Will anti-Islam link discredit Permaculture?

Story by Russ Grayson, December 2014

A Northern NSW “permaculture farmer” calling for a boycott of halal foods and linked with an alleged far-right anti-Islamic group could bring the permaculture design system into disrepute if her beliefs are taken to be representative of permaculture.
Her name is Kirralie Smith and her story was carried by the Sydney Morning Herald online on 28 December this year.
The Herald lead describes Kirralie as ” …a permaculture farmer from northern New South Wales and a mother of three. She is also the public face of the virulent campaign to boycott halal food and products.”
[pull_quote align=”right”]We aim to Not buy halal products & services, because they fund Islamic expansion by any means[/pull_quote]
It continues: ” …Smith’s Facebook page Boycott Halal in Australia has 41,000 supporters. She speaks at events organised by ‘Islam-critical’ groups such as the Q Society, which has also been involved in local campaigns to stop mosques being built. Her Halal Choices website, she says, gets 80,000 visitors a month.”
Boycott Halal in Australia says in its ‘about’ column’s general information that: “We aim to Not buy halal products & services, because they fund Islamic expansion by any means” (punctuation reported as is).
A 27 December posting on the group’s Facebook seeks to disassociate itself from Kirralie: Another article – Why halal certification is in turmoil… with lots of information from our Page – but again the False Assumption that Kirralie Smith is involved here at Boycott Halal – which she is not & she is as flabbergasted as we are by this Media confusion.
“Note that Kirralie Smith is behind the very informative HALAL CHOICES website and is featured in the excellent Q Society Video about Halal Certification which we often feature… but she is not involved here at Boycott Halal.”
[pull_quote align=”right”]Businesses themselves have to accept the blame for any loss and can only bring themselves discredit by choosing to be bullied by the anti-Islam lobbyists[/pull_quote]
The Herald article describes how the anti-halal movement applies pressure on Australian food companies to drop halal certification, a move successful in one instance but resisted by other food companies. A 21 November article in New Matilda this year reported that the Byron Bay Cookie Company was hounded about its halal certified Anzac cookies and that South Australia’s Fleurieu Milk and Yogurt Company was forced to back out of a contract to supply Emirates airline.
There are implications in this strategy for Australian food exporters. Businesses themselves have to accept the blame for any loss and can only bring themselves discredit by choosing to be bullied by the anti-Islam lobbyists rather than stand up to them in a public way that focuses attention on the Islamophobe’s tactics and agenda.
Halal foods are certified as appropriate for Moslems just as kosher foods are certified for consumption by Jews. The article goes on to discuss the halal certification process and controversies within it.
Kirralie, who has a BA in theology, says halal certification imposes costs on food for all Australians and constitutes a religious tax. She wants the Corporations Act 2001 changed so that only Moslems bear the cost of halal certification. In an October 2012 article entitled Is Halal Funding Terrorism? on australianchristians.com.au, Kirralie says that money paid for halal certification is used, partially or in whole, for the push for sharia law (the Islamic legal code) in Australia. Yet, she doesn’t link the cost of certifying kosher foods to overall food prices, nor that of certifying organic foods (although that would not constitute the alleged religious tax).
[pull_quote align=”right”]…certification is a “scam” to raise money for building mosques and, by implication, for funding jihad…[/pull_quote]
Kirralie alleges that halal certification is a “scam” to raise money for building mosques and, by implication, for funding jihad. The Q Society video linked to her website says that halal certification was not traditionally required of Moslems in past times and is now a means to make money.
The Herald reported that the Australian Crime Commission had found no links between the legitimate halal certification industry and the financing of terrorist organisations.
The Q Society, with which Kirralie is linked, describes itself on its website as anti-Islamic — the words are the heading of one of the website’s drop-down menus. Click it, and you find this: “For too long Islam has enjoyed immunity from necessary analysis, due criticism and debate because of its status as ‘just a religion’. Unfortunately, if we continue to tolerate Islam without understanding it, Australia as a free, secular democracy will be lost…”.
The Society also warns against “…the systematic Islamisation of our schools in textbooks, curriculum, tuck shops, uniforms and installation of parallel rules”. It describes itself as a not-for-profit “civil rights organisation… to inform Australians about Islam”.
The Age newspaper on 23 June 2014, in an article entitled Far-right group spreading anti-mosque message in Bendigo, disclosed that the Society was behind the campaign against the building of a mosque in the Victorian city.
In an 26 June 2014 article on news.com entitled Revealed: The secretive Q Society’s battle against Islam, the Q society was described this way: “THEY are a group of ‘concerned citizens’, but are very hesitant to say who they really are. If you want to go to one of their meetings, you have to sign a nondisclosure agreement.
“Their only address is a PO Box in suburban Melbourne. They won’t say exactly where their money comes from and say they never will.
And they are very opposed to Islam in Australia. The secretive organisation known as the Q Society has this week been linked to a noisy campaign to stop the construction of a mosque in Bendigo, Victoria.”

