Getting smarter?

• Former mayor Peter Tagliaferri and The Meeting Place co-ordinator Jan Bayman with the first Living Smart organisers and participants Sam Stevens, Graeme Henderson, Digby Hill, Caroline Raphael, Cathy Ingram, Stephanie Jennings and Godfrey Baronie after the city picked up a prestigious Eureka Award.

YOU’D think that with WA’s economy in a rut, a course teaching people to save money through environmentally-friendly tips would have organisers fending off applicants.

But it seems that’s not the case; Fremantle’s highly successful Living Smart course has, like many businesses, experienced a lean year says founding member and current co-ordinator Stephanie Jennings.

The course isn’t under any threat and is just about to throw a big reunion next month to celebrate its 15th anniversary, but Dr Jennings says economic concerns have definitely distracted potential participants.

“It’s hard to judge, but people seem to be more focussed on day-to-day living,” Dr Jennings says.

“Environmental concerns are ever-present, but they think that they might put it off until later even though the IPCC report shows that it’s now we have to be making those changes.”

Dr Jennings says the organisation was “heartened” by Murdoch University research last year which showed Living Smart participants continued using the skills they’d learned once they finished the course, and were adding innovations of their own to save even more money and reduce their environmental impact.

“One thing that did come out was that they were feeling a bit low about the state of the world and want to reconnect with the community,” she says.

Most people who’d been through the course (more than 800 in Fremantle alone) found the sense of community one of its most rewarding aspects, even if that’s not what they were looking for when signing up.

“There something about being in a community of like-minded people and feeling like you can take on the world,” Dr Jennings said.

Since the first 10-week course at The Meeting Place in 2003, through a partnership with Fremantle Council, Murdoch Uni and the Southern Metropolitan Regional Council, Living Smart has spread as far wide as Alice Springs, Tasmania and Randwick in New South Wale, while Dr Jennings says it’s currently running hot in Adelaide.

Inspired

Along the way it picked up a Eureka Award, described as being “the Oscars for science”.

Shelley Alcock and Graeme Henderson signed up for the first course while living in Beaconsfield.

“So much of Living Smart has become integral to the way we live now,” they said in a statement.

“Since completing the pilot program in 2003 we continue to both inspire and be inspired by others.”

Dr Jennings says Freo’s always been the course’s heartland and interest remains strong, which is why she’s hoping for a big roll-up for the reunion, which is being held on Saturday November 17 from 3 – 5pm at Sullivan Hall in Nannine Street, White Gum Valley.

The next course starts at The Meeting Place this Tuesday October 16.

To register email coordinator@livingsmart.org.au or go to http://www.livingsmart.org.au

by STEVE GRANT

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