1978 THE NEW MILLWRIGHTS A new group based in Byrnes Mill, Queanbeyan to advise on sustainable living based on renewable energies and cleaner ways of living

Around the mid 1970s there had been a scare about oil supplies from the Middle East and everybody was suddenly aware of significant rises in the cost of oil and its derivatives. Many houses were heated by oil at that time and owners became interested in how to build or retrofit their houses more effectively to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels.

I had resigned from the ANU in 1977 and was busy renovating Byrnes Mill in Collett St. Queanbeyan as well as finishing my Little Burra house with a new family of Maxine, Nico, Chris and Genevieve. The oil scare led me to start a new ‘green’ movement around 1978 which was logically called “The New Millwrights” as we had our meetings in my office and put on an exhibition based on how to live a lower energy life in the first floor space of the Mill. Gus Petersilka had leased the ground floor from me as a restaurant.

Others in the TNM group were Tone Wheeler (architect), Alan Langworthy (engineer), Arthur Davies (elect.engr.), Moses Reid and Pam Cahill, Russel Wombey (architect) and me as Coordinator. We organised a series of lectures at the Griffin Centre around 1978 and about 100 people regularly turned up for 10 weeks to listen to us talk about photovoltaics, insulation, mass etc. I think we made a good impression in many minds but in retrospect we were a bit in advance of our time. We lasted about 6 years but gradually drifted apart to resume our careers – I was busy designing furniture and sculpting a coat of arms for the High Court of Australia in 1980, finishing my experimental solar house at Little Burra and starting my new social design movement Technical Aid to the Disabled (ACT) in 1979, so I was rather busy.

I think we made our impression on the ACT community but we did not make any friends with the housing industry and to this day (2016) the industry has shown very few signs that it heeded our message. Developers, with their inherent searching for profit have not fundamentally changed their ways and even regulators such as ACTPLA have been very slow to respond to the now urgent need to change our ways.

This week (17 May 2016) we reached 400ppm of CO2 atmospheric pollution.

See also Vol 2 – an associated portfolio of my written words for the actual lectures which I believe could be made public as a book or a lecture series aimed at secondary schools.