A challenge to permaculture’s reputation

Permaculture is a practice with a broad range of participants. There are Greens supporters, Labor supporters and — who knows? — even Liberal supporters. There are people from the different flavours of Left and the Right and those who seek a better way than adherence to tired, Twentieth Century ideologies. There are Christians, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, Jews and — yes, Moslems too (perhaps the most prominent being the Permaculture Research Institute’s educators and consultants, Geoff and Nadia Lawton).
So it should come as no surprise that a whole range of beliefs and attitudes are present within the permaculture design milieu. What has been absent however, are those actively engaged with fringe political groups who publicly identify as permaculture practitioners. It is this that is the difficulty with Kirralie’s association with anti-Islam organisations.
[pull_quote align=”right”]By late December other media had picked up on the Herald story and in most of the online links the word ‘permaculture’ appears with Kirrilie’s name[/pull_quote]
As an Australian living in a democracy, Kirralie has freedom of association, including with small political groups of dubious intention. She also has her freedom to express what she thinks, including about the halal industry and Islam. Sure, that will offend some but in a democracy where you can say what you like without resorting to hate speech, you’re bound to offend someone, somewhere. Offence is part of democracy.
Kirralie’s being linked with permaculture risks the design system being associated with her personal beliefs and anti-Islamic activities. By late December other media had picked up on the Herald story and in most of the online links the word ‘permaculture’ appears with Kirrilie’s name. It may be  assumed that her beliefs reflect those within the permaculture milieu and it is this that has potential to discredit the design system. Kirrale’s Pinterest presence has a page on permaculture gardening.
Another issue is that pressuring food manufacturers to drop halal certification would reduce freedom of choice for those seeking those foods. That would be of concern to Australia’s food sovereignty advocates such as the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance that advocate people’s control over their food systems. So too should Islamophobic bullying of Australian food businesses.
The incident also raises the question as to how seriously permaculture practitioners, and Kirralie, take the Second Ethic of permaculture that talks about care of people. Can you really care for the wellbeing of people if you seek to remove the certification of the food they choose to eat?

Read more…


2015 Permaculture Calendar is here

2015 permaculture calendar

2015 Permaculture Calendar

Story by Richard Telford, September 2015

The 2015 Permaculture Calendar is here and I’ve put together some wholesale offers that are available for delivery within Australia that take advantage of cheaper postal pack rates.
Prices are all inclusive:

  • 8 pack ($7.75 ea)
  • 12 pack ($7.25 ea);
  • 24 pack ($6.75 ea)
  • 42 pack ($6.50 ea)
  • 85 pack ($6.25 ea)

all including delivery – RRP $13.
[button_link url=”http://permacultureprinciples.com/product/calendar-wholesale-australia/” target=”blank” style=”blue” title=”” class=”” id=”” onclick=“”] 2015 Permaculture Calendar – with moon planting guide website [/button_link]


Story by Russ Grayson, February 2014

IT WAS LATE SUMMER when thirty or so people gathered at the Randwick Community Centre for day one of the two day Changeology course with veteran social change educator, Les Robinson.
Les is a tall, fit-looking man of middle age with an authoritative but casual and relaxed way about him. I first heard of Les when a friend was working in website development at Social Change Media, the company Les started in the 1990s. He’s now acknowledged as one of the country’s leading thinkers and educators on social change, and last year led a popular ‘Passion Mashin, how to revive your community group’, workshop at the community centre. Late last year he published the book, Changeology.
Demand was such that the course was fully subscribed and a waiting list started for those who missed the booking. Participants included some who had done council’s Living Smart and Organic Gardening courses, a member of Transition Bondi, two from Permaculture Australia and others who work with communities or individuals in change, including in the health field. It was evident that there was a need to understand and facilitate change across a broad field of community and service organisations.


