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Earthworker Newsletter - September 2021

As 2021 rolls on, news headlines continue to unmask the horrendous failures of our global power structures in providing safety and longevity for our species and the ecosystem to which we owe our existence.

The IPCCs August report on climate change confirmed that humans have driven a 1.1C increase in temperature over the past 150 years: a finding described by the UN Secretary General as a ‘code red for humanity’. Only days later, all eyes focused on the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan, as the US and its allies beat a hasty retreat, ending yet another bloody chapter in the long history of imperialist foreign policy. Locally, Covid has almost half of Australia’s population trapped in their homes as a result of the Federal Government’s abysmal vaccine rollout – the slowest in the OECD.

It comes as no surprise that our global leaders have no answers for the changes that are upon us. The structures through which they exercise power are founded upon exploitation. They are not engineered to respond to the needs of our community. We propose an alternative social model, founded on cooperation and mutual support. We hope that our readers may take strength in reflecting upon how these values can be put in to practice in our daily lives - as outlined in the article below titled ‘Working With Change : A life of cooperation and it’s consequences’.  

Despite the challenges of our present conditions, Spring has arrived, and there are many exciting activities flowering within the Earthworker community: Earthworker Energy and Manufacturing Cooperative will be partnering with Common Equity Housing to roll out solar hot water systems to low-income households across regional Victoria; the Earthworker Spring & Summer Education Program is calling for participants; and a new enterprise, the Earthworker Construction Cooperative, is on the cusp of registration.    

You can read more about Earthworker Education here. 

But first, please join us in expressing solidarity to the victims of the Afghan Conflict; and give your support to the Hope Cooperative, which is providing assistance to Afghan members of our community who are still denied permanent protection and basic living needs.  

HOPE Cooperative - Afghan Fund

The current crisis in Afghanistan leaves many vulnerable. There are Afghan students across all universities – including many here at Monash – who are currently without permanent protection. This means that they can be sent back to Afghanistan at any time. Many also have family they are desperately worried about in Afghanistan. These students urgently need help to navigate the immigration system to seek permanent protection and to assist family members. HOPE Co-Op is helping to fund the legal fees of Afghan students, to relieve some financial stress during this extremely difficult time.

Please consider donating to HOPE Co-Op’s Afghan Fund. 

By Direct deposit:
Youth Plus Foundation
BSB: 064 786 ACC: 100023531
Reference: Afghan Fund
Email: [email protected] for a tax receipt

Or by PayPal here
Reference: 'Afghan Fund'

(The Youth Plus Foundation is a registered Deductible Gift Recipient)

So, what’s happening in each of the coops?

Here’s an update, as well as information on how you can support or get involved in each one.

Earthworker Energy Manufacturing Cooperative : Exciting Milestones & Opportunities

As a manufacturing operation, and one that produces essential household products, Earthworker Energy has been continuing to operate in Morwell (with social distancing in place). Output has been continuing to increase, and we’re now on the cusp of a few exciting milestones!

Firstly, we’re very proud to be embarking on a project to install Earthworker-Reclaim heat pump hot water systems into a swathe of low-income households across Regional Victoria, in partnership with co-operative social housing provider, Common Equity Housing Ltd (CEHL).

This procurement of our ‘Made in Morwell’ products by CEHL is a proud milestone in our long-running efforts to make sure that households everywhere have access to energy-saving technology, and that no-one is left behind in the energy transition. #ClimateAction #ClimateJustice

Stay tuned for more details and some formal announcements on our social media.

CEHL is a not-for-profit organisation made up of housing co-operatives that form its membership. In accordance with cooperative principles a core objective of CEHL is to provide cooperative education and development to facilitate the provision and maintenance of secure and affordable housing with dignity. Consistent with the cooperative values of self-help, solidarity and building human capacity, cooperative members of CEHL jointly purchase services from CEHL to enable these cooperatives to provide high-quality housing for their members. We’re proud to be cooperating with another co-op to advance the cooperative ethos.

Secondly, with demand increasing from a wide range of customers for our ‘Made in Morwell’ products (even before CEHL), we need some more factory worker-members! We’re almost ready, and very excited, to welcome some new workers into the factory and into the Earthworker project. Initially we’re able to offer some part-time general factory labourer positions, which will hopefully become full-time positions over the next 6 months. Experience in metal fabrication (particularly stainless steel welding) is handy, but not required, as we can provide basic on-the-job training for many of the general factory tasks we need help with.

