TedxPermaQueer – Cultural Solutions to Climate Change

TedxPermaQueer – Cultural Solutions to Climate Change

Tackling our ongoing climate crisis means adjusting the behaviours, attitudes and relationships we hold with the environment and with each other. It’s not just tech solutions we require but deep cultural shifts. It won’t be a single action but the collection of many small and sweeping changes that sets us up for success or failure and culture is the bedrock of behaviour.

We’ll be exploring through a variety of speakers how shifting culture from mainstream society, whether ancient or modern, can help change our current climate path. With special emphasis on first nations ways of knowing and being, drawing from lands managed in sustainable and regenerative ways prior and post colonisation, we will explore what a new space of cultural emergence might look like. An emergence that is appropriate, equitable and listens to the needs of the land and the people.

  • What does it mean to be a custodial species in our environment?
  • What is culture? what is good culture and what does it mean to reclaim our cultural practices?
  • How can we contribute to meaningful cultural emergence as ethical and responsible consumers?

These are a few of the questions we’ll be exploring in depths over the three days of this seminar, with many more exploring the themes of right relating, impacts of colonisation, moving beyond helplessness, cross-cultural dialogue and breaking the binaries we live within.

All profits raised from this event is going towards a specific land back fund for First Nations Aboriginal people. 

For more information:

The event details can be found here.

Permaqueer are Professional members of Permaculture Australia, the national permaculture member organisation. Find out more including how to join here.

Bonnie Tuttle: building local economy & community resilience

Bonnie Tuttle: building local economy & community resilience

“I support individuals, micro/small/family-owned business owners and people in not-for-profit or social enterprises. I do this because I believe that grassroots action and people working together locally is better for all of us. I see the enormous difference not-for-profits and social enterprises make in our communities. I believe that local business is a cornerstone of connection and resilience. And behind it all is you and I – just people with our own personal and family commitments, trying to do our best.”

PA’s Kym spoke with Bonnie Tuttle, one of our new PA members based in lutrawita / Tasmania about the links between permaculture & Holistic Decision Making, building local economy, and obtaining many yields by working with small community organisations/groups.

For those who don’t know you, tell us more about yourself?

I’m a business and community consultant and my core focus is on helping our communities grow through service and enterprise. I offer training, facilitation, coaching, project management and marketing/communications support. I’m based in the South of the beautiful lutrawita / Tasmania, on the ‘sunny Eastern Shore’ which has allowed me to create some lovely little microclimates in my garden, where annual veggies were a (very time consuming) passion before I discovered permaculture! Now we have significantly more perennials.

I can’t remember how I first came to permaculture. I think living here with such a small and well-connected community meant that I just stumbled across it when keeping up to date with fellow PA members Hannah at Good Life Permaculture, and Lauren and Oberon from Spiral Garden. I did some reading and although the gardening aspect really spoke to my hands-in-the-dirt obsession, it also set off all the bells in my strategic/solutions/design/planning brain, which had lived in the corporate growth economy for far too long.

What are some of the wins and challenges of your work activities and running your own business?

The main challenge is that I have chosen to work with grassroots organisations, and people who don’t generally have a lot of access to funds. During my Permaculture Design Course (with GLP) I became more interested in the economic aspects of permaculture, because it helped me to better understand the issues, but also some of the solutions.

I am still grappling with how to best obtain a yield from my work whilst maintaining a sense of fair share, but I have adopted barter as a form of payment, set up payment plans, and joined the CENTS network to try to make my services accessible to everyone. I do a little bit of ‘Robin Hood-ing’ with corporate clients every now and then, as long as they align with my values – by working with some larger clients who have capacity to pay I can then offer time pro-bono to other volunteer-led grassroots groups, or start-ups without any capital.

“Although this ‘target market’ may not be the most appealing in a marketing sense, I am all the richer for it. I have created the most wonderful tapestry of friends and acquaintances, and I now have the opportunity to share my knowledge with people I know will use it well and build a better future for themselves and our community.

Another ‘win’ is that I am able to live a more holistic life, with work integrated into the flow of my days. If I fancy a walk in the bush, I can take it. If the tomatoes need watering, I can pop out and do it. My days are still extremely busy, and I do work early in the morning and late into the night on occasion – but I pick my kids up from school every day, and am always here if the neighbours need a hand.

You are doing some great work in Holistic Design Management (HDM). How do you see this linking with permaculture (ethics & principles) and broader community resilience?

