“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.
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.
Thanks to your generous donations, PA’s Permafund has supported 59 projects in 17 countries. Each month we’ll bring you a wrap up of some of the projects being supported, so you can follow their progress and fantastic outcomes.
They say a picture tells a thousand words, so scroll through and check out the photo updates shared from Sustainable Communities Kenya. The team have been busy training farmers in organic farming skills, with more activities still occurring before the crop harvest occurs in July and August, and “are happy how our farmers have benefits so much because of the Permafund grant.”
The IRDS Project team in India have completed the training for fifty rural tribal farmers in growing tomatoes, brinjal, beans and castor oil and provision of seeds. This included a focus on eco friendly farm inputs, low cost crop tonics, and intercropping. Criteria used to determine the farmers included: young, has interest to try new methods in agriculture especially the integrated agriculture, allocate time to training and other project related activities, and has land to practice the new permaculture skills.
“IRDS expresses its sincere thanks to PA’s Permafund for their partnership. The farmers are taking care of their cultivation crops now, and they are happy to raise various crops in their lands that will ensure diverse crops and various out come as a result for their sustainable livelihoods.”
The reality and impact of COVID in India, was shared in the project update from Aranya India, with many team members, family and the project communities negatively impacted by COVID directly.
“The situation here isn’t as great. Many of our family, friends , staff and the farming community have been affected with COVID. We have started working on the one acre permaculture projects, however couldn’t continue with the sudden resurge in COVID cases. The villagers shut their boundaries and are not stepping out of their homes whatsoever. However, we have managed to work a little bit with the help of our ground level staff and volunteers. As the monsoon is nearing, we have procured the plants for plantations and earthworks have started.”
And finally, we are thrilled to introduce a new project in Zambia. The Youth Empowerment for Development Initiative (YEDI) plans to train rural communities to improve land, become more resilience and sustainably produce food using permaculture principles.
Permafund will follow YEDI’s progress with interest, as its goals of land conservation and permaculture ideas may provide lessons for many projects in such hot, subtropical areas with limited rainfall.
For more information:
PA’s Permafund provides small grants for permaculture projects implemented by community organisations across the globe. Since 2012, we have supported 59 projects in 17 countries, thanks to generous donations. Permaculture Australia is a registered charity and registered environmental organisation, and donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia. To find out more, including how to donate here.
Ben completed a Diploma of Permaculture with Eltham College in Victoria. In this article, Ben shares experiences of using permaculture to design for disaster, and how his VET Permaculture knowledge assisted with the recent bushfires.
“I first heard about permaculture while WWOOFing on farms in New South Wales and Victoria. It seemed to me that the people talking about permaculture had a different approach to their land, animals and life in general, so I took notice. After reading about it online and in books, I became interested in studying and commenced the Diploma of Permaculture in 2012,’ Ben Buggy
Tell us about the permaculture studies you’ve completed and what were the highlights I completed the Diploma in Permaculture, which included a PDC qualification as part of the study as well as Dynamics Groups training with Robyn Clayfield. There was so much good in that course, but the highlights were often the practical days and field trips, where we visited people to learn about specific skills like bee keeping and cheesemaking. I remember one morning spent on the course with John Seed, the Deep Ecology pioneer, where he took us through a process exploring the birth of the universe and life on earth. That was a powerful experience that has stayed with me.
Designing for a changing climate & resilient communities is an important consideration for permaculture design – how can we promote this better in Australia (and internationally)? Permaculture design is a great framework to tackle big problems, such as the climate crisis. It’s a way of thinking that, together with Indigenous knowledge, can be harnessed by leaders at all levels. Also, the grassroots work we can do to share this knowledge within our community can help mitigate the worst effects of the crisis. As permaculture designers we need to be a part of the process – thinking deeply and walking together. There are so many inspiring permaculture examples and stories around the world that people need to see and hear. I think media like Pip Magazine and Happen Films are doing a great job at finding these stories and sharing them more widely.
You mentioned that your permaculture studies and design helped save your property during the bushfires – can you share some of the design components you utilised and also any lessons learnt? My family and I were able to stay and defend our home from the Badja Forest fire that burned through our community around Cobargo, New South Wales, on NYE 2020. When my mum and I moved onto a property, which adjoins the vast Brogo wilderness, we knew that bushfire would be a very real threat, and because of my studies I had seen the ways that we could prepare ourselves. That preparation included meeting up with neighbours to talk about our fire plans, as well as a visit from the local RFS and a consultation with permaculture elder and designer, Phil Gall. Our defence fire system was a big investment which we prioritised over a tractor. We installed a large steel tank (110kL) that would be dedicated to fire fighting, and a decent sized petrol pump, which sends water to a network of misting sprinklers over the house and other buildings. Our sprinkler system is in copper pipe and is designed to endure a firestorm. We have a number of fire hoses that come off that system. We planned to shelter in the house during the fire front. Other things that are part of our fire kit include protective gear, smoke masks and battery radio.