If you or someone you know might be interested, or you’d like to see our Position Description, contact Katherine at [email protected]

And if you didn’t grab a copy, see a great recent article about us by Jarni Blakkarly published in the Griffith Review here

Get in touch if you or your friends have any hot water questions!

Find more information on the EEMC website
Request a Quote for an Earthworker Energy solar or heat pump hot water system
Like and Share about Earthworker Energy on facebook and our new instagram

Redgum Cleaning Cooperative

Redgum Cleaning Cooperative keeps on keeping on despite the turbulence of the pandemic and the obvious chaos that causes for a cleaning business. As a business Redgum has been receiving Victorian government support which has helped keep us afloat and allowed the cooperative to maintain income for members, even as domestic cleaning has been paused. We are continuing to clean at a number of businesses, ASU HQ and even Newlands neighborhood house in Coburg.

A huge thanks to the Redgum clients who insisted on paying even while we haven't been able to clean for them, that's the goodwill of being a cooperative in a community kicking in. We hope to keep being able to give back, not just in continuing to build a green, clean, worked owned and run enterprise but actively supporting our community in different ways when we have the capacity again. 

If you are interested in engaging Redgum’s services or would like to get involved, please get in touch!
Like and Share about Redgum Cleaning Cooperative on facebook and instagram 

Cooperative Power

Cooperative Power is a cooperative electricity retailer that has been working hard to build its client base and reputation within the community.

A true alternative to the for-profit energy retailers, Cooperative Power is member-owned and member-run. Its mission is to provide affordable electricity while addressing the climate crisis and inequality and supporting engagement in civil society.

Cooperative Power is a not-for-profit. How its surplus is spent is determined by its members and customers.

Earthworker members are eligible to sign up immediately and engage in radical mutual support. Visit the Cooperative Power website and switch over today!

Like and share about Cooperative Power on facebook 

Hope Cooperative

Hope Cooperative’s activities, like everyone’s, were disrupted by the pandemic. Our focus for the last 18 months has been on emergency food support for our members and others. This food support has been necessary because of the unconscionable decision of the Morrison Government to exclude people on temporary visas, including asylum seekers, from federal government Covid financial assistance. Many asylum seekers lost their jobs during the various lockdowns, or didn’t have work in the first place. Without support of organisations like Hope, and from the Victorian Government, they would have literally been destitute. Hope’s funding for the food program ran out at the end of July, but has since been extended by the Victorian government.

The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban was a devastating event for many of Hope Cooperative’s Afghan members. On top of concern for family and friends still in Afghanistan, our Afghan members still confront a federal government determined to keep them in limbo on temporary visas, despite there being no hope of returning to that dangerous country. Hope Cooperative has responded by establishing, with the support of staff from Monash University, a support fund for Afghan asylum seekers, focused on providing funding for legal advice and representation. Hope is also providing other forms of support to Afghan members. If you would like to make a donation to the Hope Afghan Fund, please see the details above.

You can learn more about us at
Become a member of HOPE Co-op
Like and Share about HOPE Co-op on facebook

Powering Victoria

Powering Victoria Cooperative is powering ahead, building relationships with funding organisations, unions, Jesuit Social Services, and partner service providers.

We are currently building the cooperative infrastructure, developing an energy auditing training program, and negotiating energy services opportunities with unions and JSS. We hope to start rolling out energy auditing and distributed renewable energy advice and retrofitting by the end of the year.

For any inquiries, please contact: Colin Long, [email protected]
Read more about Cooperative Power on their blog.
Become a Copower Customer
Like and share about CoPower on facebook 

Earthworker News and Events

Earthworker Education

Earthworker Education is gearing up for our next iteration of the work. Exploring just how far we can take the short course, hopefully getting it into the Union spaces, and maybe we could get it into the High School environment? If you are part of such landscapes and feel a desire to bang the drum for the worker cooperative, please let us know. This 6-hours worth, either 3 x 2 hour sessions or even a whole day, is about getting the notions of the worker coop out there. The WHY, WHAT and HOW of them. We use the cooperative principles to express these as succinctly as possible.

Introduction to Cooperatives - Workshops 1 & 2

We have scheduled a two-part introductory training program to will run during September and October; with Workshop 1 commencing on September 22 and Workshop 2 commencing October 13.

These sessions will be conducted from Siteworks, and will constitute prerequisites for the BOOTCAMP, establishing the foundations for our more advanced training. These sessions will also provide participants a thorough understanding of the principles and the history of the worker cooperative movement, including the history Earthworker itself. 

