Karla Hooper Earth Girl

5. Toodyay, Passion and Community

Jul 7, 2017 | Karla's Story, Karla's Story | 0 comments

Before Rusty passed, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the world of animal communication. It was Rusty who was the driver for this new direction and left me with this gift. It was during a weekend Animal Communication Course that I found out Rusty was transitioning, which she revealed during a group session. It took her a month to leave her body and I honoured the process each step of the way, she even showed me where she’d like to be buried and laid next to me while I dug the hole.


Before she left, I kept telling her it was OK to go and that I’d be fine without her – she wasn’t so convinced. We’d been through so much since I got her at 18, and she was always the most loyal best friend by my side each step of the way. After thinking about it for a day, I decided I actually might not be OK, and while we were laying together on my swag we scrolled through Gumtree in search of my new companion.


I knew Wilson was the one as soon as I read his ad – a 3.5 year old kelpie x staffy looking for a new home. Rusty could now transition peacefully, knowing I’d have Wilson by my side looking after me. As it worked out, I picked up Wilson the day after Rusty passed.


My life situation tied up quickly from that point. We’d been living at my parents place for 6 months while Dad and I built my wagon. I had my 2 new camels (Shakti & Chinta) living in a round yard on their bush property, but we needed somewhere more suitable to live. Very quickly after Rusty passed, my wagon was ready to live in and friends from a country town called Toodyay (pronounced 2-J) offered for us to move to their property. Wilson and I lived in my wagon overlooking the camels in their new paddock. Bliss.


By this stage, I had sold my house in Darwin and had been living off the revenue, which was quickly dwindling away. I’d also been working at a local tip shop while living with my parents, which gave me another great insight into our waste system & helped me obtain recycled building materials for my wagon.


Now that I had 2 camels, I wanted to start training them for trekking. I knew of a local farmer in Toodyay through a friend, so I got in touch to see if he could recommend any walk tracks around the area. Turns out, getting in touch with the farmer resulted in us dating, and my camel Shakti refused to walk, putting trekking off the cards for a bit.


By this stage I was 31 and interested in a stable relationship, but, in order for this to happen, I knew I had to show some commitment by putting my gypsy dreams aside and showing some stability. I wrote a cover letter to the local Shire expressing my interest in settling in Toodyay and enquired if there were any job opportunities available within the field of Health and Environment. A couple of weeks later I was working in the Shire’s newly created position of Environmental Officer. It didn’t take long for this role to turn into a real love affair for me. Getting paid was a bonus and it felt like I had completely found my niche in life.


Working as the Environmental Officer allowed me to assess sustainability as a whole. One of my first tasks was working with the neighbouring Shire to introduce Kerbside Recycling bins, we got them implemented quick smart. I went on to develop an Environmental Strategy for the Shire, which required a lot of research into the areas of: Waste, Energy, Water, Land Management, Community Engagement & Education.


Prior to moving to Toodyay, I’d never been involved in community groups or local volunteer work. It was such a pleasure to immerse myself in this world, getting inside knowledge from a range of areas and witnessing the power of united people for a purpose larger than themselves.


Community engagement came very naturally to me, networking is one of the strong character traits I’ve been gifted with this lifetime. As I had more and more conversations, making friends and work connections, I started to truly understand the state of the Environment is directly related to humans and their actions on an individual basis. Humans are the ones either doing the damage or repair, and there is no such thing as it being someone else’s problem to fix – our actions either contribute to the problem or the solution. Everything is driven by supply and demand – the more we consume, the more resources are required from the Earth.


I knew I wanted to be part of the solution. I knew only certain people were interested in environmental health, but I also knew it affected everyone. I was aware leading by example and inspiring people was the best form of education – no one likes to be told what to do.


I got thinking about creative solutions that affected the whole community in a backdoor kind of way. I had honed down to two key influencing factors to human and environmental health – Food & Waste. Food, because it’s a communal language – everyone eats and it doesn’t discriminate – and the way food is grown directly impacts the health of humans and the environment. Waste is also directly related to the health of people and the environment – single use packaging is a huge driver in the mining sector; disposal & recycling options are problematic at the best of times – most packaged products on supermarket shelves are full of preservatives, colourants, flavourings and god knows what else. By simply reducing waste in our lives we instantly become part of the solution and improve our health and the planets.


I had also noticed an issue with disconnection – I observed people were disconnected from the actions they took/made on a daily basis and how that contributed on the whole. I noticed a pattern of blame and expectation for someone else to fix the problem. I also observed a disconnection between people – some elders were suffering from feelings of being a burden rather than wise knowledge keepers; depression, illness & isolation affected everyone’s lives, be it directly or indirectly; and although social media connected us all more than ever, the power of communal living & assistance was missing on a large scale. I dreamed of merging ancient tribal living ways, with modern western living, in a manner that was mutually beneficial to all.


So how could I tie all of this together to create a solution that touched everyone?


After much pondering, I created a Community Sustainability Plan, something that could be piloted in Toodyay but replicated in communities all around the globe. I worked on it morning and night, often being woken in the early hours of the morning with another piece of the puzzle. It inter-lapped with my job and, with my bosses permission, I weaved it into my paid work as well as in my own personal time. This was driven by pure passion and my enthusiasm was contagious.


I held 3 community consultation sessions in Toodyay at various times/days and pitched my concept to over 50 people. I had the vision, passion, enthusiasm & drive, but I didn’t know how to turn the ideas into reality. I’d thought of everything. Creating local employment from holistic solutions that improved the health of people and the environment. It included: education, inspiration, knowledge sharing, employment, food, connection; and it was all tied into a community event based around food and zero waste – a regular Farmers Market.


People loved the idea, they were inspired, but sceptical, elements had been tried before and failed, many people wanted it, but didn’t want to help make it happen. I had support from my bosses and work colleagues, but the Shire Councillors had their own ideas on what ‘Environment’ meant and became problematic, to say the least. But, this wasn’t work for me, it came from something greater than me, a passion that burnt in every cell of my being, and a commitment so strong that I had to find a way to make it work.


I’ve found that sometimes things go pear shaped in life so you can be pushed out and birthed onto a new path. This happened with me and my beloved Shire job. It became apparent this role was no longer the platform to make true change, and just getting a paycheck was never going to satisfy me, so I decided to leave and continue forward in an independent manner.


I had no idea how it was going to work out, but I had complete trust and faith that everything would magically fall into place, the same as it always had in my life… little did I know the Universe had other plans and a turbulent road was to be travelled over the next two and a half years.


**Photo: Me ready to go walking with Shakti and Chinta. This was the ONLY day Shakti actually walked for me, every other attempt she put the breaks on and refused. She had sore front legs that we did a lot of healing on. 


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