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.
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.
PA member and former PA Board member Dr Cally Brennan is a permaculture designer and educator based in Canberra, and founded Canberra Permaculture Design. Prior to working in permaculture, Cally held roles in academia and in the public sector, working in energy and climate policy.She is also the designer of one of the PA limited edition T shirts with the slogan ‘Permaculture. Do you dig it.’
Cally spoke to PA volunteer Julia about why permaculture came at the right time in her life, and how her past experiences have shaped her understanding of it.
How did permaculture come along, and how was it shaped by your background working in academia and climate policy?
I have always had an interest in sustainability and I have always loved gardening. My grandfather was involved in the Dig for Victory campaign in the UK, we had some lovely holidays visiting his garden. This first sparked my interest in gardening. I have worked in academia, mostly from realising that it was fun to educate people, and like many people in the world, you disconnect your degree from what you want to do in life. So, I tried a range of things until I settled on permaculture. I studied ethnomusicology, a mixture of music and anthropology that explores how people use music to express their cultural identity. I was also lucky enough to do some fieldwork in Malaysia and Singapore. Predictably, there were not many jobs in this area! So, it was on speck that I decided to join the public service.
I came to Canberra in 2006 as a graduate and then found myself in an analytical role in economic research. It didn’t quite fit with my moral side however, as I was coming to conclusions that I fundamentally disagreed with. I ended up working in energy efficiency and climate policy. Working directly on the ground in dealing with climate change policy was a lot! I found that there was a lot of politics involved in climate policy, on both sides. The urgency of the issue was such that I didn’t want to spend the next few years writing and working on things that were basically there to pretend things were on track when they were not. I felt I could make a bigger impact doing other things with my life. So that’s where permaculture came in. I had learned about permaculture when we had first moved to Australia in about 1994. I first remember visiting a garden in Freemantle, WA which had a lot of tyres in its designs. So my conception of permaculture around then was lots of straw mulch and old tyres! It wasn’t until I joined Permablitz ACT in 2009, that I learnt what permaculture was really about. I met a horticulturalist in the group who knew a lot about plants. He had the ability to make you feel like you could try anything, and that it was good to try new things and to not feel constrained by tradition. My conception of permaculture changed to something that was exciting and different and new. I did a PDC with John champagne and Phil Gould back in 2011 and that was the usual brain-popping experience when I realised it was just about common sense. What struck me was how good it would feel to be doing something on an individual level that was regenerative and helpful. I could do both important civic participation through protesting and doing a small thing in regenerative permaculture. Permaculture was an area where I could learn about how nature worked.
I later set up Canberra Permaculture design, because I could design, draw well, and use my interest in sustainability. I built a client base and some confidence. I’m now rushed off my feet with people who want to find out more about permaculture, which is great! For a while, it was a good balance to be working on the big picture stuff (but no direct connection with people) to actually legislate on building standards or energy plans, and then the small picture stuff of doing something with my own life and my own garden.
Wow! So you’ve done so many different things, how do they overlap? Where do you see parallels between permaculture and energy policy?
Having worked in energy policy, it’s amazing to know how much permaculture is about energy, and energy efficiency is fundamental to permaculture design. Permaculture is about capturing energy in your house and your garden. It’s nice to see this linked: the more I learned about energy from work, the more I deeply understood the workings of permaculture.
That’s really fascinating, and it’s great to see how all the varied experiences in your life have combined together to help you understand all of these different processes, and your background seems to have influenced significantly your perception and understanding of permaculture! I was particularly struck when you were speaking about your days in Permablitz ACT, where the horticulturalist in the group had this “can do” attitude about trying new things and seeing what worked. Has that philosophy influenced the way you approach permaculture design in your garden, home and life, and new clients who may not be familiar with permaculture?
The experimental side of my permaculture practice is reserved for what we do in our garden! I make the mistakes on behalf of other people so I can share what I have learned. The most effective design incorporates water into its heart. Canberra is a semi-arid climate normally (though this year it’s quite moist), and last year was terribly dry. I’m now very aware of passive water harvesting. I experiment with these designs in our garden, and then I suggest ideas on water harvesting. I generally build my designs about passive water harvesting: everything is about water here. There’s a lot of opportunities though to capture water: it’s very often wasted in residential properties.
What are some of your most effective passive water harvesting techniques you’ve found on your own properties?
French drains and swales are two of the most effective designs and are at the right scale for a residential property. In ours, we’ve used drainage channels through our driveway, so we’ve diverted water from our driveway and directed into a small swale around a raised bed. It has worked really well I love it!!