Cooperative BOOTCAMP

Our Cooperative BOOTCAMP will be commencing on 10 November. The preparation is quite exciting. We are using the framework from the last chapter of ‘Sand Talk’ by Tyson Yunkaporta: a call to custodianship. Within this epic work is a simple expression of the cultural processes and protocols that are the basis for the wisdom lived with Earth, with each other, for millennia. Specifically the notions of “Respect, Connect, Reflect and Direct” as defined as the Spirit, Heart, Head and Hands of how humans can BE together, live, work and enjoy life lived well in harmony. 

This education is an experiment in attempting to foster the conditions for emergence, for some real and potent capacities to build strong working trust, in ourselves, in each other. There doesn't seem to be much in this kind of education out there, this hands on building the road as we get there and I am excited as to how it will work.

SO, if you and a group of your people are ready to begin, to step into the structures and make it real, please sign up for our first BOOTCAMP. Our intentions are to run a hybrid delivery from our booked space at Siteworks, with capacity for both in-person and online training. We're looking forward to working with you!

Earthworker Education is deeply grateful for all the support from Jesuits Community College, and Molly from, the ever available guidance of Antony McMullen. This work is based on the initial work done with Eleanor Coffey from Redgum. If you feel called to be a part of any of it, please get in touch with Katherine Cunningham at [email protected].

Earthworker Construction Cooperative nearly ready for registration

After some years of gradual groundwork, Earthworker Construction Cooperative is on the cusp of lodging its documentation with the registrar and officially becoming... a real co-op! We are looking forward to joining the Earthworker fold.

Earthworker Construction is aiming at having two streams. To begin with we will offer small renovations, repairs and builds that are under the $10,000 cap for businesses that do not hold a builders license. Small 10m2 shed/home office/ studio buildings that can be built without a permit are on our radar in this initial phase. In time, we are aiming to acquire a builders license that will allow us to build larger projects and eventually entire houses or small unit developments. We are also aiming to offer fully licensed electrical and plumbing services.

The second stream will offer labour hire services. Strategically we are aiming to get work on Victorian government projects (such as rail, tunnel, and other public works projects) by virtue of us being a social enterprise accredited with the relevant body, social traders. Once this stream is up and running we may be able to offer a viable alternative to for-profit labour hire companies, which could make for some exciting dynamics. 

We are trying to remain eyes wide open about the limitations of operating a co-op within a capitalist economy, but ultimately view the co-op as a useful means by which workers can gain a greater degree of control over their work life and the products of their labour. We view the co-op as complimentary and congruent with movements for social change, rather than being counterposed to these goals.

We have taken time to collectively discuss and think through our constitution, a.k.a rules and regs, and build democratic workers control into the DNA of the co-op as much as practicable. One point we have discussed is that the rules are one thing, but talking it out and building a healthy culture of collective decision-making and control between worker owners will be key to the ongoing vitality of the co-op.

Shout outs to JHCo accountants, who Eleanor from Redgum suggested we speak to (JHCo does the accounting for Redgum), who gave us a chop out with some pro-bono accounting to fix a spreadsheet error. This was super helpful.

Once the co-op is registered we are aiming to spend the remainder of financial year 2021-22 putting all necessary policies and processes in place and lining up all relevant insurances and permits, as well as lining up some jobs, and - importantly - doing fundraisers and applying for grants. We are aiming to actually start trading around the start of financial year 2022-23. Cheers to those Earthworkers who have assisted to get us to this point.

A special thanks goes to Katherine Cunningham, Secretary of Earthworker Energy Manufacturing Co-op, who has reviewed and helped edit our business plan and helped troubleshoot some issues with the financial plan, as well as providing a whole bunch of really useful practical advice around all facets of the co-op as we gear up for launch. You rock Katherine!

WORKING WITH CHANGE : A life of cooperation and its consequences

By Dave Kerin

In and around the ideological and belief systems we may adhere to in life, there is a method of thinking involving absorbing and assessing information, our intuitive understandings, learnt perceptions and actions which human experience has evolved, through experience.

As I write this the method appears so obvious and simple. Yet experience has taught me that to live fully, opening powerfully to this level of attention, there are consequences which means we do pay a price.

I also know, on the other hand, that fuller engagement with life in this way leads to happiness which cannot be achieved through wealth and power, increased consumption or forms of identity which  divert us away from our innate ability to cooperate towards the common good.

