Story by Russ Grayson, June 2015
Citizen-initiated food systems could get a funding boost if recommendations coming from a NSW state government proposal get a favourable reception by the environment minister and […]
You need to log in to post to this user's Wall.
Story by Russ Grayson, June 2015
Story by Russ Grayson, June 2015
A team of urban agriculturists has crowdsourced start-up funding for a new citizen enterprise in the small city of Launceston in northern Tasmania.
It’s all to do with seeds, […]
@aprilskelly great photo by @russ grayson ….
[bpfb_link url=’http://permacultureaustralia.org.au/2015/03/29/teacher-dancer-gardener/’ title=’Teacher, dancer, gardener ‘ image=’http://permacultureaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/april-sampson-kelly.jpg’]EDUCATOR, dancer, garden agriculturist… is it possible to teach an i…[Read more]
Story by Russ Grayson, December 2014
A Northern NSW “permaculture farmer” calling for a boycott of halal foods and linked with an alleged far-right anti-Islamic group could bring the permaculture design system […]
It is a sad state of affairs – racism is alive and well everywhere in Australia – even amongst permies.
I think the best way to try and combat this is for all Aussie Permaculturalists who blog (in whatever online portal that may be) – please write an article about how Permaculture is inclusive not exclusive due to that second ethic of People Care. We do not need to name this woman. We can just be very vocal and flood the internet with positive and supportive articles about people from all walks of life.
I must admit I was quite alarmed when I read the SMH article yesterday. I felt that the emphasis on permaculture in the first sentence was confusing as a description of this person. It did not note her theological qualification yet quoted her saying that having been approached by a number of political parties she would love to go to the election under the Fred Nile Christian Democratic Party. I believe that this demonstrates her personal belief in the ‘rightness’ of her faith as the only acceptable way to live. This unfortunately would far outweigh Permaculture Principles.
I too believe that using positive messages of inclusivity is the lever to prevent permaculture being unfortunately associated with this person who looks to be gaining wider attention and will probably be running in the next NSW election.
Story by Russ Grayson. August 2014.
A RECENT POSTING on the Permaculture Australia-New Zealand and Permaculture Victoria Facebooks by Melbourne-based permaculture practitioner, Miriam Bakst, raises an important question for permaculture’s reputation.
Miriam asks whether permaculture practitioners engaging interns could be breaking the law. It is the arrangement of those internships that are core to her question.
I wonder if this is something that will be discussed in a focused way within permaculture or whether it will become one of those things that surface from time to time without resolution. What I think would be useful would be for those permaculture people employing interns to join this discussion so as to create a more comprehensive appreciation of the issues around internship.
I have encountered people unhappy with conditions of permaculture internship, people who felt exploited. One such encounter was some years ago and happily that woman was not alienated from permaculture and continues to do good work in Australia and overseas, though without branding it as permaculture. Another might simply forego participation in permaculture.
Other critical comments — never to my knowledge made publicly — have been about permaculture educators offering internships on their properties after the interns complete their Permaculture Design Course there. The comments have been about hours and intensity of work, including the requirement that interns pay for their internship. To clarify, those informal comments were not critical of all permaculture establishments offering post-education internships.
The internships-in-permaculture question seems to be about:
• what constitutes a bona-fide internship arrangement on permaculture enterprises?
• how ethical is it to ask interns to pay for their internship when they are providing free labour?
• what working conditions should interns expect?
• how should internships on permaculture properties or in permaculture enterprises comply with permaculture’s Second Ethic of Care of People?
WHAT IS A PERMACULTURE INTERNSHIP?
This is where I would like to hear from those offering internships.
My understanding of internship in general is that it is made up of the provision of skills, services or labour, without cost, in return for learning. The more benevolent of those offering internships might provide a small allowance to the intern.
We can differentiate internship from voluntarism as the latter might offer no learning outcomes for the volunteer. In an internship there is expectation of a win-win arrangement: labour in return for learning relevant to the intern’s goals. Voluntarism is critical to permaculture as it is how permaculture associations and other entities work. A volunteer can get up and leave at any time, and volunteers do. An internship supposedly has a more formal arrangement regarding commitment for a period of time.
