Applying Permaculture Principles and Ethics in Education Spaces

Applying Permaculture Principles and Ethics in Education Spaces

by Greta Carroll – Permaculture Australia Board Member and Chairperson

The Permaculture design ethics and principles have always been used in physical landscape design. Growing in popularity and importance is their application in social landscapes and businesses. For example, Meg McMgowan used the ethics and principles to teach new officers in the NSW Fraud Squad, Permaculture for Refugees uses them for an approach to working with people who have experienced displacement, a museum curator uses them to set up new exhibitions, and PermaQueer use them to demonstrate the difference between extractive, reductionist cultures and more syntropic, regenerative ways of being in the world.

For the last five years most of my work has been in permaculture education. I spend a lot of time thinking about the way culture, methods, and tools create effective learning environments, and designing and delivering educational experiences in Australia as well as overseas. 

Below is a non-exhaustive and constantly evolving list of some of the ways I use permaculture ethics and principles as a teacher. I’ve drawn on content from Rowe Morrow’s Permaculture Teacher Training Book where I think it’s useful.


Earth Care –  What options do we have for catering in our courses? Can you passively heat or cool the venue to rely less on fossil fuels? Sitting under the shade of a tree is often much nicer than a hot, stuffy classroom

Can I find teaching tools that are reusable, recycled, multi-functional, biodegradable and/or locally produced?

What does the language I use say about the relationship I have with the Earth? Do I speak from a power-over- or anthropocentric paradigm? 

People Care –
What are the roles and responsibilities of learners outside of the classroom, and how can we ensure we’re accommodating them in our course designs? A needs analysis might tell us we need to offer childcare, provide something for breakfast for students who haven’t eaten, not teach on a Friday or start and finish earlier to miss peak hour traffic.

In our facilitation, are we catering for a variety of learning styles, cultures and mobility needs? 

Teachers must be expected to model best People Care practices, including avoiding using sarcasm, ridicule or violence towards their students. There is never ever any excuse or reason to exploit the power a teacher is given by virtue of their role as a teacher. No sexual approaches by teachers to learners are ever OK. When they happen, a serious breach of trust and permaculture ethics has been committed (Morrow).

Fair Share   This can be expressed in many forms; from sharing questions among all participants rather than allowing one or two people always to answer, offering scalable fees or scholarships to allow people of all resource levels to learn, and sharing the boring work of cleaning and washing up.


Acknowledge the local knowledge, custodians and history of the land (Principle 0) – 

What is my relationship to the land we’re teaching/learning on? Do I have permission to be on that land? Have I acknowledged the history and the custodians of the land we’re gathering on? 

Sometimes I teach in places where rightful custodianship has changed many times throughout history, and I acknowledge all the people, plants and animals who have passed through that landscape, carrying and sowing seeds, cleaning water and building soils over time. 

I think about the blindspots I have due to my social/cultural background. Is there someone better placed than I to share knowledge of certain things? Who can speak to the local languages of regeneration? Can others share their own story?

And especially when I am in cross-cultural teaching spaces; What cultural ways of knowing, being and doing are in the room? How can I maintain and support existing ecological knowledge rather than imposing my own learning, opinion or culture? What are your seasons? How do you build soils? What foods do you like to grow? How do you store water and seeds? Can you draw your grandparents’ house?

Finally, whose voices, knowledge and perspectives am I referencing and sharing through my teaching? Are they all of the same straight-male-settler demographic?

Observe and Interact – 

Who are your learners? What do they already know? Can you observe what is happening in class and adapt to better suit their needs? This might mean returning to a topic to explain it more clearly, changing the class plan to better suit students’ learning edges and interests. Change lunch hours, or opening and closing times, speak louder, slow down, use graphics not words. You can think of more.

Catch and Store Energy – 

Education itself is a practice of catching or gathering energy (information, skills and even physical resources) from people, projects, and landscapes around us and storing it in our communities and relationships for future use. 

