Each fortnight we’ll provide a wrap up of some of the fabulous activities our PA members are involved with – noting there are many, many more!.
We’ll include a selection of media articles, new book releases, blog posts, videos and events to name a few.
Got some great items to share? Send them to email@example.com so we can include next feature.
PA life member and permaculture co-originator Dr David Holmgren has released his latest opinion piece on Permaculture during the time of pandemics here
Happen Films Podcast #5 features PA members Brett and Nici from Limestone Permaculture. This inspirational listen includes tips on what they wish they knew when starting out, and life after the recent fires and drought.
The latest Pip Podcast features Victor Steffensen, a Tagalaka man from Northern Queensland and expert on Aboriginal fire management here
PA professional members CERES have a great series of winter webinars launching in June, with the first one featuring PA member Dr Keri Chiveralls. Bookings here.
As part of National Volunteer Week we are celebrating the amazing diversity and skills of the volunteers that keep Permaculture Australia running. This includes the Board of Directors – six extraordinary women volunteering their time and skills for the next twelve months.
PA’s Kym chats with three of the Board of Directors – Virginia Solomon, Greta Carroll and April Sampson-Kelly about how they got involved with permaculture, plans for 2020 and how they ‘walk the permaculture talk’ in their daily lives outside of PA.
Firstly, how did you all get into permaculture?
Virginia: I first got into permaculture through reading the Mollison Designers Manual from cover to cover… twice… in one wet beach holiday. I was instantly hooked and started looking for a farm house with an acre of land on the urban fringe of Melbourne. Little did I realise I had been living within walking distance of Permaculture Melbourne (now Permaculture Victoria) too! When my daughter was in Year 9, her school proposed a permaculture program. I had just helped write accredited courses in permaculture which was the start of my long journey with APT (Accredited Permaculture Training), with which I am still involved.
April: When I saw the ABC Documentary Grave Danger of Falling Food I was hooked. I grew up in a politcally active family. My family had grown food and I loved gardening but permaculture gave me the chance to be politically active in my personal space. I find that very empowering.
Greta: I got into permaculture after spending a few years living in the Middle East working in humanitarian response. Returning to Australia, I enrolled in a PDC and felt almost immediately a strong sense that the magnitude of suffering might be reduced if our communities were more self-reliant, resilient and connected. I went from there to leaving my job in the NGO world and moving towards permaculture education. I currently work as the Education Coordinator at a regenerative farm in northern NSW.
Where do you live, and on what sort of property?
Virginia: I live with my husband, dog and cat, but also with two other households under the same (very large) roof – a young woman, her partner and her dog; and a young man and his two children week about. The big old family house is still adapting itself as we change. We have 3000m2 of gardens and orchards with the only grass being the road verge which we have adopted anyway to supplement our compost system. We have chickens, bees, compost system and mushroom-growing system. We have a blog and are featured as a Retrosuburbia case study. We have 3 cellars: for ferments, honey and preserves; for wine and for art and costumes. We have a pizza oven and a slow combustion stove to supplement our standard cooking appliances, I make cheese, vinegars, preserves and dehydrated goods (including hoshigaki – Japanese persimmons). I make clothes, toys, shoes and patchwork quilts… anything I possibly can. I love to know how things are made and to make use of unwanted or ‘waste’ materials. I grow everything I can, but I no longer try to keep alive the marginal or the unsuitable, I prefer to trade at markets and with people who can grow things I can’t.
One of the cellars at Ecoresilience
April: My partner and I raised our sons on 1/2 hectare in Mt Kembla Village near Wollongong. The food forest is now 26 years old. It has some emergent trees such as existing Pines and Eucalypts and Macadamia and clumping bamboo. The main canopy contains lots of varieties of Mulberry, Jackfruit, custard apple, fig, mango, citrus, smaller trees include Tamarillo, Pomegranate, Persimmon and Jabuticaba. Shrubs include hazelnut, sages, lots of berries and herbs. The darkest areas have Monstera. There are glades with veggies and flowers. Dragon fruit and grape are profilic. Sugarcane is a good, low windbreak. Bananas and Taro love the protected edges. Ginger, Tumeric thrive in our big wicking pots. Native raspberry, Walking-stick palm and Davidson plum are our main native foods. There is always something happening. The food forest is dynamic and engaging. Above all, I keep chickens and love drawing them into old masters. I use my art as a tool to urge people to question the role of chickens as pets. I also do designs for people and a lot of my designs and illustrations are used in magazines and texts. I have come to realise the power of Illustration not just as an education but also as a political commentary.
