TEDx PermaQueer – Responding as a community to climate change

TEDx PermaQueer – Responding as a community to climate change

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.

Marrying horticulture and permaculture: graduate stories

Marrying horticulture and permaculture: graduate stories

Lisa Passmore is a third generation Horticulturalist and has worked in the production and retail horticulture sectors in Perth, England and New Zealand. Lisa’s twin passions of Horticulture and Art led her to create her own landscape design and consultancy business in 1998.  In addition, Lisa has been co-teaching the Diploma in Permaculture with Ross Mars in 2019 and running the Garden Design Course at Homebase since 2006. Lisa holds a Diploma in Horticulture, a Diploma in Permaculture and a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. A Water Corporation endorsed water- wise landscaper, Lisa is a member of the Horticultural Media Association (HMA) and is a regular contributor to horticultural industry publications. She has featured on the Garden Gurus TV program, Burkes Backyard and is a regular speaker at Garden Week and various WA garden clubs. 

Martina Hoeppner from the PA Education team chats with Lisa about the impact on studying permaculture, changing beliefs about insects and soil health, and marrying permaculture & horticulture in her career.

You were a horticulturist before you studied permaculture. How has permaculture changed your view of horticulture and has it changed your practices? 

Studying Permaculture has opened my eyes to the bigger picture of growing plants on this planet, specifically to what is going on underneath our feet. This new understanding and appreciation of the soil biome has had a profound effect on what I teach my students and how I garden at home. Whilst previously I advocated organic practices as preferable for optimising human health, now I advocate organic practices as imperative in protecting the soil. 

When I first studied Horticulture (some 25 years ago) we spent a lot of time learning the lifecycles of common garden insects from the point of view of when best to spray pesticides for maximum effect. Now I advocate balance in the garden and urge my clients and students to encourage insects to the garden, to learn to tolerate some damage, to live and let live and above all else avoid using chemicals in the garden. So much has changed! 


Like many permaculturists, you currently have more than one job. Could you tell us a little bit about the things you do at the moment? 

I have been running a small garden design and consultancy business since 2000 and in addition to this provide talks and workshops on garden related topics. Being self-employed is wonderful and I’ve enjoyed the flexibility of being able to work around the family’s needs, however it does come with seasonal fluctuations. At the beginning of 2020 I took on extra work in different areas as a way of weathering any economic uncertainty. I applied for a casual pool position at TAFE teaching Horticulture and as a Senior Horticulturist at a local specialist native garden centre. I am now on contract at TAFE teaching most of the week, whilst still helping on Saturday’s at the garden centre and looking after my garden design clients in my spare time.  


How do you see the future of permaculture in this current climate of emergencies, including COVID-19? 

I do feel that people are looking to gardening right now for mental health surrounding themselves with greenery inside and outside their homes, as well as for food security in growing their herbs and vegetables.   

I actively recommend to my students the Accredited training in permaculture (as well as the PDC) and hope to have TAFE pick up the training in the future.  There is a real opportunity for permaculture education at the moment. Now is the time!

Additional information

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 Accredited Permaculture Training, including the Diploma of Permaculture completed by both Martina and Lisa can be found here.

Martina is professional member and volunteer 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.

We are always keen to hear from PA members who would like to volunteer, please get in touch via hello@permacultureaustralia.org.au to see how we can utilise your skills.

“To anyone thinking about studying permaculture, I would say, Go for it!” – Yvonne Campbell

My permaculture journey started way back before my consciousness of what permaculture is – began.

At my Nana’s knee in fact.  My grandmother was a classic Depression gardener.  Everything left over, spare and not needed went into her garden.

As a child, I delighted at the treasure trove of goodies to be found whilst digging in the sandy soil of her seaside garden. Oyster shells, tea leaves, rusty iron bars, paper and newspapers, old toys, bits of brick and lawn clippings … a veritable ocean of lawn clippings!

She would go on evening walks around her suburb snipping a cutting here and there which had made its way over the fence of some unsuspecting neighbour.  That time-honoured tradition of what’s hanging over the fence is fair game, still exists today I am sure, but for Nanna it was a fait accompli.

Hers was a large urban block of some 1200 square metres, with garden all around the perimeter and a large soft rolling couch lawn in the middle. A mature date palm edged with a circle of liver-coloured bricks sat just near the Hills hoist, waving its fronds in the sea breeze.  A man would come every year and collect seed from that tree and I’m sure half the date palms in Australia are related to that one, such was the abundance of seed it produced.

Certain habits were a ritual, such as tipping the tea leaves from the pot each day over the Christmas bush that sat at the back stairs or procuring manure for the lemon tree down the back with the cover crop of strawberries underneath.