As Tyson Yunkaporta says “relationships are the only way to store data safely in the long term”.

Integrate rather than Segregate –

Learning in groups is an effective teaching method that functions to accelerate learning and produce creative solutions and ideas. When the right conditions are created, cross-cultural exchange enriches learning environments and can build confidence in students. Are there opportunities for peer-to-peer learning? 

Did you know that group discussions are a highly effective tool for creating attitudinal change? When peers share stories in small groups, attitudinal change is more likely to occur through than through lectures (Morrow).

Design from patterns to details – 

Can you design learning experiences using this principle? Start with a needs, functions and products analysis of the learning ecosystem or community you are in. This will help identify your overall course objectives as well as the structure (length, days, times etc). Next consider the flow of the learning journey; the order and layering of topics or information. Write the session learning objectives, and finally choose teaching methods and activities to match.


Obtain a Yield – 

I teach to learning objectives and ensure I can measure them. We know learning has happened when participants can explain it, make it, draw it or do it. Our yields in education are the competencies we see demonstrated by the end of a session and at the end of a course. This is critical.

Produce No Waste – 

Linked to the two principles above. How can you minimise wasted time? When we have structure and teach to learning objectives, we reduce the likelihood of going off on tangents and wasting students’ time. 

Also linked to Earth Care, can I choose learning/teaching materials that aren’t polluting? Such as refillable markers, pencils over pens, crayons or pastels over textas, masking tape and bulldog clips over blu tack or sticky tape (Morrow).

Use and Value Diversity – 

We need the student who always answers first to help us break the ice, we need the person who just gets on with the task just as much as we need the contemplative who asks us why we’re doing it. We need the enthusiast, the analyst, the artist, the expert and the critic. A healthy learning ecosystem recognises and values everyone; what they bring and where they are on the path.

Value the edges and the margins – 

The ecological edge is often the most productive. Our social edges are also just as abundant when they’re properly resourced. Can we build learning environments that welcome and support people of all genders, abilities, religions, worldviews, languages, and incomes? I consider whose life experiences aren’t included in the mainstream content or when I say ‘we’.  

Look outside the walls of the classroom to use often overlooked teaching environments. For example, erosion by the side of the road, the effect of boundary fences on vegetation, the moss growing between pavers.

In the middle of Kuala Lumpur – a densely populated and disturbed urban landscape – Rowe taught part of an environmental water class standing around an open concrete drain. Sure enough water snaked along the drain creating tiny riffles and pools, just like a river or delta. 

Practice self-regulation and accept feedback – 

Self-regulation is different for everyone. As educators we might ask ourselves some of the following questions: Was I telling people something, or asking for their knowledge? How long did I talk for in that session? Am I taking on too much in the coordination? How accurate is my content for this subject? Is ego getting in the way of being able to say “I don’t know” when I don’t know? Can I stay open to receiving feedback from participants and other co-teachers? If participants are not understanding a concept or task, can I be attentive, humble, and responsive enough to ask a different question or change the teaching method.

Creatively use and respond to change – 

When things don’t go according to plan – which happens at least once every course – how can I best respond? If it’s raining and the workshop can’t be in the garden what are the other options? What if the projector doesn’t work or the power goes out, how else can I move through this content? Adaptability is the greatest asset as an educator. 

Each element is supported by more than one function – 

According to David Kolb, there are four modes of perception/processing (audible, tactile, kinesthetic, visual) and four ‘learning styles’ (reflective/analytic, creative, commonsense, active). Every person has their preferred or dominant combination. Knowing this, how can we design learning opportunities to suit all learning styles? Include a combination of facts, theories and evidence, discussion and reflection, active learning (such as group tasks, observation, videos, experiences) and practical skills (such as doing, designing, making). Using multiple teaching methods within each session will increase the number of students able to connect with new information and improve the quality of all learning in the class. 

Memory is scattered throughout the brain. To assist memory, learning in two or more modalities is very important, e.g. listen and take notes, see and try, do and discuss. (Morrow).