A question that arises is whether interns are covered by state labour law, such as the provision of workers compensation, hours of work, conditions of work, workplace safety. If they are taken on by a permaculture business I assume they are so-covered as they would probably be classed as employees with all the legal responsibilities of the employer to the employee. I don’t know the answer to this, however why I ask is because, in NSW, volunteers are classed as workers under Worksafe legislation. That implies an obligation on permaculture associations or anyone else who has volunteers working with them. That, obviously, is virtually all permaculture organisations in NSW. It is also something virtually all those organisations are ignorant of. It really is something for them to think about.
The question of internships in permaculture is entangled with the proposal that surfaces now and again of defining a set of standards for permaculture work, especially that done in public places.
This is probably a question for Permaculture Australia, being the closest entity we have to a representative body (becoming that was a wish of participants at APC10) and being the organisation that owns Australia’s national permaculture workplace training program known as Accredited Permaculture Training.
A set of standards would stipulate what those hiring permaculture designer-practitioners should expect by way of design functionality, suitability, follow-up support and quality of finish. How and to whom they would be applied requires much discussion. Their publication on the Permaculture Australia website, however, would create a reference for those, whether private citizens or local governments or other institutions, contemplating hiring or engaging with permaculture business or community associations. At worst, the standards would be disregarded and we would be left with the current variable situation. At best, it could uplift the reputation of permaculture.
One reason that standards might be important is that they recognise the reality that permaculture designers and practitioners are legally liable for the consequences of the work they do. I wonder whether this and other regulatory, local government planning and worksafe legislation is discussed at all in permaculture design courses?
STANDARDS FOR INTERNSHIPS
The WWOOFing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) organisation already has standards or guidelines on what WWOOfers and their hosts should expect.
To avoid further allegations (an allegation may be true, untrue or partially true) of exploitation by permaculture hosts accepting interns, a set of standards for internships could include:
• hours of work
• provision of food
• provision of accommodation to a suitable standard
• insurance cover for the intern
can anyone enlighten me on how this is presently done, whether interns are covered by something like workers compensation or public liability insurance and how it might be done — is it covered by state legislation?
• a learning package for the intern
• host expectations
• and more that is relevant and important and needs discussing.
The question I have left off this list is that of whether interns pay for their internship. If they do, then it it an arrangement of payment plus free labour in return for learning? The follow-up question that inevitably hangs off this is whether this is exploitation. I guess that would partly depend on how much was asked for, however there lingers the notion that I think many would have as to whether paying plus free labour equals exploitation. The latter suggests the possibility that internships could be turned into a business model in permaculture, turning those offering them into de-facto training organisations.
Does anyone know the legalities around this?
I think the Second Ethic comes in here, as does Stephen Covey’s ‘win-win’ as the basis of equitable, mutually beneficial deals, one of his famous Seven Habits. For Covey, the ethical choice is ‘win-win or no-deal’.
In this article, I’ve asked those in-the-know about some of the legal questions hovering around interns in permaculture. I’ve asked that those offering internships comment so as we gain a broader impression of issues around hosting interns. Likewise, hearing from past or current interns would be potentially revealing.
What would also be enlightening is for hosts to explain:
• why they charge for internships
• what the cost covers
• what they consider a fair charge
• what they provide in return, training-wise, to the intern.
Some might think it impertinent to ask this, what they might consider a private matter. It is not impertinent, however, because what they do impinges on other intern hosts and on the design system and those within it generally.
Permaculture operates within the reputation economy. Just as for businesses in general, it is less what the owners and spokespeople say and more about what others say about the business or organisation that becomes its reputation. What people say spreads though social media, such being an automatic function of networks.
Gaining a fuller idea of how internships in permaculture work and how they could be improved is key to maintaining a good reputation for the design system, a little of which has already been lost among individuals who have had negative internship experiences. Generally, permaculture currently basks in good reputation. Tackling these touchy, difficult issues like internship in a creative way will help keep it that way.
