APC14 final call for submissions

The APC14 team have got some great submissions in already for APC14 convergence happening from 15-19 April 2018, There workshops, presentations, a display section, a children’s education area as well as the inaugural ACT Permaculture Festival happening on Sunday 15 April 2018.

1 January 2018: abstract deadlines due.

What are your ideas?

Get your submissions for an activity you would like to run now, to help the programming team pull it all together.
Please outline your presentation in 150 – 200 words. Include:

  • presenter’s name(s)
  • working title
  • if a panel, include the names of panel members
  • the domain(s) and cross cutting themes your content will mainly focus on
  • type of presentation (discussion, participatory group work, hands-on, lecture, experiential, mixed, other)
  • any technology or other resources required (eg data projector, music, access to outside areas etc)
  • limits (if any) on numbers attending
  • anything else we should know
  • presentations should be either 25 minutes or 45 minutes. Please indicate the length of your presentation, with final time determined once all submissions provided and the timetable is developed.

Useful deadline info

15 December: Abstract deadlines due.
15 January: Notification of acceptance.
15 February: Final papers/outlines due for publishing etc.


  • presentations and final submissions of full paper will only be accepted from participants who have formally enrolled in the convergence, so you will need to ensure you have registered and paid by 15 February 2018 to be included
  • your full paper, presentation or workshop outline and outcomes must be submitted by 15 February to enable all presentations to be published and made available to participants at APC14
  • deadlines will be strictly adhered to
  • send your information by completing the form by following the link below or via email to APC14 at apcfourteen@gmail.com

See you there — APC14 in the ACT

Five days of permaculture festivity and fun kick off on Sunday 15 April next Autumn with the ACT Permaculture Festival at Canberra City Farm.
That’s sure to be a motivating introduction to the four days of the 14th Australasian Permaculture Convergence that follows. CONNECTIVITY is the theme and the attendance of permaculture practitioners from across the country is sure to make that happen.
The Convergence will be based at Greenhills Centre in Cotter, starting Monday 16 April and ending on Thursday 19 April 2018. Tours, workshops and courses will follow across southeast NSW.
The Permaculture Festival is open to the public. Permaculture Convergence attendees are expected to have completed a permaculture design course or equivalent, or to be participating in a design course.

Register now for APC14

Permaculture Australia member special

$595 includes — convergence, shared accomodation and all meals.

Inhabit launches IPD 2017 in Sydney

International Permaculture Day 2017 in Sydney got underway with a well-attended showing of the permaculture film, Inhabit, at the  Randwick Community Centre.
As people came into the hall they were greeted with the music of Charlie McGee of the Incredible Vegetable Sound System whose permaculture-themed songs were appropriate for the day.

The introduction

Yummy food, brewed coffee and a variety of teas welcomed people as they took the time to socialise before the film. Interesting were the number who cycled to the event, one woman making the hilly ride from Bronte.
Representing Permaculture Australia, I briefly introduced the film and permaculture though more than a few there were already familiar with it, especially those who had attended the courses and workshops at the community centre. We looked at what permaculture is, what International Permaculture Day is and what Permaculture Australia is.

The film

Inhabit is a film about permaculture from the US. Themed around food production and environmental improvement and around 90 minutes in length, the film visits farms, suburban gardens, community gardens and a rooftop farm in the city that grows hydroponically.
What stood out is how many of those interviewed placed what they were doing in a philosophical framework. It was clear they had thought through the why and what of their work. Philosophy, we know, is about understanding the purpose, the methods, the contexts of what we do. It frames our work. Philosophy is no stranger to permaculture, as the film demonstrated.

After the film there was a group discussion about it.

The discussion

Following the film, attendees broke into three groups for a discussion around three focus questions, on per group. These were:

  • what did you find interesting in the film?
  • what motivated the people appearing in the film?
  • what projects could we do or what projects do you know of here?