Cooperate don’t compete – 

We need as many teachers as possible. When someone emerges in your geographic area and wants to teach, can you welcome them? Consider how you can work together to create more effective education experiences for potential learners. Think of resource sharing guilds and distribute your work in different spaces and times. For example, someone offering design courses spread over weekends whilst someone else offers full-time residential courses, or working in different social demographics. Also remember no one can teach forever – can you embrace social succession?

Further exploration and discussion on these ideas is welcome.

For the Earth, 


VET Permaculture: Shortages and Opportunities

VET Permaculture: Shortages and Opportunities

Did you know:

  • There is a shortage of VET (permaculture) teachers and assessors *1
  • Several longstanding permaculture VET teachers have retired in recent times and many are happy to provide advice/assistance to new teachers
  • Permaculture units and knowledge is included in various other qualifications (mostly agriculture and horticulture) *2 post the reaccreditation process completed in 2022 *3
  • The agriculture and horticulture sectors have a shortage of qualified workers *4, 5
  • Cert I and II in Permaculture can, and are, taught in various schools *6
  • You need a Cert IV TAE to be a VET teacher, but you don’t need the equivalent Permaculture qualification to teach into a course. Now a PDC or other training, relevant industry experience (relevant to the units you teach) is sufficient *7

The Education team has been working with Linda Woodrow this year to develop a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (Cert IV TAE) with a strong focus on accessibility (mostly online), student support and interaction, incorporating permaculture units where possible and face to face teaching practicums within existing permaculture course offerings.

This is a very exciting project as the last time a Cert IV teaching qualification with a focus on permaculture was offered, was in 2010 at Crystal Waters Eco Village with the teachers being Virginia Solomon and Robin Clayfield. I participated in that wonderful course and was exposed to very creative and inspiring teaching practices. The photo accompanying this article, with a background of Virginia’s garden, is a picture of the quilt that was used in that course. Students created an avatar on the first day and placed it/moved it on the quilt each day in accordance with how they felt and where they were at in terms of progress. It was a fabulous way to check-in and have a visual of where everyone was at any point in time.

We have reached the stage in the project of now seeking an interested Registered Training Organisation (RTO) to partner with to offer this permaculture focused Cert IV TAE, developed by a very experienced teacher of this course for many years. Do you think your organisation could be that RTO or do you know of an appropriate RTO that may be interested? 

Interested, need more information?

Also, let us know, if you haven’t already, whether you’re interested in potentially doing this Cert IV TAE for permies. We need evidence of demand, so spread the word. Anyone, with an interest/experience in permaculture who wishes to teach VET in any field would be suitable.
This course will be engaging and very different from current offerings in the market.

We’d dearly love to get his course going from next year so any ideas, relevant contacts, assistance, would be much appreciated.

Please email
Wendy Marchment
Convenor, Education Team

Photo supplied by Virginia Solomon

  2. Egs,,,,
Mushrooming hope in Nakivale

Mushrooming hope in Nakivale

Jessica Perini

Jessica Perini –  from the Permaculture Australia education team –  is combining local and refugee learners in a new model of online learning. She hopes to create long-distance connections, funding for refugee projects, and lasting memories and opportunities for all.

Elijah and I have been friends for a while now.

Together we do yoga sessions over Zoom, even though he’s in Nakivale, among the largest refugee camps in the world, and even though his internet is … well, rubbish … But we laugh over tree pose, and the constant internet dropouts. Laughter is the ultimate remedy.

Having worked with refugees remotely since COVID, I’ve come to understand that connection is among the most important things for people like Elijah.

I know this because around 4 pm Sydney time I am inundated with messages that tell me East Africa is waking up. ‘Hey Jess, how you going?’ ‘Hi big sis.’ ‘Hi Mum.’ Followed by copious photos of mulching, worms, and food forests flourishing. Mostly from refugees in settlements in Uganda, and Kenya. My group, Permaculture Partners, has built these connections since the pandemic through numerous workshops. Generally covering the topics most requested by refugees. (Maggot farming being one of the most popular – go figure!)

