Wolf Pack 2015

Bush Skills Camp VictoriaWOLF PACK – An Experience in Tribalism & Survivalism

By Luciana Jaldin Tharby (2015 participant)


It is a balmy spring evening in Eldorado, Victoria. In the midst of a quiet valley a ragtag group – who had moments ago been scattered in conversation and laughter – now gather in silence in front of a tipi. They watch the skyline with baited breath as a bright light peeks over the trees. The full moon rises defiantly and someone lets out a long, full howl. The group responds, each person putting their lungs and hearts into a powerful chorus that fills the valley…

Just 3 weeks earlier a group of strangers had come together in The Hidden Valley to participate in the very first WOLF PACK. Facilitated by Kate Marsh and Ralph Nottingham, of Creative Collectives, Wolf Pack was an ambitious step forward from the 3 day School of Self-Sufficiency workshops they had been successfully holding around Victoria for the past two years.

An atmosphere of excitement and curiosity filled the Valley on first morning as individuals arrived from all over Australia & NZ, setting up camp ready for 20 days of re-wilding adventures, bush-craft workshops and community living. Each brought with them a different set of skills, experience and background. But as diverse as the group was, we all had one thing in common: A reason for putting our day-to-day life and routines on hold in favour of immersing ourselves in this experience.

Learn new skills workshops VictoriaSURVIVAL

We started out learning basic knot skills with Ralph, and built our very own hanging hammocks out of wood and rope. We then took it a step further with the Shelter Building Challenge! We were limited to using just our knives and one other tool per team, so thankfully shelter-building expert Nic was on hand to share his passion and teach us the basic elements along the way.

We spent five afternoons working on our shelters – culminating in a Grande Tour where we each showed off our creations – while in the mornings we worked on building our other skills:

Scout Leader James taught us how to choose suitable tinder, and use a flint and steel or a bow-drill to start a fire. He also provided some fun orienteering activities for us to either learn how to use, or re-familiarise ourselves, with a compass.

Chris from The Archer’s Aim discussed the ethics of hunting and the basics of tracking and camouflage. We were then given the opportunity to pick up a bow and have a go at target practice – totally addictive and a great learning experience!

We expressed our artistic side with a great session by local artists Jacqui C. and Shae. Creating sculptures and wall hangings using natural foraged materials, then learned all about felting, making our own pouch or felted soap with locally farmed wool.

As the first week drew to a close, Jason joined us to lead one of the more challenging workshops – the dispatch and butchering of a lamb. We were all very grateful for the respect and sensitivity with which Jason approached this process; it was a profound and eye-opening experience.

tribal experiences austaliaTRIBAL

After an intensive week of physical workshops, we began to focus more on the body and mind:

Starting with “aroma touch”, we blissfully exchanged massages while learning about the properties of essential oils, natural healing and how diet can heal us from minor to major ailments.

An evening session around the fire in the tipi with Sandy offered us a “look inside ourselves” – where we explored the variances between what we do and what we truly want, and between our self-perception and how others see us.

Local Historian Jacqui D. gave a fascinating talk on the daily lives of Victorian gold diggers and their experiences with nature and self-sufficiency. We then wrote letters in the style of the time where each spare inch of the paper was used, even as the envelope!

The Pack spent a morning at Woolshed Falls creating baskets from natural materials with talented weaver Anaheke. On the way home, participants Bunya and Jarod shared their passion and knowledge for native bush tucker with us pointing out bush foods they’d found in the surrounding national park.

On day 15 we embarked on a Day of Silence. As a community we had spent much of our time connecting, learning and laughing together; and embraced this new challenge with varying levels of success! It was certainly a great chance to reflect and find some space within and around ourselves.

