Feature

Hulbert St Perth

Green Lifestyle magazine

A quiet suburban cul-de-sac community sharing healthy, sustainable lifestyles.

Hulbert St Perth

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In a quiet Perth suburban cul-de-sac lives a community of like-minded people toiling away at making a collaborative, healthy and sustainable lifestyle for themselves.

It’s Sunday afternoon and the close of the Fremantle Festival has the port town’s café strip packed with more than its usual weekend throng. But I’m heading south, to visit a suburban street where they’ve made life a celebration of community.

Hulbert Street is in South Fremantle, a once unfashionable beachside working-class enclave bound by port industries and waste dumps, now punctuated by cafés and antique shops. If you were to drive down the street you might mistake it for a thousand other streets of a certain vintage, a narrow road with narrow houses on narrow blocks. But take a closer look and other things are noticeable: the colourful custom street sign; a mural on the wall of the corner business; verge gardens; neighbours chatting; and a couple taking their goats for a walk.

Shani Graham and Tim Darby keep one goat for milk, and the other for company. “They’re sociable creatures,” explains Shani, “and they need mental stimulation.” On a stroll with them, Shani greets neighbours and stops to chat. At the end of the street Tim points out a man mowing the lawn. “He’s not so involved with the community,” he says quietly, “but that’s not his own lawn he’s mowing. The lady who lives there is elderly. He probably saw it needed to be done. It’s that type of street.”

Regular communal activities include a weekly pizza night and outdoor film nights during summer. The fifth annual Hulbert Street Sustainability Fiesta was held in September attracting more than 6000 people. But for Tim the biggest sign the street community is maturing has been investing in the first big piece of jointly owned infrastructure: a mobile pizza oven. “People like to share food, and like to gather around a fire,” he says.

Growing and sharing food is central to Hulbert Street. “Community and food are pivotal,” Tim says, over a pot of Rooibos tea and a plate of homemade goat’s cheese. “Because they connect you with yourself, with nature and each other – and I think the biggest issue, really, is disconnect.”

Shani agrees: “When we first started it was about renovating houses and making them as cool or warm as you could,” she explains. “But we live in Western Australia. If you had a good raincoat you could live under a tree. For us, food production and community happen together. You don’t need to buy stuff when you’ve got good friends and neighbours around you.”

This truth is demonstrated by a string of neighbours who pop in while we’re talking, some bringing food, others collecting it. Among them are Anita and Mick Howard and their four-year-old daughter Annie, who have lived in the street for about a year. Mick says, “I reckon the community drives the sustainability, not the other way around”.