Thanks for that information, Paul.
The ABC story you point to is worth reading, as is listening to the audio track linked to the story. It shows that WWOOFing is mainly a positive experience but there are hosts taking advantage of WWOOFers and there are deficiencies in food and accommodation provided to WWOOFers.
Workers’ insurance continues to be a grey area. WWOOF, the organisation, provides insurance only to $10,000, leaving injury costing more than that up to the WWOOFer taking legal action against the host. Given the duration of visas and the costs and delays of taking legal action, the burden of severe injury could be left to the WWOOFer to bear. Laws, such as those applying to workers’ insurance, vary state-by-state.
DO WWOOFERS REDUCE JOB OPPORTUNITIES FOR RURAL WORKERS?
Another point in the story is that WWOOFers can reduce job opportunities for farm workers, thus contributing to the shrinkage of this line of rural work. The ABC article says there are around 14,000 WWOOFers in Australia. I wonder if the union official interviewed in the article and on the audio track may have thought about WWOOFers becoming some kind of de-facto rural workforce — unpaid ‘guest workers’ — displacing Australians who do farm work as a livelihood?
Then there’s the practice of any host being able to advertise for unpaid workers by calling them ‘WWOOFers’. There’s an example in the article. WWOOF, the organisation, cannot prevent this. The term has become a generic one that describes unpaid internships on farms rather than a proprietary term applying only to those going through the WWOOFer organisation.
On the audio track associated with the ABC article, a European WWOOFer says that it is a Western concept that people should be paid for work. That sort of statement isn’t likely to endear WWOOFers and their hosts to Australians seeking employment and ignores the reality of people trying to make a livelihood for themselves. Here’s hoping that statements like that don’t spread and lead to WWOOFers becoming seen as immigrant ‘guest workers’.
DO WE NEED PERMACULTURE HOST GUIDELINES?
Does all of this make producing a set of guidelines for permaculture farm hosts — for WWOOFing and for arrangements similar to WWOOFing, such as labour in return for food and accommodation — a good idea? There would be no way to make it compulsory that permaculture hosts sign on to a set of guidelines and some might balk at the idea, seeing creeping bureaucratisation. This should be avoided, of course, and — like the stillborn idea of setting standards for permaculture as protection for the design system’s reputation — the idea may never eventuate.
But… permaculture operates within a public context and what people say about permaculture affects its future. Given this, would guidelines help protect the design system and those farm hosts offering a fair and authentic experience, including the training that should be part of any internship, and so maintain permaculture’s reputation for providing a good experience and for enacting its Second Ethic of care of people?
Thanks for writing this article Russ.
I am not a lawyer. I have studied several law subjects and know how to research case law. I am the daughter of an accomplished legal academic and solicitor. I find this a very concerning area. Sadly, we do need a code of conduct & uniformity in what we call such “training”. In my humble opinion, if permie educators want to charge people for doing intense, hands on, on the job training then call it what it is – intensive practical training (or something similar) – that legally should indicate that it is an educational experience not work. A prerequisite might be holding a PDC. It is quite clear from other industries that calling it an internship is not appropriate.
I admit at the start that I have not read all the words in this article/discussion but am moved to comment as a person affected by the topic.
We are more and more getting requests from people to do wwoofing and internships at Purple Pear Farm and are almost constantly disappointed in the result of opening the property people wanting to gain skills in permaculture or to experience the life in the mandala market garden or to run a CSA.
We will nolonger take wwoofers as the experience in recent years has been of exploitation and disappointment. Participants take lots of supervising and are very hard on equipment. They take several days to train to a useful standard and then invariably leave to a new experience. Some are not at all interested in the farm but in a holiday at little expense and the work done is most often unsatisfactory.
