For five years a warm glow has emanated from a small cluster of buildings and greenery near the Mullumbimby Showgrounds on Main Arm Road.
Known as The Mullumbimby Commons, the space has been home to an incredible array of community-focused offerings, ranging from homeschooling activities to the famous Repair Café and (literally) everything in between.
But times are changing in the Shire and The Commons has had to close its doors this week.
‘It’s been a huge and incredible journey,’ the co-founder of the space, Bex Horsfall says.
‘We’re sad to go, but we’re celebrating all of the amazing things that have happened here.’
Bex and her partner Tom Jackson took on the space in late 2016 when it was vacated by the Shearwater Steiner school.
‘Within a month we’d taken on this massive dream lease powered by a strong vision.’
That vision was to create a multigenerational community learning centre that could provide a space and a base for the large, local homeschooling community.
It came from an incredible journey that took Ms Horsfall and her young family around Australia and the world to better understand alternative education.
‘I’d proposed this crazy research trip – that we would sublet the house and go down the East Coast [of Australia] and visit every alternative school and offering that we could find with our one and four-year-old in tow,’ Ms Horsfall says.
We then spent time overseas immersing ourselves in what was happening.
‘It was fascinating to be out in the world and looking through that lens and seeing that a lot of people were dissatisfied with the educational options on offer, and realising that it’s the way we view our young people that needs to change.’
This core value was a thread which ran through life at The Commons over the next five years.
For two years a local collective known as Wildspace called it their home, bringing a unique mix of education and activism.
The homeschooling activities continued after Wildspace moved on, running in parallel with a wide array of workshops, men’s groups, ceremonies and creative offerings.
Not long after another innovative offering arrived in the form of Shedding Community Workshop – a grassroots organisation offering inclusive workshops focused on teaching people creative and practical skills through practising positive mental health.
‘It was amazing to watch it grow,’ Ms Horsfall says
It was through Shedding that the Repair Café found a new home on the site – a weekly space where locals could bring damaged or malfunctioning household items and be shown how to fix them.
‘They were absolutely incredible during the floods,’ Ms Horsfall says.
‘They took on a huge amount of repair work with salvaged household items that got damaged – especially the white goods.
‘It was a thriving little hub of people all being able to contribute.’
Fortunately, Shedding and the Repair Café have found a new home, for now – moving to the shed next to the old Mullumbimby railway station.
Not so for The Commons.
But the many moments of learning, growth and connection will be long-remembered by young and old alike.
‘We as a family just need to take a breath, take a moment and see what’s going to come next,’ Ms Horsfall says.
‘We’re so grateful to everyone who’s been a part of The Commons and supported the journey.’