And suddenly the final weekend was upon us! Friday night saw us explore and release Life Traps with fellow participant Marcus. Saturday began with a hands-on water purification workshop with Casey, followed by an uplifting tribal dance experience with Richard. Sunday was spent by the creek prospecting for gold using impressive handmade replicas of authentic tools by amazing local fossicker, Derek.

workshops victoria REVIVAL

Which brings us back to our opening scene – the final Full Moon Celebration. A far cry from the individuals who had arrived 3 weeks earlier, we were now a Pack. We had bonded through shared experiences and challenges, co-habitation and community spirit. We spent the final night in celebration with many of the visitors and teachers who had become family members along the way, presenting offerings of music, plays, poems, feasts and final thoughts. The next morning we parted ways, ready to re-immerse ourselves in the lives we had put on hold.

Living close to nature as a community and approaching new and challenging activities each day had a profound effect on us all. While each interaction and relationship between us was unique, and we were all on our own journey, we certainly took little time at all to bond and become a tribe. Some of us experienced strong emotional shifts; others went through noticeable changes in self-confidence; and we all enjoyed the freedom and release that the disconnection from modern society allowed.

In this way, Wolfpack was as much a chance to learn about community, family and ourselves; as it was about physical survival skills and bush-craft. A perfect balance …

Workshop Weekend Review, May 2014

It’s Sunday night, and a small group sit around a fire in the backyard of a quiet, unassuming farm-house in Lara, discussion and laughter filling the air. Who would imagine that, just that morning, the same property was bursting with participants, teachers, residents, parents & children from all walks of life – gathered to share skills, ideas and stories in a variety of fascinating workshops. These last days of May had just seen the busiest School of Self Sufficiency yet!

School of self-sufficiency - Tea CeremoniesAlthough the workshops officially started on Saturday morning, Friday evening saw the teachers and participants arriving bit by bit, each bringing with them their tents to set up, boxes of food for the weekend and a delicious contribution to the evening’s Pot-Luck Dinner. What a better way to introduce yourself than sharing your favourite dish with people you haven’t met yet!

On Saturday morning we gathered for breakfast where we started the day with a fun Eco-Warrior naming activity and splitting into random groups for our first Workshops of the day. While half of us picked up our needles and thread with Paisley from “Pixie in the Park” for a hands-on Rag Quilt Making workshop, the others made their way out to a beautiful setting under the pine trees for Sarah’s experiential Tea Ceremonies workshop. It was a great, interactive start to the weekend, with the whole gang reunited around the fire-pit for an inspiring discussion on Natural Teaching and Learning led by Danella Connors.

Bee Keeping - School of Self-SufficiencyAfter lunch we were introduced to the world of Bee Keeping, from hive building to extraction methods, by Michael O’Connel, who shared his experience and also his honey – delicious! We then joined Jo Hammond in the cosy kitchen to try our hand at making Ginger Beer, while enjoying Jo’s no-nonsense approach and wicked sense of humour. Dinner was just as hands-on as the rest of the day, with a fun Pizza production-line set up by the outdoor pizza oven where we all had a go at stretching our bases and adding toppings to our heart’s (and tummy’s) delight!

Finally, we were split back into random groups for the exciting and challenging Trivia Game, which saw us stretching our brains, combining our talents and using our creativity in order to answer questions ranging from astronomy and biology to music and pop-culture! What an all-round workout for our minds and bodies this first day had been!

Earthship Australia workshop with Creative Collectives and Rachel GoldlustAfter a well-deserved rest and a good hearty breakfast, on Sunday morning we jumped straight back into it with an interactive workshop on Earthship principles and design with Rachel Goldlust, who challenged us not only to design and explore our own self-sufficient Earthship, but to get our hands and feet dirty in experiencing first-hand what its like preparing the earth-packed tires that form the basis of these beautiful eco-friendly structures.

We then joined Jo once again for a fantastic Seed-Saving workshop where we learned to “Save the Best & Eat the Rest!” and other great tips for collecting, storing and planting seeds gathered from a variety of plants to keep our veggie gardens going strong. Finally, Jason Brooker gave us a very down-to-earth introduction to a very exciting topic – Biofuels! He shared his journey from spending hundreds of dollars on Diesel a week to reclaiming and filtering used Vegetable Oil for free in order to run his vehicles.