This is what Fiona Campbell usually does with films that she shows at the community centre as part of her role as Randwick Council’s sustainability educator. It’s a successful tactic that lets people think through what they have seen and talk about it.
There was time for announcements at the end of the discussion. Virginia Littlejohn, from Permaculture Australia’s Permafund, reminded people that with the end of the financial year coming up, now might be the time to take advantage of Permafund’s tax-deductible status. I mentioned that the local, Clovelly, branch of Bendigo Bank would hold a Sustainability and Social Impact Forum at the Hub on 7 June with speakers on ethical/philanthropic investment and finance, affordable housing solutions, sustainable architecture, community gardens, environmental protection, composting, solar energy and permaculture.

The food

The discussion continued over supper — tasty corn fritters and pea and fetta fritters with a variety of dipping sauces; sliced capsicum, cucumber and raw beans for dipping; fruit salad; carrot cake; brewed coffee and teas.
A woman who attends many of the events at the community centre told me she had said to her husband not to make dinner for her because she knew that at the events Fiona organises attendees are well fed.

The evening

Seeing the people there, watching the way they discussed the film and how they socialised made me realise that International Permaculture Day is an event that brings people together and through which they become acquainted with the design system.
Mixing the learning opportunity with the opportunity to network and socialise around simple, good food has proven a successful formula.
Now, it’s on to International Permaculture day 2018.

View trailer

INHABIT: A Permaculture Perspective from Costa on Vimeo.

Ideas, remembrance, conviviality — APC13 was all of these

ThreeDays in October

Story and photos by Russ Grayson, October 2016

We came expecting West Australian warmth. We found winter. And rain, for some of the time anyway. Perth in October can be a cold place.
That might have been the weather but it was not the warmth of the welcome extended to interstate permaculture practitioners by their Western Australian colleagues. Their organisation of APC13 — the biennial Australasian Permaculture Convergences held in Australia and New Zealand — made the event run smoothly. The event and accommodation was based at the Swan Valley Adventure Centre, the same venue where the 1996 International Permaculture Convergence was held.
Setting the mood for the convergence was the Saturday public open day that launched the event. Thousands attended to view a sweeping range of exhibits and talks and to hear and dance to — and that dancing included that of permaculture co-inventor, David Holmgren — Western Australia’s and permaculture’s own Formidable Vegetable Sound System as they blasted the culture back into perma-culture (http://formidablevegetable.com.au/ ).
People came from overseas — Xavier from Chang Mai in Thailand, Graham Bell (http://grahambell.org/permaculture-2/ ) and partner from Scotland, Finn from Auckland and Courtney and Robina McCurdy from Golden Bay at the top of Aotearoa-New Zealand’s South Island.

Just a little bit different

APC13 was a little different to past convergences. Rather than an established permaculture personality making the first of the keynote addresses, Perth futurist, Annie Macbeth ( http://www.annimac.com.au/), described how permaculture can adapt to the lifeways of different generations, their priorities and their use of technology. It was refreshing to hear a different perspective on permaculture and society.
Also making keynotes was permaculture co-inventor, David Holmgren (https://holmgren.com.au/), who spoke about retrofitting the suburbs. David says that future energy and water efficiency in our cities is likely to come through the refitting of existing structures rather than new buildings. He also talked about extended, multi-generational households.
In his keynote address, Josh Byrne, a Perth local, discussed how he approached the development of his suburban home by doing what he could within existing planning and construction systems. Josh has built a grid-connected, energy and water efficient home in the suburbs that is fitted with a photovoltaic array that stores energy in a battery bank and sells excess to the grid. Remaining grid-connected, he said, makes more clean energy available. One of the urban tours following the convergence visited Josh’s home.
Maybe it was because this is the southern hemisphere and Rob Hopkins ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Hopkins?wprov=sfsi1) was in the northern, some suggested, when Rob’s keynote video link showed him upside down on the screen. Rob instigated the Transition Towns movement. After the initial amusement at an upside-down Rob and a rejigging of the image, he responded to questions such as what had been the role of the Transition Towns movement, with its localism, in Britain’s Brexit vote to quit the European Union.

