Transition Town lobbyist Michelle Bunn knows that grassroots activism has a significant role to play in our energy transition.  With a BA degree and a focus during her working life (mostly in the public sector) on communications and policy development, Michelle (below, centre with Rachel Davison & Steve Gates) was well placed to help shift the City of Kalamunda’s thinking and practice.

How did it all begin? Michelle recounts how, during a holiday to Far North Queensland in the early 90s, she and her husband Len (currently involved in the Sustainable Energy Now lobby group) realised the importance of conserving the stunning rainforests they were seeing – and also the wider natural world.

Whilst working in the UK they’d felt the emotional impact of the Piper Alpha oil & gas platform disaster in the North Sea. Further insight derived from Len’s work in the oil & gas industry in the early 2000s, when they began to realise just how much money this sector made for its investors. Add to this the perspective of becoming parents and Michelle says they ultimately concluded that being involved in fossil fuel production ‘…wasn’t the right thing to be doing.’ 

Whilst living in the Shire of Kalamunda, Michelle and Len discovered that the Council was quite conservative in its views and actions relating to climate change. Michelle joined the local Transition Town team around 2015, to collaborate with others in doing small things to bring about a cultural shift towards sustainability. One early action was making and providing grocery bags so that shoppers could easily make the change from single-use plastics.

The climate change focus came when the team approached the Council to declare a climate emergency in the local government area. Michelle acted as spokesperson for the group at Council meetings. As a result of their work, supported by other community members, including Perth Hills Climate Change Interest Group, in May 2021 the City of Kalamunda joined 24 other local governments in WA in signing the Declaration of Climate Emergency presented by WALGA. Michelle says this has led to a more coherent focus by the City, which announced its climate change Action Plan in February 2023.

Michelle emphasised that grassroots action, in which we build personal connection and agreement with decision-makers, is very important. It’s also important to create a focus for people and resources – something she believes the Transition Town movement achieves.

“However, it’s important to remember that not one size fits all,” Michelle commented. “And it’s also good to remember our history – for example Albany and the end of the whaling industry – when speaking to those worried about job losses in the energy transition,” she concluded.