Her habits must have been catching because I can recall family tales of her daughter (my aunt) growing garlic under the roses in the front yard of her home in a very conservative Australian country town.  Yes, it was companion planting. It wasn’t quite the scandal, but almost!

Years later I can recall papering my entire front yard with newspapers to suppress weeds and old grass, much to the neighbour’s surprise – before laying a new lawn.

It worked a treat. I had the best lawn in the street bar none!

A few years later I heard a story on the radio about two Australians who had invented a new way of growing food called permaculture.  Bill Mollison and David Holmgren inspired me to plant a large vegetable garden and fruit trees.

The ground was hard packed clay and the climate was cold and frosty, so results were mixed.   And I had my losses, birds devoured the grapes as soon as they ripened, and the dog got into the rockmelon patch and chewed through every piece of ripe fruit.  But the chillies grew amazingly well, as did the cherry tomatoes.  I was hooked.

Next, I moved to a windy, salty beach side suburb where everything seemed to struggle.  I persevered. And bit by bit success came.  I composted, I wrapped young trees in hessian against the wind, I watered constantly from the bore under my backyard – the citrus, passionfruit and a mango did well.  Even the bananas fruited under my watchful eye aided by a liberal dose of coffee grounds donated by a local barista. A good crop of tamarillos one year encouraged me to order a few sub-tropicals from Daley’s to try.

They hated the salty winds and one by one they turned up their toes. The vegetables were woeful.  Nothing liked the black acid soils.  It was very discouraging.

The neighbours were discouraging too.  They loved their lawn monocultures, devoid of any trees or shrubs.

Each February when the heat hit, the whole suburb would brown off, except my little patch of green, with its fruit trees, gingers and tiger grasses framing a lawn longer than what was fashionable, with chooks pecking around at the edges.

One day I asked myself… “Am I the weirdo here?” It was then I knew it was time to move.  I simply didn’t fit anymore. I wanted to be somewhere where people gave a damn about their environment, where when the topic of soil came up, their eyes didn’t glaze over and where everybody knew what a swale was and what it was for.

At the time I was working as a journalist for a metropolitan newspaper. It was long hours, inside at a computer.  I lived for the weekends when I could go to the garden.  I am not religious, but that garden was my church. It fed my body and my spirit.

So, when redundancies were offered, I thought long and hard about my life, and then put up my hand.

I decided I was going to study permaculture. But before I left, I left my readers a legacy, a feature story on a local permaculture couple, Mark Brown and Kate Beveridge of Purple Pear Farm.

A visit to study their setup and systems convinced me I was doing the right thing. An intensive deep dive into Geoff Lawton’s amazing videos following that, had me enthralled.

I enrolled in the Diploma of Permaculture with the National Environment Centre at Albury TAFE under head teacher, Sue Brunskill.

From the very first, a new world unfolded.   What was to follow was three immersive semesters of project-based study with supportive and knowledgeable teachers. Along the way, I moved again, this time to the Northern Rivers area of NSW where I supplemented my Diploma studies with additional training at the Permaculture College of Australia with permaculture pioneer, Robyn Francis.

Again, I was amazed by how much support and knowledge Robyn gave me, offering me the use of her extensive library at any time with which to complete my diploma studies.

While I was doing my diploma, I completed several courses with Robyn including Advanced Design Skills and Teacher Training.

I met incredible people through my studies and learned so much that I could apply in my own life.

Today a few years on, I am doing permaculture on an old gravel quarry and I work as a country real estate agent in a village where permaculture is as normal as breathing.  I even list and sell properties in a dedicated permaculture community.

My gravel quarry is coming along nicely and while it has a long way to go, I would say if permaculture can work on a gravel quarry, or green a desert – it truly can work anywhere!

I have been able to pair my work and my study together beautifully, because now I can read a landscape easily, understand and design water systems effortlessly, assess issues by the weeds that grow there and along the way, sprinkle my clients with a healthy little dose of permaculture!

It’s my way of giving a bit back to the discipline which has given to me so much already.

Story by Yvonne Campbell

Certificate IV in Permaculture available online

Western Australia educator Dr Ross Mars has announced that students can now enrol in the online Certificate IV in Permaculture course (AHC42115) through Perth-based Skills Strategies International.

Skills Strategies International is the first Registered Training Organisation (RTO) in Australia to offer Certificate I, II, III, IV and Diploma in Permaculture as well as the 4-unit Permaculture Demonstrator Skills Set.

For those interested in becoming a teacher of accredited permaculture courses the Permaculture Demonstrator Skills Set is also available as an online course.

Certificate I and Certificate II in Permaculture courses are being delivered in several West Australian schools as Vocational Education and Training (VET) programs.

Setting up nursery irrigation

Permaculture qualifications can be obtained through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). Email Ross to be sent details about this service.

For more information please contact Ross Mars.

