Universal Hall. A new name for our community
'Community' is a much-used word on Pittwater. We meet
people who say them moved offshore for the community, even
though we might know of others who seem to have done so
regardless of the community. At our lower points we might
feel as though we remain despite the community. All the
same, there seems to be an understanding that 'community'
is a whole greater than the sum of its members.
There are many kinds of community, but the concept of an
‘intentional community’ is an especially curious one.
Intentionality is not the same as the exercise of free
choice, so while most of us live offshore intentionally,
in the sense that we didn’t sleepwalk here, we may feel
that Sydney’s housing market left us with no real option.
But the term ‘intentional’ usually denotes a community
designed from the outset for a high degree of social
cohesion and teamwork.
Britain’s largest intentional community is found next to
the Scottish coastal village of Findhorn. Its origins seem
almost designed for derision. Put simply, the community
was founded by an unemployed hotel manager who, by
channelling sufficient love into the soil, discovered that
he could grow miraculously large cabbages.
of Findhorn's barrel houses,
made from a disused whisky vat.
There was, of course, a lot more to it than that. But it
was talk of 20 kilo vegetables that attracted the media
and, in turn, hordes of 1960s hippies. The community that
grew up around those cabbages remains to this day, the
product of that eclectic and esoteric mix of occultism,
ecology and communitarianism generally labelled ‘New Age’.
My feelings around this social phenomenon have always been
ambivalent. At the age of 26 I was sufficiently interested
to undergo ‘Experience Week’ at Findhorn, during which I
was told, assuredly, about the fairies that live inside
computers. And that was when I wasn’t having someone
reflect my personality back to me through dance. It’s easy
to scoff. But when you see the warmth with which Findhorn
residents interact, their devotion to environmentalism and
their commitment to (and considerable success in) communal
living, it’s hard not to conclude that they are on to
And so now, 34 years later, I find myself back at
Findhorn, but this time with almost two decades of
Scotland Island experience to draw on. Walking around
Findhorn and comparing it with our Pittwater communities
was fascinating, particularly when I noticed that my guide
could greet almost everyone we met by name. Yes, she
assured me, no one locks their doors. No, we aren’t keen
on fences either. And yes, we have all the interpersonal
tensions that any community generates. But we also have
ways of resolving them.
entrance to the Singing Chamber, displaying a
typical New Age aesthetic.
There was a lot of talk of received guidance and
providence, and the community’s founders are treated with
almost messianic reverence. ‘Could an atheist live here?’
I asked. ‘Oh, we have plenty of those’, I was told. Even
so, I felt resistance to the constant preferencing of
intuition over intellect. I voiced my concerns, and my
guide asked me whether I was at least comfortable with the
idea of listening to my inner voice. And at that, as a man
who lives far too much in his head and not enough in my
heart, the tears came.
There is so much laudable about Findhorn, and I see
elements of the same in our offshore communities. For
instance, we have the dogged devotion to community that
keeps our fire brigades and residents’ associations
functioning. We find our bush care groups committed to
their thankless tasks. And we have our monthly dances and
cafés. Mind you, Findhorn has weekly dance sessions and
its café operates daily. Not bad, considering that
Findhorn’s population reaches only 400, compared with 700
for Scotland Island.
A question, to which I have no clear answer, is whether
any community can truly cohere without a shared spiritual
basis. I’m not even sure what ‘spiritual’ means. But
certainly we need shared values. Too often, we on offshore
Pittwater seem to confuse values with getting value out of
Northern Beaches Council. I wonder whether it’s enough
that we all want better roads, parking and so on. These
aren’t shared values.
of Findhorn's eco-village which, some
complain, represents Findhorn's descent into
This year Colin Haskell, after a considerable term as SIRA
president, wishes to step down. Colin has done well, and
we thank him. Now the search for a fitting replacement
begins. SIRA has a Strategy and Vision sub-committee,
which asks us to consider our vision for the island.
Sometimes such questions can appear effete among more
concrete issues like roads and drainage. But perhaps
Findhorn teaches us otherwise.
One day, sitting in Findhorn’s café, I noticed how I was
surrounded by smiling and chatty neighbours. I felt love.
And, strangely, I felt at home. There’s a touch of
Findhorn around Pittwater. Perhaps, with shared vision, we
can emulate even more of Findhorn’s commitment to the
environment and community. Even though, I suspect, our
cabbages are going to remain pretty ordinary.
