Virginia Solomon is the Chair of the PA Board of Directors, and a member of the PA Education and Fundraising teams. In response to the Melbourne COVID-19 restrictions, Virginia started making and selling homemade face masks – with all profits being donated to Permaculture Australia.
If you’re wondering what has making reusable face masks got to do with permaculture…. the answer is lots! Permaculture is based on three ethics – Earth care, People care and Fair share. You can’t do one without the other. These masks will help keep people safe (People Care), reduce single use masks (Earth Care) and profits are being donated to assist with permaculture projects and being made by volunteers donating their surplus time (Fair Share).
“It is unfortunate, but I think we may be in masks for a long time to come, so we might as well have beautiful, comfortable and compostable (or almost) ones! I am still seeing a lot of single-use [masks] around, but hopefully most people will be wearing re-useable ones soon. In fact, this was the main motivator for me from a permaculture point of view – reducing waste, using donated fabrics (although we do insist that all materials be new), involving our community in something positive at such a challenging time – and helping the planet heal one small mask at a time,” Virginia Solomon
Demand for the product has skyrocketed with the announcement by the Victorian Premier on compulsory use of facemasks.
The Eltham Farmers Market kindly agreed to host a Permaculture Australia stall each Sunday. They have been a huge hit – selling out within one hour on the first day of the market! The PA facemasks are also available via postal order to ensure we can reach as many people as possible safely.
A team of volunteers including several PA members has formed to assist with the sewing and fabric cutting. More volunteers based in Melbourne to keep up with demand are urgently needed. More details are listed below.
“It has been a lot of work! Very long days but it is all worth it when people are so enthusiastic and appreciative of the quality of our masks. I have had heaps of help from some wonderful volunteers, too, so it is not just me. We are a team of six including a 12 year old! Fantastic socially distanced community experience,” Virginia Solomon
Tell me more about the masks
The homemade masks are available at the Eltham Farmers Market this Sunday 2nd August from 0800am until all sold out. You can also purchase via postal order/online using the form here.
The three layer masks are $17 each or two for $30 (plus p/handling for postal orders) and come in three sizes. 100% of the profts are being donated to PA to help minimise the impact of single use masks in the waste stream.
I’m keen to volunteer – how can I get involved?
Volunteers who are available to assist with cutting fabric or sewing (chain piecing components) this week are urgently needed. Please get in touch via the PA email: firstname.lastname@example.org so we can link you up. All fabric is provided and you will need to be based in Eltham or surrounds due to travel restrictions. Thanks in advance for your support.
Virginia Solomon is an active member and volunteer of Permaculture Australia, the national member based organisation. Find out more about Virginia here and here. Growing food, making things from scratch, sharing skills and working locally but thinking about global issues are all part of Virginia’s philosophy, which si captured as one of the featured casestudies on the Retrosuburbia website here.
The Eltham Farmers Marketexists to provide trading opportunities for genuine local farmers and added value makers. The local food being sold has all been grown or made by the stallholder selling it. The market is a project of local Community Group – Local Food Connect – and is proud to be accredited by the Victorian Farmers’ Markets Association. The market operates from 8am to midday every Sunday and is following all Covid-19 restrictions.
Rod Hughes had been working in environmental management for nearly three decades, including half of this time in his dream job running the Swan River Trust before moving into permaculture. After leaving work to study a Diploma in Permaculture with Ross Mars at Candlelight Farm, he joined Perth City Farm as Farm Manager, and started a consulting business, Leafcutter Permaculture. He is also a PA professional member. Martina Hoeppner of the PA Education Team chats with Rod about starting out in permaculture, the impact of accredited training, and his life motto – “be nice and grow things”!
Could you tell me why you left your job and how you got into permaculture?