Danella Connors workshopBy Sunday afternoon, the individuals that had arrived only two nights ago were now great friends departing – hugging and exchanging phone numbers with plans for visits, meetings and activities being made for the weeks ahead. It just goes to show that when you bring together a diverse group of people with so many different backgrounds, you soon find yourself finding common ground and passions in places you never expected.

IMG_6634Here at Creative Collectives you don’t need to be a seasoned eco-warrior or a rocket(stove) scientist to fit into the community – all you need is an open mind and a hunger to learn and share and the rest will fall nicely into place.

By Luciana Tharby, May 2014

School of Self-Sufficiency Review

Creative Culture – City or Country???

3Ex-Brunswick residence Kate Marsh and Ralph Knees have made a very interesting “tree change” and they’re inviting you all to come and visit!

After living in a Brunswick warehouse community with 15 others for over a year this creative duo decided they wanted to take that communal living structure they loved and see how it would work in the country. Not too far from the City, they’ve set up in the cute little town of Lara on a 5 acres hobby farm that has loads of potential.

warehouse2The first few months were dedicated to developing the edible gardens, chicken coop and hand-crafted communal spaces. Then it was time to tell the people all about it, so they hosted an amazing week long ‘Orphans Christmas Party’ with visitors from all over – friends, family, locals, friends of friends, internationals with no family in Australia, and an interesting mix of characters from couch surfing Australia. All coming together for an amazing time in the hot summer sun.

“People were scattered all over the property, relaxing in the chai tent, jumping in the pool, playing board games under the big gum tree, turf-boarding like wild hooligans in the back paddock, launching into the local creek from 3 meters up a tree, napping in the shade, dancing on the tables, chatting, drinking, eating, laughing and all that good stuff that makes community life AWESOME!” explained Kate happily.

The hobby farm share-house was an experiment to see if they could combine all the pleasures of the city and country together for the perfect lifestyle, and they’re pleased to announce it has been a great success.

Fermentation workshop at School of Self-SufficiencyThe collective have now expanded and are opening up their property to the “School of Self-Sufficiency” offering monthly skill-share events
with the opportunity to enjoy a communal camp-out, attend self-sufficiency classes to learn new skills and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings for the weekend.

People are starting to understand the importance of self-reliance and learning to use the most valuable tools on earth – ‘their hands!’ Teachers are coming from all walks of life to share their specialty skills and knowledge in a wide variety of categories including natural building, health and wellbeing, homesteading, community living, permaculture, bushcraft, handcrafts and sustainable energy.

Creative Collectives foundersWhen I asked them if they missed Brunswick they said “we really do miss the people of Brunswick, the creative culture there is incredible. But we want to bring it all to the country now, we love it out here, the people, the animals, the surrounds and the workshops are amazing and we’re really proud of how it’s all come together”.


Cultivating Creative Culture


Collected thoughts on the sustainability of resources, people and community in Southwest Victoria.

Cultivating Creative Culture. By Kate Marsh, 2013 (Page.21 Footsteps to the future. Published by RMIT and Ian Potter Foundation)

Victoria’s South West was once a thriving agricultural area, where many small farmers enjoyed great success in the wool and cattle industries. But as time went by the economy became more centralised, the soils increasingly depleted and the option to live in big cities more desirable, thus rendering farming life unsustainable. This is not however a fixed state; with an openness for change and a collective effort we can turn things around.

Intentional community livingI believe that it is the younger generations that need to embrace rural life and take on the challenge of farm life with a fresh new plan to bring about the large scale change that we need in order to achieve sustainability. The current farming lifestyle is not desirable to many young people and although many would like to live closer to nature they do not want to be isolated, socially restricted and overworked.