“During my permaculture course, we visited a couple in Kinglake, Victoria, where we learned about the ways that they prepared for the event of fire, and stayed and defended their home. It was that day when I learned that we would need to prepare our home to fight fire, and started to gather the knowledge that we needed to do it safely.“
The fire that burned through our property was not a firestorm, which was raging further to the north of us, but a grass fire that spotted ahead of the front. In retrospect, the system we had designed was not well suited to this type of fire. The house and buildings were soaked and very well protected, but the gardens further out from the buildings were burning, and we didn’t have a mobile option. We also fought fire for about five hours, so we needed to turn the pump off at times to conserve water. We used 80kL of water that night, and kept our buildings from burning. We are now adding an extra loop of sprinklers further out in the garden, so we can keep fire further away. We really love our gardens, and realised that we hadn’t done enough to protect them. This new ring of sprinklers will help to keep our gardens greener during drought, which is also a great buffer against grass fire. It will also give us more control to direct water where it’s needed.
“The experience of staying and defending our home was traumatic and exhausting and not something I’d wish on anyone. The weeks afterwards were even harder – living in a home unrecognisable and barely functioning. We would do it again though. We love this place and we grew through that hardship. I want to help other people see that preparing to stay and defending safely is possible.“
Would you recommend others study permaculture – and why/why not?
Yes I would recommend this study to anyone who hears the call. The PDC is a small but mighty program that has the potential to flip thinking on it’s head and open new pathways. You really do see the world through new eyes. Then there’s the extended [VET Permaculture] certificates where we had the time to broaden that understanding through other aspects of our human habitation – working together, self care and planetary reverence.
My experience of permaculture is as a pathway, an open invitation and a responsibility. It is a pathway to a deeper and healthier connection with plants, the natural world, and other people. It is an open invitation to share in the vast wealth of knowledge and loving care that exists all around us. And it’s a responsibility to be a part of the tradition of sustainable human existence. I’m grateful for the opportunity.
The VET Permaculture studies include accredited Certificate I – IV and a Diploma of Permaculture courses. They are offered by a variety of TAFE and Registered Training Organisations in Australia. More details of where you can enrol in these courses can be found here.
The Permaculture Design Course is generally offered as a 72 hour course, either online or face to face, by permaculture practitioners across Australia and internationally. We’ve collated a list of PDC’s offered by our PA members here, including many which offer a discount to PA members.
We are thrilled to announce that South Australia has been successful in their bid to host the 2023 Australasian Permaculture Convergence, with support from Permaculture South Australia.
The vision for the 2023 APC is to run a fun, socially responsible, educational and sustainable event with the theme Toolkit for life: building a resilient future.
In addition, the APC 2023 will aim to: * Accelerate learning about permaculture and practice * Build, strengthen and connect permaculture communities (local and national) * Bring together a community of designers, educators, learners and activists looking to use permaculture in their regions to tackle key challenges and grow resilient communities, and * Showcase permaculture projects to inspire and inform participants.
There will be a range of events for people to encounter permaculture leading up to and post the APC. These will be for anyone, not just those registered for the Convergence. They will be independently organised and will have to meet some basic criteria set to be part of the official APC program. The APC 2023 team will also aim to film or audio record a selection of presentations at the APC and make available online to ensure greater access to some of the content.
A huge thank you to our generous donors to PA’s Permafund in the lead up to the end of the financial year. Here are two updates from donors Permaculture Central Coast and Permaculture Principles on why they donate to PA’s Permafund as part of their ‘Fair Share’ ethic.
“Most people have no difficulty defining and living the ethics of ‘earth care’ and ‘people care’, but when it comes to ‘fair share’ it can be challenging. After all, in a world where some of us live lives of considerable privilege while others suffer poverty, wars, displacement, and the loss of their homes due to climate change, who decides what is fair?
Many permies adopt the philosophy of living simply so that others might simply live. This commitment asks us not to buy what we do not genuinely need and to remember that every human-made thing must take resources from the natural world. Others adopt a philosophy of donating a set percentage of everything they earn to charities that care for the earth and care for people.
The executive team of Permaculture Central Coast recognises that our organisation also needs to actively demonstrate the ethic of ‘fair share’. We have chosen to support Permafund because it is volunteer run and the Committee includes some highly regarded permies such as John Champagne, and Rowe Morrow is one of the charity’s ambassadors. PA’s Permafund’s focus is providing small grants to permaculture-aligned activities and we see this as an extension of the principle of ‘the least change for the greatest effect’. We all know what difference permaculture can make to people’s lives, particularly in places where there is financial disadvantage.
Projects are as diverse as tree planting, regenerative farming, seed saving and household food gardening. Perhaps my favourite is a recent project aimed at teaching women in India how to grow food so that they don’t need to rely upon the turtle population for their dinner. This project managed to combine earth care and people care in a truly inspiring way.”
Meg McGowan, President Permaculture Central Coast Inc.