 This is just my observation as an outsider, but having contact with the outside world seems to sustain these refugees. And when it comes to permaculture, this also means hope.

What does all this have to do with mushrooms?

A few months ago, I was running a training session for Elijah’s group (Biogreen) on the three most important soil properties – physical, chemical, and biological. Their main question (apart from ‘What do you mean “chemicals”? Aren’t chemicals bad?’ – translating English to Swahili is fraught!) was ‘When can we learn about mushrooms?’

A 15-minute discussion on soils quickly turned into a one-and-a-half-hour Q and A about the best types of mushrooms, whether refugee farmers would be able to grow them, how quickly they grew and how much they’d have to spend to get the business going. From these people who had little experience with mushroom farming, the fascination was palpable.

Many conversations ensued. Elijah went on a mission to the nearest big local town, Mbarara, 42 kilometres away. I’d found trainers there, but the cost was many thousands of dollars, so we looked at alternatives.

Knowing of his love and knowledge of mushrooms, I asked Nick Ritar of Milkwood if he would volunteer to teach a two-hour introductory session online. 

Having worked with Milkwood on and off since I did their Permaculture Design Certificate in 2010, and having completed their excellent Home Mushroom Cultivation Course, I was delighted when they said they’d help. The workshop was set for 1 June.

The model I’ve developed over the years is simple. Put on two-hour training for local Australian audiences and refugees in camps concurrently; charge the locals, and the refugees attend for free. The locals finance materials for the refugees. Everyone gets to mingle and connect. People grow more food. Beautiful connections are made.

As we sold tickets to the June 1 event, I sent the funds to Elijah. Mushroom supplies were hard to come by in Mbarara, so he had to go further afield – to the capital of Uganda, Kampala. This involved numerous buses and boda bodas (motorbike taxis with whole families precariously perched on them, and, sometimes, astounding amounts of furniture).*     

Working his way through the markets and squares, Elijah found the materials he needed. Grain spawn, alcohol for cleaning, gloves, gypsum … all the bits and pieces he would be hard-pressed to find in the refugee camp.

Together we workshopped a few ideas and adapted them.

Finding clean water and materials to burn in a refugee camp can be challenging. Boiling water was going to be a problem. So we explored steeping the substrate in cold water overnight.

For a time we couldn’t locate hydrated lime, so we considered using wood ash to raise the water’s pH. Although it doesn’t have all the same properties and functions as hydrated lime, it was a good alternative – provided Elijah’s group could get the pH to around 12 or 13.

They just needed pH strips … Another hurdle! We needed low-tech solutions. Think, think! Red cabbage water! Did they have red cabbage? Yes! A workshop for another day.

When the June 1 workshop rolled around, Elijah and his team had found everything they needed; it had been a Herculean feat. But we still had the dodgy internet to contend with.

The various refugee groups would be gathered – around 15 people per group – projecting the computer screen onto their walls, and we had no way of knowing whether the internet would hold up. If it rained, or if someone sneezed strangely … goodbye workshop. We met a few days pre-workshop to run through the process. Worst case scenario, Elijah could show them all the materials and play back the recorded session later.

On June 1, the refugees and locals came online to hear Nick speak. The participants from Uganda were thrown off the call by their weak connections, so we stumbled around for solutions. I considered WhatsApping, beaming my screen to them through two platforms. But eventually, the internet picked up, and most people hopped back in.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the session, and we were so thankful for Nick’s help and guidance. He answered a barrage of questions and has continued helping us over the last month.

Since then, Elijah and I have been growing our mushrooms in tandem. Mine have bloomed, but Biogreen’s first attempt has been patchy, the Nakivale team struggling with conditions in the camp. The heat, combined with the tin roof of the mushroom growing house, is not ideal. The new plan is to purpose-build a structure, with a leafy roof to mitigate the extreme heat. Maybe low-tech air con. More workshopping to come.

