Yarra Valley Ecoss

We support the Yarra Ranges Council Climate Emergency Declaration.

Yarra Valley ECOSS is a not-for-profit community organisation based on a 7.4 hectare former poultry farm, now a permaculture designed farm at Wesburn. On this beautiful property ECOSS demonstrates sustainable living solutions for the community of the Yarra Valley and beyond. Our Vision is to promote local food production, earth education, and multicultural living, while building work skills and developing a vibrant, resilient, inclusive and sustainable community. Our Vision also directly supports the core objectives of the Yarra Ranges Council Vision 2020, to promote sustainable communities and increase employment opportunities.

Our Purpose Statement is-

-an environmental and educational not-for profit organisation committed to showcasing best     sustainable solutions.

Our Environmental Goal is-

               -aimed at restoring natural capital in our environment:

  • A rural recreational and training facility that demonstrates innovation and best practice in regenerative land-use, renewable energies and resources, and the local production of food.

Our Learning Goal is-

  •  aimed at developing human capital in our people is:
  • A program of activities that inspires and enables the aquisition of the knowledge and skills needed to develop sustainable lifestyles.

Our Social Capital is-

aimed at improving social capital in our community is:

  • A cooperative enterprise that is owned by the community, managed by the community, for the community and expresses the community’s spirit.

Our Financial Goal is-

–  aimed at building financial capital and financial security in our community:

  • A range of integrated enterprises that provides local employment, stimulates the growth of the regional economy and provides income to support our operations.
  • Care for the Earth, it’s live forms and ecological processes, as stewards for future generations.
  • Care for People, through respect and the provision of opportunity for everyone to reach their potential.
  • A Fair Share of the Earth’s renewable and non-renewable resources for all members of current and future populations.

Our Values Are

  • We foster a culture of respect for the environment and community.
  • We work with honesty and integrity in our interactions.
  • We are committed to modelling best environmental practices.
  • We approach every challenge with enthusiasm and humour.
  • We are innovative and relevant in our thinking and practices.
  • We work together, everyone gets heard and we do what we say we’ll do.
  • We strive for cultural and social inclusiveness.

ECOSS is solutions oriented and focused on demonstrating commercially sustainable green social enterprises and practical green solutions, whilst supporting the Arts and Multicultural activities on site.

ECOSS currently has 5 part-time staff members supported by a Management Committee and an active and enthusiastic group of volunteers, students and work-experience partners.

ECOSS has established a very well respected reputation for facilitating and mentoring people in the local community to improve their work skills to prepare them for re-entering the job market and in partnering with school groups. ECOSS also provides a hub for related local non-profits to hold meetings, activities and partner with us on projects.

ECOSS values the creation of culturally diverse and creative projects that represent our diverse community. Local groups we partner and co-locate with include the Cire Services, Yarra Valley Bee Group, Warburton Environment, Upper Yarra Landcare, Landcare, Tiny Houses to Go, TC Tiny, Community Pottery Studio, Plastic Bag Free Warburton, Silvertine Bio-Dynamic Farm, Natural Building Centre, Tonantzin Sweat Lodge and Tipi Ceremony, Upper Yarra Museum, Ben’s Shed, Beans and Bananas Food Co-op, and numerous other local groups and businesses. ECOSS is supported generously by Yarra Ranges Council via a partnership agreement, and has been generously supported by UYCE for our annual Ecotopia Earth Festival, FRRR and Multicultural Victoria.  ECOSS predominantly operates via small grants, and small fundraising ventures. Cire Services School is very committed to ECOSS, undertaking many various school projects including: Biofiltration Project, ECOSS Sign, Earthship Seats, Frog Bog and Frog Census, and more. We partner with Cire Training to run Cert 2 in Horticulture and ‘Gatherings Of ….’ Industry taster courses.

ECOSS hosts an Education Program facilitating Cire Community School 1 day per week in school terms, runs Earth Education programs by bookings and on school holidays. Wesley United disabilities groups come to ECOSS on Mondays and Fridays for our All Abilities facilitated programs, and Interchange Outer East attend 2 days per week to volunteer in the Community Garden.

Permaculture Yarra Valley host their Permaculture Design Courses at ECOSS.

We host many annual community events including: Ecotopia Earth Festival, ECOSS Sun Fest, Childrens Week, Reconciliation Week Events including Ngulu Festival, Earth Kids Play Day, Bush Dance, Recycled Fashion Parade, West African Immersion, The Valley’s Got Talent and many other events through out the year.

ECOSS hires the site to user groups such, StringMania Concert, Upper Yarra Wildlife Rescue annual Art Auction, Rare and Heritage Fruit Tree Network grafting day,  Red and Blue weekends, Tonantizin Sweat Lodges and more.