We started to take interns who requested involvement in the running of the farm on a 10 week internship. The structure of the internship was a learning focus with payment in productivity. Each module of the internship highlighted an aspect of the farm and the practical allowed for return of the time in teaching in productive endeavors. Many interns fail to live up to the bargain by leaving before the 10 weeks is completed. Some have left without so much as a word.
We have decided that there will need to be a cost up front for anyone wanting to do an internship. There will be a charge of $150 each day. $50 will be for board and $100 for tuition. The internship will be Monday to Friday. The $100 may be reimbursed if the volume and quantity of work meets our expectation.
We are aware of the opportunities we can provide to people starting out in Permaculture and love to share our knowledge and farm with people willing to learn. We want to always be flexible and to provide for peoples individual needs but there is a need for the arrangement to suit us and the operation of the farm.
About Internships at Djanbung
We offer a few different types of ‘internships’ here at Djanbung Gardens, which is a permaculture education centre and demonstration farm, not a commercial production farm. Our main-crop is education, APT qualifications, PDCs and specialist courses/workshops and we provide structured training for 160 days of the year. The training programs here are conducted by Permaculture College Australia Inc, a non-profit association, and course fees don’t quite cover the full cost of providing the training and maintaining the property, so keeping courses affordable involves a lot of voluntary as well as very modestly paid work. PCA has public liability insurance and also workers compensation for the core team. We are not a registered WWOOF host, but occasionally take on people for short periods as resident volunteers in a similar type of arrangement.
We offer residential internships primarily to our full-time APT students as an option to live on-site while they are studying (many full-time APT students live off-site and just attend classes here). Full-time students attend classes 4 days a week and have assessment projects and homework to complete in their own time. Resident APT student interns will live here for a 6-11month period and are receiving the government student living allowance (Austudy). They pay a reduced rent in exchange for participating in basic farm maintenance (animals, nursery and gardens) for 1 hr/day. They can opt to do a few extra hours a fortnight to further reduce their rent. They get their own personal garden plot and collective area to do their own experimenting with gardening, composting, and receive a share of garden surplus (from the main gardens) for the communal kitchen. They pay a modest weekly amount ($25) into a communal kitchen kitty and coordinate communal meals.
Rent includes electricity, gas, wifi internet and full access to our student resources, library etc, the kitchen is fully equipped and living and sleeping areas fully furnished. In effect it functions like a student share-house with benefits they wouldn’t have if they were renting off-site. It costs around $5,000-$8,000/year to make this facility available including the cost of improvements, repairs and replacements. Plus someone needs to coordinate accommodation bookings, inductions, rosters, meetings, make sure residential interns and the accommodation facilities are ok and deal with any issues arising. This can be emotionally as well as physically taxing at times.
The full-time APT courses are only available to Australian residents and NZ citizens, we cannot legally enrol overseas students on a student visa, yet we receive requests from overseas folk who’d like to participate in the training program. To accommodate this we also offer limited places for Overseas Internships for people on a visitor or working holiday visa to join us for a period of 8-10 weeks or a half-semester program, which is permitted under their visa conditions. Naturally, these interns are paying for the studies they participate in, have the same rental agreement and costs as our full-time APT student interns, and usually do a little extra hands-on project work in the gardens and on-the-job training.
People living on-site sign an agreement, so conditions, expectations and responsibilities of all parties are clear. We also have codes of practice and protocols for students, residential interns/volunteers and staff. Inductions include workplace health and safety. We care about our resident interns and students, and take people-care seriously.
Occasionally we will take on short-term resident volunteers (WWOOFer-style arrangement) who are mainly overseas travellers who’ve done a PDC. These volunteers do 20hrs a week work in the gardens (4hrs/day for 5 days with weekends free) to cover accommodation, use of site resources and on-the-job training. One of our team needs to induct, coordinate, train and supervise their work. Resident volunteers need to pay the weekly contribution into the student communal kitchen kitty and participate in the resident intern rosters. At times these resident volunteers have chosen to also participate in some courses as paying participants or have done additional hours for course work exchange.