Experience teaches us some of the elements of working with change:

  • Initially, when we seek to engage as fully as we can with the world, if that engagement is to have integrity about it, we must study the conditions. Personally and collectively. What is
    actually happening? To whom, by whom and why?
  • As we begin to identify the conditions, the surround and the different relationships to it, we need to understand the context which saw these conditions arise. Where are the holes and gaps in my knowledge about conditions, contexts and precursors?
  • Once I begin to identify the conditions which surround us and begin slowly and deliberately to see the context in which they arose, I must then investigate my own perceptions openly, without fear or judgement. To honestly assess how my understanding of the facts may be led by perceptions and translations that have been socially learnt. Am I making decisions when I do not have the facts or where I do not understand how the facts arose? Am I acting without knowing the full effects and ramifications upon others? Do my perceptions match the lived realities faced by others, especially those most affected by decisions, or do they reflect a partial understanding based upon the needs and understandings of the powerful?
  • As my perceptions clarify and as I continue to gather information on the conditions and context, I will be in a position to develop a perspective which includes actions which arise out of study
  • For thinking to continually clarify we need an ongoing process of review and reflection. At those times when I act, especially, this makes for a really healthy combination of the messiness, stress, delight and joyful experiences which occur when I actively engage with the world, combined with the quiet process of reflection.

Of course there are no dot points when we live within such a framework and nor is there a strict order in the lived experience of it. Of course! Yet it is also obvious, isn’t it, what is happening right now in Australia and globally, for want of such a process of engagement with change, in relation to the economics of climate emergency, species extinction and the global war economy? How can we act effectively where there is no forum in which we can participate and collectively and rationally engage, so that we can manage the economic factors driving this interconnected, three-way crisis?

If we study and observe across the human wisdom traditions and lineages we find many are based upon some sort of expression of interconnection. We find these have been and continue to be involved in an evolution towards ideals of justice, equity, individual development, creative growth and cooperative behaviours. We also observe that, as in any process, a wrong path can be taken. It is observable through a study of our lived experience as a species, that other lineages and traditions have arisen based upon the illusion of separation, oppression, war and species extinction. And of course, it is observable that these devolutionary pathways remain in place, where the courage that only understanding can bring is lacking e.g. far right ideology.

Working with change, moving with its imperatives, means developing the understandings which enable us to gain the courage we need to act and change in appropriate ways. These understandings can only develop arising out of clear thinking, combined with trust in our intuitive feelings and open and inclusive discussion with others around our perceptions. Inevitably this challenges our perceptions. Importantly, to protect dignity and integrity, and for increased clarity we need to rely upon subsidiarity as a corrective on power; wherever possible those most affected by decisions should be those who make them.

This compassion-building takes practice, every day, in all our dealings and in our personal and collective practice through engagement and reflection.

So many of the human wisdom traditions and lineages demonstrate that we become what we do. When we become these practices and habits we inevitably please some and displease others. Often these responses will be intense because we trigger powerful feelings and memories of either pleasure or pain in others and sometimes both at the same time.

Where there are organisations and hierarchies involved in change processes, or where those organisations and hierarchies are perceived to be in need of change themselves, then once again, people who are attempting to engage with openness and inclusivity can inadvertently threaten and frighten others. Often when you practice this way of life you are frightening to some, no matter how gently you try to interact, because sometimes you will be asking people to act in ways that involve possible big life changes.

As we practice we of course become more strongly what we do. Therefore, with time, the inadvertent effects we have upon others can increase in intensity, so that we need to go gently with others as we go through change. If we do not then the risk becomes greater that our work with change weakens through judgement, the other side of reflection, real or perceived.

If we become what we do, can we become that person when we have not practised those behaviours? Is that possible with support from peers for instance, to the extent necessary to replace and imbed new behaviours? This question is critical, central to any reflection on conditions, context and perception, but also to the extent that it highlights work methods which enhance empowerment and self-management. People new to a lifetime of engagement with change need to know that they control directions, the pace of change and the degree of older activist input in their lives. Dependency weakens relationships, leads to disempowerment and, once again, works to weaken reflection.

The 99% of our time spent either in cooperating, or using the results of other’s cooperation, is unfortunately often an unaware space for us. We are not taught to draw attention, over the span of our lifetimes, to the dominant role cooperation plays in our lives from cradle to grave.

Developing these work methods, including ongoing reflection - which draws attention to the millions of personal and collective cooperative efforts occurring every second around the world - is how we work with change. In fact even the process by which that education occurs is, and can only be, cooperatively achieved by working with people and planet.

When we open to change and when we include others and the planet into which we are fully connected, we develop understanding and skill in experiencing the compassionate enfoldment within the ever-presence of cooperation. We embrace change, we sail the whirlwind.

All the best and thank you for all that you do, Dave.

Thank you for your support,
Earthworker Cooperative

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