Greta: I currently live and work on an organic, regenerative farm in Myocum, NSW. The site is around 230 acres with a pumping market garden and food forest, fruit orchards, and holistically managed cattle and chickens who cell graze through pasture and fruit orchards. We’re currently experimenting with different models of integrated annual and perennial systems building on successional agroforestry practices. We cycle nutrients through our compost, biochar, and worm farms. We save most of our fruit, vegetable and tree seeds and are now setting up a dedicated seed saving plot which I’m really excited about!
What do you do with PA – and what is the best part of your role?
Virginia: I joined the board in 2015. I have worked on the Education Team to promote the accredited training courses and I am now involved with the fundraising team. As Chair of PA, the best part of my role is the opportunity to connect people and projects and communities all over Australia, and to help PA grow. It has been my privilege to work with a succession of fabulous teams, and I am especially thrilled to be working currently with an all-female team. PA is a wonderful, nurturing organisation with a serious and professional side as well as a fun and joyous side as we work with our partners and friends in communities all over Australia.
Greta: I’ve joined PA as a new Board Director and the Permafund Liaison and am looking forward to supporting Permaculture projects in Australia and overseas. I think it’s wonderful to see the application of permaculture thinking in different contexts across the world!
What are your permaculture plans for 2020 – and beyond?
One of the productive garden areas at Ecoresilience, property of Virginia Solomon
Virginia: As this is my last year on the PA board, I am hoping to pass on the aegis to others without creating any sort of a rupture when I leave. So I will be working on succession, as well as continuing my fundraising and education roles. I am also interested in continuing to develop accredited training opportunities for permaculture, particularly in schools. Outside of PA, I hope to explore my sewing and textile interests, travel a bit within Australia when it is permitted, and enjoy my family and my beautiful corner of the world.
April: I’m enjoying interviewing elders and the quiet leaders of the movement via Permaculture Visions. I would like to progress our plan to build us a fire-proof home after watching my mentor’s home and beautiful garden lost in the fires earlier this year.
Greta: 2020 has been a wild ride already. We have been lucky enough to keep producing food for ourselves and the wider community, and to continue to provide education for our volunteers. It has been a very reaffirming period in that even when a large part of the world has been in stand-still, permaculture systems offer resilience, stability and sustainability. I’ve been working on a six month teaching curriculum based on permaculture and regenerative agriculture practices, and we’re rolling out the first round of that at the moment. This year I hope to keep walking along the beautiful learning curve I’m on, keep saving heaps of seeds, and I’d love to keep working with the Permaculture for Refugees team when travel becomes possible again.
And the final challenge – how would you explain permaculture in 20 words or less?
Virginia: Permaculture is a decision-making system which clarifies all our life choices and paves the way to a resilient future.
April: Permaculture is a design framework capable of linking ideas for a better future where everyone can be empowered.
Greta: Permaculture is a way of thinking about, and living in, the world through an ethical, systems thinking framework. It’s essential for the health of our people, our communities and our planet.
Permaculture Australia is the national permaculture organisation, working towards a diverse, resilient and thriving world. Sign up as a member and volunteer today to help us advocate for permaculture solutions.
PA’s Permafund provides grants to permaculture projects in Australia and internationally, with the next grand round focusing on disaster preparedness. Donate to Permafund as a regular or once off donation (donations over $2 are tax deductable) here.
Fiona Blackham, Tim Darby, Shani Graham, Martina Hoeppner and Marina Grayden.
Permaculture Australia is the national permaculture member based organsiation and we are run nearly entirely by volunteers. This includes skilled and experienced team members working in education, Permafund, fundraising and social media.
To celebrate National Volunteer week, we are putting the spotlight on a number of our wonderful volunteers. Today we are featuring Education team member Fiona Blackham.
After working in the oil and gas industry as a project manager for quite some years, Fiona Blackham started her landscape and gardening business Gaia Gardening in 2010. While she loved being outside and dealing with clients, she quickly realised how unsustainable the industry was. Badly designed gardens often led to more work for her or the necessity of using chemicals. In 2012 she attended a PDC with Ross Mars and found the solution to her growing concerns: A sustainable way to design gardens that work, don’t need massive amounts of maintenance and produce yields without chemical inputs.