Over the years we have had a few people who’ve asked to do an internship here as part of a university course they’re undertaking. We need to screen these carefully as they can cost us a huge amount of time and effort, which often isn’t sufficiently compensated for by their input (or work output). We do not charge for these internships apart from rent and kitchen kitty contribution. We don’t encourage these types of placements mainly due to the fact that we simply don’t have the surplus time and energy to invest in their specific study and personal needs.
We do not ask interns, students or volunteers to do any personal favours for the Djanbung management team as part of any of these exchanges. I am shocked when I hear about interns having to clean their host’s bedroom, make their bed and essentially be treated as an unpaid domestic servant – yes, I have met people burned in this way. On the other hand, I also have friends who specifically ask for woofers who are happy to help out with childcare and housework, and if it’s all up front and mutually agreed I see no issue.
I realise what we offer are not the standard types of farm-work internships, but that’s the most appropriate term we have found to describe what we offer the serious permaculture student who would like to immerse themselves in a living learning community in a real-life permaculture system and participate in the training we provide.
This is the last year we’re offering the full-time APT courses and internships. The details for the full-time residential internships are provided upon request http://permaculture.com.au/student-resources/
We are in the process of planning the kind of programs and internships we’ll be offering from 2016. One option will be for people doing the APT cert IV or diploma on-line course to live in an environment where they can practice and have access to the wealth of resources here, however we still need to work out details for this.
Looked for the reference but couldn’t find it. Maybe I didn’t look closely enough.
Thanks for your response.
Are you sure moving water can compress air wothout moving parts in the compressor? Irrespective, compressed air technology is clearly a means of converting the energy of falling water […]
Compresses air can be a source of stored energy, however it requires another energy source to compress the air. The primary energy source that compresses the air could be hydro or heat energy, […]
Mark Brown writes…
Entry to the movement is for all but the next step should be the PDC.
It can be such an issue but it remains important as we see so many of the people who do their PDC at Purple Pear […]
To answer John’s question we have to ask the deeper question that underlies it: does Permaculture Australia want to be a quasi-professional organisation or a social movement?
If your answer is a […]
Why permaculture needs public visitor centres
There’s been some talk recently of the desirability of publicly-accessible places demonstrating permaculture principles in action. I was introduced to the need for this when Dr Robert Gillman visited Australia in 1995 and spoke at Glebe Town Hall in Sydney and at the permaculture convergence that y…[Read more]
Permaculture Global is an interactive database showcasing permaculture projects and practitioners around the world.
If you want to find out who is doing what, and where, in the permaculture world or if you have a project you would like to add to the database visit the website to.. network… share… learn… grow!
[button_link url="http://www.permacultureglobal.com " target="blank" style="blue" title="" class="" id="" onclick=""]Visit Permaculture Global to find a project near you[/button_link]
Find a project
You can search for projects by keyword, and/or filter to specific project types.
You can even constrain your search by climate zone, so you can find others working in similar conditions as yourself.
Add your project
If you have a project of your own, be sure to put it on the map! From a mini-garden on a high rise balcony, to a small residential or larger rural broadacre project, all the way through to a full-blown multi-village aid endeavour in sub-Saharan Africa, readers want to know all about it.
Network, share, learn, grow!
[caption id="attachment_6087" align="alignnone" width="580"] Screen shot of the Permaculture Global projects page, to see the website in action, go to http://www.permacultureglobal.com/projects (Map courtesy of Permaculture Research Institute)[/caption]
What is Permaculture Global?
Permaculture Global is an interactive database showcasing permaculture projects and practitioners around the world.
You can upload your permaculture project up on the database or create a page about yourself.
[bpfb_link url=’http://permacultureaustralia.org.au/2013/06/13/find-a-permculture-project/’ title=’Find a…[Read more]
You will notice when you come and visit the Permaculture Australia website there is a change. When you login now, you will be directed to your ’profile’ page which is like visiting your facebook page.
When you hit the home page in the navigation bar you will go back to your ’profile’ There is a button now in the side bar that will take yo…[Read more]