Thursday, July 19, 2012

Share a cuppa with Steve.

Steve is simply fun to be with. - Asta
"I want my life to be part of this movement that prevents starvation, greens the planet, beats machine guns into gardening tools, to feed people and restores all things." - Steve McKinnon

 Steve, being modest, would not like to hear this - but he is one of my heroes. His style of simple living, his faith, his integrity, his sense of humour and humble nature make him a delight to know. 

*Steve walks the talk.*

Make a cuppa, pull up a chair and meet Steve - 

What 5 words best describe you?

 Visionary, unorthodox, prophetic, pastoral, shy (at times).

Introduce us to your family. 

I have 3 sons and 1 wife. Neo is 10 and is a live life to the max, outdoor type but he is also a sensitive and abstract thinker.  Ben is 7 and is an indoor, arty/ crafty smarty, and Samuel is 3 and is generally very happy, helpful and honest. They are all great and unique. 

Erica is a social worker and teacher trained. She is a very strong and caring woman, and I chose her because I knew I would put my wife through a lot - so she’d have to have those qualities. 

How would you describe living simply? 

I actually find Living Simply is very complex.  If I am to “live simply so that others may simply live”, how much time do I spend trying to live simply myself and how much time should I spend helping others grasp this concept? In order to do the later there are things I need eg. car, computer, time, etc.  My answer is in community.  If I live in community with others committed to similar ideals then some of my time can be spent helping others grasp this and other times I can garden or raise chooks and rabbits, and helping marginalised people.

Why is simple living important to you? 

I hold a faith that God’s society will one day take over this crazy society and this revolution is a slow process but a powerful one, like the Colorado River cutting the Grand Canyon. I want my life to be part of this movement that prevents starvation, greens the planet, beats machine guns into gardening tools to feed people and restores all things. 

As I am part of the richest 5% of the world’s population that have ever lived that consumes resources at an incredible rate, and I also have access to education and information, I think I’m in a position, and have a responsibility to live more simply and encourage others to do the same.

Who inspires you? 
My community inspires me. Tom challenges me when I say I am thinking of buying a caravan and peppercorn renting it out to a homeless guy. He'll say, “Why don’t you live in the caravan and let the homeless guy live in your house?” Bonnie inspires me as she checks the compost temperature and turns it at 5am. Our community group started perma (culture) blitzs and we get together each month and blitz someone’s yard to grow vegetables. My wife inspires me as she breeds rabbits and kills them to eat. She says, “If we are going to eat meat we need to be more connected to the process.” Tom and Lyn are looking at going with TEAR Australia to Afghanistan to help make a difference. Phil and Julie from TEAR tell me I should charter a boat and take asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia because under UN law anyone can apply for asylum. I said, “My name would become mud. I would get crucified.” “Don’t you call yourself a Christian? Anyway your name needs some muddying up," is their reply. 

Talks and books and Jesus inspire me, but seeing a need and having a go at meeting that need in a community development manner gives me a kick. In 2002 I helped set up a community garden in Lockridge and now its going quite well. I am no longer running it and lots of others are- fantastic! I’ve helped set up a half way house but we are still in the process of making it self sufficient. 

It sounds as though your community is the tribe that supports you in your simple living. Who are they?

Yes, my tribe is Lockridge Open Table and Peace Tree Community and Lockridge Anglican Church. They all live in Lockridge and we support each other in trying to live simply and keep each other accountable in that effort. TEAR Australia is also my wider tribe.

Who do you read?

Mike Frost, Ched Myers, Dave Andrews, Richard Rohr, Martin Luther King, Jon Owen (UNOH Sydney), Stephen Said, Steve Bradbury, John Smith, Tony Campolo, Brian McClaren, St Francis and a list of others help me. I’m not reading anything at the moment, instead I’m listening to talks  from those people I’ve mentioned.

How do you make a living? 

My goal is to work part time so I can spend more time with my family and in the community and for years I did this. I do have 2 part time jobs that are hopefully part of the answer. I’m Chaplain and Counsellor at a K-12 school in Ellenbrook (3 days a week) and a TEAR Representative for 2 days a week. I think though at some point I need to break this and take more risks. If we are in Australia we won’t starve to death even without a job, but I do need to be responsible for my family. 

What is your concept of 'daily bread"?

I think daily bread is bigger than just money and food. I think if we have a caring, loving and supportive foundation - that is - faith and family, then we can take more risks whether emotional or otherwise with others. Recently I've been talking with Erica about creating an encouraging environment within our family; where we speak kindly and more positively with each other. It’s working.

In terms of daily bread I think the motivation behind why we do anything is important. At my best I do things for others out of gratitude for what God has done for me. At worst I do things out of obligation, or anger, or insecurity and this is counterproductive.

How can we get the message of simple living across to others? 

 Do we need to publish what we are doing online - like a blog on this stuff? Oh wait...

Hahahaha. Steve, I really think that you get the message across so well - because you live what you preach. In fact you don't preach! That's my point. 

What else can you and Erica, and your tribe teach us?

I don’t know what we can teach but I can tell you what we do. We op shop, we give 5% of our income to the poorest of the poor- through mainly supporting TEAR Australia. We keep each other accountable to give the other 5% to local churches and mission. We open our homes up. Meet our neighbours. We grow our own veges to save our carbon footprint. We dumpster dive. 

