PA member and former PA Board member Dr Cally Brennan is a permaculture designer and educator based in Canberra, and founded Canberra Permaculture Design. Prior to working in permaculture, Cally held roles in academia and in the public sector, working in energy and climate policy.She is also the designer of one of the PA limited edition T shirts with the slogan ‘Permaculture. Do you dig it.’
Cally spoke to PA volunteer Julia about why permaculture came at the right time in her life, and how her past experiences have shaped her understanding of it.
How did permaculture come along, and how was it shaped by your background working in academia and climate policy?
I have always had an interest in sustainability and I have always loved gardening. My grandfather was involved in the Dig for Victory campaign in the UK, we had some lovely holidays visiting his garden. This first sparked my interest in gardening. I have worked in academia, mostly from realising that it was fun to educate people, and like many people in the world, you disconnect your degree from what you want to do in life. So, I tried a range of things until I settled on permaculture. I studied ethnomusicology, a mixture of music and anthropology that explores how people use music to express their cultural identity. I was also lucky enough to do some fieldwork in Malaysia and Singapore. Predictably, there were not many jobs in this area! So, it was on speck that I decided to join the public service.
I came to Canberra in 2006 as a graduate and then found myself in an analytical role in economic research. It didn’t quite fit with my moral side however, as I was coming to conclusions that I fundamentally disagreed with. I ended up working in energy efficiency and climate policy. Working directly on the ground in dealing with climate change policy was a lot! I found that there was a lot of politics involved in climate policy, on both sides. The urgency of the issue was such that I didn’t want to spend the next few years writing and working on things that were basically there to pretend things were on track when they were not. I felt I could make a bigger impact doing other things with my life. So that’s where permaculture came in. I had learned about permaculture when we had first moved to Australia in about 1994. I first remember visiting a garden in Freemantle, WA which had a lot of tyres in its designs. So my conception of permaculture around then was lots of straw mulch and old tyres! It wasn’t until I joined Permablitz ACT in 2009, that I learnt what permaculture was really about. I met a horticulturalist in the group who knew a lot about plants. He had the ability to make you feel like you could try anything, and that it was good to try new things and to not feel constrained by tradition. My conception of permaculture changed to something that was exciting and different and new. I did a PDC with John champagne and Phil Gould back in 2011 and that was the usual brain-popping experience when I realised it was just about common sense. What struck me was how good it would feel to be doing something on an individual level that was regenerative and helpful. I could do both important civic participation through protesting and doing a small thing in regenerative permaculture. Permaculture was an area where I could learn about how nature worked.
I later set up Canberra Permaculture design, because I could design, draw well, and use my interest in sustainability. I built a client base and some confidence. I’m now rushed off my feet with people who want to find out more about permaculture, which is great! For a while, it was a good balance to be working on the big picture stuff (but no direct connection with people) to actually legislate on building standards or energy plans, and then the small picture stuff of doing something with my own life and my own garden.
Wow! So you’ve done so many different things, how do they overlap? Where do you see parallels between permaculture and energy policy?
Having worked in energy policy, it’s amazing to know how much permaculture is about energy, and energy efficiency is fundamental to permaculture design. Permaculture is about capturing energy in your house and your garden. It’s nice to see this linked: the more I learned about energy from work, the more I deeply understood the workings of permaculture.
That’s really fascinating, and it’s great to see how all the varied experiences in your life have combined together to help you understand all of these different processes, and your background seems to have influenced significantly your perception and understanding of permaculture! I was particularly struck when you were speaking about your days in Permablitz ACT, where the horticulturalist in the group had this “can do” attitude about trying new things and seeing what worked. Has that philosophy influenced the way you approach permaculture design in your garden, home and life, and new clients who may not be familiar with permaculture?
The experimental side of my permaculture practice is reserved for what we do in our garden! I make the mistakes on behalf of other people so I can share what I have learned. The most effective design incorporates water into its heart. Canberra is a semi-arid climate normally (though this year it’s quite moist), and last year was terribly dry. I’m now very aware of passive water harvesting. I experiment with these designs in our garden, and then I suggest ideas on water harvesting. I generally build my designs about passive water harvesting: everything is about water here. There’s a lot of opportunities though to capture water: it’s very often wasted in residential properties.
What are some of your most effective passive water harvesting techniques you’ve found on your own properties?
