taking on a role in the LTCA to support the integration of this amazing group of passionate environmental activists with our own special, albeit eclectic, group.
Float and beyond — by Tristan Hennessy
FLOAT — the vessel, the residencies, the exhibitions, the communiversity and talk of the ‘rights of nature’ is a movement towards lived local knowledge… looking in to look out.
This isn’t an original concept. It is informed and underpinned by knowledge frameworks that have existed around Lake Tyers for time immemorial.
This endeavour is exciting, sexy, new and open for business, whilst referencing old ways of thinking through a sense of shared custodianship. This is a journey towards an articulation of communicating for the environment — speaking for its intrinsic right to exist. Respecting knowledge that has come, and that continues to come, then sharing this with all of the community around Lake Tyers, Gippsland, and beyond.
A small guide to the flora of Fisherman’s Landing — by Caroline Crunden
FLOAT ALMANAC PROJECT. A handmade zine identifying 45 flowering species living in the forest, estuarine scrub and saltmarsh habitats found in and around Fisherman’s Landing.
In Nature @ Lake Tyers
A Collaborative Event Between AELA and FLOAT
(10—15 APRIL 2019)
New Economy Symposium
F–ISH MARKET — out the front GreenPrints Workshops
Earth Arts Gathering @ The Bee Farm
Exhibition of local art + GreenPrints maps + new economy maps produced @ symposium
FLOATILLA — Kayak with the FLOAT Paddle Club
FRANK & FLORA — Artist in Residence on the
FLOAT VESSEL @ Fisherman’s Landing
FLOAT is a Small Town Transformation project — an arts initiative of the Victorian Government. Lake Tyers Beach was funded to build a floating arts studio. The project has been managed by F.INC East Gippsland Inc.