Anything you’re listening to that’s inspiring you at the moment?
What are your New Year’s permaculture resolutions? Anything on the horizon?
Balance is what I need to work on. I need to work out how to balance my business and the important service that I provide with everything else in my life. We’re still establishing this garden, and haven’t run workshops this year. We had a massive hailstorm that hit us in late January of this year that smashed everything up, and along with the poor air quality and smoke in January and COVID later on, we couldn’t run any in person workshops outside. We’re at the moment now doing a lot of infrastructure work: putting in a chicken coop and a greenhouse. I’m trying to find a balance between doing designs for other people and getting onto the things that I have to do now: putting in the greenhouse, getting the beans in and all of those big and small tasks that come up all the time. I need to make sure I have more time for us: my family and myself as well. It’s easy to run yourself ragged because people want help and you can help them!!
Dr Cally Brennan is a professional member of Permaculture Australia, the national member-based organisation in Australia. Sign up as a member here today to join hundreds of members across Australia like Cally advocating for permaculture solutions.
This article aligns with the permaculture ethics (Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share) and permaculture principles including Produce No Waste, Catch & Store Energy, Integrate rather than segregate and Use Edges and Value the Marginal. Find out more about the permaculture principles and ethics here.
Cally is wearing one of the Permaculture Australia T shirts, featuring her design ‘Permaculture: Do you Dig it’. These limited edition T shirts can be purchased here.
PA member, educator and permaculture design consultant Janene Price chatted to PA volunteer Julia about the lessons she’s learnt from lockdown, how we can effectively inspire people to take up the cause of permaculture and its popularity under the new normal (plus some design tips for public gardens who get pesky visitors!).
PA member Janene Price is a permaculture educator and consultant, whose business,Love to Grow, in Byron Bay helps people implement effective permaculture garden design. As well as private gardens, she works with public gardens, most notably at Harvest Newrybar, where she also runs permaculture and gardening workshops for the public.
“As more emphasis and urgency is placed on the need for sustainable living due to the Earth’s health, through societal norms, economic drivers and (hopefully) legislation, people will turn to learning from and employing those with permaculture skills.”
Jo Bussell’s permaculture journey started with two weekend permaculture introduction courses in 2010 and 2011. In 2013 she completed a PDC in Fremantle with Sparkles, Harry Wykham and a range of presenters, followed by an Advanced PDC with Ross Mars and Graeme Bell in 2016. Only a year later, Jo opened Urban Revolution in Perth, WA. Martina from the PA Education team chats with Jo about the permaculture skills required for her retail employees & opening a permaculture store in Perth, WA.
Jo, you have the only permaculture ‘brick-and-mortar store’ in Perth. Tell us a little bit about the concept and how you got the idea to open this store.
Permaculture sparked (like for so many people) a passion in me to make my home food gardens efficient and mineral dense, followed by helping friends and family implement permaculture design elements into their gardens. This moved onto paid permaculture design work. There was a need to recommend tools and soil inputs to have a successful food garden in Perth. This morphed into working with Men’s Sheds to make plastic free gardening tools such as our first product, a seedling flat. I then created an online store and went to markets offering the products, permaculture advice and design work. The bricks and mortar store came to fruition due to the number of products we were supplying and the need to take the business out of our home.
What are the goods and services available in your store?
The store offers garden, cleaning, homeware and personal care products that are made from materials that are compostable, plastic free or are better for the Earth. The gardening products are aimed at growing food along with a fabulous range of local, heirloom and open-pollinated veggie, herb and flower seeds. We assist and educate people individually on how to grow food, create soil and compost everyday organic waste. We randomly present on various permaculture related subjects at community events and in schools. We also connect interested people with permaculture courses, teachers and designers.
I know your employees have done Permaculture Design Courses and at least one has done her Certificate III in Permaculture. Is permaculture knowledge something that is needed for the work at Urban Revolution?
Yes. Permaculture knowledge is key to assisting our customers with product use and our free advice on how to create soil, compost, grow food, and modify or add elements into an urban garden using permaculture design techniques. Skills I am looking for in particular are a holistic composting knowledge, soil creation specifically for growing vegetables, experience in growing various vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers; companion planting, backyard chickens and integrated pest management knowledge.
Are you encouraging further permaculture studies for the people you work with and your customers?
