Spiritual Ecology Leadership Program 2020-01-08T11:45:39+00:00

“I have experienced a coming home deeper than I ever thought possible. An unlocking of something ancient and wise within me but also so playful and curious. I have experienced the deep workings of a growing community, built on the strongest, realest foundations of love, stewardship, interconnectedness, reverence and service.” – 2019 Program Participant


This program inspires, equips and connects people from diverse faith, cultural and spiritual backgrounds who recognise the need to create a future not driven by greed and materialism but by values and principles that care for the Earth.

Starting with the Spiritual Ecology Otways retreat, over the course of five months, the program is an opportunity to deepen into your spiritual practice and integrate it into everyday life through developing a hands-on community project that benefits the Earth and people.

Through the support of CERES’s extensive ecological, cultural and spiritual networks, we aim to connect emerging leaders to each other and to their place, assist them in bringing ideas to life, and increase a sense of resilience, belonging and community-led action.

Program Outline

1. Retreat

February 20-23, 2020. A 4-day immersion into Spiritual Ecology principles in the Otways National Park.

2. Toolkit Development

Workshop Series: One Saturday/month, March – June, 2020. Over the first three workshops, each participant will be supported to design a small scale local project using holistic Design Thinking approaches, based on their own creative interpretation of Spiritual Ecology. Inspired and impactful projects will be in line with resources, capacity and interest areas of each person, and developed with peer-to-peer mentoring and supported by the larger community.

Toolkit components delivered by special guests include:
Nature connection practices and The Work That Reconnects: Claire Dunn, Nature’s Apprentice
Group facilitation training centred on deep listening: Candice Smith, The Thinking Field
Design thinking for developing community projects: Ryan Hubbard, Hinterland

3. Public Presentation & Open Dialogue

Forum: July 4th 7-9pm (TBC). Facilitate public conversations on Spiritual Ecology, present your project and experience of the program.


Workshop Series:
Tiered pricing structure (self-select):
$450 – Covers full facilitation, room hire and paying it forward for someone who can’t afford to participate
$400 – Covers facilitation and room hire
$350 – Covers partial facilitation and room hire
$0 – Participate for free if you choose, based on your circumstances (limited number available)

+ Retreat costs: $595 / $695

Payment plans are available.

Next course starts 20th February, 2020

Retreat component: 20-23 February
Project Toolkit: 4 x Saturdays, March – June, 10am – 4pm

  • Sat March 14th
  • Sat April 18th
  • Sat May 16th
  • Sat June 13th

Public Presentation: Evening presentation June/July (date TBC)

Price: $450/$400/$350 + retreat costs ($595/$695)

Payment plans available.

Express Interest for 2020

2019 Spiritual Ecology Fellows

In 2019, CERES and Initiatives of Change Australia were supported by the Victorian State Government Multicultural Commission to develop a pilot program with ten participants aged 18-35 from diverse faith and cultural backgrounds. Each participant identified a need within their community and developed an activity designed to connect spirituality and ecology within those groups. The core values for all projects were interconnectedness, compassion, stewardship, reverence for nature and service.

Booklet of Creative Writing from 2019 Participants (PDF)

Athena Blackthorn: Justice for Djab Wurrung

Djab Wurrung man, Zellanach is leading the campaign to protect sacred women’s country. VicRoads and the Victorian Labor government threaten to build a small extension of the highway through birthing country, desecrating land, trees, animals and culture in the process. Zellanach was arrested and taken off country to be detained for wrongful charges and so a peaceful, sit in style protest was organised out the front of the Melbourne Assessment Prison where he was first taken. We camped out for three weeks until his release to raise awareness of the hypocrisies of our racist government and the ongoing cultural genocide that is taking place. We brought the Djab Wurrung campaign to the city so people could not ignore the injustice any longer.

This project was very specific to a situation that was already occurring. The skills and knowledge I developed during this time will support me as I continue my involvement with Djab Wurrung and other indigenous issues that will surely arise. The next step is to continue fighting for the protection of sacred country. To stop and listen and simply be a support for mob when appropriate. The community that was created from MAP is active, passionate and strong. Hopefully more protests/ actions will happen in the future.

Hafeez Ali: Green with no Envy

On a cold wintery Friday evening, I hosted a dinner that involved approximately 40 hungry guests. Using what I had gathered from Spiritual Ecology and my own cultural traditions, I thought of a culinary experience that will promote respect, sharing and connection. The dinner itself comprised of a really large plate with dishes served on banana leaves. The seating arrangement was on comfy ‘tikkas’ (rotan mats) making it easier to sit on the floor. The dinner lasted about an hour with hot drinks, desserts and photos to end. Guests received a substitute organic toothbrush and a veggie/herb seedlings to plant at home.