This plan is a template that can be applied to many rural situations and presented to young people to inspire a collective rural change. It is highly attractive as it merges the aspects of a city life into a country environment and supports the benefits of both worlds – a healthy, self-sufficient lifestyle, a variety of occupational options and an active, interesting social structure.

The overall plan is to develop an Ecovillage (community farm) with a focus on sustainable living, shared farming, independent creative (non-agricultural) enterprise, enriched social structures and the development of a viable economic platform for all members. It is a unique structure that supports independence and interdependence respectively.
Let’s take for example, a present day 250 hectare sheep farm that is run by an independent farmer along with his wife and son who have off-farm jobs. This structure was, in the past, a very typical and successful lifestyle option, but now faces a range of ecological problems. It is likely to be unviable in today’s economic climate, have low resilience due to chemical dependence, require a high amount of manual labour and have an unhealthy, lonely social structure. The creative collective plan takes all of this into account and works to face challenges and solve all of these problems.

Successful implementation of a community plan requires an excellent social structure and enthusiastic participation by all members. This can be developed through strong leadership and/or the building up of social equity prior to relocating to the country. For example a diverse group of individuals that are passionate about rural living and creative industries (and believe me, there are lots of them in Victoria) can start their community from within an urban environment ready to transition to the country with a solid social structure and understanding of their strengths and weakness as a community before taking on the environmental and economic tasks.

Once a piece of land has been acquired each person, couple, family or group of friends will choose a 4-5 hectare plot to call their own and develop this into a ‘perma-plot’ (permaculture plot). Here they can develop a small, self-sufficient, homestead and independent micro-business. This will be a place where they can enjoy the private rural lifestyle (independence) whilst still being surrounded by a diverse, supportive and fun community (interdependence). When we look at this from an environmental perspective we also have approximately 100 hectares (20 x 5 hectare perma-plots) being regenerated into healthy, productive land that sustainably supports diverse natural and human life.

The community can work together to develop other areas of the farm that will be shared and collectively managed. These may include a sustainable farm (polyface/organic/biodynamic), native food forest, natural building and eco-education centres, art and music studios, workshops, community living and visitors centre, guest stays, festival grounds etc. It will be encouraged that all agricultural and non-agricultural activities be managed by multiple residents so that no-one will endure the burden of being over-worked, over-stressed or lonely as a sole farmer or business person. People will share skills, knowledge and expertise where possible to help with the success of all endeavours. It is also recommended that the farm, as a whole, build-up a solid brand name and active online presence; this will act as a strong platform from which all shared and independent businesses can rely on for success.

When we look at this plan on an ecological scale the advantages can be interpreted as follow:
* Economic – Increase viability and enjoyment of farming for young people and new farmers. Benefit from co-operative economics, community living and self-sufficiency.
* Environmental – Transitioning to regenerative agriculture methods to eliminate the reliance on chemicals, fossil fuels and unsustainable energy sources. Improving the general health of the environment and the animals and human who live within it.
* Social – Increasing the younger population in rural areas by enabling a transition path and a lifestyle that includes community living, regenerative education, social diversity and diversity of rural activities and events.

The Footstep: Develop a unique lifestyle template that will encourage younger generations to become stewards of the land and rural entrepreneurs; a creative collective culture in a country environment that incorporates the wants and needs of new generations and enables independent and interdependent living.

Transition Farm to Ecovillage

School of Self-Sufficiency – Feb

The School of Self-Sufficiency is now open, and Creative Collectives will be hosting self-sufficiency and community living workshops there each month. This weekend was the launch with 8 great classes and 25 participants camping out together onsite amongst the trees in Lara, VIC having an amazing time.

The weekend started out with an introduction to Yoga with Rachel Laulu, long time practicing professional Yogi. She took us through the motions slowly to help those who hadn’t tried it before and explained the theory behind Yoga to give a more in depth insight. Overlooking the You Yangs ranges in the distance, birds flying overhead to and from Seredip Sanctuary and the clouds providing artworks in the sky, this was an incredible place to start our Yoga journeys and a great power up for the activity filled weekend ahead.