French drains and swales are two of the most effective designs and are at the right scale for a residential property. In ours, we’ve used drainage channels through our driveway, so we’ve diverted water from our driveway and directed into a small swale around a raised bed. It has worked really well I love it!!
Anything you’re listening to that’s inspiring you at the moment?
What are your New Year’s permaculture resolutions? Anything on the horizon?
Balance is what I need to work on. I need to work out how to balance my business and the important service that I provide with everything else in my life. We’re still establishing this garden, and haven’t run workshops this year. We had a massive hailstorm that hit us in late January of this year that smashed everything up, and along with the poor air quality and smoke in January and COVID later on, we couldn’t run any in person workshops outside. We’re at the moment now doing a lot of infrastructure work: putting in a chicken coop and a greenhouse. I’m trying to find a balance between doing designs for other people and getting onto the things that I have to do now: putting in the greenhouse, getting the beans in and all of those big and small tasks that come up all the time. I need to make sure I have more time for us: my family and myself as well. It’s easy to run yourself ragged because people want help and you can help them!!
Dr Cally Brennan 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 like Cally advocating for permaculture solutions.
This article aligns with the permaculture ethics (Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share) and permaculture principles including Produce No Waste, Catch & Store Energy, Integrate rather than segregate and Use Edges and Value the Marginal. Find out more about the permaculture principles and ethics here.
Cally is wearing one of the Permaculture Australia T shirts, featuring her design ‘Permaculture: Do you Dig it’. These limited edition T shirts can be purchased here.
PA member, educator and permaculture design consultant Janene Price chatted to PA volunteer Julia about the lessons she’s learnt from lockdown, how we can effectively inspire people to take up the cause of permaculture and its popularity under the new normal (plus some design tips for public gardens who get pesky visitors!).
PA member Janene Price is a permaculture educator and consultant, whose business,Love to Grow, in Byron Bay helps people implement effective permaculture garden design. As well as private gardens, she works with public gardens, most notably at Harvest Newrybar, where she also runs permaculture and gardening workshops for the public.
“As more emphasis and urgency is placed on the need for sustainable living due to the Earth’s health, through societal norms, economic drivers and (hopefully) legislation, people will turn to learning from and employing those with permaculture skills.”
Jo Bussell’s permaculture journey started with two weekend permaculture introduction courses in 2010 and 2011. In 2013 she completed a PDC in Fremantle with Sparkles, Harry Wykham and a range of presenters, followed by an Advanced PDC with Ross Mars and Graeme Bell in 2016. Only a year later, Jo opened Urban Revolution in Perth, WA. Martina from the PA Education team chats with Jo about the permaculture skills required for her retail employees & opening a permaculture store in Perth, WA.
Jo, you have the only permaculture ‘brick-and-mortar store’ in Perth. Tell us a little bit about the concept and how you got the idea to open this store.
Permaculture sparked (like for so many people) a passion in me to make my home food gardens efficient and mineral dense, followed by helping friends and family implement permaculture design elements into their gardens. This moved onto paid permaculture design work. There was a need to recommend tools and soil inputs to have a successful food garden in Perth. This morphed into working with Men’s Sheds to make plastic free gardening tools such as our first product, a seedling flat. I then created an online store and went to markets offering the products, permaculture advice and design work. The bricks and mortar store came to fruition due to the number of products we were supplying and the need to take the business out of our home.
What are the goods and services available in your store?
The store offers garden, cleaning, homeware and personal care products that are made from materials that are compostable, plastic free or are better for the Earth. The gardening products are aimed at growing food along with a fabulous range of local, heirloom and open-pollinated veggie, herb and flower seeds. We assist and educate people individually on how to grow food, create soil and compost everyday organic waste. We randomly present on various permaculture related subjects at community events and in schools. We also connect interested people with permaculture courses, teachers and designers.
I know your employees have done Permaculture Design Courses and at least one has done her Certificate III in Permaculture. Is permaculture knowledge something that is needed for the work at Urban Revolution?
Yes. Permaculture knowledge is key to assisting our customers with product use and our free advice on how to create soil, compost, grow food, and modify or add elements into an urban garden using permaculture design techniques. Skills I am looking for in particular are a holistic composting knowledge, soil creation specifically for growing vegetables, experience in growing various vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers; companion planting, backyard chickens and integrated pest management knowledge.
Are you encouraging further permaculture studies for the people you work with and your customers?