Eight years down the track, Fiona has completed two permaculture teaching courses, a Certificate IV and a Diploma in Permaculture. After almost ten years on the tools, she has given up on gardening but not on the business. Now called Gaia Permaculture, her work is split between designing, consulting and teaching. Fiona educates at council workshops, Permaculture Intros and in the accredited system. She taught Certificate I at Rockingham Senior High School and Certificate III and IV at Candlelight Farm, taking over from Ross Mars. She is co-founder of the Permaculture Educator’s Alliance, where she teaches Permaculture Design Certificate Courses with Marina Grayden and Martina Hoeppner.
A *huge* thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers who keep Permaculture Australia running, we couldn’t do it without you.
Want to get more involved and help us advocate for permaculture solutions too? Don’t forget to sign up as a member here to get involved. We’d love to have you join us.
Working in the permaculture field has filled my life with joy and purpose as well as a modest income. More importantly though, it has given me a host of new friends that are as passionate about the environment and future as I am. I finally feel like I’ve found my tribe and enjoy seeing the ripples spread through my community. There is nothing better than seeing sweet potatoes being planted on
a neighbours’ verge or a new compost bin being set up in a street, Martina Hoeppner
Originally from Germany, Martina has completed a Diploma in Permaculture and is the founder of Dandelion Permaculture and co-founder of the Permaculture Educators Alliance. She has grown up a suburban girl and specialises in urban permaculture and RetroSuburbia topics. On PDC courses she is also the chief caterer, providing lots of healthy morning and afternoon teas. She is the co-convener of Permaculture West, teaches accredited permaculture courses at Candlelight Farm and campaigns for the rollout of permaculture into schools. When she isn’t teaching or baking for courses, she gardens in the northern suburbs, builds community in her street, reads a mountain of permaculture books and tries to survive in a household of four males.
Photo: Martina Hoeppner teaching a PDC. Photo supplied by Martina Hoeppner.
Five years ago, almost to the day, my youngest son started full-time school and I was ready to start a
new career. A degree in translation and 10 years of free-lance work from home while having
children had left me with a hunger for going out and meeting people. Staying home behind my
computer did not seem an appealing choice anymore.
I did my PDC two weeks after the school year had started and knew after a few days that I had finally
found my passion. My first career was founded more on what I was good at and could make money
with than what I was passionate about, so this was a welcome change. But would I be able to earn a
living through permaculture?
Five years on, I have a Diploma of Permaculture and a Certificate IV in Teaching and Assessment
under my belt and am enrolled in a Diploma of Sustainable Living at university. I work as a sole
trader as well as having founded the Permaculture Educator’s Alliance Pty Ltd with two friends. We
teach PDCs and Certificate III courses, as well as a variety of short special interest and permaculture
intro courses. Serving as the co-convenor of the Permaculture Association of Western Australia and
being part of Permaculture Australia’s Education team are the last pieces of the puzzle that is my
professional life at this moment in time.
The hardest part at the moment is not over-committing myself with the many opportunities there
are for offering courses, council workshops, talks, and committees. Finding balance and still setting
aside enough time to live the permaculture life at home in my garden and with my family is the goal
Photo: Permaculture education in schools. Photo credit: supplied by Martina Hoeppner
Jen Ringbauer, Rahamim Ecology Centre – Bathurst, a centre that goes about caring for our common home – Earth
The idea sprang from a meeting with our wonderful intern, Juliet – run a Permaculture Design Certificate to teach refugees and asylum seekers about sustainable living in Australia. Incorporating gardening, farming, community building and connection with local community, we approached the funding body, the Mercy Foundation, who jumped at the idea. As well as the practical aspects of permaculture, we were to address issues of Earth’s degradation and social justice. (more…)
Supporting capacity building and the establishment of permaculture food gardens to improve nutrition and a place to demonstrate and learn.
Introduction to permaculture workshop in a demonstration permaculture garden, Kambiri Kenya
Introduction: Thank you to Permafund and all those who contribute to it, for supporting programs that help vulnerable women and children in East Africa with a $1,000 grant.
In December 2018, I was invited to Uganda and Kenya by small community-based organisations to support local permaculture education programs particularly with women and children. I went as a volunteer and took my two eldest children, Maia and Hugh (then 12 and 10). As well as being helpers along the way, they also graduated with their PDCs from the course held at the Sabina Primary School led by young people from Uganda, Kenya and Liberia. The core goal of this course was to teach teachers.