I had always been drawn to the natural world and had grown veggies about the place since I was a kid. I picked up a second-hand copy of Permaculture One and then was given the Designers Manual. This crystallised my thinking and I committed to doing a PDC at wonderful Fair Harvest in Western Australia. I followed this up by doing the Advanced Certificate with Ross Mars and Graham Bell, did two permie earthworks courses (one at our place in the Chittering Valley) and then decided to take the leap, quit my job and enrolled in the Diploma in Permaculture. My whole career has been in figuring out ways for us to have good lives while either keeping the environment good or making it better. I became increasingly impressed with David Holmgren’s thinking and how permie concepts can be applied to pretty much all aspects of our lives.
You have a Diploma in Permaculture now. How is it helping you in your current work?
Doing a series of design projects with other Diploma students really helped give me confidence to start offering design services to others. So I set up my Leafcutter Permaculture business. I’m now really enjoying engaging with folks in helping them design garden systems which are nice places to be, grow good food and help heal planet earth. I find the design process really creative and love that your skills grow with each project. I am very happy to keep doing that, with a view to getting more involved in rural and peri-urban projects.
Of course, having a permie background is a great help in my role as Farm Manager (other job of dreams) at Perth City Farm, which was built all those years ago by some seriously clever permaculture thinkers. The teaching angle emerged for me this year and I feel extremely honoured to have been on the PDC teaching team at Fair Harvest for the first time in January. I have just started offering permie workshops at City Farm – something we will definitely build in the year ahead.
What would you say to someone who is just discovering permaculture and interested in working in this field? As I stress to clients and students, permaculture is so much deeper and wider than growing veggies. But getting engaged in growing good food is a great place to start because it connects to so many other aspects of our lives. So…come and volunteer with me in the garden at City Farm! I would tell anyone to read lots, do an intro [to permaculture] course, read lots more, then do a PDC – it will change your life!
The last year has been an interesting one. Has this changed your thinking about permaculture? I don’t think the pandemic has changed my thinking about permaculture at all. I have been convinced for a very long time that being kind to each other, looking after mother earth and ensuring fair share is critical to our survival. My motto: “Be nice and grow things”.
Rod Hughes is a professional member of Permaculture Australia, the national member based organisation in Australia. Sign up as a member here today to join hundreds of members across Australia advocating for permaculture solutions.
MartinaHoeppner is a professional member of Permaculture Australia and an active volunteer with the PA Education team. More information on the Accredited Permaculture Training, including the Diploma of Permaculture completed by Rod, and the PA education team can be found here.
Perth City Farm is a 26 year old half hectare urban farm that provides space and opportunities to build community connections, and educates and enables people to live sustainably. Further information on how to volunteer with Rod and the team can be found here.
The drought, catastrophic bushfires and now the global Covid-19 pandemic. It’s been a bumpy start to 2020 and it’s only July, yikes. Gaps in community and household resilience coincided with a huge spike in folks wanting to know about backyard food production, sustainable living and permaculture. Social media groups, including the PA Facebook group, had hundreds of new member requests each day. PA members reported overwhelming demand and shared an incredible range of free resources here to support the requests coming in.
In the words of PA member Meg McGowan aka Permacoach “Permaculture is suddenly very popular”!
PA’s Kym asked several of our PA members the question – why is permaculture so hot right now? And will it last?
Meg McGowan (right) with Rowe Morrow, friend & mentor. Photo credit: supplied.
” It’s not just a renewed interest among those of us that have always felt aligned to the ethics and principles of permaculture, but a surge among people that have never heard of it before. Why? At a pragmatic level, permaculture offers people and efficient, low cost way to produce some food. With the isolation restrictions and economic burdens of Covid-19 an increased interest in home grown food is understandable. Growing food saves money, but it’s about so much more than that.
Shortages in supermarkets have brought home to many people the risks of relying upon others for their basic needs. People recognised that being able to feed themselves from their own garden would provide a buffer against the collapse of the industrialised food system. Permaculture can teach them to do that. Local farmers recently saw a huge boost in income as many people woke up to the obvious solution to an insecure model; buy locally grown and produced food and you build food security.