I learned HDM with Dan (Palmer) early this year, and it immediately sparked something. I have used the framework on a number of occasions now, with individuals, couples and groups. There are many similarities to other forms of strategy and design, and I tend to pick what I think will be the most effective tool for each client.

I see many linkages with permaculture. The most powerful impact I have seen so far (and I’m only at the beginning of my HDM journey) is the impact it can have on Zone Zero. Many people put substantial energy into People Care, but their focus is on the ‘other’. By using the nested wholes structure we can see that there is no ‘other’ – we all exist in symbiosis with the living systems we are nested within. Without clarity and care for ourselves, we can’t possibly be sustainable nor regenerative.

I love that it is a Patterns to Details approach, and this aligns with my philosophy no matter what the framework is. I always start with the ‘big picture’ and work down, because in my work I see people, in their personal and professional lives, get very ‘stuck’ in the doing. Using HDM it is easy to give appropriate space to these enabling actions, but they are always in service of something bigger, and of great importance to the person or the organisation.

For me personally, the whole HDM system’s value is in Applying Self Regulation and Feedback. The tools have really helped me to stay on track, Observe and Interact with the things influencing my progress towards where I want to be, and adjust – usually through self regulation! I am known for being ‘all in’, and have been prone to burnout in the past. Utilising HDM energises me, and gives me little indicators when I’m putting too much energy into one thing (and so it helps me to better value diversity too!)

You are a member of PA (thank you!) – why do you think permaculture and supporting the national permaculture organisation is important?

Although I have a very grassroots focus in the work that I do, I acknowledge that the impact we can have on many issues including the economy and climate change really needs to be addressed at a higher level. This requires momentum and pressure. We can’t do it alone, and our many voices make our message louder.

I also think a sense of belonging is important – to all of us, but to me as an individual too. I have been very lucky to have only experienced a short lockdown period in April 2020, but my work can be very isolated which is hard for a social person like myself. I went from busy offices to being alone all day with my sleepy dog much of the time, and it made me realise that the only connections I had were work colleagues and family.

“Being a member of Permaculture Australia and Permaculture Tasmania has given me opportunities to connect with like minded people and spend my time doing things I consider to be a good use of what precious time we all have. I’m also relatively new to permaculture, and I love to learn. PA exposes me to such a wealth of knowledge – I’m so grateful.”

What do you see as the challenges we are currently facing (e.g. climate crisis) and how could these be addressed?

Wow that is a big question! There are so many opportunities, but the one I focus on is building local economy and taking the wind out of the global growth economy. There is such big ‘bang for buck’ in local economy! People have richer lives because they can work close to home; they can get what they need in their neighborhoods, cutting down on monocultures and carbon miles; we would consume less, and what we would consume would be more necessary and less frivolous if it wasn’t just available at the click of a button from the other side of the earth. From a business owner’s perspective I think it would be easier to find our own place in the market, because we wouldn’t be competing with people online from everywhere. And services would be place based and therefore more tailored and effective…

This isn’t all necessarily true of local economies all of the time, and it would take a lot of work. But I think if as consumers and business owners we turned our minds to providing for ourselves and our neighbours, buying only what we need, and took our feet off the accelerator in the quest for global domination then a lot would change for the better.

What does the rest of 2021 have in store for Bonnie Tuttle Consulting?

I fell into working for myself because of a family emergency, and so at the time I didn’t have time to do things ‘properly’. I certainly didn’t go through any of the steps I advise my clients to take! So I have recently spent a lot of time and energy on the business – looking at systems which support my way of working and reduce the time I need to spend at my desk. I also continued the momentum which started in January this year with my PDC and HDM study, and really looked into who I am and what impact I want to make – how I exist with my business and how that exists within the world. It led me to a rebrand, which I have just launched. So for the rest of the year I will be continuing to get my systems in place, and become more routine in the way I work. And now that I have something I can be proud of, I’ll be promoting the brand a bit more.

I have also been working hard to develop relationships with local government bodies and other organisations who have access to funds to support grassroots organisations, and so I will be delivering some workshops called Business Fundamentals for Grassroots Organisations over the next few months. I have teamed up with my dear friend and fellow permie Jo Smith (Naturally Well with Jo, and Bruny Island Market Garden) and we are running a ‘Living with Purpose’ workshop too – that should be great fun.

And last but not least, I have a Permablitz I’m helping out with in October, and my husband Andrew and I will be starting to roll out the permaculture plan I created for our own space. It will be a slow process, and Small and Slow Solutions is the principle I struggle the most with, but we make a great team so I’m sure we will get the balance right.