Image courtesy of Les Robinson

Leading groups

We leaned that fear acts as a clamp on people making change. It comes in a number of forms but one of the most persistent is the fear of being judged by others. Like a dark demon from the underworld with a firm, ferocious, clawed grip on the leg of someone trying to escape it, this fear of peer judgement holds people back from making positive change in their lives.
Dealing with fears is one of the things that change facilitators do, Les explained. Offering hope and enabling change through reducing the fears that hold people back, and inviting people to participate in change, is a three-pronged strategy for enabling change.
It’s still a belief that to create change we have to first raise awareness then give people the knowledge to go and make the change they desire. Not so, because there is no direct connection between awareness raising, knowledge acquisition — the old knowledge deficit model remedied by pouring information into people’s heads — and actually making change.
Despite this, organisations, lobbies and even councils persist in spending money on glossy brochures in the belief that making people aware of the costs of continuing to do something, and attempting to educate them in a better approach, will lead to the desired change. Providing information has a role, but as background for those making change through other means.
Awareness raising and supplying knowledge are not necessarily routes to change, it turns out, which is a facilitated process.
And it’s much the same with threats, a technique especially beloved by government which spends much taxpayer money making little signs threatening dire consequences if we don’t do what they want us to do. Government especially likes the ‘carrot and stick’ approach of offering an inducement at the same time as making a threat if people don’t do what they want. By demonstrating a deficit of understanding and skill like this, and treating adults as if they were naughty little children, is it any wonder Australians hold politicians and government in contempt? The resistance to being told what to do, a traditional Australian characteristic, is what Les spoke of.
According to Les, ‘tell, sell or threaten’ approaches don’t work because they encourage denial that there is some problem, which can lead to people engaging more frequently in it. They generate resistance to being told that we are wrong and what we should do.

Understanding change

To encourage adoption of a new idea we call for assistance from the Ideas Diffusion model developed some decades ago by Everett Rogers. It plots the adoption of an idea on a timeline, starting with the inventors of the idea, passing initially to the early adopters, on to the early mass adopters, then into the later mass adopters and, finally, on to the laggards who resist change. Knowing this, we can tailor the way we communicate with people at different stages of change so as to address their fears and their mindset. In doing this our choice of language is very important.
For any of us working with groups in change-making, knowing where those we are assisting are on the bell curve of readiness for change is important. Learning that is one of the first things a change facilitator does with a group. People attending a workshop like Changeology, Les suggested, are likely to be early adopters because it is they who seek out opportunities.

Tthe edible railway line — a story

Imagine this. In the days when you could open train windows, back, say, in the 1920s, a female passenger on the Blue Mountains line engaged in her own civic beautification project by throwing the seed of the daisy-family flower, Coreopsis, from the train window. Coreopsis is a bright yellow annual flower that forms a beautiful meadow-like effect, and is appreciated by bees.
That was the starting point of the storytelling exercise of the group I was with. Story telling? Yes, you don’t get far in change-making without a good story. A good, positive story about people successfully making change, that is, like that passenger and her flower seed.
We were soon creating ideas and adding to out team’s story. The tale of the female coreopsis lover soon morphed into story about train guards throwing out flower seeds on the run to Katoomba. Then came the idea of the linear garden along the railway corridor… then the idea that these flowers could be tended by bees housed in hives located in the corridor. This was then embellished to become a story about railway corridors as bee forage gardens of flowering species, with the resultant honey sold with a ‘Railway Honey’ label at the train stations on the Blue Mountains line. This, we thought, would be a fine new enterprise for State Rail. The story had both surprise and engendered the emotion of enthusiasm, surprise and emotion being necessary components of sticky stories. One participant said she would now like to make this happen.
A sticky story like this stays in peoples’ minds, and a story with both surprise and emotion in it makes it catchy and memorable. The key to learning to write and tell sticky stories, for Les, comes in the form of the Heath bothers’ book, Make It Stick. We learned to write our own sticky stories using the elements in that book.

Facilitation a necessity

It was a common experience that unfacilitated meetings usually go nowhere and become dominated by the assertive, the loud-voiced and verbose — they are a waste of time, in other words. Understanding the importance of good facilitation and trying it was the final activity of day one of this course. The importance of having a clear purpose, establishing agreed ground rules, peer-to-peer interaction, pacing and having an enjoyable structure were covered. There’s was more on the important role of facilitation the following week.
One of the most important things in working with groups in change is enjoyment and fun rather than drudgery and exhaustion. An element in this is food, and it was no coincidence that participants appreciated the salad lunch, some of it from Sydney region farmers, that course organiser, Fiona Campbell, provided.