Artwork by Meg McGowan
But permaculture goes beyond growing some herbs and veggies, or keeping some chickens in the back yard. It’s an ethically based pattern for designing and evolving systems that increase ecological health while providing for human needs. I think this is why it’s suddenly so hot right now. We have come through a summer, an autumn and the beginnings of a winter where the destruction caused by human consumption and greed has finally become impossible to ignore.”
Michael Wardle, Savour Soils Permaculture. Photo credit: supplied.
“Over the last few months since the drought, fires and the COVID crisis, which still continues in many areas, I have found there has been a huge increase in not only my design services but the courses offered here. To the point where one sold out in ten hours! As to why?. Well, when we look around at nature, we see permaculture is surrounding us. Things that are in a beautiful symbiotic relationship, the mutualism of living things showing the dynamic equilibrium, supporting each other where the system as a whole grows in wealth.”
“I think people are starting to understand that we cannot keep going on “as normal” and that things can change if we want to or have to. Again, the recent episodes have highlighted this. We do not “do” permaculture, but do things in a permaculture way. The idea of building resilience in the face of these events has become very appealing to many and seeing some of the self-reliance that can be offered by looking at things with a permaculture lens.”
“Following the wildfires here on the far south coast back in January,there was a steady stream of consultancy work visiting burnt properties and that continues today six months later. Then the COVID-19 lockdown saw an increased interest in household food growing and bookings onto permaculture courses.
It’s interesting that when faced with severe circumstances, a fresh batch of the population begin a process of looking for solutions and permaculture sits well placed as a light on the hill.”
Artwork by PA Member Brenna Quinlan
PA Life member and permaculture co-originator David Holmgren also wrote about this topic in a recent article stating that:
“while we [in the permaculture and kindred movements] have been doing some combination of modelling and teaching about the ways to live better with less, it has remained an option that, until the pandemic, most people had little inkling of or interest in. The current explosion of interest in home-based self-reliance, like previous waves of interest over the decades, is countercyclical to the faith and fortune in mainstream economic values and options. But the intensity of this downturn has acted as a slap in the face for many people dozing in the comfortable cocoon of consumer capitalism.”
“If you are new to permaculture then know that this movement is full of people willing to help. There are plenty of online communities but please try to find permaculture people locally and connect with them. Changing human society will require us to be geographically connected and to figure out how to get along with people that don’t share our biases.
If you already know some permaculture then it’s time to step up. The planet needs you. The task is huge but collectively we each only need to do a little. Start a book club and read any of the great permaculture books together. Set up a produce share, or a permaculture learning circle. Join your local and national permaculture bodies and volunteer some of your time to advancing permaculture. Find your social edges. Where does permaculture begin and end in your local community? Which edges are already closely aligned or supporting what you are doing and how can you each share more with the other?”
More information and resources:
Permaculture Australia is the national permaculture member based organisation. Sign up as a member here today and help us advocate for permaculture solutions. You can also follow Permaculture Australia on Facebook, Instagram and join our Facebook group. If you have skills to share and want to assist with promoting permaculture further, please get in touch via email@example.com
Beck Lowe is a permaculture practitioner, educator, writer and editor from central Victoria. She’s been teaching permaculture for almost two decades and written in various publications including Pip magazine. She is also David Holmgren’s editor, in particular with RetroSuburbia, and manages Melliodora Publishing, which produces a small range of permaculture related titles. In her spare time, she spends as much time as possible on her farm. PA’s Kym chatted with Beck about life during COVID, permaculture as a solution, & living a frugal, productive & fullfilling way of life.
How did you get into permaculture?
I first got into permaculture in the mid-90s. Prior to that, I had gone straight from school into activism, protesting again the destruction of old growth forests amongst other things (I got my year 12 results in jail!). The world is full of things to protest about, and consequently my life was very focused on the negative. So discovering permaculture was a revelation for me – an articulation of a positive way forward, focused on the solutions rather than the problems. I’ve been on the permaculture path ever since. Permaculture is about creating a life that is resilient, regenerative and fulfilling, whilst respecting and working with nature.
