Enabling change in our Society, Environment and Economy (SEE)

Money Free Shopping

December 2010, by Laura Stuart

Always up for a challenge, the Woden SEE-change group decided to follow on from our very small but otherwise successful Glamorama fashion swap meet in August with something bigger and more ambitious.

Billed as a “Pre-Xmas op-swap”, we aimed to make this a money free event, kind of like a BYO garage sale. We just asked that people bring along some stuff they didn’t need, swap it for a token, and browse for a treasure to take home. Sounds simple, huh? Well, despite some last minute anxiety about how we would deal with a range of hypothetical and hitherto unforeseen swapping dilemmas, the event unfolded beautifully. Around sixty people came by that morning bearing between 5 and 105 items to exchange, from teapots to jars of marbles, Microsoft PC games, kids clothes, books, CDs, orchids, and a miniature mummy in a sarcophagus (that’s just some of the stuff we brought home). Our bring-a-plate tradition brought a smorgasbord of home made snacks and drinks. Still not a penny to be exchanged.

Every item had the same value – a thing to be swapped, regardless of its original purchase price, and everyone went home feeling like they’d found a bargain. The potential dilemmas were naturally resolved, as the lady with the 105 tokens, passed them to her friends, then around the hall, and ultimately to a bowl of free swap tokens for those who had found more treasurers than they had bargained for. It was hard for some to stick to the money free rule –a charity for women in Afghanistan will benefit from their generosity (thanks Jill). We were also able to contribute to a charity that provides clothes for disadvantaged women for job interviews, and to send a trolley of books over the road to our friends at Beyond Q bookshop (thanks Audrey). Thanks must also go to the young people at ACTotherwise for the loan of the clothes racks, and to our friends in the Jamison group for their parallel work with the op-swap zeitgeist at the Belconnen market.

The driving force behind the event was the fabulous Monica Harland, who came to us (like a vision) at the Glamorama event, bearing bucket loads of style, enthusiasm and a great bunch of friends, including the musicians Chris Harland (her hubby), Paul Leeder, Dan Fernandes, Trev Dunham and others who so generously gave their time and their music for our event – a real highlight of our SEE-change year. A few bottles of wine and an armful of old books didn’t seem like a fair swap for a morning of sweet blues tunes, but that’s the thing about the op-swap. It didn’t really make sense, but it worked!

With thanks to our


  • ACT Government Environment and Planning
  • The Association of Independent Schools of the ACT (AISACT)
  • Catholic Education Office (Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn)
  • Education and Training Directorate
  • ACT Government