As the mushrooms reach the fruiting stage, the team will also have to contend with theft due to starvation. In a similar situation in Kakuma camp, my refugee friends have had to create a separate garden, with strong fences and 24-hour guards to protect their harvests.

Fair share is well and good when you’re not starving. But when you’re surrounded by a mounting refugee population, and your United Nations Food Program rations have gone down to a paltry $5 a month, or 1.5 kilos of flour, who can blame anyone for stealing food?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the problems faced by refugee communities like Elijah’s. I’ve sat on this story for almost a month, trying to think of the perfect way forward.

But yesterday, I saw a photo of Elijah. As much as he smiles and jokes, his limbs all twisted into Eagle pose, and rushes about on these crazy quests, and tries to grow mushrooms in non-ideal conditions, he’s still skinny as.

Still disconnected from the bounties we enjoy here. Still struggling.

We can’t wait for the perfect answer to these big issues. Nor can we stumble at all the hurdles.

Elijah and his team have started a second batch of mushrooms, learning from their issues the first time around.

And we’re pressing ahead with small solutions. We have $100 left from the workshop sales, which is enough for transport, food, and 3-days of business and mushroom-growing training for Elijah in Kampala. After that, he’ll be equipped to teach his Nakivale group and the villagers beyond.

They’ll still need close and ongoing support from someone who’s not 11,000 kilometres away. 

In the last month, we’ve met several people who are growing mushrooms not far from Nakivale. Some are even preparing their own spawn, despite the limitations of an African setting. A few have very kindly offered to come to Nakivale and help the farmers establish a mushroom-growing enterprise. We just need to set the farmers up with a few basics and they’ll be on their way.

So the plan is: get Elijah to Kampala. When he comes back, at some stage ask a kind individual or group with experience to come and help them get set up. Create a secure building, well suited to mushroom growing. Buy some materials. Milkwood has very kindly offered scholarships in its online mushroom-growing course – ongoing education is key. 

Two days into the new grow, Elijah texts me: ‘I have good news.’ I’m on a call with someone else, so I can’t answer. ‘I have good news!’ That exclamation is a good amount of energy from Elijah. I have to check-in. When I get him on a video call, his eyes are shining. The second batch of mushrooms is growing! I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so happy.

We’d like to give our heartfelt thanks to Nick and Kirsten from Milkwood for giving us their time, knowledge and patience as we work our way through this process. We’d also like to thank everyone who came along on 1 June and donated to this wonderful venture, and the countless individuals who help conduct workshops, and give their time and experience free of charge to help refugees in these camps. A big shout out to BioGreen and all the groups that attended on the day. Individuals such as Elijah volunteer for such groups purely for the benefit of their communities, and we are inspired by their persistence, grace in the face of extreme difficulty, and big smiles when things go well.

If you’d like to help us set up a group of 25 farmers with a secure building and enough spawn to get them cracking in mushroom growing you can donate here

 *Photo of boda boda used with permission courtesy of Elizabeth Fekonia, from her June 2023 permaculture workshop tour of Kenya and Uganda. Thanks to Elijah and BioGreen for the workshop photos.

Permaculture training: Something for everyone

Permaculture training: Something for everyone

This year, vocational training in permaculture turns 20. Affectionately known as APT (Accredited Permaculture Training), these courses have been part of Nationally Recognised Training since Permaculture Australia registered an accredited course with Queensland Training in July 2003.

Since then APT has had its ups and downs, and a huge amount of work has been done (largely by volunteers) to bring us to now. In February 2023, the newly reviewed and updated components (units of competency, qualifications and skill sets) were published on the website.