David Holmgren and Beck Lowe.
You have a big involvement with Retrosuburbia, including editing the book and teaching. What advice would you give to those starting out, or who think permaculture is only possible with land and/or money?
Yes, RetroSuburbia has been a very big part of my life for quite a few years now! It has an emphasis on doing what you can, where you are. Permaculture is a mindset and a way of life – there are opportunities for everyone, whatever their situation. I would encourage people to look at the case studies on retrosuburbia.com, especially the rental properties, and immerse themselves in the ‘Behavioural Field’ of RetroSuburbia for inspiration. And visit some community gardens – these provide great spaces, and community, for those who can’t grow food at home. I don’t want to gloss over the fact that many things can be easier with more money, more space and greater security of tenure, but creativity and flexibility can blossom in any situation. Most Australians live in urban areas, so that’s where the transformation has to happen.
You’ve recently donated to PA’s Permafund – thank you! Why did you choose Permafund?
The permaculture ethics are intrinsic to what I do. Although I earn well under the average Australian wage, a permaculture lifestyle is relatively frugal and I’m conscious that I’m very wealthy by global standards. So it felt right to share some of this income, especially as my increased workload in recent times has left less time for volunteer activities. Once I made a decision to donate, Permafund was pretty much a no-brainer – it is a charity that aligns with my ethics and outlook on life and is run by volunteers with the maximum amount of money going directly to grassroots projects.
One of your many hats is teaching permaculture and volunteering with the PA Education team. How important is permaculture education as part of building more resilient communities?
I think permaculture education is critically important in building resilience – but this doesn’t necessary mean formal education, it might be kitchen-table-chat-type education. There is no one way that permaculture education should look. Diversity is key: some people respond best to one-to-one interaction with mentors, others to hands-on practical activities, others to formal course structures. This is the idea behind the RetroSuburbia Trainers and Facilitators Workshops. Rather than specifying a particular course format, we aim to give participants the tools and inspiration to tailor formats and activities to suit the groups they work with.
I have been involved with Accredited Permaculture Training for many years as it provides outcomes that other delivery platforms can’t. For instance access to funding and formal certificates recognised by a wide cross-section of society. That said, by far my favourite way to teach permaculture is on PDCs: a tried and tested format that has inspired so many people from all over the world for decades. It is long and/or intense enough to take participants on a real journey of discovery.
It’s been a rocky start to 2020 for many – has life changed much for you with COVID-19 restrictions?
There were no big fundamental changes to my life – but restrictions did result in a lot more screen time with a greater workload and many more online meetings! Some courses I was involved in were adapted for online delivery; others were put on hold. There was a huge rush from the RetroSuburbia team to get the book online, to enable it to be accessed by as many people as possible at a time where it could have the most impact – this was very successful, but also very stressful. On a personal level, COVID-19 has reinforced to me that I have made good life choices. As the crisis hit, I felt resilient and empowered, with a strong sense of being rich in the things that matter: I have food in the garden, skills and knowledge to share, and a community of like-minded, supportive people (and no worries about what to wipe my bum on!).
There has been a huge interest in permaculture and calls to ‘not return to normal’. Will this interest continue – and how can we advocate for ongoing change?
Before and after – the transformation of Beck’s property
The increased interest in food growing, permaculture and Retrosuburbia has been inspiring and exciting, but even the panic buying and stockpiling exposed the lack of faith people have in the current systems. COVID-19 has been a wake-up call for many; a chance to reassess life and make changes. And critically, COVID-19 has shown that change is possible – not only from the bottom-up, with people rediscovering household food production and the importance of community, but also from the top-down, with those in power making big changes when they regard the situation as serious enough.
