action-story | 16th May, 2016

Robyn Erwin: Living Local, loving gardens and looking for better transport options.

Robyn Erwin is a key organiser with her local environment group, Chelsea Heights EarthCarers (CHE).Chelsea Heights is 30 km south-east of Melbourne, near the bayside suburbs of Aspendale and Carrum.

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Robyn divides her time between running her busy household and working with the Chelsea Heights EarthCarers and other community groups.

“The group started in 2008 after we’d run some seminars on sustainable living.”

Out of the seminars came the ideas to create a community garden and to have a weekly group to discuss gardening, growing your own food, retrofitting your home, composting – amongst other things.

Whilst the group has organized a number of activities related to sustainable living and climate change, the biggest task has been creating the community garden. That’s been going for over a year on a plot adjacent to the Chelsea Heights Community Centre and over 50 locals are now involved.

Robyn had previously been involved in the Living Ethically and Sustainably (LEAS) group of what is now Oxfam Australia. The focus was on reducing overconsumption of the wealthy, with a view to working towards a more equitable world.

Robyn’s geographical focus changed once she had her kids, now 8 and 11. Rather than travel into the city to the LEAS meetings she started doing things more locally.

According to Robyn, the community garden has drawn lots of people into CHE because they can work with other people to do something practical and positive.

There are now about 12 people regularly involved in CHE.

Something Robyn would like to see improved in Chelsea Heights is transport.

“By choice I tend to walk or ride my bike but that’s not common around here. Chelsea Heights is a few kilometres from the nearest train station and most people around here have a car”.

Although Chelsea Heights has some good bike paths nearby they are more for recreation than commuting – the popular bayside route to Port Melbourne is 43km, not a trip for the faint hearted!

Local buses continue to be too infrequent to make them a real alternative to driving and Robyn feels that people with young kids especially find it easier to drive even for short local trips.

Putting more money into making public transport, cycling and walking a real alternative to jumping in the car should be a priority according to Robyn.

“I used to get frustrated that people weren’t interested in lightening their load on the planet and its people. But I discovered this wasn’t the case at all when we started our local group. The community garden was the perfect trigger to encourage people to come out and do something”.

Story by Sarojini Krishnapillai