We then moved on to learn about Permaculture with Adrian Whitehead from Grey Cliffs Permaculture. He took us through the basics to give us an understanding of the philosophy behind permaculture and an insight into the history. Permaculture theory is something that can be used anytime anywhere but permaculture implementation is diverse, varied and specific to the site you are working on. There are of course many practical techniques that can be applied to many landscapes but it is recommended that you learn about permaculture in-depth in your own local area to be able to apply what you have learnt to your property. That being so, Adrian took us for a tour of the site to see what ‘plan’ we could devise from just a quick look. He then moved onto a topic he is passionate about – emergency permaculture. This is a view that considers the detrimental impacts we are having on the earth and how we can put permaculture into action now, quickly and effectively to make rapid change.


We were not only gathered to learn self-sufficiency skills, we were also there to experience and learn about community living. A huge part of community living is about ‘group decision’ making and this can often be an element that causes problems within groups. Big personalities get in the way, some people don’t feel confident to speak their mind, bullying occurs, people forget to listen to each other, interrupt, talk over the top of each other and often leave issue unresolved which can cause further problems. Consensus decision making is a process that has been adopted by many communities as a way of dealing with these problems. It is a method of making sure that everyone is heard, all opinions are expressed and seeks consent of all participants. This was a really interesting topic to touch on and got us all thinking about what skills might be good to learn before we move into community living situations or to implement in the communities we are already engaged in.

After a delicious lunch it was time to BE KIDS!!!  and make cool stuff out of recycled cardboard. Ross Koger, founder of the infamous Boxwars, demonstrated his mad skills for turning cardboard into finely detailed medieval costumes – slicing, cutting, folding and glueing the cardboard into detailed forms in seconds. Our challenge was to make practical (or impractical and totally outrageous) sun hats. It is a skill that is easy to pick up and we were soon going beyond the limits making hats that would rival that of the swish catwalks of the Melbourne cup – adorning bird cages, Japanese temples, pirate ships, monsters, Mario, flowers and what can only be describe as abstracts, it didn’t take long before we were all addicted to boxcraft.

Boxwars CreativeCollective

Next on the schedule was a thought provoking talk with Dr Bob Rich on ‘how to change the opinions of climate change deniers’. Bob has strong opinions backup by years of experience in the ecological movement and it was very interesting to hear his point of view. “You’ve change the way I look at the world” explained one of the participants.

And just when we thought the activities of the day were over we strolled on over to the communal area to find that they had cranked up the wood fire pizza oven, covered the table in delicious toppings and laid out home-made bases for us all to make our own pizzas. After that Kate split us up into to teams and hosted a fun eco-science and music trivia game, complete with visual aids on the poolside cinema and a beginner’s fermentation pack for the prize.

What a day! So many activities, great conversation and amazing food, we all felt spoilt and excited as we reluctantly pull ourselves away from the fun and into our tents to rest up for day 2.

Waking up to Bruce (Brooster the Rooster!), teas, coffees, a delicious barbequed breakfast and some swinging tunes got us started for the big day ahead. The first cab of the rank was something we we’re all really looking forward to “Sauerkraut 101”. Kate Marsh, founder of Creative Collectives is enthusiastic about fermented foods for health and took us through the basic theories and the ins and outs of sauerkraut. “It’s so simple to make, the tricky part is learning why it is so good for you and the food science behind it”. The best way to learn anything is to do it yourself, so we split into teams and she provided us all with the most magnificent bio-dynamic cabbages to transform into fermentative form. We tasted, cut, sliced, diced, smashed, pounded, salted, brined, spiced, flavoured and jarred them all into kilos of sauerkraut to take home and try ourselves. This is a skill we were all so pleased to have picked up and promised to teach our friends to keep the skill-sharing flow going.