I would love to think that we won’t return to ‘normal’ and will voluntarily transition to a more resilient, sustainable, regenerative and connected society, but I don’t think this will happen easily. I suspect more people will be forced into frugal ways of living by the financial fallout of the crisis rather than by making the transition voluntarily. Whether change is forced or voluntary, the permaculture response should be the same – offering tried and tested solutions. The best way to advocate is to lead by example – go about our permaculture lives and through that, show people what is possible. And we need to articulate that frugal, productive living is a fulfilling way of life: meaningful work, more time with family and loved ones, more dirt under the fingernails… That said, there is a role for more formal advocacy too; we definitely need more permaculture voices in the mix as society grapples with the crisis.
What is coming up for you in 2020 and any final messages?
Melliodora Publishing is launching its first novel – 470 by well-known permaculture writer Linda Woodrow. And Brenna Quinlan, Richard Telford, David Holmgren and I have been working on a picture book adaption of David’s ‘Aussie St’ story which will also be published this year. I’ve been working on a permaculture animal book for many years, and this should see the light of day soon too. All going according to plan, another PDC is about to start through the Castlemaine Community House, and the RetroSuburbia Trainers and Facilitators Workshops should be running again soon. On the farm, I’m doing lots of work on my water systems and making the most of the recent rain by planting more trees.
My final message? Especially in this time of crisis, permaculture people are some of the most important people in the world – we have the skills and knowledge to guide people through the transformation to a more localised, sustainable and resilient society. Keep up the great work everyone!
Beck is a professional member of Permaculture Australia, the national permaculture member based organisation. Not a member? Sign up and join us here today.
Retrosuburbia: the downshifters guide to a resilient future is the latest book by David Holmgren and edited by Beck Lowe. Described as part manual and part manifesto, the book shows how Australian suburbs can be transformed to become productive and resilient in an energy descent future. It focuses on what can be done by an individual at the household level (rather than community or government levels). To obtain a copy of the book check out our supporters Permaculture Principles and don’t forget to use your PA 10% member discount too.
PA’s Permafund has provided dozens of small grants to permaculture community projects in Australia and internationally. Donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia and can be set up as recurring or one off donations. Find out more including how to donate here
Robyn has worked in Australia and internationally since 1983. She was a founding director of Permaculture International Ltd (PIL) in 1987, editor of the Permaculture International Journal, designer and creator of Djanbung Gardens and founder of Permaculture College Australia. Robyn was involved in developing and the early delivery of the Accredited Permaculture Training™ (APT) vocational permaculture qualifications. She walks her talk on her property, Djanbung Gardens in northern NSW and is passionate about all things permaculture. Robyn has dedicated the past four decades empowering people to be effective agents of change. Her students include some of permaculture’s leading teachers and activists.
PA’s Kym chats with Robyn about preparing for the changing climate & pandemics, the importance of respecting Indigenous knowledge and local food security projects to build community resilience.
Can you tell us a bit about your long & varied career, including how you got into permaculture?
I came across permaculture in 1977 when I heard Bill Mollison speak at an Organic Festival near Sydney, promoting the soon to be published, ‘Permaculture One’. I had just returned to Australia after five years travelling and living in Europe and Asia learning about traditional cultures, farming and survival skills. I was back in Australia looking for land to do the self-reliance thing. Permaculture was a natural next step, bringing all my ideas and interests together as an integrated philosophy and methodology. Over the next six years I experimented from the book on my herb farm on the NSW mid-north coast, where I was also involved in numerous community projects and the Rural Resettlement Task Force (multiple occupancy & intentional community movement). In 1983 I left the farm, did a PDC (which was the first women’s PDC) then moved to Sydney in 1984 to get permaculture going there – the rest is history.
Opening the EPICentre in Enmore, Sydney 1986 Bill Mollison & Robyn Francis (Damian Lynch in background)
What have been some of the highlights, and also the challenges?