APT falls under what is known as Vocational Education and Training in Australia, meaning that the qualifications and skill sets have met certain standards under the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) which means that a Certificate III in Permaculture is equivalent to a Certificate III in Agriculture, or Hospitality, or Childcare etc. Permaculture components, with PER in their codes are part of the Agriculture, Horticulture and
Conservation & Ecosystem Management (AHC) training package. Training Packages are nationally recognised, although some aspects of their implementation are State-based – such as funding.

The recent review of the AHC Training Package has coincided with the Federal Government’s Skills Reform initiative. These reforms have ensured that students and employers are central to the training approved by the industry sectors themselves (in the past, the training sector- the providers of the training such as TAFEs – had greater influence over the training provided and this was often at odds with what was needed in the workplace). The new Jobs and Skills Councils (replacing “Industry Clusters”) include opportunities for industry peak bodies to have a seat on the Council. Permaculture Australia will have a seat on the Agribusiness Skills Council.

The review of Permaculture (in conjunction with Organic Production and Composting) was completed in 2022, after 18 months of work and consultation. Qualifications, skill sets and units have been restructured and updated to reflect the skills required to provide for human needs in a way that works with natural processes and ecology. Updates have been made to remove barriers to training delivery and better reflect job tasks. In addition, skills for permaculture have been incorporated throughout agriculture qualifications, as they are useful and necessary across a range of job roles and environments.

Key changes in a nutshell:
 Five qualifications were revised and updated to incorporate unit changes including merging of content and adjustments to Australian Qualification Framework alignment for some units. Although the Certificate I in Permaculture was initially proposed for deletion it will be retained, as there are successful programs currently delivered and the enrolment trend is increasing.

 Twelve new skills sets were developed to meet industry needs related to permaculture fundamentals, including structure, water systems, design, planning community governance and developing strategic plans for permaculture projects.

 One existing skill set for a Permaculture Demonstrator was revised to include updated units of competency.

 Forty nine permaculture (PER) units of competency were reviewed, including:
o Forty eight were revised, with clarification around assessor requirements and rationalisation of knowledge evidence to ensure essential underpinning knowledge required for carrying out permaculture job tasks is captured.
o Four units were merged into two.
o One new unit was developed based on a previously deleted permaculture unit.
o Five units deleted. Two diploma level units that were proposed for deletion at earlier stages of the project were retained.
o Selected units are to be included in Certificate I to Diploma level Agriculture qualifications.

 Guidance for RTOs for engaging trainers and assessors was included in a newly developed Companion Volume User Guide released along with an updated version of the AHC Companion Volume Implementation Guide and the newly endorsed permaculture qualifications and units.

Accompanying the reviewed Permaculture courses, an Implementation Guide has been written to support the roll out and inform RTOs and trainers, as well as employers, as to how these courses should be understood.
There have been many opportunities for engagement with the review process and lots of permaculture people have participated which is great as it means the Units, Qualifications and Skill Sets are now ‘fit for purpose’. Not only that but you will have the chance to participate in and benefit from the roll out of the reviewed courses, if you wish.
 Training providers, including those offering the PDC, might be interested in partnering with RTOs to offer some components of this training
 There will be funding available for some programs in some States
 There will be opportunities for those with current qualifications (including Certificate IV in Training and Assessment) to deliver this training
 There will also be opportunities to work with the Education Team of Permaculture Australia to update assessment tools and training materials
 And of course there will be opportunities for study and professional development

It is exciting to note that many of the barriers between the PDC and the accredited training have been removed, and it is now much easier for teachers and trainers to find work in the accredited system (with a TAE qualification, of course). It is also exciting to note that two of
the new skill sets have been specifically developed to bridge gaps:

AHCSS00142 Permaculture Designer Skill Set – corresponds to the core skills and knowledge of the PDC

This skill set describes the skills and knowledge for working with clients and community to design and develop private, community or enterprise based permaculture systems in rural and urban environments. Comprised of units:
 AHCPER417 Investigate and recommend species for a permaculture system
 AHCPER418 Provide advice on permaculture principles and practices
 AHCPER419 Design a rural permaculture system
 AHCPER420 Design an urban permaculture system
 AHCPER421 Select appropriate technology for a permaculture system
 AHCPER422 Identify and analyse bioregional characteristics and resources

