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 training.gov.au 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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
“At the moment, very few permaculture teachers in Australia hold the qualifications to teach all accredited permaculture qualifications and only a few registered training organisations are offering the courses. We are experiencing a marked increase in interest in studying permaculture in the accredited system though and should do everything we can to accommodate these future students.“
Are you interested in teaching accredited permaculture training? Martina Hoeppner holds a Diploma in Permaculture and a Certificate IV in Training & Assessment and teaches PDCs and Certificate III in Permaculture in Perth, Western Australia. She provides a great summary of accredited permaculture teaching below.
What is accredited permaculture training?
Accredited training for permaculture is fast gaining popularity in Australia, especially here in Western Australia. There are five levels of accredited permaculture training available. Certificates I and II are mainly taught at secondary education settings in the vocational education program. Over the last few years we have seen a decrease in students choosing to study horticulture and an increase in the uptake of alternative qualifications like permaculture. Western Australia currently has five schools teaching Certificate I and three offering Certificate II, with more teachers training to start their programs in 2022. Certificates III and IV as well as Diploma in Permaculture are taught directly through registered training organisations (RTOs), either face-to-face or online.
Currently six RTOs are offering permaculture qualifications in Australia. Skills Strategies International in Western Australia is the only one offering all levels of accredited permaculture qualifications. Permaculture Australia is aiming to increase this number. We project a considerable growth in interest from students, but one of obstacles to more accredited training is a shortage of qualified teachers.
So, how do you become a teacher for accredited permaculture training?
In short, every teacher needs to hold at least the qualification they would like to teach plus a generic Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. For Certificates I and II, a PDC is equivalent and sufficient to having done the qualification. Teachers wanting to teach either of these certificates in their school are required to do a PDC and have a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. While it is not required, it is advisable to do a Demonstrator Skill Set in Permaculture. As PDCs are not standardised or quality-monitored, the accredited skill set consisting of four units ensures a greater understanding of permaculture ethics, principles and practices. The skill set also familiarises the trainer with the accredited system of teaching and assessing. For Certificates III and above, the trainer must hold the same qualification, either through studying it or through Recognised Prior Learning (RPL).
Many permaculture teachers see the requirement to hold a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment as the biggest hurdle to becoming a teacher in the accredited training programs. Many RTOs offer this training in various forms. Whether full-time intense short courses, part-time or online training, there is a course to suit most learners. Certificates IV in Training and Assessment are not permaculture specific and every trainer in the accredited system needs to hold this qualification. The qualification teaches delivering training and assessing students fairly, with a big focus on teaching and assessing students with language, literacy or numeracy problems. While a big hurdle indeed, once a trainer holds this qualification, they can teach any other accredited unit or qualification they hold within the TAFE and VET sector.
At the moment, very few permaculture teachers in Australia hold the qualifications to teach all accredited permaculture qualifications and only a few registered training organisations are offering the courses. We are experiencing a marked increase in interest in studying permaculture in the accredited system though and should do everything we can to accommodate these future students.
Where can I study accredited permaculture training?
Contact email@example.com to find out more about the accredited permaculture education as a student or potential Registered Training Organisation interested in adding the qualification.
“I’m a country girl at heart, enjoying the wide-open spaces around me. I love being creative and am always trying to learn new things and educate myself on different topics. I’m currently working through my Diploma in Permaculture. I’m a dreamer and an optimist trying to see the positive side of life. “
This week we share a story from PA Professional member Stephanie Cutmore, from Indara Farms located in Meckering , Western Australia. Stephanie has completed a Permaculture Design Course and Accredited Permaculture Training (Certificate III and currently finishing Certificate IV) with Candlelight Farm Permaculture and Permaculture Educators Alliance. She is now completing her Diploma in Permaculture and setting up a permaculture business.
“As soon as I had my first baby, I had this sudden urge that I wanted to be back on a rural property. Wanting the freedom and outside connection that I wasn’t getting from being crammed into an estate in town. We were also becoming more and more aware of our food system and the challenges that it may face in the future. It didn’t stop me from starting right there in town to grow the odd fruit tree and seedlings before the time came to move further out into the country where I would have the space, I needed to really create a classroom and learn hands-on how to grow food for our family.”
“We grow food to take back some power and find sovereignty from the industrial food system, which I believe can be quite damaging to our environment and our health. We also grow food as a family activity to get the kids outside and inspiring them to eat more fresh vegetables & fruits. We live in a remote rural area where the supermarket is a 60km round trip and where it is hard to still buy organic fresh produce. Nothing beats being able to walk outside and pick something fresh for dinner, its our kind of take-away food. I like to know that we are helping to reduce our food miles and that the produce I grow hasn’t been sprayed or treated with any chemicals.”