For more information:

Check out Bonnie via her Website,  Facebook and Instagram. PA members are able to access a generous 10% discount on services from Bonnie too – log into the PA website to find out more.

Bonnie is a Professional member of Permaculture Australia, the national permaculture member organisations. You can find out more, including how to sign up today, here.

The Good Life – with Hannah Moloney

The Good Life – with Hannah Moloney

Photo credit: PA member Natalie Mendham

I love permaculture because it doesn’t just highlight what’s wrong in the world, but it provides the tools for us to craft genuinely new  solutions for how we could move forward to create the world of our dreams that’s good for everyone, not just for our individual selves. ” Hannah Moloney

PA’s Kym spoke with PA member Hannah Moloney, Good Life Permaculture about her new book, radical hope, living the Good Life in lutrawita / Tasmania and the busy time she’d have doing great things as Prime Minister of Australia for a week!

Thanks for chatting with me Hannah. How did you get into permaculture and how do you think it can address some of the challenges our society is facing?

I’m originally from sunny Kurilpa, Meanjin (West End, Brisbane) and the youngest of five wildly different kids. I grew up on a quirky herb nursery my Dad ran while Mum worked as a Research Librarian at The Native Title Tribunal. By default I absorbed a strong sense of social and environmental justice which has undoubtedly helped shape me into who I am today. Having grown up in a herb nursery (not a permaculture garden) in a rather alternative community the word permaculture was often flitted around. I think I first saw Bill Mollison speak at an organic fair when I was 17 years old. But it wasn’t until I was travelling Australia  when I was 18 and met Annemarie and Graham Brookman at the legendary Food Forest in South Australia that I really learned what it was. Their holistic approach to farming and living hit home with me and I *got it* – deep down in my heart I went “yessssssssss”.

For the next few years after meeting them I was mostly involved in front line activism helping to defend old growth forests in lutruwita / Tasmania. But at some point I looked at myself and knew that I was sad and approaching activism the wrong way for me personally. There’s many different ways to be an activist and my big learning in that time of my life was finding out how I could be an activist forever. That’s when I pivoted and focused 100% on permaculture and community work. I see permaculture as a form of positive activism that addresses all the big challenges of our time.

Many people still don’t realise it’s not just about gardening/farming – permaculture is a holistic design framework that can be applied to anything – including urban planning, the building industry, education, health and wellbeing  and the climate emergency to name a few things. “

Congratulations on your first book – exciting! How did you come to write a book & what was your inspiration?

Thanks! I was incredibly fortunate to be approached by Affirm Press who suggested I write a book. While flattered, I was very hesitant as there’s so many books already – do we really need more? The short answer is yes, we need more story telling of meaningful and positive ways to move through our world. Right now we’re being bombarded by either a denialist and/or negative narrative around climate change. My book is part of a broader movement in reclaiming that narrative and grounding it in reality (can’t dodge the sobering facts) while drenching it in radical hope. Radical hope is the act of living with optimism and courage in the face of the huge uncertainty that is the climate emergency. 

Tell us more about your book – what do you hope folks will take away from reading it and importantly the action they’ll take?

My book answers the question “how to live a good life in the face of the climate emergency”. I draw on my own life as a practical example – but for the first time ever I step into my vulnerability and share my personal experience in coming to terms with our world and my small place in it. It hasn’t been easy. I also highlight other wonderful people and organisations across Australia doing incredible work in their homes, communities, for their whole regions and our country. I have two hopes for people reading my book. The first is that they learn about some of the effective initiatives already happening in Australia (there’s so many) and realise the solutions are already here, we just have to support them. My second hope is that readers remember that we have everything we need to bring about stunning transformation to create a just and safe world for all. Every single one of us ordinary humans are capable of doing extraordinary things when we apply ourselves. 

It’s been a challenging few years with bushfires, droughts and a global pandemic. If you were PM for a week, what changes would you implement to try and address some of these challenges or advocate for?

Oooo, I’d have a really busy week and;

  • Prioritise and centre First Nations engagement and wisdom. As a starting point, this would include adopting the Uluru Statement From the Heart
  • Legislate and regulate non-biased, responsible media as the norm to ensure people are not ingesting blatant misinformation. 
  • Introduce a quota in Australian government to ensure gender equality. This would include good detail about gender diverse people to ensure genuine inclusion.
  • Ban political donations from big industries to prevent corruption. 
  • Transition to 100% renewable energy which would involve closing all coal power plants justly which would include supporting the workers into new industries. 
  • Provide significant financial and technical support to farmers so they can transition towards methods in line with regenerative land management tailored for their context. 
  • Invest in well designed/built social housing that provides secure homes for people.
  • Invest in the arts to re-establish them as part of our country’s foundation of cultural expression and development. 

