In the early 1980s, a development company planned to buy two farms and bushland at Bundagaree Head for a tourist development and golf course. Local environmentalists, concerned about the loss of valuable forest, secured the first options to buy and called for support. Bundagen was initially formed as a company and it asked for individual loans of $3000 from those hoping to prevent the development. Meetings were held on the headland and in Sydney as the dream of saving the land spread quickly through alternative networks. When the purchase price was realised we bought the land and soon after added a neighbouring property. The legal structure of the company was then changed and Bundagen Co-operative was formed. Those who had made the loans became the first shareholders. Some came to live on the land while others remained as non-residents, many living in Sydney.

In the 1980s, there was some turnover in membership however the community consolidated as village areas were settled and the sanctuary areas protected. An adjoining parcel of land was eventually also purchased. Here, sand extraction had left two freshwater lakes fringed by littoral rainforest. In the 1990s we campaigned for the neighbouring state forest to become national park rather than developed for housing and we celebrated when Bongil Bongil National Park was declared. Bundagen also seeded the establishment of two new intentional communities on the mid-north coast of NSW. In 2010 we finally secured much of the community’s forest under a formal conservation agreement.

After thirty years we know and love the land well. Our villages provide stable and continuing homes and our orchards and gardens provide us with fresh organic food. Some who came in the first years with small children, now have grandchildren growing up here. We have a burial area and take pride in managing the end of life rituals as well as the births.

Living on community can also be hard work. It is not just maintaining our own water and power and communication systems, or the battle with weeds, it is the work of getting along together which can be both exhausting and rewarding. Our decision-making and conflict resolution processes often seem cumbersome and we tweak at the edges as they slowly evolve. Bundagen might be seen as a microcosm of the macrocosm, with all the dramas of the wider world played out on our small stage.

Mid North Coast, NSW