Community minded group driven by the trading of skills

MERLETS members Kath Gannaway, Marilyn Lewis and Dale Morgan at the Old Badger Creek School where the next working bee will be held. PICTURE: RENEE WOOD

By Renee Wood

The trading of time and skills has often been a format that has played out for what can be assumed centuries but it’s something that has dropped off in modern society.

As regions grow and neighbours move in and out, the sense of community can quickly escape us however, there’s one group that’s creating an extended community among traders and tinkerers.

Melbourne Eastern Region LETS (Local Exchange Trading System) allows members to offer their skills and goods in reward of tokens, which can then be used to pay other members for their services.

These could be things such as gardening, working bees, pet minding, transport, alterations, web site design, cooking, building – any skill you have could be offered.

The community-based network allows many of its members to benefit without having to open their wallets.

It’s a revolving circular economy, with no money exchanged just virtual tokens which represent one hour of service for 25 tokens.

Members get a virtual bank account which stores their tokens and there’s also a group directory of all the members and the services they have to offer.

It’s a concept that was big in the 80s and once saw 30 groups within Victoria however, there’s now just a few in the state – including the Melbourne Eastern Region group.

Marilyn Lewis is part of the admin team, which she receives tokens to be part of, and said it’s a great network that allows her to get many things done that she can no longer do for herself, such as gardening.

Ms Lewis often uses her credits for a working bee which sees as many members as possible come to her house to tick off a list jobs.

“I’ve had my car vacummed, laundry cupboard cleaned out and de-cluttered, the linen press reorganised, washing windows everything – because 20 hours is a lot of hours,” Ms Lewis said.

“That’s a joy for me to be able to see it all done.”

As part of MERLETS, there’s also a Yarra Valley Hub which is a smaller group formed within as other members are further down the line.

The Yarra Valley Hub was building before Covid-19 but the momentum was lost due to lockdowns.

YV Hub member Dale Morgan said she enjoys the enthusiasm to help others and the community spirit that comes from being a part of the group.

“Something that really stands out for me is the delightful enthusiasm of the people who come, particularly people who’ve come from down the line – their enthusiasm to come all this way out here and they work like crazy,” Ms Morgan said.

Kath Gannaway is also a YV Hub Member and said an example of having her dogs minded for tokens was a huge benefit when arranging a trip away.

“It was such a relief, now I just feel completely happy that I know I’ve got a couple of people who both have dogs – it’s just worked out so well,” Ms Gannaway said.

An upcoming working bee for the Yarra Valley Hub is being held at the Old Badger Creek Old School, with the wider community invited to, to learn more about the group and how they can join the skill sharing community.

Trading tables will also be on display, with members able to trade their goods and price them with tokens.

The Old Badger Creek School working bee will be held Saturday 20 August from 10.30am – 12.30pm.

There’s also currently a display on show at the Healesville Community Bank with brochures available.

For more information, visit or contact Marilyn Lewis on 0424 008 482