You are a long term member of PA (thank you!). Why are you a member/why is being a member of PA important? 

I’m a proud PA member as I love belonging to a national community of passionate people dedicated to doing good. It encourages me to strive to be better in my work and as a human, and connects me with people across the country for support, ideas and friendship. 

What else does 2021 hold for you and Good Life Permaculture?

Well, it’s been a big year – as well as our usual calendar of permaculture workshops and landscape design projects – I’m gearing up to launch my book into the world in September. This will coincide with me re-starting fun, educational weekly You Tube videos from my home/garden to share free skills with people and I’m trying my hardest to pull together a podcast based off my book for people to enjoy as well. Plus I’m excited about a new collaboration with dear friends Milkwood which will kick off later this year (watch this space).  But mostly I’m really hoping I can continue to soften into myself to get closer to reaching my full potential so I can do more good in the world – as far as I can tell this  requires a lot of courage and willingness to fail. But I’m going to have a crack! 

How can folks get a copy of your book? (and will there be a second or third! book coming too?)

You can find the book at your local bookstore or here online at Booktopia. You can also ask your local library to order it in. In terms of writing another book – I’d love to! But let’s give birth to book baby number one first and see how that rolls. 

More information:

Hannah is a and Co-Director of Good Life Permaculture based in lutrawita / Tasmania & guest presenter on Gardening Australia. You can follow the journey of Good Life Permaculture via their Instagram, Facebook and You Tube channel for heaps of great inspiration on growing food, implementing permaculture ethics & principles, and building community.

Hannah is a Permaculture Australia Professional member, the national permaculture member organisation and has completed a Diploma of Permaculture, You can find out more and sign up as a member here today, and join Hannah and hundreds of members across the globe who are advocating for permaculture solutions and positive change. Find out more information on VET Permaculture offerings, including the Diploma of Permaculture here.

Permaculture blooms in ‘semi arid’ climate, WA

Permaculture blooms in ‘semi arid’ climate, WA

“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.”

More information:

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.

Permafund Patron awarded the Order of Australia medal

Permafund Patron awarded the Order of Australia medal

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We are thrilled to announce that Rosemary (Rowe) Morrow has been awarded an Order of Australia medal (OAM) on 26th January 2021 for service to permaculture.

Permaculture is probably the world’s greatest people’s movement while being embraced from every place and people. This award celebrates this movement. It is perhaps Australia’s greatest export.” Rowe Morrow

For almost 40 years Rowe has worked extensively with communities in Africa, Central and South East Asia and Eastern Europe, including conflict zones and those experiencing the serious effects of climate change.

“This is wonderful news for Rowe to be acknowledged for her many decades of permaculture work around the world and especially with refugees and communities recovering from war. Rowe did her PDC with me in 1987, what an inspiration,” Robyn Francis, Permaculture Elder & Educator

Rowe has been recognized as a permaculture pioneer, was a previous Permaculture Australia Board Director, and is one of the Permafund patrons.

“Rowe has made such a huge contribution to permaculture in Australia and internationally – as an educator, author, teacher, mentor and international permaculture projects – including as our Permafund patron. The award is a great acknowledgement for the work she’s done and continues to do with communities across the globe”, Kym Blechynden, Permaculture Australia.

When not working overseas, Rowe is based in Katoomba, NSW and is an active member and co-founder of Permaculture for Refugees (pictured below) and Permaculture Blue Mountains. She is also passionate about making teaching sustainable and encourage others to succeed her as teachers. Her books include the Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture and the Earth User’s Guide to Teaching Permaculture.

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More information:

PA’s Permafund provides small grants to community permaculture groups across Australia and internationally. Since 2012 we have provided 54 grants in 16 countries. Donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia. Find out more including how to donate here.

Permaculture 4 Refugees South East Asia is a network of permaculture aid workers in Australia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and the Philippines, including members of PA’s Permafund. We work in partnership with local NGO’s to support permaculture training and resource development in displacement and crowded urban settings.

Permaculture Stories: Callie Brennan

Permaculture Stories: Callie Brennan

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!!

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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.