AHCSS00140 Advanced Permaculture Skill Set – bridges the gap between Diploma of Permaculture and Bachelor Degree in the Higher Education system. This skill set describes advanced skills and knowledge to help individuals to transition into higher education. The units provide skills and knowledge for planning community governance and developing strategic plans for permaculture projects. Comprised of units:
 AHCPER601 Develop a strategic plan for a permaculture project or enterprise
 AHCPER602 Plan community governance and decision-making processes
 AHCPER603 Prepare a sustainable community and bioregional development strategy

If you are interested in the process or want to familiarise yourself with what has been done, please go to the Skills Impact project page and click through to the areas that interest you.
You can find the documents that correspond to earlier stages in the process by clicking on the arrows in the flow chart.
Finally, Permaculture Australia would like to acknowledge the work of the following people and organisations who participated in the Subject Matter Expert Working Group:

 Lis Bastian, Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute
 Fiona Blackham, GAIA Permaculture
 Sue Brunskill, Permaculture Australia
 Rob Fenton, TAFE NSW
 Robyn Francis, Permaculture College Australia
 Graeme George, Permaculture Yarra Valley
 Megan Hall, South Regional TAFE WA
 Julianne Hartman, Byron Regional Community College
 Martina Hoeppner, Permaculture West
 Keri Hopeward, Permaculture SA
 Lachlan McKenzie, International Permaculture Educators Network
 Ross Mars, Water Installations Pty Ltd
 Janet Milllington, Miltech Services Pty Ltd
 Kushala Prem, Natural Systems Permaculture
 Nicole Steel, Byron Regional Community College
 Karen van Huizen, Van Huizen Design
 Aaron Sorensen, Elemental Permaculture

 Virginia Solomon, Permaculture Australia
 Richard Vinycomb, Byron Regional Community College
And our amazing professional training consultants from Skills Impact
 Ruth Geldard, Industry Skills Standards Specialist, Skills Impact
 Ron Barrow, Writer, Skills Impact and Nestor Consulting

We all look forward to rolling out our new courses and to energetic participation and enthusiasm from permies everywhere. For further information on the Review and the new components, please contact

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

Unfortunately, we are not … quite … Post-COVID.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned out to be a contentious issue in the Australian permie community. As we are approaching the biennial Australian Permaculture Convergence (APC), a gathering celebrating all things Permie, organisers and participants must navigate the complexities of meeting face-to-face in as respectful and safe a manner as possible.

Individuals within the permie community, like many communities in Australia, hold a variety of different relationships with COVID, and with COVID-safe practices. A number of participants who will be at the APC are beloved permie elders, in their 70s and 80s, who are at increased risk from the impact of COVID. Others among us are immune compromised, unable to be vaccinated while simultaneously at higher risk from complications of COVID.

Others of us are healthy, vaccinated, and committed to keeping our more vulnerable embers safe by doing all we can to stay COVID-safe. Included in this is a concern for our over-burdened health system and health workers, and the vaccination imperative for protecting our health system. Yet others of us are sceptical of vaccination technologies.

Some of us choose not to be vaccinated, and some see mandatory vaccination, mask-wearing and lockdowns as infringements on individual and community rights. There is a concern among some that the pandemic has provided justification for autocratic government and police interventionism; others are concerned that some of the protest actions of this last group have opened the door and invited right-wing, white-superiority, US-style “preppers”, and the culture of racism, misogyny and violence that accompanies them, into the permie space, thus putting members of our permaculture community at risk.

Some of us argue that COVID and vaccine debates have nothing to do with permaculture, while others argue that they are issues central to our ethics: People Care (eg: the importance of keeping people safe); Earth Care (eg: COVID is a zoonotic disease, and zoonotic diseases are exacerbated under industrialised monocultural food growing practices) and Fair Share (eg: discrepancies between food security and access to health care, including vaccinations, between wealthy and impoverished communities).