Some of the highlights in the early years would have to be the IPCs (International Permaculture Convergences) I attended, especially a) IPC-1 in 1984 with the earlier pioneers, collectively laying the foundational agreements for the permaculture movement, the PDC and role of the Permaculture Institute b) IPC-2 in 1986 which brought together Fukuoka, Bill Mollison and Wes Jackson.
Another highlight were the two visits to India as Bill Mollison’s assistant, including co-teaching India’s first PDC in 1987, and Bill’s mentoring throughout the 1980s. The exchange visit to Cuba in 2008, visiting 40 projects throughout the country, designing Jarlanbah (NSW’s first community title ecovillage), working with Aboriginal communities in NT and on the Murray River, teaching the first PDC’s translated into Mandarin in Taiwan and China and so many more. My life has been overwhelmingly full of exceptional experiences and opportunities to meet, learn from and work with amazing people and to see inspiring projects in so many parts of the planet.
There have been many challenges along the way, working long unpaid hours with sporadic income; turning up to teach PDC’s elsewhere with little or no basic resources and finding creative solutions (like the time I was provided with a little toddlers blackboard and half a chalk!); having the courage to jump into unknown and precarious situations and think on my feet; being let down and having to extend myself even further to get the job done; and recovering from a couple of major burnouts which helped me find more balance in my life and establish clear boundaries. There were also the positive, yet very demanding challenges of negotiating the labyrinth of bureaucratic requirements to create the Accredited Permacuture Training and deliver it successfully for 11 years here a Djanbung Gardens. I accept challenges as an opportunity to grow and even the most difficult have provided valuable lessons to take forward.
You’ve been active in food and seed sovereignty projects in your local area – why are projects like these are so important?
Building bioregional and local resilience is critical for moving forward, and as we’ve experienced, for surviving shocks. Over the years I have sought to balance my national and international work with grassroots action in my local community. I’ve used my community facilitation skills to guide collaborative processes and especially the initial meetings in 2009 that launched ‘Sustainable Nimbin’. The three priority areas identified were food security, energy and transport. I joined the Nimbin Food Security Group and mentored the involvement of my APT diploma students in these initiatives including raising awareness and conducting community surveys and consultation. The Nimbin Food Security group was a dynamic team of committed people under the umbrella of the Nimbin Neighbourhood Association. It has brought exceptional results including two local weekly farmers markets, a food processing library, seed exchange. With Robina McCurdy a series of workshops brought together farmers, food producers and retailers to identify challenges and opportunities. We formed a food co-op within a week to take over the local organic green grocers store in town when the owners closed it down.
We see much more local produce in local stores and cafes, farmers and growers that once struggled to make ends meet are earning a sustainable living, and a there has been a surge in small food processing enterprises. For the past five years we can source 80-90% of our food from within a 30km radius, including staples like our local Nimbin Valley Rice, Nimbin dairy products, local grassfed meats, tofu from local BD soybeans, coffee and a long list of fresh fruit, veg and other produce. During the fires last November and the pandemic lockdown, the community has been exceptional in the many ways people and organisations have pulled together, helped each other and ensured everyone was cared for.
Djanbung Gardens, from a barren cow pasture in 1993
Bushfires, droughts and the pandemic have shown community resilience and preparedness are crucial. Can you describe how you’ve designed Djanbung Gardens to cope with disasters and also any changes being made?
When I was searching for land, the capacity to design for disaster resilience and climate change were key factors. Not just the property but the location, climate, and community were all top considerations on my list. Where I am in the Nimbin valley is well above 1:100yr flood level, classified as low fire risk, sheltered topographically from severe wind loadings, has the highest rainfall area in NSW and I am easy walking distance from the village. Although I designed fire breaks into the property, fire has not posed a major threat or concern until last November, when Gondwana rainforests on Nightcap that have never burned were on fire and hundreds of friends evacuated from the Tuntable valley, just over the hill. This was a wake-up call and for the first time in 25 years we went through a full fire prevention cleanup and preparation, and are revising our plans regarding future fire vulnerability. We can experience massive rainfall events around here, with the greatest so far being 515mm in 24 hours. I designed our water systems to cope with this degree of flow through the property to prevent flash flooding and water damage. The water collection systems (dams and tanks) are designed with the capacity to get us through historic droughts however we will be augmenting water tank storage in the future as dry seasons are lengthening and getting hotter.