Yes, absolutely. Out of our six staff, three have Permaculture Design Certificates (PDCs) and two have completed further permaculture education – and we all would like to do more. The remaining three are growing food at home and are eco aware with other skill sets. They are learning about permaculture by just working in the store. When possible, I hope they will all complete a PDC. In addition, our customers are consistently recommended to do a PDC at every appropriate opportunity!
There aren’t many permaculture jobs advertised at the moment. Do you think this will change?
Yes, I think it will change and gain momentum. For example, why hire a mowing company to maintain your garden? Y ou can hire a permaculture-based gardening company to improve and manage your garden’s health, grow food, educate and provide garden design. As more emphasis and urgency is placed on the need for sustainable living due to the Earth’s health, through societal norms, economic drivers and (hopefully) legislation, people will turn to learning from and employing those with permaculture skills. Ultimately our business goal is to employ permaculturists to provide presentations and workshops to schools, businesses and especially in our communities. At the moment this is a longer-term goal due to cash flow and providing an appropriate venue.
Martina Hoeppner holds a Diploma in Permaculture and a Certificate IV in Training & Assessment, teaches PDCs and Certificate III in Permaculture in Perth and is the current Co-Convenor of Permaculture West. She contributes to Permaculture Australia’s Education Team and tries keep alive her own garden and three sons in her spare time. More information on the different types of permaculture education completed by both Martina and Jo can be found here.
Martina and Jo are Professional and Organisation members of Permaculture Australia, the national member based organisation in Australia. Sign up as a member here today to join hundreds of members across Australia advocating for permaculture solutions.
Urban Revolution Australiais anEco & Garden Store and Online Shop with household, personal and gardening products to make it easy to have a thriving garden, wasteless kitchen and greener lifestyle. There have a current vacancy to join their team which would suit someone with a permaculture background (a Permaculture Design Certificate would be highly regarded).
“These are the interactions with people who live so close to us, yet I doubt we would have chatted if not for our little stall… I can’t even describe how nice that feels. It’s somehow… hopeful.” Koren Holbig
The year of 2020 has seen a renewed interest in a growing food & a sustainable and local food supply. This week we have a guest post from PA member Koren Helbig, on Kaurna Land, South Australia. Koren chats to us about her new project – The Local Yum – an urban street stall promoting local food with some unexpected positive outcomes along the way.
“In September 2020, we launched our tiny Adelaide honesty stall, @the.local.yum. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years. A way of connecting with the community, sharing the story of growing good food in urban areas, and inching (in a small way, admittedly) toward more local resilience.
Months of planning ensued, as I sought advice from friends, fellow gardeners and members of the Permaculture Australia Official Facebook group about the do’s and don’ts, as well as other useful lessons folks could share from their experiences.
Some of my favourite tips included:
Keeping a little notebook on the stall, so neighbours can leave feedback and words of encouragement.
Using the word ‘honesty’ in signage, a reminder to people of what the whole project is about.
Ensuring prices are round figures, the kind that are both easy to add up and easy to pay for with small change or notes ($4 rather than $3.50, for example).
Including bank details so even folks who don’t carry cash have a way to get involved. (This has actually worked so well!)
My partner Carmelo and I pondered for months on how exactly to make our stall. We didn’t want to buy anything, but rather reuse materials wherever possible. Then one day, walking home, I noticed a giant junk pile in a neighbour’s front yard – and spied some brilliantly rustic old shelves amid the jumble. We returned that arvo and this neighbour was delighted to lessen his landfill pile, even chucking everything in his van and delivering it for us!
Then our lovely next-door neighbour let us use his tools – and his considerable knowledge – to repair the broken doors, attach a roof, and grind a money slot in the old blue cash box I picked up at a secondhand store. He even gave us some off-cuts from his decking project, which I turned into hand-lettered signs.
All was going well. And yet. I was simultaneously being hit with a pre-launch neg storm, often from people who’d never tried anything similar before themselves. “It will be stolen overnight.” “People will just take things without paying.” “In that area of Adelaide? It will never work.” “You’re naive.”
It all got a bit much there for a while. I started to lose faith. But thankfully I had kind and calm words to guide me when I freaked out. Sally has run her brilliant @jembellafarmhonsety stall at Angaston (Barossa Valley) for years.
She was realistic, yet encouraging. It was a lifeline. She helped me see this wasn’t such a crazy idea after all. “Give people a chance to be honest,” Sally suggested. Such beautiful wisdom.As we set up the stall on launch weekend, amazing things started to happen — even before we sold anything.