“Permaculture Principles (the business, PcP) is all about practicing the ethics and principles of permaculture. Supporting PA’s Permafund through profits from sales of the Permaculture Calendar is one of the ways in which PcP demonstrates the ethic of Fair Share. We must practice our values. The vision for the calendar is of a collective process; to engage with the permaculture community and to illustrate practices and promote examples.
In order to run a growing business like ours, we need to constantly evolve. The principles that are illustrated in the calendar are the design tools we use to adapt to changing needs. As support for Permafund and the calendar grow, we are expanding our reach to support other permaculture enterprises and projects. This multiplier effect will increase our collective impact to help create a positive future in tumultuous times.”
Richard Telford, Co-Director of Permaculture Principles
Richard Telford and Permaculture Central Coast Inc are PA Professional and Organisation members respectively. You can find out more including how to sign up as a member of PA here.
The 2022 Permaculture Calendar and a great range of permaculture books and resources can be purchased from the online Permaculture Principles shop here. PA members receive a generous discount as one of their member benefits, access the discount code via the members only section of the PA website (log in).
You may or may not know about the Reading Landscape documentary film project. A collaboration between PA Patron David Holmgren, film-maker Dave Meagher, and PA member Dan Palmer, that will shine a light on the foundational aspect of permaculture design. The project emerged from Dan’s fascination with David’s extraordinary capacity to unpack a landscape through direct observation. Featuring footage of David reading landscapes ranging from national parks, farms, botanical gardens, abandoned arboretums, and suburban backyards, the film aims to firmly establish the reading of landscape as a fundamental human skill and a core foundation of permaculture design. Find out more in our interview with Dan below.
“We are creating a compelling, accessible and beautiful film about reading landscape and deepening connection to place, in a way that generates excitement, catalyzes learning journeys, and contributes to re-embedding reading landscape into our cultures as a known and fundamental human capacity,” Dan Palmer
Tell us about yourself Dan, for those who don’t know about you and your multitude of projects!
I’m a passionate student of permaculture and indeed any processes that bring people and places more alive. With my wife and two daughters I live on a small homestead in a 1965 two-story Bedford House bus in Aotearoa New Zealand’s aptly-named Bay of Plenty. As well as co-directing Very Edible Gardens with my friend Adam Grubb, I am creating a podcast called Making Permaculture Stronger, online courses on Holistic Decision Making, a book about Living Design Process, and a film aboutReading Landscape with David Holmgren.
So many great projects! Tell us a bit more about your new project – Reading Landscape. Why is reading the landscape such an important skill to share to make permaculture stronger?
We are creating a compelling, accessible and beautiful film about reading landscape and deepening connection to place, in a way that generates excitement, catalyzes learning journeys, and contributes to re-embedding reading landscape into our cultures as a known and fundamental human capacity.
For me, reading landscape is a foundational human capacity, that for most of our time on the planet was essential to everyday life. While for most of us it has since atrophied, it is a skill we can practice and redevelop. Not only for the sheer joy of it, but as a key stepping stone toward becoming re-nested within the wider ecologies we are but one expression of. To me it is impossible to imagine a permaculture that is not grounded in reading landscape, and I am excited to be helping highlight its relevance and importance within permaculture in this film. This project started with me inviting David Holmgren to come and read landscape on some of my design consultancy projects. I was just fascinated with David’s uncanny abilities to unpack a place through direct observation. Initially we recorded rough footage as an extra resource for the clients, who would struggle to process everything David was sharing at the time. Then, after several such visits, it occurred to me that it would be a tragedy not to somehow capture and share more widely the experience of reading landscape with David. I invited my filmmaker mate Dave to tag along, and it was only a bit later the idea of making a film emerged, for me almost in the sense of an obligation, or at the very least the right thing to do.
Your project mission/goal refers to First Nations knowledge sharing – can you tell me more about how this?
As the film slowly started to take on some kind of overall shape, it was clear to us that the landscapes we were reading, and indeed pretty much any landscape around the world, has been read or deeply engaged with for a very, very long time. Hence our desire to honor the fact that for tens of thousands of years, the landscapes featuring in the film have been known and cared for by Indigenous peoples to a degree most of us can only dream of. We are currently pursuing conversations with Indigenous readers of landscape toward including their voice as a central theme.
How can folks get involved and support with the project?
You can subscribe to the (very occasional) project newsletter on the website. At this stage a primary focus is raising the $35K we estimate completing this film to our desired standard will take. So if anyone believes in this project anywhere near as much as we do, please consider donating or letting a friend who might be interested know about it. Our dream is to raise the necessary funds in an in-house crowd funding campaign from mid July through the end of August, and then to be able to share the finished film as a gift to the permaculture movement and beyond. Help us make it so!
Dan Palmer is a PA Professional Member and David Holmgren is a PA Life Member and Patron of Permaculture Australia. Join up as a member of PA here and join Dan, David and hundreds of members across Australia advocating for permaculture solutions and making positive change.