“Our farmhouse sits on a block of 110acres (44ha). The raised vegetable garden is approx. 1011sqft or 94sqm & we also have a rotational grazing chicken system set up where we can grow food in-ground. We do have an Old Orchard and other area, as well as an old orchard and planned expansion area. I love buying Heirloom Varieties of Vegetables & fruit seeds, learning their stories and knowing these seeds have been passed down generations is just so inspiring. I get the chance to grow fruits & vegetables that I may have never tasted before or seen as they aren’t made to be shipped long distances and store well for the supermarket stand. We also have plans to create a “Drylands” permaculture Food forest which will include Fruit & Nut trees, Berries and Australian Native Bush foods.”
Obtain a yield, Produce no waste & Use and value diversity
“We like to leave mother nature to tell us what our soils require looking to the weeds for signs of what they are doing and what may be missing from the soils. We don’t like to disturb the soil & practice a no-dig method. We move livestock regularly and keep our soil covered as much as possible. We don’t spray any chemicals and encourage predators to the pests to live in the garden, realizing that this may take some years to build up a more even playing field. We are building a worm farm and compost bays to add natural fertilisers back to the soil. We also add back any scraps to our soils feeding the worms. The chickens manure gets composted and spread around as necessary. We have also experimented with Chop & Drop Crops & Using Native Wattles as well. We are continuing our self-education on the intricacy of soils all the time by observation and research. I currently have a number of plants such as Silver beet, Radicchio, Corn & Zucchini I’m letting go to seed. You always get an abundance when you save your own so sharing them with family and friends feels empowering.”
“Where we live our average annual rainfall is between 250mls- 350mls annually so the lack of rain can make gardening in summer tough with the extreme heat and strong winds. Trying to grow vegetables that we have become accustomed to eating in a semi-arid climate where they may not want to grow. Unfortunately, we also have some introduced pests such as parrots & rabbits that are very damaging to the native environment and will destroy a lot of our plants before they even have a chance to bare fruit. The biggest rewards are hands-down seeing the kids become acquainted with growing food and seeing how tiny seeds can grow into their favourite vegetables & fruits. Knowing that what ever they choose to eat from the garden is like eating Medicine, reducing our food miles and knowing exactly how that food was grown.”
“No one knows everything there is about growing food, it’s a constant learning curve. Making mistakes is a part of the process and nothing beats harvesting something you can eat that you grew yourself! The next most empowering thing you can do is saving those seeds.”
“I am a Permaculture Australia Member & an admin on a local “Permie” group on Facebook which we are in the process of organizing garden visits and a book club. We share information and cuttings and seeds when we can. I have completed formal education in Permaculture and continue to study. I share this journey and everything I am learning along the way, on my Instagram and have recently started Vlogging on YouTube to help inspire and share our knowledge with others who are trying to grow their own food. I have been able to share excess seeds & produce with family and other locals often being on the receiving end of their fruit gluts creating a community around local food. I don’t know where this journey will lead as I continue on this path, however I have big far-reaching dreams for the future. No body arrives at a destination without a long journey.”
Stephanie is a professional member of Permaculture Australia, the national permaculture member organisation. You can find out more and sign up as a member today here.
You can follow the journey of Indara Farms via their Instagram and You Tube channel for heaps of great inspiration and ideas for growing food, implementing permaculture ethics & principles, and building community in a semi arid climate zone.
Stephanie has completed the Accredited Permaculture Training(Certificate III and Certificate IV Permaculture) and is currently completed a Diploma in Permaculture. Find out more about the Accredited Permaculture Training offerings in your area, including online options here and here.
This interview was first published with the Humans Who Grow Food Social media group, with words and photos provided by Stephanie Cutmore, Indara Farms.
” Registered training organisations are desperately needed in other states and territories in Australia to offer these important qualifications. Permaculture has been identified as an important skill for the future, so we cannot risk losing the option of accredited training in this area.” Martina Hoeppner
This week’s guest post is by PA professional memberMartina Hoeppner, based in Western Australia. Martina holds a Diploma in Permaculture and a Certificate IV in Training & Assessment, and teaches PDCs and the Certificate III in Permaculture in Perth. Martina is the current Co-Convenor of Permaculture West and a member of the PA Education team.