A guide to life's journey
Elvina Bay resident Mick Miller has a new book out,
helping us develop awareness of ourselves, our values and
purpose. Subtitled 'Self-Discovery Journal', the book
encourages us to keep written notes with a view to
clarifying what we need to do to keep our lives on the
Mick arrived in
Australia at the age of seven, but grew up among the
Pittwater offshore community. In his early adulthood he
enjoyed success as an Olympic strength and performance
coach. But in 2013, just before his 50th birthday, he
discovered a lump in his neck that turned out to be
This, he feels, was the beginning of a journey towards
re-evaluating everything in his life. It also resulted in
a 16-month road trip around Australia in a 1968 VW Beetle,
described in his first book, Travelling Australia
During this journey of self-realisation, Mick found it
helpful to keep monthly notes, recording his strengths,
weaknesses, aspirations and needs. With these in mind he
then decided on the 'authentic actions' he needed to take
in the next month to keep his life on track. After several
months, Mick noticed that this process was forming a
'drivers manual' for a better existence.
Mick's new book, The Right Path, supports us in
taking the same approach to our lives. To buy the book, or
to discover more about Mick's work, click here. The book is also available for
purchase in some local bookshops.
Catherine Park & the
Tuesdays, 9:30 - 12 noon
Benji and Orlando enjoying the Recreation
Centre play facilities
Come Play with Us!
Parents, grandparents and their little folk are welcome to
join our Scotland Island playgroup. We usually start
around Tennis Court wharf Tuesday mornings and end up at
the Recreation Club playground. Come along and keep the
spirit of the kindy alive with the sound of children
playing! If you are interested, please get in touch so
that we can meet up.
Remember that the Rec Club play area was created and
recreated several times by parents and funding. It's a
really great asset and we need to look after it. Please
note that the shed that houses the play equipment is
missing a panel and is therefore open. If you have older
children who go to the park by themselves, please explain
to them that they are very welcome to play in the play
area, but they shouldn't go into the shed and take more
stuff out: there's enough equipment out permanently to
have fun with.
Jenny Cullen 0406 806 648
Scotland Island Recreation
Most Saturdays throughout
2 - 3 pm: Introduction to
3 - 5 pm: Table Tennis
Groups meet most Saturdays
and anyone over 12 is welcome. Sessions are supported by
the Scotland Island Recreation Club.
Play from 2 - 3 pm is
intended primarily for those new to table tennis. The
session from 3 - 5 pm is open to everyone, regardless of
your standard of play.
Sessions do not run every Saturday. If you are interested
in taking part then it's best to join the table tennis
WhatsApp group to receive up-to-date information on who is
playing. If you would like to join the group, please email
Alternatively, you can just turn up and take your chances.
Adult players are asked to contribute $5 per player per
attendance to defray expenses.
Scotland Island Community
Sunday 4 September, 2:00 -
To book tickets, click
Scotland Island Recreation
Tuesday 20 September, 11
am - 12.30 pm
The Recreation Club runs a discussion group, meeting on
the third Tuesday of each month, from 11 am to 12.30 pm
in the Recreation Centre. Everyone is welcome.
Members take it in turn to design a session, choosing
material for discussion. This can consist of essays,
articles or podcasts, or a combination of all three. The
idea is that group members shouldn't be committed to
more than a few hours' preparation in terms of listening
or reading. The idea is to be open to a wide range of
topics and material.
In August Tim Turpin led a discussion on our collective
sense of nostalgia, and the extent to which it shapes
our national identity, as well as social and political
For the September meeting, Robyn Armsworth-Brack
will lead a discussion on philanthropy. We might
praise those who give generously, but is there another
side to philanthropy, and how does it sit alongside
democracy? Who really benefits: the donor or the
Read 'The Problem with Philanthropy' by Sally
Haslanger, The New Statesman, 16 October 2020,
Listen to 'Australia's Flawed Philanthropy', Big
Ideas, ABC Radio National, tx 11 Jul 2014,
Listen to 'The Dark Side of Philanthropy', Big
Ideas, ABC Radio National, tx 27 Apr 2016,
The group operates via a WhatsApp group, which will be
used to distribute further information about this and
future discussions.If you would like to be added to the
group, please provide your mobile phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, contact Jane Rich (email@example.com) for more
information or to express your interest in
Scotland Island Community
Saturday 24 September, 7 -
The Recreation Club
asks for $5 per person per attendance to defray
Catherine Park, Scotland
Sunday 25 September, 10 -
5 & 6 November
A two-day masterclass
like no other.
Mandy Nolan (comedian, author, journalist) & Dr
George Catsi (award-winning writer and academic) are
coming to the Island!
'Your life is a collection of unique stories. Bring
storytelling into all your communications.'
Sold-out events across Australia: Limited numbers.
Catherine Park, Scotland
Sunday 27 November, 10 - 1
storeholders, click here.
Missed out on a previous
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expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily the
views of the Scotland Island Residents Association
or the Western Pittwater Community Association