Remembering Bill

On the first day of APC13, Ross Mars, permaculture educator, author and one of the organising team, presented a photo show of the late Bill Mollison. There, we remembered Bill and his work in co-creating and popularising this thing we call permaculture. The presence of people form distant countries as well as those from Australia was testament to the legacy Bill leaves.
An artful illustration by Mt Kembla artist, musician and permaculture educator, April Sampson-Kelly, was displayed, together with some eucalypt foliage, on a corner memorial table to remind us of this practical visionary who had brought something fresh and new to the world.

Education — the continuing conversation

A strong educational theme ran through the days of the convergence.
Permaculture Australia’s Virginia Solomon announced a new arrangement that promises to take Accredited Permaculture Training forward. A media release announcing the arrangement was hastily prepared in the days before the convergence. Keri Chiverall from Centtral Queensland University which now offers permaculture education, was also present. The University postumously awarded Bill Millison and honarary degree and, more recently, awared an honorary degree to David Holmgren.
The long-running conversation about permaculture education continued with a session about what educators include and what could be left out of permaculture introductory and design courses. Designed as an exploratory exercise, no decision about courses was made. Education is always a tricky topic and it was good to see it handled in a collegiate manner.

Sessions aplenty

Workshops were numerous, interesting and often intriguing.
Graham Bell, attending all the way from Scotland, led a discussion about permaculture in cool temperate climates and another about community or, as he terms it, ‘family’.
Workshops indicated the diversity of focus that is permaculture design:

  • a permaculture approach to organising your life and home using permaculture principles was led by Cecilia Macauley from Sydney
  • Erin Young and Gina Price introduced a better approach to making group decisions through sociocracy
  • there was a session on permaculture design using the placemaking approach
  • another looked at blogging your permaculture story
  • the workshop on community food systems found local food groups to be well-connected although lacking is connection on a national scale
  • Beck Lowe, a rural permaculture practitioner from Central Victoria, led a session on animals in a permaculture system.

There was so much more.

The permaculture international

Discussions about International Permaculture Day (IPD) and the Next Big Step (NBS) brought an international flavour to the convergence. Both are managed by an international crew.
IPD, started in Australia around seven years ago by Sydney permaculture educator Penny Pyett (Permaculture Sydney Institute) and Permaculture Sydney North, encourages people to organise events for the Day in their local areas and to notify them on the revived IPD website. More: permacultureday.org.
The Next Big Step in permaculture is an idea stemming from the international permaculture convergences in Cuba and the UK. IPD came from the realisation, as one of its UK instigators said, that ” …permaculture is a global movement but doesn’t act like one”. Planned to be an international organisation, IPD is in its formative phase.

On the road with APC13

Tours, some spanning several days, followed APC13. Some headed out to regional centres while two explored the Perth urban area. The first of these visited innovative urban housing solutions including Josh Byrne’s development, a couple resource-efficient, medium density townhouse developments and the Ecoburbia development in Fremantle where Ecoburbia’s Sharni and Tim have subdivided a large house into comfortable, energy efficient ‘smallhouse’ type apartments complete with a large, shared vege garden, a chook run and even a couple urban goats. The building also functions as a community hub.
It was refreshing to find permaculture people involved in new ideas in urban developments that could house higher densities in human-scale design. Higher population densities are frequently cited as one of the solutions to sustainable cities because they have the potential to reduce the urban sprawl of detached, single-family dwellings that eat into city-fringe farmland and create car-dependent suburbs in which the residents waste a great amount of time and fuel in commuting.
The second tour took us into the urban fringe of the Perth hills, an upland area of bushland and villages where we visited small-scale rural properties including that of Ross and Jenny Mars with its strawbale buildings, bamboos and nursery. After a sumptuous lunch in the shade cast by trees at a family property with a very large food garden, we went on to a diverse, intensively-managed farmlet producing vegetables, fruit and chooks.
The urban tours demonstrated innovative urban development that can house more people per hectare in energy and water efficient dwellings that include the opportunity to produce some of the food the inhabitants eat. They also demonstrated how Perth people are developing productive and comfortable urgan fringe lifestyles out where city blends into country.

