My name is Graham Meltzer and I am a community junkie! I have an abiding passion for community life that’s been alive in me for 50 years, since I was a teenager. Here is a little about  my life-long engagement with communal living.

I grew up in Auckland, New Zealand where my family was one of six that shared a green space at some distance from the road.  We kids roamed freely there as a ‘pack’ for hours after school and on weekends.  The social cohesion and shared values of our post-war suburban community lent security and assurance to life.  Added to this, a large extended family and close-knit Jewish community provided a wellspring of love and support from which I benefit to this day. I think my sense of the value and nourishment inherent in community life was established at this time.

As a student during the late 1960s and early ‘70s I lived in politically radical urban communes where I first experienced shared ideology and purpose.  This was followed by three years on kibbutz during which I became convinced of the immeasurable value of collaboration as a means of achieving both social and material satisfaction.  There seemed to me at the time to be a profound connection between the psycho-social and the material dimensions of community life.  It took thirty more years of experience and investigation before I could fully articulate what was then, just speculation.

I returned to Australia in 1976, seeking a communal lifestyle.  I soon met and married my equally idealistic partner, Jane, and together we joined Australia’s largest and best know intentional community, Tuntable Falls, near Nimbin in Northern NSW.  The late 1970s in Australia was a halcyon period of greatest ‘new-age’ idealism.  At the time, Nimbin was at the epicentre of the dream.  We were going to change the world by our example…of an environmentally responsible community of communities, as self-sufficient as possible: materially, culturally, socially and economically.  And for a time there, we were on track!

Living at Tuntable cemented my belief that a nurturing extended family or ‘tribe’ is the ideal social grouping for the human species and that a socially cohesive group of individuals (some related by blood but most, probably not) has the potential to be a profound milieu for the socialisation of both children and adults.  Furthermore, an appropriately sized group, thus socialised, has the opportunity to create a truly civilised and civil society.  I saw communalism as the best chance of fulfilling our individual and collective potential for creativity, intelligence, compassion and love – all those wonderful human attributes that, for the most part, remain sadly unfulfilled.

After eight years at Tuntable I returned to university to study architecture.  I anticipated becoming one of those ‘barefoot’ architects dedicated to environmental and/or community architecture.  As it happened, I moved quickly into post-graduate study and a full-time academic position teaching sustainable and community architecture.  Academia offered the opportunity to apply rigour to previous musings about a link between the social and the material…or as I then saw it, the communal and the environmental.  At that time, in the early ‘90s, there was considerable literature highlighting the incapacity of well-intentioned ‘greens’ to ‘walk their environmentalist talk’.  Yet, there was little investigation of the role of social relationships and social satisfaction in underpinning people’s environmental behaviours and practices.  I set about such an investigation.

Eight years of part-time research and analysis resulted in the completion of a PhD that, indeed, substantiated a connection between the social cohesion of a human group and the capacity of its members to enact their environmentalist aspirations.  Four more years of occasional fieldwork and part-time writing resulted in a book titled, Sustainable Community: Learning from the Cohousing Model (Trafford Press, 2005).  In total, the fieldwork I conducted comprised eighteen months of living in cohousing in Denmark, North America, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.

I left the university in 2000 to take up commercial (architectural) photography. Whilst this went well for five years, I eventually decided I wasn’t cut out for business and that my values (communitarian, humanist, egalitarian) were just too much at odds with those of the mainstream. I felt that I needed to get back into community. So I looked around the world for a community to join, short-listed four that interested me (Twin Oaks and Ganas in the US, ZEGG in Germany and Findhorn in Scotland), visited each of them for a few weeks and ultimately selected Findhorn. I’ve been here ever since, about nine years and am deeply contented. More so, I think, as time goes on.