(Note: As volunteers, my children & I paid for all our expenses & received no payment for our work.)
My children meeting the women’s self-help group leaders who are sharing permaculture in the local village and schools
Goal: The overall goal of this project was to enable communities to vision, design, implement and manage permaculture food gardens for education, food security, and sustainable livelihood capacity-building.
The project: The funds donated by Permafund were spent on helping to develop the practical land-based centres for learning about permaculture at two main locations.
A: Sabina School, near Rakai, south west Uganda
The school at Sabina is important for a number of reasons.
It is a place of learning for hundreds of local children
It is a becoming a teaching garden for permaculture teachers
It is becoming a teaching garden for school teachers
The funds were used to buy tools, fruit trees, seeds, building materials for compost systems, animal enclosures and animals, and provide educational materials.
This school was also the site of permaculture design course in December 2018 followed by local farmer training and local school teacher training programs.
The ongoing management of the project is the responsibility of the school, with the permaculture trained teachers and school students who attended training. A local permaculture organisation, BEU Permaculture is regularly checking in with progress.
Children at Sabina School learning permaculture with my children.
B: Women’s Self-help Group, Kambiri Village, Kakamega, Kenya
This region of Kenya is experiencing prolonged drought and the women have come together to find solutions. Permaculture makes good sense to them. Through additional crowdfunding, Ethos Foundation sponsored 5 people from this region to attend permaculture design courses at Sabina School in Uganda.
In December 2018 in Kambiri I offered an introduction to permaculture workshop and undertook an assessment of the area to understand the needs for developing a permaculture education centre. During this introductory workshop we undertook a collaborative process and drafted a design for the demonstration gardens. We also helped start a seed-exchange program.
The demonstration gardens are now being developed and a Permaculture Design Course was held in August 2019. Participants of the PDC were mostly women and they have returned to their communities to share permaculture design ideas and strategies.
Jane Amunga – the initiator of the Women’s Self Help group at Kambiri.
The Women’s Self-Help group leaders, Kambiri Kenya in their permaculture demonstration garden
The Permafund funds were used to purchase a water tank and seeds, set up for the permaculture training, pay a local translator and distribute educational materials.
Ethos sponsored four local leaders to complete their PDC in Sabina School, Uganda – principal, agriculture extension worker, support worker for girls health, disability advocate. These people are now teaching locally and supported the Women’s group PDC in August 2019.
Permaculture and the government: It’s also interesting to note that while in Uganda, we met with the East African Minister for Agriculture and the Ugandan Minister for Education, as well a number of local and regional officials. All of them are very keen to see permaculture developed further in the region. One particularly interesting discussion was around having permaculture taught in university to teachers, and there being a series of schools around Uganda where teachers could go and learn in-situ. It was identified that support was welcomed in helping to develop curriculum and teaching those who can lead such programs in university.
Meeting with the Minister for Education at her home in Uganda.
Permaculture and the refugee council: Also interesting to note is the community resilience work of the Danish Refugee Council, particularly that of Natalie Topa, in her role of Resilience Officer. I spent some time with her in Nairobi and was delighted to hear about how much her work is based on permaculture throughout East Africa and Yemen.
Natalie Topa with Morag Gamble in Nairobi. Natalie Topa works with the Danish Refugee Council and implements permaculture throughout her work.
Ongoing: Ethos Foundation is continuing to provide some additional support for the development of these gardens and is dedicated to sponsoring permaculture education programs that will help people implement and manage more of these types of local permaculture demonstration gardens. The aim is to create a network of permaculture gardens in local communities – places to learn, to demonstrate, to access resources and connect with others wanting positive change.
Impact: Several gardens have been renewed and/or established where people can come to learn about permaculture. Gardens and systems are developing for the seeds and plant materials to be freely exchanged. New networks of local permaculture teachers are being established.
About Ethos Foundation: The Ethos Foundation, a sister organisation to the Permaculture Education Institute, is a small registered permaculture charity dedicated to:
supporting the spread of permaculture education through practical community-based projects led by local people to address local needs in their local communities
mentoring, enabling and supporting local permaculture leaders and educators
providing micro grants to local projects to access the resources needed to implement sustainable food garden initiatives.
A sincere thanks again to Permafund for supporting these communities. I encourage you to continue donating to Permafund. The difference that can be made with a small amount of resourcing is quite phenomenal.