Danny, a local chef, stopped by to chat and offer help in any way we wanted. A handyman named Spog passed by right as Carmelo needed a hand fixing our fence. When Spog returned with his tools, he brought us goji berry cuttings, native finger lime seedlings and a luffa from his own garden. That last one is just too coincidental; I’d been hunting for local luffa seeds for weeks without success. Thanks to the stall, they were literally delivered to us. Free. Oh, and we got to pat a greyhound! ⠀
These are interactions with people who live so close to us, yet I doubt we would have chatted if not for our little stall. We made three sales on our first day, all from lovely nearby neighbours. I can’t even describe how nice that feels. It’s somehow … hopeful.
We can’t know what will happen to our stall in the future. But I love that it’s already pushing me to redefine my definition of success. Yes, the willingness of people to buy our things is heartening, exciting even.
But there’s so much more to this, I think.”
Koren is a 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 Koren advocating for permaculture solutions.
This article aligns with the permaculture ethics (Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share) and permaculture principles including Produce No Waste, Integrate rather than segregate and Use Edges and Value the Marginal. Find out more about the permaculture principles and ethics here.
Andrew Nicholson is a PA professional member who teaches Certificate III Permaculture at the South Regional TAFE in Albany, Western Australia. Martina Hoeppner from the Permaculture Australia Education team chats with Andrew about teaching accredited permaculture at TAFE and how permaculture qualifications & skills will be in demand jobs over the next decade.
How did you get involved in Permaculture?
I first came across the idea of Permaculture as a year 12 student in 1978 (the year Permaculture One was published) and still have that very tattered book in my library. I was fascinated by the ideas of Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and as a bit of a frustrated farmer I read up a lot of the books that were their influencers at the time. I also have 1978 editions of Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution and Yeoman’s Water for every farm in my library. I got married in 1985 and my wife Andrea, who was from a farming background, was also interested in sustainable living, vegie growing and preserving. When we bought our first house in York we started implementing permaculture practices on our block. We had no formal training through this period but read and absorbed whatever was published, we watched the Global Gardener series and designed integrated plant and animal systems on our ¼ acre block. By this time, I was working on a farm and my boss was open to doing some pasture renovation using a Wallace soil conditioner, holistically planning tree lines and fencing, keeping water high in the landscape and to using rock mineral fertilisers in places.
We have now ‘permacultured’ six properties, including a 255-hectare farm. We currently live on a ¼ acre block in Albany with an aquaculture system, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, ducks and worms integrated with raised vegie beds, ground cover crops and fruit trees. I also co-ordinate the Good Life Community Garden in Albany (permaculture oriented) and the Permaculture courses at the South Regional TAFE.
What formal permaculture training have you completed?
My formal education in permaculture didn’t start until 2017 when I raised the idea of starting a permaculture section at South Regional TAFE (SRTAFE) with my manager. She agreed I could investigate it and when my wife Andrea raised the idea of doing a PDC at Fair Harvest Permaculture in Margaret River, I realised this would be a good start to getting the qualification on our scope of registration. We completed the PDC and inspired I enrolled to do the Certificate III at Candlelight Farm in Mundaring with Dr Ross Mars. Traveling from Albany to Mundaring (900 km round trip) each month for a year was challenging but Ross and his team taught a great course and I obtained my Certificate III at the end of the year. Bitten with bug I enrolled in the Diploma course and once again made the trek up and down every month for another year, completing it in July 2020 amidst Covid-19 lockdown.
South Regional TAFE in Albany are offering several permaculture opportunities – can you tell us about the different courses?
We offer two separate Certificate III courses at SRTAFE. Our mainstream course runs two days/week over three terms, with five units of competence being offered each term. Students have the option of completing the course one or two days/week – if they enrol for both days they can complete the Certificate in nine months. Our facilities include a fully equipped horticultural training site with a separate area for us to develop a permaculture space from scratch. We also do some of our course work at the Good Life Community Garden where there is an established food forest and integrated animals as well as the community engagement aspects that are important for an understanding of the Permaculture principles. We also offer the Certificate III in Permaculture as a series of weekend workshops for those who work or find weekends easier. The 15 units that make up the qualification are divided into eight workshops that are offered over a year. People can enrol in one unit or all of them. Some workshops will be offered more than once during the year depending on demand.
Where are students working after completing the Certificate – are there any jobs in permaculture?