Dumpster dive? I have wanted to do that for ages but as yet I haven't been brave enough. 

 We holiday close to home as much as we can and walk the Bibbulmun Track. We live close to each other and walk to each other’s places. We try to work with each other for paid employment or on a project.  We raise chooks and rabbits, and include others from the community in this. We run community garden workshops.  We keep each other accountable through our use of time. We get milk straight from the cow and it’s stored in a pail in our neighbour's back fridge. We have to rush off to the neighbour's when we run out of milk, so we can fill up our 2 litre flagon.  We use our oven to heat and bake. We have solar panels etc... all the usual stuff, but we couldn’t do all this if we didn’t have community.

How can we support what's important to you?  

You can support us by continuing to do what you are doing in your locality, giving to TEAR regularly or giving Useful Gift presents to friends, advocating for the Micah Challenge etc.

Steve thank you for sharing your life with us, your wisdom and your time with us - oh and our imaginary, or maybe not so imaginary - cups of tea. It has been a refreshing conversation. You have given us much food for thought. Thank you!!! 

 Has anything stood out for you from this interview? We invite you to share your thoughts with us here - to keep the dialogue going. Feel free to share this interview far and wide - if you think it can make a difference. 

Peace and all good my simple living friends,

Asta x

( Asta is a TEAR Representative in her local church. You might like to be one too.)


  1. Great interview, Asta and Steve! Thanks for sharing. Very thought provoking. 'At my best I do things for others out of gratitude for what God has done for me. At worst I do things out of obligation, or anger, or insecurity and this is counterproductive.' Those last three motivators are killers, aren't they? Gratitude for God can be the only one!

    I looked into keeping rabbits once. This post has renewed the thought for me. Much to ponder.

    Dotti :)

  2. Interesting interview. Often we think we dont have enough but then something happens and we realise how much we really do have. (I noticed that recently being ill, facing some big bills and not being able to work for a bit but at the same time realise I have way more than I thought). At church we have people who grow different things and some have chooks and often on a Sunday we can share excess of foods like fruit, veg and someone often has eggs to share. I love this as I can share the fruit from the trees here that I really dont like but I really appreciate fresh eggs.

  3. Great interview! I really wish I could comment under your blog, still not sure why I can't. Bah, technology. I read it while I was feeding maeve and I noticed how relaxed I was after, even though his words were often quite charged and visually stimulating. I'm still mulling over the "aren't you a Christian " part. - this message is from my friend Kate Forman Ortiz. (left on FB)

  4. Thanks Asta, :)

  5. Thank you Dotti, Jenny, Kate and Annon for your comments. I appreciate it so very, very much. I'm glad you have enjoyed the interview and perhaps been left with something to chew around in your mind. A x

  6. Great interview. Steve is certainly an inspiration.

    1. Thanks Love for taking the time to read and comment. A x

  7. Nice stuff, Asta!

  8. Thanks for the thought-provoking interview, Steve and Asta. I have a lot to churn around in my mind. I especially like the idea of a community garden. It's wonderful to hear of people walking the walk as well as talking the talk.

    1. Yes Paula - there is real integrity in Steve's choice of lifestyle. It certainly challenges me. I remember visiting the community garden in St Kilda in Victoria and feeling really excited by the concept. - A x

  9. A lot to think about there.

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment Dale. Yes Steve's given us much to consider. I really like that. I find that there are one or two things that keep playing on my mind though - like Erica killing her own meat. I have been thinking lately that I shouldn't eat meat because I can't kill it - that as long as it doesn't look like meat (all neatly packaged in Coles) then I can pretend it wasn't an animal. Surely there is real respect for the animal's life if you kill it with thanksgiving and reverence... Hmmmm Challenging.

  10. Lovely to read about another Aussie taking simple living as a radical lifestyle choice. I appreciate how simple living, in Steve and his tribe's case, isn't just about recylcing etc but about their perspective on a global situation. It's always good to have friends and family around us to question us, challenge us to keep questioning and thinking they whys and hows of the way we live and respond to the needs we know about. TEAR Australia is an organisation committed to this and one of the reasons we served with them overseas for a time.
    Many thanks to Asta and Steve for this glance into what is possible, the nurture and support available from community and the challenge to remember the poor.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. oops - spelling error so I'm starting again...
      Ah Penny no wonder we get on so well, the more we get to know each other the more we seem to have in common. Yes - I see simple living as as you say - 'a radical lifestyle choice'. It is funny that some are bamboozled by my full life when I have recently given up my paid work. When I tell them what my lifestyle choice involves they then say - 'Oh it is really quite complex isn't it.' Simple isn't all that simple to live, but it is so fulfilling. A x

    3. I admit that I probably don't appear very radical when people view my life, but I hope to keep my heart open to what God wants me to learn and to think through how I can live my life according to his culture rather than just accept the norm that surrounds me.
      And yes, Asta, we do get on well. :)

  11. Great interview Asta. Steve is a great guy (and his family) thanks for getting his story out there to challenge and encourage the rest of us.

    Andrew Broadbent