ECOSS Also provides support for groups by managing a Wash Against Waste kit and Smoothycycle for hire.

ECOSS is currently working with local Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Kim Wandin to create signage in the Critically Endangered Woi Wurrung Language thanks to a Victorian Government Indigenous Languages Grant.

ECOSS has received significant financial support from Hugh Williamson Foundation which enabled us to build ‘The Coop’ our large classroom/hall, and to build our Education trail with wheelchair accessible pathways, and our new carpark which is under construction.

FRRR have been very supportive of ECOSS by funding several Operational Capacity Building positions over time, and a Solar Power Grant.

Powershop have recently supported our Solar Power project also.

ECOSS is currently open every day of the week, and weekends occasionally.

Our Site

Our Site – A Sense of Place The 7.4 hectare site at 711 Old Warburton Rd, Wesburn, a poultry farm in a previous life, is a lovely rural and bush landscape setting. There are some great established heritage gardens, substantial buildings including an old farm house, and the frames of two massive chicken sheds. There is huge potential and opportunity for creative development of this site. For the first couple of years working groups and volunteers worked tirelessly to clean up the site and renovate the old farm house for use as the interim site-centre. Already many hundreds of hours of volunteer time have been put into maintenance and preparation of the old farm house, turning weedy grass into lawns and establishing demonstration gardens.  Yarra Ranges Council upgraded the existing toilets and have built us a beautiful new wheelchair accessible toilet. Eastern health Indigenous groups have built our Indigenous Reconciliation Conversation Fire Pit, and our Koori Cubby. Many schools- mostly Healesville High School have built our Earthbag Cubby. Artists Sioux Dollman and other community members built our wonderful Pizza oven. Other projects on site include the Musical Cubby, a rainforest garden display, a playground, new pizza oven and other interesting features mostly built by Cire Community School Students. We have recently built a larger carpark to support our expansion.  We have space for more co-locating businesses and welcome initiative proposals that match our ethics and vision for the site.

The Coop.

The Coop is our classroom in one of the chicken sheds. This space is used by ECOSS to host groups and events, and is also available for the community to hire for various events.  It was built by ECOSS Committee and Volunteers, and is a fabulous resource for the whole community. Some of the wonderful events that occur annually in the Coop include:  The Recycled Fashion Parade, West African Immersion, Climate Information Nights, Bush Dances, Art Exhibitions, Musical Concerts, Fundraisers. Weekly it is utilised by Wesley United Disabilities groups.

Community Garden.

We host a large Community Garden, managed by our volunteers. We collect the Vipassana Centre compost and turn it into goodness for our garden. Different user groups occupy certain plots, they take the harvest, and ECOSS volunteers collect and cook the produce for sale at our events. We demonstrate new ideas where we can, hosting Wicking Beds, and a Permaculture Design Keyhole Garden, and a Herb Garden.  We receive guidance and support from Permaculture Yarra Valley. We have a Heritage Fruit Tree Orchard in with our chooks- who are old varieties of chooks. We have a native nursery and polytunnel, and 2 large edibles polytunnels. Currently one of the Polytunnels is hosting the Bee Happy Garden project, whereby Ruby-Jane is propagating Bee Friendly Species to sell as box sets.

Our Water.

We have a beautiful dam which collects much of the water on site filtered through our swale Bio-filtration plant planted by Cire Community School year 9 students.  The terrestrial area has been revegetated, and soon we will revegetate the aquatic are with school groups.  The plan is to take responsibility for cleaning and collecting water on site.  With a vision to eventually collect all our onsite water. We have built a frog bog– with some financial support from Upper Yarra Garden Club.  This has been maintained- and fence has been constructed by Cire school year 7 group. We host Melbourne Water Frog Census, and aim to data collect and contribute to the Frog Census project.

Our Co-locators.

Community Pottery Studio Yarra Valley have built a community Pottery studio in one of the chicken sheds.  They run Wheel throwing and hand building classes regularly, and contribute to the Education Program at ECOSS. Silvertine Bio-Dynamic Market Garden have created a beautiful nourished market garden down the back of the site, with Farm Gate sales on Fridays. They participate in our Education Program. Tonantzin Mexican Chocolate House; are currently converting the old Arts building into their chocolate factory and cellar door sales.  This exciting new addition to ECOSS will also join in our Education Program.  They honour their Mexican roots and also host a Native Mexican Traditional Sweat Lodge down the back. Warburton Environment,  have their office in the Cottage at ECOSS.  Karina Doughty the President of Warburton Environment is also on the Committee of Management. Upper Yarra Landcare,  also have an office in the Cottage, contributing to our Environment Hub. Beans and Bananas food Coop, pack vegetables fortnightly outside the Coop, distributing to the local community.  They purchase locally grown produce including from Silvertine. Yarra Valley Bee Group, meet once per month in the Coop.  They host observation hives at ECOSS, and also participate in our Education Program. Tiny Houses 2 Go,  Build Tiny Houses in the lower Chicken Shed at ECOSS.  They’re interested in providing social housing, and small footprint living. TC Tiny;  is our newest Co-locator, also building Tiny Houses in the lower Chicken shed at ECOSS. Natural Building Centre;  Tom Neil hosts traditional Chair Bodging workshops nearby the dam, but also hosts Natural building workshops occasionally including Hemp Crete, Straw Bale building and Fire Safe Building.

