Newport Organic Collective Inc (NOC) started as an assignment carried out by a group of Hobsons Bay residents who were supported by the City of Hobsons Bay to undertake a unit of study as part of the Council’s 2009 Living Green in Hobsons Bay Ambassador’s Program in 2009. The unit was ‘Develop and Implement a Program to Support Behaviour Change and Sustainable Practices’ and was delivered by the National Centre for Sustainability, Swinburne University of Technology . This course of study, required students to undertake a project that demonstrated sustainable behaviour change. The project team and NOC’s founders were Madeleine Ellis, Liz Maasen, Terrie Hamilton-Smith and Shaun Talaiana. Madeleine, who was a foundation member in the Seddon Organic Collective (SOC), proposed that the team establish a similar enterprise as the subject matter for their assessment and thus NOC was conceived.
NOC was modelled on a combination of community based social marketing theory, business protocols and the experience of one of the team members in another co-op (SOC). Three months were spent conducting community consultations and determining if there was enough interest in establishing an organic collective in Newport. There were several community members who had also been thinking along these lines so it was easy finding like minded people to take this journey with.
The project team registered NOC as an Incorporated (not for profit) Association with an Australian Business Number (ABN) and organised for the election of committee members.
At the first Annual General Meeting (AGM) in July 2009 a Committee was elected and NOC was officially established. The project team became the first NOC committee and Model Rules were adopted. NOC is a legal entity registered under the Associations Incorporation Reform Act 2012. NOC’s Statement of Purpose reflects the philosophy underpinning the collective:
- To provide an affordable opportunity to buy organic produce
- To encourage the consumption of organic produce
- To encourage and support organic farming practices
- To reduce food miles and food packaging and encourage/promote sustainable consumption practices
- To provide an opportunity for community building between people who live within the City of Hobsons Bay.
NOC started with a paid membership of 36 and a waiting list. In 2010 NOC expanded the membership base to a maximum of 60 members at any one time.
To meet the needs of the membership NOC developed the working model summarised below:
- Online ordering using Yahoo Groups
- Payment by EFT
- Geographical mapping to reduce food miles [Note: as we buy from the market some of our products still travel considerable distances including sometimes from interstate. We try to avoid buying from overseas.]
- Financial management systems that ensure that NOC always operates in surplus
- Establishment of a fund to help finance future expenditure such as the market move to Epping.
2 months after the 2010 AGM, NOC did its first organic produce buy, sort and delivery.
NOC was quickly successful in actively promoting organics, community building and environmental education within the local community through representation at events such as the Hobsons Bay Eco Expo, Altona Beach Festival and the screening of the movie “Home”. Other events NOC has initiated include:
- Eating for Health using Wholefoods (a four part workshop series)
- Free public screening of Food Inc movie
- Spotswood Food and Garden Swap
- No Dig Garden day
- “The Beginners Guide to Solar, ” information evening
- Solar Supper
- A series of food workshops run in conjunction with the Spotswood Community House ( sugo, gnocchi, olive preserving and cheese making).
NOC won two consecutive City of Hobsons Bay Business Excellence Awards (2010 Not For Profit category and 2011 Environment & Sustainability category).
Committees have changed and members have come and gone but NOC still retains a large core of the foundation members who remain active and committed. As time has gone on NOC has become more aware of the responsibilities of running an organic collective. In order to meet the collective’s “Duty of Care” obligation and legislative requirements under the Associations Incorporation Reform Act 2012 the following have been undertaken:
- Risks & O H & S assessments
- The purchase of appropriate insurance
- Equipment acquisition to ensure we have good O H & S practices. This includes: trolleys, ladders, sorting tables, food handling gloves cleaning items and safety vests for buyers.
As an ongoing activity NOC has constantly improved its systems for buying, sorting and administration. The development of this website is one such improvement. NOC has accessed grant programs to purchase equipment for loan by members. Currently we have afood dehydrator kit which includes a herb grinder and recipe books
In April 2014 our first website went live and we commenced our ecommerce payment system.
In February 2015, when the market move to Epping was becoming imminent the NOC committee started investigating alternatives. In August we made arrangements to start ordering from Green Gully organics.
In October 2017, we decided to close our website due to increasing costs and we reverted to an EFT and Google sheets ordering system. In November we started investigating TidyHQ as an alternative platform to make administration easier for the committee. We currently use a mix of TidyHQ and google sheets but are investigating moving everything to TidyHQ.
NOC and the Future
At the end of June 2019 we ceased our produce boxes however, will look to add them in again should we find a new suitable supplier. We are looking to do more ad hoc purchases of inidividual produce like potatoes and apples (when in season). The biggest challenge we're facing at the moment is finding new volunteers to help build up NOC again and spread the tasks which are currently done by a few members. We would like to build up NOC again to more of a community group who can catch up to share ideas, produce and become more involved in other projects around the Hobsons Bay area.