Yes, absolutely. Out of our six staff, three have Permaculture Design Certificates (PDCs) and two have completed further permaculture education – and we all would like to do more. The remaining three are growing food at home and are eco aware with other skill sets. They are learning about permaculture by just working in the store. When possible, I hope they will all complete a PDC. In addition, our customers are consistently recommended to do a PDC at every appropriate opportunity!
There aren’t many permaculture jobs advertised at the moment. Do you think this will change?
Yes, I think it will change and gain momentum. For example, why hire a mowing company to maintain your garden? Y ou can hire a permaculture-based gardening company to improve and manage your garden’s health, grow food, educate and provide garden design. As more emphasis and urgency is placed on the need for sustainable living due to the Earth’s health, through societal norms, economic drivers and (hopefully) legislation, people will turn to learning from and employing those with permaculture skills. Ultimately our business goal is to employ permaculturists to provide presentations and workshops to schools, businesses and especially in our communities. At the moment this is a longer-term goal due to cash flow and providing an appropriate venue.
Martina Hoeppner holds a Diploma in Permaculture and a Certificate IV in Training & Assessment, teaches PDCs and Certificate III in Permaculture in Perth and is the current Co-Convenor of Permaculture West. She contributes to Permaculture Australia’s Education Team and tries keep alive her own garden and three sons in her spare time. More information on the different types of permaculture education completed by both Martina and Jo can be found here.
Martina and Jo are Professional and Organisation members 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.
Urban Revolution Australiais anEco & Garden Store and Online Shop with household, personal and gardening products to make it easy to have a thriving garden, wasteless kitchen and greener lifestyle. There have a current vacancy to join their team which would suit someone with a permaculture background (a Permaculture Design Certificate would be highly regarded).
“Permaculture offers a simple, joyful and ethical way of life and making a living” Morag Gamble
Permaculture offers a huge range of practical tools to improve household and community resilience, increase food security, better manage water, create systems that return carbon to the earth, and reduce bushfire risks. All of these are sorely needed now that the climate is changing so much faster than expected, with unprecedented fire conditions, heatwaves and drought.
We are excited to share three online opportunities to increase your skills and knowledge in permaculture and soil health.
Permaculture Education Institute, Morag Gamble
Receive a 10% discount on the registration fee for the Permaculture Educators Program, which comprises a Permaculture Design Certificate plus Permaculture Teacher Certificate. To receive the discount you must sign up using this link only and enter PA10.
2. The Advanced Permaculture Student Online, Matt Powers
Join the Advanced Permaculture Student online course and receive a 50% discount ($750) off the registration price. To receive the discount you must sign up via this link
3. Dr. Elaine’s™ Soil Food Web Foundation Courses
Do you want to understand how soil microbes work in harmony with plants? Dr. Elaine Ingham has dedicated her life to researching the Soil Food Web and to working with farmers to help them transition away from using chemicals, to working in harmony with nature. Signup for the Foundation Courses today here.
Permaculture Australia does not endorse any businesses, services, products, courses, workshops or events posted on this website. When you purchase a course or product using the provided links above, you will receive the stipulated discount and PA will also receive an affilitate commission on each purchase.
Please contact email@example.com if you would like to become a PA Affiliate or have any queries. We will carefully review all organisations to ensure they align with permaculture ethics & principles, and the mission of Permaculture Australia. Every effort is made to ensure the above information is up to date and correct and will be updated as new information is received.
Spring has sprung with the action from communities towards this giant we face that is climate change. While in lockdown in Naarm / Melbourne, a household of permaculture folks have planned a three day summit with some of the legends of permaculture, First Nations perspectives on a just recovery, and workshops for pragmatic solutions to building resilient communities. Read more about the event and how it was developed with this guest post by Guy Ritani, PA member and co-organiser, TEDx PermaQueer.
“During isolation I have had the privilege to go to a number of climate action, youth future, climate uprise events which I am incredibly grateful for. However I came away from a lot of them thinking something was lacking. Action. The calamity we face is reasonably well known to most people and the issue of climate change has shifted somewhat into a paralysing storm. I wanted to hear the solutions and see how they were appearing in the light of day with peoples actions. Action that we can all do to weave the vast ropes of humanity through the needle head that is climate change.