E: rossmars@waterinstallations.com

Diploma class field trip from Boyup Brook to Albany

Ross Mars’ Candlelight Farm near Perth, Western Australia has had a healthy uptake of students for Cert III and Diploma of Permaculture courses.  The 12-month Diploma course has 4 enrolled students who meet with their lecturers for one weekend a month.
Recently the students and lecturers spent a weekend away from the classroom and took a 2-day field trip into the south west of Western Australia.
The purpose of the field trip was to examine the rural property in Boyup Brook that the students will be doing a design and report for plus to visit two community gardens in Albany to provide them with design ideas and assistance.
On day one, some of the students and lecturers travelled south from Perth in Ross’s ute while other students from the south west made their way to the first meeting point in Boyup Brook. This is teacher Lisa’s field trip report.
“We arrived around midday after a 3-hour trip and proceeded to stretch our legs with a walk around the large water reservoir on the property.
This was followed by an amazing lunch of chicken wings, cooked on the smoker, with an array of salads prepared by the owners of the rural property.
Following lunch, we walked the rest of the property to get a feel for the land, examining the existing vegetation and rocky outcrops and observed water movement across the property.

Students inspecting the property to observe its features

Seated in camping chairs we did some classroom work, interviewing the owners of the property to learn of their hopes and dreams for the development of the land.
Dinner that night was another amazing meal, a slow cooked casserole with meat and seasonal vegetables. The night finished with star gazing around a campfire whilst discussing all the permaculture possibilities for our hosts’ stunning hillside property.
On day two we traveled in convoy from Boyup Brook inland south to Albany to visit the first of the community gardens, the Rainbow Coast Community Garden, where we met with one of the garden founders and had a tour of the grounds.
Next, we went to the Good Life Community garden in Albany and toured the gardens with one of our group, who was a founder.
The Diploma students will have an opportunity to create designs for the undeveloped parts of this community garden. Their design will include an extended chook run and orchard zone.
We then visited a suburban permaculture garden and were amazed at the diversity of both plant and animal species in this modest-sized backyard.  Lunch was harvested from the garden. This time fish plus an array of vegetables and edible flowers and we enjoyed another amazing feast.

Fresh from the garden

After lunch we parted company and began the 4.5-hour drive back to Perth.”
The students will be reflecting on their experiences and incorporating their field trip observations into their Diploma assignments. A fun (and delicious) way to learn!
Story by Lisa Passmore of  INSPIRED BY NATURE landscape design
For more information please contact the PA Education team. education@permacultureaustralia.org.au

Accredited Permaculture Training VET Programs

There is great opportunity for teachers and high schools to adopt new Cert I and Cert II Permaculture courses into Vocational Education and Training (VET) programs for Years 10, 11 and 12.
Permaculture is a framework to enable the design of resilient systems and to create sustainable, living, integrated systems based on ecological principles and earth caring practices.
Permaculture training is now embedded into the AHC Training Package  (Agriculture, Horticulture, Conservation and Land Management) and courses have been initially developed for delivery in WA. However, they are also able to be delivered anywhere in Australia through Registered Training Organisation (RTO) partnerships.
Skills Strategies International, based in WA, is able to auspice with schools anywhere in Australia and these courses are also available for purchase by other RTOs.
Cert I is most suitable for Education Support students, or those with learning difficulties, and Cert II for students who have aspirations of working within the agricultural and horticultural sector, but specialising in sustainable living practices.
These hands-on, student-centred courses engage students in the school garden where they learn life skills of growing, propagating and caring for plants, caring for animals, growing soil and undertaking organic practices to minimise their impact in the environment. While they are growing their vegetables, herbs and other plants, they may also be carrying out natural area restoration, recording weather, maintaining structures in the garden, preparing products and working safely when using and maintaining garden tools and equipment.
Teachers, or other school staff, will need to undertake four Cert III units in the Permaculture Demonstrator Skills Set for them to offer the Cert I in Permaculture course or at least a Cert III in Permaculture to deliver Cert II, unless they have already undertaken a Permaculture Design Course (PDC).
Permaculture Australia has information on its website that further discusses the requirements of schools and teachers.
Besides the Permaculture Demonstrator Skills Set, Skills Strategies International also offers face-to-face courses in Cert III and Diploma in Permaculture, as well as providing a mechanism to Recognise Prior Learning (RPL) for any of these courses. You may have the skills, abilities and knowledge to obtain a qualification without attending a class, as long as you can provide the evidence supporting your involvement as a permaculture practitioner. Online courses may be developed in the future.
To find out which other RTOs are able to deliver Accredited Permaculture Training at various levels please search training.gov.au.
For more information contact the Permaculture Australia Education team: education@permacultureaustralia.org.au
Article by Dr Ross Mars, Skills Strategies International.