On day 2

It’s common to hear from people in community organisations and even council sustainability educators complain that they get the same people coming to their workshops and courses time after time. They bemoan ‘preaching to the converted’, however they don’t understand the change process and how ideas travel through society.
Apart from preaching and lecturing being the wrong things to do, making that statement suggests a lack of understanding of how change often starts with people you know, with the early adopters of the Diffusion of Ideas model. It is these people who come along to learn about a new idea because they are the social group ready to make change, ready to try it out.
In many cases they are also the group ready to spread change. The role of the course or workshop then becomes that of educating those who want to learn. Like a rock thrown into a pond of still water, those early adopters will go out and, just as the rock exerts its influence by spreading ripples across the pond, they influence others through example and discussion with people they know. This is the ‘ripple effect’ and it puts the notion of preaching to the converted into quite a different light.
Often, those people who complain that the same people continually turn up to their workshops talk of educating ‘mainstream people’. This vague term suggests there exists an undifferentiated mass out there somewhere, if only community educators could get to them. This misses the point that we work with those ready to learn and give them the capability to constructively and skilfully influence others. You don’t sweat the laggards, according to Les.
In engaging with people to create change, we start with our circle of influence. This might be friends and acquaintances, workmates or people in organisations we are a member of. It is different to our circle of concern, those wider things we would like to change but have no direct influence over. We start with small steps and don’t push people out of their comfort zones. Instead, we expand their comfort zones through familiarity with new ideas and by reducing their fear of trying something different.
Don’t try to convince people. Instead, talk about yourself — ‘I did this’. Don’t say ‘you could do this’. You can’t make people do anything. The less pressure to change or do anything, the better. People change when they see someone living their own dream and ask, ‘why can’t I?’. Observation becomes motivation, and motivation, action. Experience, what people do, matters more than education, said Les.

Message making

Sometimes we have to attempt to influence people. A way to do this is to create an inspiring pitch.
First, we grab attention by asking an easy to answer, engaging question or to break the ice. Then we share an emotional, personal story about what inspired us in our work and share a picture of the desired future we hope to achieve, not by focusing on the problem but by talking about what we would like in a touching and hopeful way that describes what it would feel like. We do this by using emotive words. The idea is to sketch a quick picture of our idea and how it works, establishing credibility for it. We don’t argue of persuade but we briefly present compelling evidence that supports our idea.
Before we deliver this pitch we anticipate risks and criticism and think about how we would answer these. It’s not possible to anticipate all potential criticism, of course, but some are likely to be obvious. Think about what people’s fears could be. Don’t tell people what we think they should do, and conclude by making a call to action. Then, stop talking and listen to what people have to say.

Necessary components of successful change events

Community groups, especially those set up to create change of some sort, sometimes run out of steam. Meetings become formulaic, following the same pattern time after time. They are all business with no time to talk about anything else. Poor or no facilitation allows the verbose to dominate and makes meetings longer then they need be. People become bored and, sooner or later, attendance at meetings starts to decline until there’s only a handful of diehards left.
This need not be the fate of groups. There are simple, easy things we can do to keep our organisation vital and its meetings enjoyable. They have nothing directly to do with core business but with ambience and the recognition that we humans are social creatures. So, the key to successful change organisations are:

  • being with nice people we know
  • having a supply of good food and drink (not just sweet biscuits and weak tea or instant coffee)
  • meeting in an interesting location
  • having an important purpose.

Improving community skills

The Changeology course is part of the Randwick Council sustainability team’s community leadership program to improve the skills of those involved in community organisations, NGOs, social enterprise and small business. Offered as courses and workshops over a couple years, it includes training in leadership, facilitation, group processes and communication. It is courses such a this, and the Organic Gardening, Gardening on the Wild Side and Living Smart courses that is Randwick Council’s point of difference to other councils that offer only short workshops.
Next up in 2014 as part of the community leadership series, professional facilitation business, Unfolding Futures, will lead a two day course in direction setting and strategic questioning for groups. This offers an antidote to those interminable, argumentative and joyless ‘strategic planning’ (a grossly overused and misunderstood term) meetings that do more to discourage rather than encourage people to work together in creating positive change.

Get the book

Changeology — How to enable groups, communities and societies to do things they’ve never done before. Les Robinson, 2013.

Passion mashin’

Story by Russ Grayson, April 2013

Changemaker workshops in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney:

Bookings for social changemakers and other courses are through the City East Community College: http://www.cityeastcc.com.au/courses/sustainability