TEDX is currently doing a global pulse of their platform out to communities around the world on the topic of climate change and are calling it ‘Countdown’. I applied for the TEDx license a few months ago and didn’t hear back until two weeks ago to advise the event would be in three weeks. 3 WEEKS!! So a very excited and anxious me began drafting on the whiteboard what an I thought an action filled summit would look like, one that had real impact for communities.
I live in a Permaculture sharehouse with fellow teacher and PA member Delldint Fleming, my partner and co-teacher at PermaQueer Toad Dell and permaculture student, Cicily. Together we drafted the idea of an amazing summit with all of the dream speakers we could possibly want. The drawing board featured David Holmgren, Rosemary Morrow, Damon Gameau, David Attenborough, Keitha Thuy Young to name a few. Then we set out with bright eyes on our journey to contact all our dream speakers. Some we got, others we didn’t. I wanted to curate a summit from all perspectives and all levels of industry to tackle the ways our human system works as holistically as possible and get somewhat of a birds eye view of how we can actionably respond to this crisis. We shared the outcome: a solutions oriented approach to the ways communities can build infrastructure to alleviate their dependence on carbon consuming systems.
We’ve been in isolation pretty much since March this year so we’re all just slowly migrating around the house and garden with our laptops and drawing boards organising, emailing, designing, replying to emails, calling speakers and replying to more emails again. It has been a tremendous effort from the four of us here pulling together this fantastic group of speakers, dispersing it out to our communities and establishing the infrastructure to run this event. I am immensely proud of my household, having never tried to do anything like this before and I’m pleased we’ve stepped up to the plate. Outwardly too, it’s been amazing and so affirming getting the support from all the amazing speakers we have and their deep genuine interest to solve these issues and share how they’ve done it themselves.
In terms of the actual event, we wanted it to feel effortless, like a conversation over a cuppa. The three day summit begins with a Welcome to country. We then have Tyson Yunkaporta talking on what a meaningful existence means as we move towards the future informed from the deep ancestral truths Aboriginal and First Nations peoples hold from the past. One thing we’ve really consciously tried to centre this around is First Nations sovereignty. There is no just recovery without complete considerations for the First Nations of this land and of the lands surrounding it. So as we came together hoping to speak of solutions, we tried to ensure they were coming from First Nation voices and experiences. I want the speakers to talk about this issue in the way that sang to them and spoke to their true passion as to why they do what they do. From seed saving to bringing your ethics to the workplace, decolonising our minds and ancestry to integrating medicine into our natural food systems, how activists are supporting Australia to break up with fossil fuels to fungal fabrics as the future of fashion. We have tried to meaningfully cover as much as we can given the time we’ve had so I am really looking forward to this event.
One last thing I will mention is the queering of Permaculture. We know the edge is where it’s at and to value the marginal. Our desire is to integrate all the deep pools of knowledge and open up other areas of humanity’s realm of acceptance so we can create this new future. We’re entering an era of science fiction at the moment, in that we don’t have a rulebook anymore for what’s going to happen and the outcome will be only what we make it. Now is the time to open up all our borders and collaborate with people, ideas, identities, cultures and get as creative as possible. I hope that this will be the first in a series of events on pragmatic sustainability and am looking forward to the future 🙂 “
For more information:
TEDx PermaQueer will be held online on October 15-17th October 2020 and recorded in Naarm / Melbourne. Tickets for the event are free or via donation and can be booked here. The list of speakers includes David Holmgren, Rowe Morrow, Guy Ritani, Morag Gamble, Delldint Fleming and many more. Follow for updates on the schedule and speakers here.
Permqueer is a collaborative effort to share ecological sustainability methods through the lens of permaculture and focussing accessibility to traditionally marginalised communities. Our goal is to spread knowledge of living within ecological boundaries.
Guy and Delldint (and many of the speakers at TEDx PermaQueer), are professional members of Permaculture Australia, the national member based permaculture organisation. Join up here today to help us advocate for permaculture solutions.
“Jeff concluded years ago that growing soil and growing food would be the most important skills for humanity in the next thirty years – a conviction that hasn’t changed since. Asked whether he thinks that permaculture and regenerative farming skills will become more important in the future, Jeff answers with a resounding “Absolutely”.