SauerKraut with Creative Collectives

Next up was certainly a favourite – ‘passive solar and natural building’ with Heidi Moore. Heidi is a wealth of knowledge and a real inspiration on this topic. Out the 25 people in the group, I think we all have the dream of designing and building our own hand-made homes – from tiny cob shelters to extravagant earthships. This workshop could have continued all day and Heidi has promised to come back to teach again as the questions and knowledge continued to flow over into lunch. Friends of Creative Collectives Mer Le and Stephen came along on this day and spoilt us all with a Ayurvedic lunch to suit all doshas, and MerLe helped us all figure out which of the Doshas we were so we could do further research into health to suit our bodies and personalities.

Heidi Moore Natural Building

It was all hands-on again after lunch as we made our way into the back paddock to learn about Chainsaw maintenance and use. Mick is an arborist and an entertaining teaching, he taught us the skills he has learnt over the years and the importance of keeping your chainsaw well maintained and exactly how to do it. But the most exciting part was having a go, particularly for those of us who had never used a chainsaw before. It was an empowering exercise and made us consider what other tools we might like to learn with the view of delving into our own rural projects.

Chainsaw use and maintenance

The last activity was an absolute riot and Ralph had us all cracking up laughing with his true-blue Aussie humour as we worked together to create the coolest bushcraft beds. He taught us a range of awesome knots from the simple the hitcher’s knot, to the 3 second hand-cuffs and a custom knot he’d designed to make the hanging beds very easy to construct with minimum rope cuts so you don’t waste your lengths in the bush. At first sight the beds looked really complicated, but we all replicated them with success and learnt so many cool skills from the exercise.

Bushcraft skills with Ralph Knees

With the workshops over it was time to relax and enjoy the property and each-others company. We finished up with some casual long-bow practise, barbeque dinner, drinks, many laughs and a big jam session around the fire into the early hours.

What an amazing weekend! I can’t wait for the next one in March – sign me up 😉

Creative Collectives Workshops

See more photos here. 

And what workshops are coming up here. 



Learn Self-Sufficiency

How to learn self-sufficiency: 

You may not be living on your dream far, or in any position to set yourself up to be 100% self-sufficient. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start. Just learning one skill at a time can raise your inspiration, keep you proactive and prepare you for your future dream lifestyles.

The School of Self-Sufficiency is a hub that welcomes people to come along and use the onsite resources and teachers to develop skills in a beautiful and fun communal environment.

2014 Workshops

1. FEB – Longbow making workshops – 1st-2nd February

2. FEB – Self Sufficiency Series – Workshops Weekend 1 – 28th Feb – 3rd March –   See Photos

3. MARCH – Self Sufficiency Series – Workshops Weekend 2 – 28th – 30th March

4. MAY – School of Self-Sufficiency – May Workshop Weekend

5. JUNE – June – Families fun workshop weekend – details coming soon

6. JULY – Intimate half-day workshop with David Holmgren – for permaculture enthusiasts.

community living workshop



Christmas Camp Out

Our first event kicked off at Creative Collective headquarters in Lara this Christmas. We opened up the house and property for all to come and enjoy at the Orphans Christmas Camp Out.

We had visitors from all over – Friends, family, locals, friends of friends, internationals with no family in Australia to celebrate with, and an interesting mix of characters from couch surfing Australia. All coming together for an awesome time in the hot summer sun.

People were scattered all over the property, relaxing in the chai tent, jumpin in the pool, play board games under the big gum tree, turf boarding like wild hooligans in the back paddock, launching into the creek from 3 meters up a tree, napping in the shading, dancing on the tables, chatting, drinking, eating, laughing and all that good stuff that makes community life AWESOME!

Here are some snaps from the week…..Photo Album


Orphans Christmas Party Creative Collectives at the waterhole Polygasm DSC_2001

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