...by Kat Szuminska, 2010
I've been on the board at Permaculture International Limited (PIL) for about three months now, and from a personal remit that was essentially a fact finding mission, little by little I begin to see the enormous potential in a future Permaculture Australia. I'm not able to attend the Convergence, its not that I don't think its important, but all my work is voluntary at the moment so I simply don't have the budget available.
There is however much I can do to support the changes to the organisation we're proposing, and I have a good deal to say (as any current board member will tell you) on the importance of democracy, transparency, accountability and even basic competence and paying attention to detail. These aspects of running our organisation are crucial to support a professional body of permaculture practitioners. If we're not quite there yet, well then I'll just steal these words from Bill Mollison, and ask you to please "help us finish the job".
A few words about our last board meeting
David Johnson had resigned his position on the board for personal reasons the night before via email. At the last minute, Sue Mossman rejoined us, and was quickly voted back in. As a link to our recent past, Sue has a terrific history of helpful practical organisation, so I was delighted to see her return. Almost immediately she agreed to help out with membership duties, along with Kat and Terry.
A membership drive will be coming up at the Permaculture Convergence. 'Proposed changes to the organisation' is a dry title, for an important presentation from PIL director. Russ Grayson at 10am, take part in what will undoubtedly be a lively discussion.
The EGM has a couple of proposals for our members, and while the exact wording of these motions is still being ironed out, they're basically along the following lines.
Firstly that we change our name to Permaculture Australia.
Secondly that we extend the number of directors who may sit on the board. This allows us to be flexible, adopting to the needs of our members and the different representation required at board level from year to year.
While as an organisation we've been generally supportive of permaculture at work everywhere, I feel we can do better, and we can directly work with the professional permaculture practitioners in Australia to give a better platform for permaculture at large. This could include a range of services associated with what some are calling a Peak body. We could help practitioners and the public alike gain a better common understanding of some basics. For example, while there are ethics and principles generally understood by PDC graduates, what do these mean in practise when hiring a consultant, engaging a permaculture company or learning in a permaculture school? What can I expect? Is there a code of conduct? Using language that everyone can understand, we can focus our efforts on supporting the professional, educational, grass roots organisers, mainstream spokespeople as well as the professional spokes in the wheel (you know who you are!)
A broad agenda of advocacy is a big part of what's missing from an Australia wide Permaculture view. There are many areas of decision making in our society which can benefit from permaculture design strategies, so we need to help shape the debate beyond farming and gardening, and produce messages that can be easily understood. Do we have some work to do there? You bet we do!
Permaculture Groups and Associations have always been listed on the PIL website, but the list is not comprehensive and doesn't really represent or help support local action on the ground. While a location based regional approach is a sensible one for grass roots activity and local actions, Permaculture Australia does not lay claim to ownership or a hierarchy of these vital organs of our movement. We do understand that through their connections to local decision makers that they are powerful influences for the changes we believe to be necessary, in awareness, in education and policy.
Our website directory points to a policy has always been open, yet, we exist to support our members efforts, its our job to support them, how do we do that and yet not endorse anyone? How can we effectively marry these different responsibilities to help further all good permaculture practise in Australia? A confused presentation has given rise to misunderstanding in the field of education and where Permaculture International's interests lie in that area. It's worth saying a few words here about the Accredited Permaculture Training (APT). The APT is a fine upstanding way to bring in permaculture education to our mainstream education systems. It is not the only teaching supported by Permaculture International Limited. My own view, and one I believe to be shared by all our current board members, is that we celebrate all productive education of permaculture. If there are, or there are seen to be problems with the connection between Permaculture International Limited and the Accredited Permaculture Training or a conflict of interest in the dissemination of educational information more generally, then as a mature organisation this is something that we can discuss out in the open, and if necessary change the way we work to better reflect that broad support for a variety of permaculture teaching.
Ultimate satisfaction for lucky convergence attendees comes after lunch, when all our members, including those of you who join on the day, will be able to vote on our future at the Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) to be held after lunch at 2pm. Make this your time, attend and use your voice.
The current directors of Permaculture International Limited (PIL) Kat Szuminska, Robyn Francis, Russ Grayson, Sue Mossman and Terry Avery. You can have your say before the EGM start a conversation with other members or open up the debate here by commenting on this post.