Most of our students are on small to medium sized properties and are wanting to integrate permaculture principles and practices into their farming enterprises and lives. A couple are doing the course for interest and some are Ppermaculture practitioners who want to obtain a formal qualification. A couple are interested in becoming permaculture teachers in schools and in the community. There are no advertised permaculture jobs in our region at the moment, but there is a strong sustainability push in the Great Southern and a number of schools are implementing sustainability into their curriculum, including creating permaculture gardens and spaces for kids to learn in. I think people with permaculture qualifications will be well set up for the new wave of sustainability jobs that will become part of every forward-thinking organisation over the next decade.
Do you think the emergencies of the last year have changed these job prospects?
Not yet, but I think they will. Designing for disaster (civil unrest, fires, power loss, water shortages as well as pandemics) is a key concept in permaculture thinking. Although ‘preppers’ and fringe groups have caught the headlines in this area over the past ten years, preparation for some of these disasters has already lead to people wanting to learn skills in growing and preserving food, going off the grid and developing resilient community networks.
Where do you see Permaculture skills needed most in the future?
The bulk of our food production will remain on conventional farms, but progressive farmers are already moving away from whole of farm cropping programs and reintroducing grazing animals because of concerns around weed resistance to herbicides. Concerns about health effects associated with some chemical usage is prompting more people to seek out healthy food options. The Good Life Community Garden hosted David Holmgren during his Retrosuburbia tour of WA and had a tremendous response with over 100 people wanting to learn more about growing food in their backyard. We have the capacity to reduce the pressure on our farmers to harvest unsustainable levels of food from their land by turning some of our lawns and underutilised soil in back yards into productive food forests and even developing small businesses based on permaculture principles and practices. These are skills not only for food production but for a more resilient permanent culture. Organisational culture is a buzz word at the moment and the Permaculture ethics, Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share are the best conversation starters about culture that I know.
How do you think the Accredited Training in Permaculture (APT) compares to the Permaculture Design Course (PDC) in the skills taught?
The PDC course is an amazing overload of information and mind-expanding experiences over an intense 14-day block. There is a little practical hands-on stuff, a lot of observation (with not much interaction) and the opportunity to work with a group of people to put together a concept for a design. An experience with food, camping and permaculture knowledge that I would recommend to anyone.
Accredited training (APT) is much more practically based with the course broken into 15 units that all have a knowledge component and a practical component – and because it runs over 60 days in total there is more opportunity to explore in depth the subject matter and to implement large scale practical projects. At SRTAFE we are building a permaculture garden from a patch of grass, and students are involved in all aspects from site investigation, design, construction of the gardens, food forest, paths, reactional spaces through to maintenance of the finished areas. If you have been inspired by doing a PDC, I recommend you consolidate your knowledge and skills by doing a Certificate III in Permaculture. The Certificate IV of Permaculture is for people who already have some skills and would like skills to supervise and manage permaculture installations from a design, and the Diploma of Permaculture provides in depth training in consulting, interviewing clients, developing permaculture designs to industry standard and researching permaculture principles and practices.
Should more training organisations offer Permaculture?
Yes. I would like to see every region across Australia offering Permaculture. The way to create permaculture jobs is to develop a groundswell of qualified practitioners who are competent, inspiring workers in horticulture, sustainability and agriculture. Hiring a permaculture graduate gives you not only someone with growing and nurturing skills, but analytical and researching skills, community engagement and social cohesion skills as well as a passion for the planet and robust human societies. They are ethical and inclusive, sharing and cooperative, they are the workers this rapidly changing world needs and the more we train, the faster the world will realise this.
There was a Permaculture surge in the nineties after the Global Gardener came out and I think we could be at the start of another surge if more RTO’s took up the challenge of delivering Permaculture. I have been lecturing in the fields of horticulture, conservation land management, sustainability, forestry and agriculture for 25 years at SRTAFE and my most satisfying and enjoyable training times have been with my permaculture students over the past two years. I love it.
Martina Hoeppner holds a Diploma in Permaculture and a Certificate IV in Training & Assessment, teaches PDCs and Certificate III in Permaculture in Perth and is the current Co-Convenor of Permaculture West. She contributes to Permaculture Australia’s Education Team and tries keep alive her own garden and three sons in her spare time. More information on the different types of permaculture education completed by both Martina and Andrew can be found here.
Martina and Andrew 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.
Southern Regional TAFE delivers accredited vocation education and training, working with industiry to build the capacity of current and future employees through training and skills recognition in the region. There are several options to study Permaculture at the Albany campus with more details available here.