The whole point of having the communal dinner was to share the traditional experiences of eating together. Similar to our bbqs, feasts and hot pots, eating in a large bowl brought closeness, a bonding experience that helps strengthen family units and bring strangers closer together. Next step was to set up another dinner at a more convenient time with a setting that can hold up to 50 people comfortably. A plan to assist with building garden beds in family households to start a sharing process. Seedlings from CERES (edible vegetables) and organic toothbrushes were given as door gifts to the guests and participants of the next project.

Hannah Beggs: Sacred Earth Embodiment

On Saturday 8th June I gathered with 19 participants in the one heart Yoga studio , Abbotsford. Together we shared in an acknowledgement ceremony , prayer , earth meditation , then walked out on the land and gathered by the Birrarung river. Here we went through an earth embodiment movement practice , created a gratitude mandala , gathered back in circle , shared stories then went for an informal lunch at Lentil As Anything.

I feel like taking on board the observations from my own experience and others experiences to grow and evolve the workshop. I would like to continue to hold events like this one in different spaces and ways. I would like to involve more people in co – creating. Adding in more richness in terms of offering a deeper live sound journey , different landscapes , poetry , survival skills sharing , longer events , more refined movement practices (maybe some more training needed here) , potential fire gathering , welcome to country , cacao / shared meal making on the fire , smudging ceremony , camping out on the land and touring around to various sacred sites.

Johan Kettle: Seeding Stories Podcast

Like Athena, Johan was inspired by the Djab Wurrung embassy, a group of Indigenous people protecting the destruction of Djab Wurrung trees along the Western Highway between Melbourne and Ararat. Johan was also inspired more broadly by First Nations-led earth justice actions taking place around the world.

The first podcast, designed to be a series is an interview with Djab Wurrung birhting tree protector Amanda:

“Despite colonial attempts to destroy a people, a culture and landscape, Djab Wurrung remains, and so does their lore and their spirit. Sovereign people and sacred lands, we pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging and honour this history. VicRoads want to continue this colonial legacy in the name of safety and development. Their project: a four lane highway, shaving a mere three minutes of travel time – plundering 3000 trees, including significant birthing trees. One 800 hundred years old that has birthed over 50 generations inside her.”

Listen here.

Lauren Mueller: Mass pickle, ferment, preserve of saved food day

In the lead up to this event myself and a number of other friends went dumpster diving to try and find as much fruit and veggies as we could save. On the day we ended up with about 10 boxes of food, most of which we managed to make something out of! Over the whole day we had around 25 people come and help out. We made all kinds of things like kim chi, sauerkraut, pickled eggs, spiced pickled apples, apple cider vinegar, fermented carrots, sauer beans and many more things. This was not only a practical food saving venture, it was community building and recreational time. Some people made new friends, we all had great social time and we all worked together to achieve delicious things!

Teachers and Mentors

Claire Dunn
Claire Dunn
Claire is a writer, educator, Rewilding facilitator and barefoot explorer. She facilitates nature-based reconnection retreats, contemporary wilderness rites of passage and offers individual mentoring.
Beth Hill
Beth Hill
Beth is an anthropologist, facilitator and writer concerned with the cultural and psychological dimensions of climate change. She also designs and facilitates workshops for those coming to terms with the complex alchemy of hope and despair in these times of climate crisis.
Anahata Giri
Anahata Giri
Anahata is the founder of One Heart, an inner city sanctuary that combines embodied practice with social change projects for a more compassionate and wise world.
Jeremy Prentice
Jeremy Prentice
For as long as he can remember Jeremy has been exploring, wandering and ruminating about life. Serendipity led his feet into horticulture and growing things, then into West African music, then again to teaching.

I think about a lot of things differently now. I really value the absolute centrality of indigenous wisdom in this conversation. I’ve felt the healing, energising and revealing force of Creation. I see my own faith given life through spiritual ecology and mysticism. I’ve known the importance of holding both grief and hope in this time of Great Turning. Broadly speaking, I feel like I’ve found a practice, a framework and a community that values and prioritises action and contemplation. I feel inspired to learn more and to serve more. To go out and to go deep.

Charlotte, 2019 Participant

Spiritual ecology isn’t just your one big action but it is how you be and serve through your life and the love and acceptance you hold for all beings around you.

Richa, 2019 Participant

I have experienced a coming home deeper than I ever thought possible. An unlocking of something ancient and wise within me but also so playful and curious. I have experienced the deep workings of a growing community, built on the strongest, realest foundations of love, stewardship, interconnectedness, reverence and service.

2019 Participant

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