Asylum Seekers, Intentional Communities and Tiny Houses

Originally published by me on the PRI Forum.

On the lead up to the recent election, the asylum seeker debate turned into a race to the bottom. Julian Burnside referred to it in his piece in The Guardian today as a “spectacle … to outdo each other in their promises to be cruel to boat people”.

Burnside, a long-time asylum seeker advocate who opens his own home to refugees, proposes the Tasmania and Rural Solutions. Take a place that is in economic strife, so Tasmania and many rural towns across the country, and place asylum seekers in these communities whilst their refugee status is assessed. The money will be spent in these communities, revitalizing the local economy, and the Federal Government will save a substantial sum, even if each asylum seeker receives a Centrelink entitlement for the full assessment period.

I think Burnside’s proposal is a great one. The Rural Solution is something I have been pondering about for years. It seems to obviously win-win. But I propose we go a step further.

Intentional communities and asylum seekers aren’t spoken about in the same sentence very often. But I propose housing asylum seekers in intentional communities built in regions in decline as a more comprehensive solution to Burnside’s. The Federal Government would fund the purchase of appropriately zoned (or zonable) land within targeted regions. Permaculture and other specialists would be brought in to help design and develop the land, along with the asylum seekers themselves who would provide input and help build the communities. The contributions of the asylum seekers would be remunerated by way of Centrelink payment and / or equity in the development – which would be structured as a cooperative or similar. Housing would be well-designed tiny houses with self-contained and / or communal facilities. Once developed the communities would encourage entrepreneurism especially in the agriculture sector, with potential for further permaculture teaching opportunities and all manners of knowledge based vocation.

Once an asylum seeker has their refugee status approved they have the option to sell their share in the cooperative and settle elsewhere as they please or to stay in the community indefinitely.


5 thoughts on “Asylum Seekers, Intentional Communities and Tiny Houses

  1. I’d like you as prime minister. Seems like such a workable solution. I have recently become acquainted with Burnsides ideas and like them very much and to add intentional communities run on permaculture principles seems a logical addition to his ideas.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kate.

      It does, doesn’t it? I became acquainted with Burnside’s ideas a few weeks ago when he endorsed the re-election of SA senator, Sarah Hanson-Young. He and SHY gave a speech in front of Parliament House. I attended it. It was especially critical of the meanness of both major parties policies. At that time, it didn’t propose anything as new or clever as the Tasmania Solution.

      I think a solution that employs permaculture and small dwellings is a sensible one, and quite at odds with the norm and what is expected. Asylum seekers are out to create a better life for themselves. The presumption, then, is that they must realise a version of the “Australian Dream”, with its bulk and consumerism. I don’t think that’s what these people want at all. If they could be part of something sustainable and modest, I think they would run with it 110%. It isn’t about austerity, it’s about living within one’s means – we live outside of our mean by putting so much stress on the planet. Some of the counter-arguments I hear about asylum seekers is that they are growing our population unsustainably. This is also a misconception that was thrust upon the Stable Population Party, who ran at the recent election, of whom I am sympathetic. Immigration is a tiny blip on Australia’s population growth radar. And if immigration can be managed through more sustainable means, such as allowing asylum seekers to build, own and live in intentional communities, the impact becomes negligible.

  2. Hi Pavel, I dont exactly know where to ask you this but where in the west wimmera are you? I am looking at teaching some Permaculture courses in that direction, I am ex- Edenhope and would love to know if anyone is doing much permaculture over that way.

  3. Pingback: Soldiers on the waterfront, they wanna ship me far away… Why Julian Burnside isn’t helping | Only The Sangfroid

  4. Pingback: Asylum Seekers, Intentional Communities and Tiny Houses | A … »

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