For five years a warm glow has emanated from a small cluster of buildings and greenery near the Mullumbimby show grounds on Main Arm Road.
Known as the Mullumbimby Commons, the space has been home to an incredible range of community-focused offerings, from homeschooling activities to the famous Repair Café and (literally) everything in between.
But times are changing in the Shire and The Commons had to close its doors this week.
“It’s been a huge, amazing journey,” said space co-founder Bex Horsfall.
“We are sad to leave, but we are celebrating all the amazing things that have happened here.”
Bex and his partner Tom Jackson occupied the space in late 2016 when it was released by Shearwater Steiner School.
“Within a month, we had taken on this massive dream lease fueled by a strong vision.”
This vision was to create a multi-generational community learning center that could provide space and a base for the larger local homeschooling community.
It comes from an incredible journey that took Ms Horsfall and her young family across Australia and the world to better understand alternative education.
‘I had proposed this crazy research trip – that we were going to sublet the house and go down the East Coast [of Australia] and visit all the alternative schools and offers we could find with our one and four year olds,” Ms Horsfall says.
We then spent time abroad to immerse ourselves in what was happening.
“It was fascinating to be out in the world and to look through that lens and see that a lot of people weren’t happy with the educational options on offer, and to realize that it’s how we view our young people that must change.”
This core value was a common thread that ran through life at The Commons over the next five years.
For two years, a local collective known as Wildspace called it home, bringing a unique blend of education and activism.
Homeschooling activities continued after Wildspace’s departure, alongside a wide range of workshops, men’s groups, ceremonies and creative offerings.
Soon after, another innovative offering arrived in the form of Shedding Community Workshop – a grassroots organization offering inclusive workshops focused on teaching creative and practical skills through positive mental health practice.
“It was amazing to watch him grow,” says Ms Horsfall
It was thanks to Shedding that the Repair Café found a new home on the site – a weekly space where locals could bring in damaged or faulty household items and learn how to repair them.
“They were absolutely amazing during the floods,” says Ms Horsfall.
“They undertook a huge amount of repair work with salvaged household items that were damaged, particularly appliances.
“It was a thriving little center where people could all contribute.”
Fortunately, Shedding and the Repair Café have found a new home, for now – moving to the shed next to the old Mullumbimby station.
This is not the case for The Commons.
But the many moments of learning, growing and connecting will long be remembered by young and old.
“As a family, we just need to breathe, take a moment and see what comes next,” Ms Horsfall says.
“We are so grateful to everyone who has been part of The Commons and supported the journey.”