Community Park Concept

Those associated with the establishment of Yarra Valley ECOSS could see the potential to develop a Community Environment Park with a rural focus, using CERES Community Environment Park in urban Melbourne as the primary model. The steering committee was inspired by the potential of CERES to engender a culture of sustainability through harnessing the creative energy of the community (www.ceres.org.au). There are other well established models overseas as well, such as Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales (www.cat.org.uk) and Auroville in India (www.auroville.org). Community Environment Centres are springing up across Australia and the world. The rural property which is our home base, provides an opportunity to create an environment park with a rural focus to complement CERES and the other community environment parks in urban Melbourne. In 2009 a Master Plan for the site was developed in consultation with the community. This plan was adopted by the Yarra Ranges Council and forms the basic reference document for the development of the park.

Our Sponsors

Yarra Ranges Council generously support us with a partnership agreement, and also have consistently supported us with our large festival Ecotopia Earth Festival.  Yarra Ranges Council also include us in their volunteers trainings, and we are supported by many departments within council. We would not be able to operate at the level we do without Yarra Ranges Council, and we are deeply appreciative of the consistent support they have offered us over the years.  Including having their Executive Officer for Sustainability on our Committee of Management. https://www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/Home

Upper Yarra Community Enterprise – Warburton and Yarra Junction Bendigo Bank branches. UYCE have been fantastic supporters of ECOSS over many years.  They have consistently supported our Ecotopia Earth Festivals, they provided us with project grants, and have even come to the rescue with a wheelchair accessible portaloo funding at short notice.  Upper Yarra Community Enterprise invest an amazing 80% of profits back into the community.  They are the foundations for a strong Upper Yarra Valley Community and we are proud and very grateful to be supported by them. www.upperyarra.net.au

Hugh Williamson Foundation In 2016 ECOSS were very lucky to receive a large grant from the Hugh Williamson Foundation.  This grant was solely spent on building a portable composting toilet and large purpose built classroom at ECOSS.  This classroom was essential for ECOSS’s growth, and has been busy since it was available for use.  It now hosts 2 x Cert 2 in Horticulture groups per week, other school groups use it every week, Nia dance classes on Monday nights, currently hosting a series of Lantern making workshops, it hosts craft workshops most Sundays, the Yarra Valley Bee group have ongoing monthly bookings, the school of cultural creativity and many more groups are using it.  We are so incredibly grateful for this funding that has enabled us to fulfil our vision and expand our capacity to facilitate groups. http://www.eqt.com.au/charities-and-not-for-profits/grants/hugh-williamson-foundation

FRRR Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal. We have been very lucky to be successful in our applications for many projects through FRRR.  One was to run a Cert 2 in Horticulture at ECOSS for youth, and another to employ a Youth Worker to administer our Youth Programs.  Also they have supported us in our Capacity Building through our Volunteer and Disability Grant, and Program Development Officer.This funding has enabled a vibrant and full schedule around ECOSS with appropriately skilled staff to run the projects.  It has enabled ECOSS professionalism in the delivery of the Youth programs, All Abilities, Program Development.  The Cert 2 in Horticulture course was filled within days!  FRRR has also funded our School Program Operations Position for 2019, upgrading and making our Schools Program Sustainable.FRRR has also funded our Catching the Sun Grant – enabling us to put a $10,000 Solar Power System at ECOSS, reducing our bills and enabling us to spread environmental education. Thank you FRRR! http://www.frrr.org.au

Powershop  Powershop funded $20,000 of our Solar Power System- combined with FRRR, we can now generate enough power to cover our site usage and more in summer.  We are extremely grateful to Powershop!

The William Buckland Foundation We were lucky enough to receive funding from The William Buckland Foundation from 2012-14.  This enabled us to build up our nurseries and offer horticulture training to our trainees, volunteers and work for the dole. http://www.eqt.com.au/charities-and-not-for-profits/grants/the-william-buckland-foundation

We have also gratefully received significant funding from the following:

Sustainability Victoria Helen McPherson Smith Trust Fund.

Yarra Valley FM- host us for a fortnightly show.  They stream our Ecotopia Festival live to air.  We are grateful for their fantastic community service and support.