Jeff Pow and Michelle McManus are the faces behind Southampton Homestead near Balingup in the Southwestern corner of WA, where they are regeneratively farming meat on 130 acres. After a three-year break from chicken farming, they are just returning to raising pastured meat chickens again, while also running a few heads of cattle and some pigs for their own consumption and as an additional income. Clydesdale horses for work and enjoyment are complementing the grazing regime to improve pasture and soil. Southampton Homestead is home to the only micro-abattoir in Western Australia. PA’s Education volunteer Martina chats with Jeff and Michelle about combining permaculture, regenerative agriculture & organic practices to improve their land, and the importance of growing food and farmers for a resilient food system.
Jeff’s motto is ‘Grow food and grow farmers’, as he sees a strong need for more small farming businesses. He is concerned about the decline in numbers of farming families and farms as well as diversity in the food-producing sector and is driven by the need to re-establish food sovereignty and a resilient food system. He tells me that there used to be 54 abattoirs in the Southwest of WA in 1992. Now he is the only one left and had to battle bureaucracy to be able to slaughter his own poultry. All rules and regulations are geared at big-scale agriculture, excluding small businesses from the market. In Jeff’s opinion there is a huge risk in this centralisation of agricultural businesses and services. “One big thing falls over quickly when something happens. With lots of little things, some will probably survive”, he explains. Jeff feels farmer’s democratic right to access the market place is taken away from them, when they are not able to bring food to market themselves without involving big corporations in the processing.
Southampton Homestead is run under holistic management principles and planned with the help of Regrarian Platform. Jeff and Michelle are self-taught farmers that take the best from regenerative agriculture, organic growing and permaculture to improve their land. They have taught at Fair Harvest’s Permaculture Design Course and are passionate about passing on their knowledge.
When asked about the importance of additional training opportunities that contain permaculture and other related knowledge systems, Jeff agrees that there is not nearly enough on offer in Australia at the moment to support farmers. Qualifications that focus on intense small-scale food growing are desperately needed, but Jeff argues that training in different ways of retail and marketing is at least as important. He says traditional retail opportunities like supermarkets are nearly impossible to access for small farmers and farmers markets mostly aren’t a financially viable alternative. Therefore alternative ways of marketing their products like community supported agriculture and online distributors such as Wide Open Agriculture will play a big role for new farmers. It would be irresponsible to teach new farmers food-producing without including the marketing side of the business.
To help this along, Southampton Homestead offers a residency program to train future farmers and is planning to become a not-for-profit education business in the longer run. His residents are not only gaining the practical skills of raising livestock, but just as importantly, business planning and management as well as marketing skills.
For Jeff, permaculture means ecological thinking. Part of what he has learned from permaculture is understanding and mitigating catastrophes. He says nothing will ever be perfect and you have to plan for things going wrong. Southampton Homestead once lost hundreds of chickens when a tornado swept through their property, and the farm burnt down completely in a bushfire in 2013. Jeff and Michelle have rebuilt it and have now planted over 1000 oaks, mulberries, poplars and other deciduous trees in shelter belts to mitigate the risk of this happening again and to provide fodder for their animals. The right plant at the right place for the right reason is one of the principles they have taken from permaculture.
There are golden opportunities for new farming businesses and he encourages aspiring farmers not to give up because they don’t have millions in seed money to buy property. Farming is labour-intense work and there are lots of opportunities to add more layers to existing farms and improve them by adding fertility and ecological services. He says his own land could support more businesses, but it has so far been difficult to find people to run them. Jeff’s advice when starting out is to master one aspect of farming before adding more layers, instead of trying to do everything at once. Business enterprises that could be added to existing sheep or cattle farms to increase soil and pasture health and to provide ecological services include pastured poultry, bees, composting, small-scale intense market gardening and many more.
Jeff comes from a business and management background, but concluded years ago that growing soil and growing food would be the most important skills for humanity in the next thirty years – a conviction that hasn’t changed since. Yet when he proposed to present a stall at his daughter’s university career expo, his offer was declined. He is convinced though, that times are changing and COVID-19 has made many young people reconsider their priorities.
Asked whether he thinks that permaculture and regenerative farming skills will become more important in the future, he answers with a resounding “Absolutely”.
Martina Hoeppner holds a Diploma in Permaculture and a Certificate IV in Training & Assessment, teaches PDCs and Certificate III in Permaculture in Perth and is the current Co-Convenor of Permaculture West. She contributes to Permaculture Australia’s Education Team and tries keep alive her own garden and three sons in her spare time. More information on the different types of permaculture education can be found here.
Martina is a professional members 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.