Organisers of the APC are doing all they can to ensure that our convergence is a physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually safe space. 

There will be a couple of sessions at the APC for open and respectful discussion on covid and Permaculture.

Some background reading  David Holmgren’s various writings on the pandemic: see, for example, Pandemic Brooding

For a review of the variety of responses within the Australian permaculture community, see Terry Leahy’s piece Permaculture’s COVID Conundrums.

Debbi Long

Board of Directors

Permaculture Australia

Great news for trainers wanting to deliver accredited permaculture training

Great news for trainers wanting to deliver accredited permaculture training

The newly reviewed Permaculture VET qualifications, skill sets and units are now published on the National Training Register, which means they are available for use by registered training organisations (RTOs).

With the release of the new permaculture training package there has been a major change to the requirements for trainers to deliver accredited permaculture training.

The old package rules for trainers were that you needed to hold at a minimum the qualification you were delivering or a higher qualification. This meant that if you had done your training outside of the Vocational Education Training (VET) framework you couldn’t deliver training no matter how experienced or dedicated a permie you were.

Now with a PDC or other training, relevant industry experience (relevant to the units you teach)  and a Trainer and Assessors qualification the door is open.

This is great news as it has been a case of not enough training organisations offering permaculture and not enough qualified trainers. Hopefully with these changes we will see more permaculture in schools, more funded courses and an increase in permies all round.

Below is advice to Registered Training Organisations about requirements for permaculture trainers.   (Ref. page 14 AHC release 9.0 Companion Volume V1.0 Jan 2023 (User Guide – Permaculture).pdf‘).

The Training Package Delivery and Assessment states that:

• RTOs must ensure that both training and assessment complies with the relevant standards.

In general terms, training and assessment must be conducted by individuals who:

  • have the necessary training and assessment competencies
  • have the relevant vocational competencies at least to the level being delivered or assessed
  • can demonstrate current industry skills directly relevant to the training/assessment being delivered
  • continue to develop their VET knowledge and skills, industry currency and trainer/assessor competence.

Permaculture as a discipline is characterised by some general characteristics, including the Ethics and Principles.

The three key ethical principles identified as underpinning permaculture are:

• Earth Care

• People Care

• Fair Share (set limits and redistribute).

These principles align with rejection of exploitation of the planet, ethical growing

and harvesting of production and regenerative production beyond the principles of organic sustainability.

The Permaculture approach is based on the understanding that everything is inter-related and inter-dependent. A system is composed of related and dependent elements which when in interaction, form a unitary whole. A system is simply an assemblage or combination of things or parts forming a complex whole and inspired by nature.

Permaculture addresses all aspects of human culture, not only food production but how we build, how we organise ourselves and how we utilise all our resources, including human resources.

It is important that these fundamental principles and understandings are applied across all levels of training in permaculture as they are key to understanding and applying permaculture for targeted work outcomes and social development.

Training and assessment in permaculture must be conducted by individuals who understand and live by permaculture ethics and principles and integrate them into their training and assessment practices.

Types of relevant experience and background for permaculture trainers and assessors can include (but is not limited to):

• Permaculture Design Course (PDC) – a globally recognised training course sometimes called a ‘certificate’, although not accredited as such in Australia. PDCs vary substantially, but a good course would normally furnish participants with a syllabus or topic list that would correspond to the knowledge criteria of units of competency in permaculture.

A good example is  A Syllabus For Permaculture design in South Eastern Australia compiled by Graeme George for the Permaculture Educators Guild.

• Experience working on permaculture-based projects

• Permaculture Internships

• Other permaculture qualifications and courses including Advanced Permaculture Courses, Permaculture Teacher Training Courses and other specialist training offered by several permaculture training providers

• Nationally accredited permaculture qualifications.

For further information, please go to the Permaculture Australia website or email or

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