Our greatest disaster challenge is climate breakdown, these other shocks are simply symptoms of the big one. Climate resilience has been a guiding factor in my design and our operations, however the rapidity of climate change and it’s manifestations is relentlessly accelerating. The last three summers have been exceptionally severe with extreme dry and heat, and progressively more severe each year — even tropical vegetables have shrivelled despite regular watering. Most of our summer production now needs to be under shade so we’ve built bamboo shade structures over part of our gardens. This is a big topic, and apart from what we doing on Djanbung, the most critical part of disaster preparedness is collaborating on a community level.
There has been a lot of media coverage about cultural burning and the importance of First Nations and Australian Indigenous knowledge for caring for country. How do you incorporate learnings from the local Indigenous communities into your permaculture activities?
I think local knowledge is incredibly important and unfortunately so much has been lost. This bioregion has been intimately micro-managed for tens of thousands of years and there’s much for us to learn. Relationships with our local elders and original communities need to be developed with deep respect and it’s not simply about taking their knowledge for our own use. Relationships need cultivation and nurturing over time to build trust. Here we have been in contact with our local mob since the outset, being gifted the name of our permaculture centre by the senior Lore/Law) keeper of the Bundjalung Nation. Part of building this relationship is getting to know some language, the ‘real’ names and stories of local mountains, rivers and special places, our local bushfoods and their seasonality, these are all integral to cultural learning, it’s not only about fire.
Caring for country, which includes cultural burning, demands an intimate daily relationship with the land, the local plants, animals, seasonal cycles, it’s not a one-size fits all or single cart blanch recipe. In this part of the country there was historically very little burning, mainly used to maintain marsupial pastures in the open forest of wider valleys and small targeted burning of the walking trails along the ridges to keep them open. Here we are in wet rainforest country and many of our forest ecosystems have never been burned culturally or by natural causes (until last year’s fires). In drier country there’s already strong evidence that cultural burning is effective and reduces fire vulnerability while keeping the ecosystem healthy and wildlife abundant. Listen, learn and observe.
What are the most important issue(s) we are facing as a at present – and how do you see permaculture positioned to respond to these?
This is a big question… our biggest challenge is halting the accelerating biospheric destruction favoured by governments and their corporate sponsors/beneficiaries. The problems we face, such as climate, social and economic breakdown are symptoms of the deeper rot of the growth-obsessed consumer society. As permaculturists we can respond on many different levels and in many different ways. We mustn’t lose sight of diversity, including the diverse situations people find themselves in and what factors they can immediately influence and change in their daily life, in their work, in their community and on a political level. We have a huge opportunity right now to reach out on a community level, especially as we deal with the aftermath of drought, fire, flood, pandemic, and we know there’s more in store. The single most important thing we can do is to reach out to our neighbours, regenerate community, not only for self-reliance and resilience, disaster preparation and response, but for abundance, conviviality and inspire through creativity and celebration. And we can all lend our voice to support others regionally, nationally and globally as ambassadors for the earth and for justice.
What does 2020 have in store for you and Djanbung Gardens and your other ventures?
2020 has been a difficult and challenging year with the pandemic forcing cancellation of some major courses and events and we seem to fall between the cracks regarding eligibility for government financial support. Despite some financial hardship, we have so much to be grateful for and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else during such times. I feel safe here and know we have created a place to survive these shocks and am surrounded by a caring and supportive community.