The classic way to start a permaculture education is to attend a Permaculture Design Course (PDC). Australia has many wonderful PDCs, and in my opinion these courses are still the best way to start your permaculture learning. In Western Australia, PDCs are currently offered by three providers – including PA members Permaculture Educators Alliance in Perth. The breadth of topics covered over the 72 hour course provides an introduction to many areas of permaculture, and may leave many wanting more information in different areas. While PDC graduates may completed additional self directed study, seek advice via the internet and social media, and learn by trial and error in design implementation, there are other study options. Accredited permaculture training provides additional content linked to competencies and assessed tasks, which is especially useful if you want to convince future employers of your skills.
If you are looking for accredited permaculture training in Australia, Western Australia (WA) is the place to be! This is not surprising, as much of the accredited curriculum was developed by WA permaculture elder Ross Mars (pictured), who is campaigning for the further rollout of accredited courses into high schools and training organisations. From Certificate I to Diploma in Permaculture, every accredited qualification on scope in Australia is offered in WA. Excitingly, student enrolments numbers in these courses are also on the rise.
In 2021, eight high schools are offering permaculture in their VET (vocational education training) programs in WA. Five of these teach Certificate I Permaculture to students with special needs, and a further three offer the Certificate II Permaculture to non-academic mainstream students in Year 11 and 12. More teachers are currently studying the Permaculture Demonstrator Skill Set, to be qualified to commence permaculture teaching in their high schools in 2022.
“Out of school, the number of students in the accredited courses have steadily grown over the last two years. Enrolments of Certificate III Permaculture students in Perth have nearly doubled in the last year, with a record 19 students now studying in 2021. Certificate IV, currently an online qualification, has five students enrolled and the Diploma course has started with a record nine students this week (the start of 2021).”
At South Regional TAFE, where the Certificate III Permaculture is offered in Albany, enrolment numbers have also increased. In fact, the Permaculture and Conservation and Ecosystem Management courses are getting more enrolments than ever, while enrolments for conventional Horticulture are dropping. Our last update from Albany counted 14 enrolments for the full-time Certificate III Permaculture course commencing at the start of 2021, plus a weekend course will also commence. A second teaching location in Denmark, WA will start to offer further permaculture courses from 2022.
“Unfortunately, accredited courses are few and far between in Australia, as many training organisations and employers don’t fully understand what permaculture is and what skills Permaculturists have to offer, which is many. The development in Western Australia is very heartening to see and Registered Training Organisations are desperately needed in other states to offer these important qualifications. Permaculture has been identified as an important skill for the future, so we cannot risk losing the option of accredited training in this area.”
If you are an RTO (Registered Training Organisation) interested in finding out more about the accredited permaculture training and how to commence adding this to your scope, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Ross Mars is a permaculture teacher, designer, author and consultant. He founded Candlelight Farm, a permaculture demonstration site and training center in Western Australia. In addition, Ross developed and introduced the new Accredited Permaculture courses in WA, delivering the Certificate III, IV and Diploma in Permaculture, as well as developing the Certificate I and II Permaculture for schools and community groups. For more details go to Candlelight Farm
Martina and Ross are 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.
We get *lots* of requests from community members asking where to study permaculture. It’s a great way to learn new skills and live more sustainably. And after the year that was 2020, we think permaculture skills are even more important than ever!
We’ve collated this handy ‘where to’ guide’ to help you kickstart your permaculture studies and/or fulfil that new years resolution of studying permaculture and making a difference.
Accredited Permaculture Training.
Accredited training is nationally recognised and includes a Certificate I-IV and Diploma in Permaculture offered by a Registered Training Organisations (RTO’s) in Australia. Further information can be found here. These courses may be online or face to face (or both) and in some states/territories the state government may offer subsidies or scholarships. The following RTO’s are registered to offer the accredited permaculture training:
The Permaculture Design Course is a (minimum) 72 hour course in permaculture. Course offerings may be face to face in a two week block, spread over weekends or weekdays, held online or both. If the organisation listed below has an * next to their name, they also provide a generous discount for Permaculture Australia members.
If you are interested in an online PDC you may like to check out:
So what are you waiting for? Get in touch with one of the above organisations and start your permaculture study journey today.
The above list includes courses from our Permaculture Australia professional and organisation members. To add your business to the list, you can sign up as a member here today. You’ll be joining hundreds of members from across Australia and the globe helping us to advocate for permaculture solutions, education and action.
Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to confirm the information above is correct. Please contact the course providers directly with any queries. To access your PA member discount please log into the PA website and then click on ‘member benefits’.
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.