Ali came to Australia from Pakistan in primary school, and already had an interest in environmental issues when he heard about Multicultural Leaders in Sustainability (MLS), so he decided to get involved. The project, which Environment Victoria has been running in partnership with the Centre for Multicultural Youth since 2006, takes a small group of young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds and trains them in sustainability and leadership. Ali was part of MLS in 2008 in Dandenong, when the group visited a power station in the Latrobe Valley and a wind farm.
“Seeing the wind turbine helped reinforce to me that compared to coal, wind power is a lot less destructive, takes up a lot less land and isn’t as ugly – wind turbines can even have a type of beauty.”
Ali thinks that if we could see the consequences of the way we use natural resources, we would use them very differently: “If we had to grow trees locally in order to harvest wood for heating and energy in our homes, we would quickly come to see how long the trees take to grow and realise that we need to use them carefully.” The same goes for water: “water flowing from taps and the shower makes it seem as if there is an unlimited supply of water.” Since taking part in MLS he’s become a big water saver, reminding himself that “water in the real world is in limited supply.”
After the formal training part of MLS is over, participants run their own community projects. Ali had just seen the documentary How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, so he was inspired to do something about local, organic food. He found out about Permablitz, and took part in a “blitz” they organised to set up a permaculture garden in someone’s backyard in Noble Park. He also took part in lectures and discussion group about organic and community gardens. MLS was just the start of Ali’s interest in permaculture: “MLS helped give me the momentum to sign up for a permaculture design certificate, which I completed in January 2009. Recently I helped with the designing and expansion of a community garden at Monash University (Clayton Campus). We worked with people from the uni as well as a permaculturist from Permablitz’s network of permaculturalists. I recently also became involved in a new project that involves helping set up permaculture gardens in backyards across Melbourne.”
Permaculture isn’t Ali’s only passion. He has been studying film, and made his own film about MLS during the project. More recently he and a friend started up a media company- ‘The Moving Media Project Pty Ltd’, which is currently making ads to be aired on Foxtel and working with Monash University to produce short films about their courses. Although only starting up, the company has committed to annually setting aside at least 10% of its profits to give out as grant money, in order to help support environmental and social justice projects. As one of the directors of the company, Ali hopes that one day it will be a good platform from which moving documentaries on environmental and social justice issues can be made.
MLS is funded primarily by philanthropic charities and trusts. Sincere thanks for MLS in 2010 go to the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, Foster’s Community Grants, The ETA Basan Charitable Trust (managed by Trust Company Limited), and Ivor Ronald Evans Foundation (managed by Equity Trustees). Thanks also go to Brimbank City Council and City West Water.
Story by Domenica Settle