Permaculture Melbourne becomes Permaculture Victoria

Message from Warrick Bone, President of Permaculture Victoria

Many of you would have heard of Permaculture Melbourne, the member based association of people practicing Permaculture across the state of Victoria. Well now we are called Permaculture Victoria, which better represents the spread of membership across the state.
The association had it’s beginnings in 1981 as Permaculture Melbourne (PcM) as the result of a lounge room meeting between a small number of people enthusiastic about Permaculture. PcM grew over the years in both members and community participation. Incorporation in 1990 lead to a resurgence and broadening of activities to include education, overseas aid, heritage orchard management and other community based involvement.
The membership is organised into geographically based Local Groups across Victoria ranging from West Gippsland in the east, through the Dandenongs, most suburbs in and around Melbourne, Ballarat, the Otweys, and Donald to the north west of the state. There are also three Special Interest Groups; Perm-Apiculture (Natural Beekeeping), the Plant Group and the Victorian Educators Group.
See http://permaculturemelbourne.org.au/local-groups/ for a complete list.
The local groups are very active within their communities and run various activities such as permablitzs, workshops, member site visits, excursions, social gatherings and the likes. The association also organises participation at appropriate festivals and exhibitions, conferences and gatherings, and looks to support members in permaculture promotion and education.
In recognition of the spread and depth of membership across the state, the decision was made in 2013 to change name to Permaculture Victoria (PcV) – a simple enough change, but one that triggered a great deal of grass root level interest in forming new local groups. This also instigated an increase of enthusiasm amongst members with plans and activities underway build the association to include all interested Permies across the state.
Warwick Bone
President – Permaculture Victoria

Food 4 Thought — community garden gathering


Food 4 Thought Gathering website is now open for business!

Will we be seeing you in Hobart this March?

Food 4 Thought — exploring meaningful livelihoods in urban agriculture
Australian City Farms & Community Garden Network’s 6th national community garden gathering
21-23 March 2004
  • get in quick to secure an early bird place which will close 5pm, Monday 17 February
  • [button_link url=”http://events.communitygarden.org.au/” target=”blank” style=”blue” title=”” class=”” id=”” onclick=””]Find out how to book your early bird tickets[/button_link]
  • we’re also welcoming Expressions of Interest from people who would like to hold a workshop at the event which will close 5pm Monday 17 February
  • [button_link url=”http://events.communitygarden.org.au/workshop-idea/” target=”blank” style=”blue” title=”” class=”” id=”” onclick=””]Find out about submitting your workshop idea![/button_link]
Food 4 Thought poster

Food 4 Thought poster

Join our keynote speakers:

  • Costa Georgiadis (ABC Gardening Australia)
  • Steve Solomon (author of The Intelligent Gardener)
  • Kirsten Larsen (Victorian Eco Innovation Lab)
  • Bonnie and Harry Wykman (Black Earth Workser’ Collective)
  • Nick Rose (The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance)
  • Sustainable Living Tasmania
  • Peta Christensen (Cultivating Community)
  • Chris Ennis (CERES Community Environment Park, Melbourne)
  • Hannah Moloney (Good Life Permaculture, Tasmania)
  • and more social and food system innovators in Hobart this Autumn for three days of intellectual and heart-warming delight.

Let’s come together to learn, connect, share, push the boundaries and celebrate urban agriculture.
Print and post up our poster attached in your community garden and spread the word – look forward to catching up in Hobart!
[button_link url=”http://permacultureaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/ACFCGN-poster_hobart_web.pdf” target=”blank” style=”blue” title=”” class=”” id=”” onclick=””]Download Food 4 Thought poster (317KB)[/button_link]

Visit our website for all this info (plus more) here:

[button_link url=”http://events.communitygarden.org.au/” target=”blank” style=”blue” title=”” class=”” id=”” onclick=””]Visit Food 4 Thought website[/button_link]

Let us know your thoughts

Feedback survey for next Australasian Permaculture Convergence

Survey closes midnight Monday 20 January 2014

Please take a few minutes to do the below survey, and if possible share via your website and/or facebook page and any email networks you have.  This is a unique opportunity to have your say and help ensure our next APC represents the whole Australasian permaculture community.
We’ve had a lot of interest in the survey so far (over 30 detailed responses to date!) and are exploring suggestions regarding when and where the next APC will take place.
Suggestions for the next Australasian Permaculture Convergence have included Tasmania, Wollongong and SE Queensland, and very strong interest from permaculture people in the Canberra/ACT + south east NSW region. Their suggested timing is autumn 2015 at the earliest, to allow sufficient time to plan.  This model would ‘base’ the convergence in Canberra or nearby in country NSW and provide opportunities for break-out sessions in other rural NSW locations nearby.

We are seeking feedback via the survey until January 20.

Any input you provide will offer great insight into the development of the program and location(s) to ensure it delivers what you would like to get out of the next APC.
[button_link url=”https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Bs_xqUwXoK9r_fdLk_KEwuLynu6Q1uF_B8UF_hHiwdI/viewform” target=”” style=”blue” title=”” class=”” id=”” onclick=””] Click here to complete the survey [/button_link]