This is an important time of transitional change for me on both personal and professional levels. We now have three generations living here at Djanbung so there’s the inevitable ongoing adjustments in living arrangements and our physical environment for my twin grandkids as they grow. Most of my peers have retired many years ago and I’m not ready for that yet, although on some fronts I intend to slow down to make space for other things I’ve not had time to complete or embark on. We are in the process of planning our collective priorities for the coming years and decades here at Djanbung, it’s a work in progress. The one constant in life is change, it’s how we respond that’s important.
Where can I find out more?
Check out the range of permaculture courses (online and face to face), property tours and events by Djanbung Gardens and Permaculture College Australia here. Permaculture Australia members get a 10% discount on courses offered by Djanbung Gardens and the Permaculture College Australia.
Not a member of PA? Sign up here to access a great range of member discounts and to help us advocate for permaculture solutions.
The next installment of our ‘meeting the team’ series – celebrating the amazing diversity and skills of the volunteers that keep Permaculture Australia running. This includes the Board of Directors – six extraordinary women volunteering their time and skills for twelve months.
PA’s Kym chats with Wendy Marchment from the Board of Directors – about how she got involved with permaculture, plans for 2020 and how she ‘walks the permaculture talk’ in her daily life.
How did you get into permaculture?
My vague memory is that my Dad had some copies of the International Permaculture Journal in the early 90s and had visited Tyalgum where Bill Mollison was at that time. Around the same time I watched The Global Gardener series on ABC TV which resonated with me and subsequently bought the book Permaculture One.
I’ve been involved in various permaculture activities over the years whilst living in South Australia, Queensland and now Victoria. I particularly enjoyed teaching whilst working at Northey Street City Farm.
I love spending time outside creating edible gardens where I’ve lived. Lately, particularly during this COVID time and not working, I’ve been spending a lot of time on creating extra spaces and plantings on my large suburban block, as well as some design adjustments.
Banana crop. Photo credit: Wendy Marchment
Where do you live, and on what sort of property?
I’ve lived in Geelong on a north facing, sloped 1300sqm suburban block for the past 7 years with a 1960s cream brick veneer house that I share with my uni student son, our much loved mallinois rescue dog and sometimes an international student. I have a diverse range of plantings including a few experiments, for example bananas that I have actually obtained the odd bunch from. I’ve had to focus on soil improvement since my block had hydrophobic, sandy loam soil with little life in it. There’s been lots of free stable manure and coffee grounds used, in addition to green manure crops and heaps of straw. Two large worm farms in bathtubs help with this. I tend to cook what I grow and share or barter the surplus. Since I have limited storage space, my preserving is limited and often ends up as well received gifts. I’m getting more organised with seedsaving but still scatter various seeds around [in the garden] which leads to pleasant surprises.
Colour in the garden. Photo credit: Wendy Marchment.
What do you do with PA – and what is the best part of your role?
I’m just into my third year as Secretary on the Board of Directors and draw upon my experiences working in universities across many years. With a maths and statistics background working on projects, I have attention to detail and am organised so it’s a pretty good fit. I enjoy the fortnightly morning catchup with the paid positions [AMM Kym and Webmaster Kiran] – PA is lucky to have such capable people in these roles. I also like to create and improve, facilitate handovers and set things up to make it easier for newcomers. That’s still a work in progress and is part of the reason I’m still on the Board – along with the great group of people I get to meet and interact with.
What are your permie activities or plans for 2020 – and beyond?
It’s a bit hard to tell at this point given the unusual start to the year. Definitely more gardening. I’m looking forward to a little travel and catching up with friends and family. Hopefully I will also be able to get to a natural building course or two- I have a fascination with Cob and Bamboo.
In 20 words or less, describe what is permaculture and/or why it’s important?
Permaculture is fun and creative! It utilises design principles and observations of patterns in nature. It is essential for a healthy, resilient planet and communities.
Want to get involved with PA?
Read more about the PA People, including staff and volunteers here. If you’ve got skills to share and would like to join our volunteer team, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also get involved with PA by becoming a member to help us advocate for permaculture solutions here.