On to APC14 — but where?

One the final day of APC13, a new batch of permaculture elders who had made 25 or more years contribution to permaculture or who had made some other significant contribution was welcomed. As the convergence couldn’t make Graham Bell an honorary Australian citizen, the organisers opted to make him an honorary permaculture elder.
APC13 also reestablished the permaculture community service awards for people who have made a significant contribution.
Then it was time to vote on the location of the next APC, in 2018. There were three contenders — Brisbane, represented by veteran permaculture educator from Northey Street City Farm, Dick Copeman; the south-east region of NSW; and Auckland, over in Aotearoa-New Zealand.
Rather than voting with the conventional show of hands, Earthcare Education’s Robyn Clayfield, from Crystal Waters Permaculture Village in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, instigated a sociogram in which people voted by standing along a line. The first vote eliminated Brisbane. Those who had supported that city as venue for APC14 then reallocated their vote. Would it be the south-east or would we be crossing the Tasman again as we had done for APC11?
No trans-Tasman trip this time, though. APC14 will be held in the south east where it will be based around Canberra and extend to the NSW south coast. There’s lots of hard work ahead for the south coast crew.

One big thanks

It is the unplanned, the change encounters, the conversations over dinner that compete with the formal proceedings to make permaculture convergences memorable. And so it was with APC13. There, in the big dining room at the Adventure Centre, over and after breakfast, lunch and dinner, numerous conversations around the tables brought people together, put faces to social media friends and reunited acquaintances.

So… this is for the imaginative, hard-working and most likely thoroughly-exhausted crew who organised APC13 — one huge THANK YOU! (with exclamation mark and applause). That’s not only from the appreciative person writing this piece, but — can I be so presumptuous? — from all of this diverse, widely distributed tribe we call permaculture.


Futurist at APC13 highlights how younger generations are different…

 …and why permaculture must adapt to their world

Story and photos by Russ Grayson, February 2016

IT WAS GOOD to have someone unexpected opening Australasian Permaculture Convergence 13 (APC13) as keynote speaker. That’s because she provided a much-needed perspective for permaculture practitioners and because it addressed past comments about the ‘same old’ keynote speakers at convergence after convergence. Annie Macbeth was not one of the ‘same old’. She was different.
A middle aged woman with short red hair and wearing a bright yellow jacket, Annie described her life to those assembled in the big hall at the Swan Valley Adventure Centre where APC13 was held on the Perth outskirts.
“I’m a futurist, a consultant”, she said. “I look for patterns. I look for what we see and don’t see. I look at social and political trends around the world. Futurism is value-driven. It is not materialist”.
Futurism is one of those new professions that have appeared as citizens, business and government grapple with the challenge of making sense of, and finding their way, in a rapidly-changing world. It is perhaps in Alvin Toffler’s 1970 book, Future Shock, that the profession of futurist can find its origins. That was the time when computerisation started to change society and working life, when the neoliberal model of capitalism started its ascendency and when young people took to the hills as the ‘back to the land‘ or ‘alternative’ movement that, in Australia, involved tens of thousands. It is also the time when permaculture first appeared in the form of the book, Permaculture One (followed around a year later by Permaculture Two). In recent times the practice of futurism has seen a wealth of books and websites published, including the 2016 book, The Inevitable, by Kevin Kelly, who was founding editor of Wired magazine, who was hired by Stewart Brand to edit the Whole Earth Catalog in 1983 and who started the Cool Tools website, a sort-of online successor to the Whole Earth Catalog.
Annie said that she still lives her ‘hippie values‘. Such a statement might seem odd to some at a permaculture convergence, however global trends are stimulating many of that generation — (in Australia, many refer to themselves as having been ‘alternatives’ rather than hippies) — to revisit those values because as well as an inward-looking focus, for many they were about building a better society and a better world. As that, those values Annie referred to have parallels with permaculture’s ethics. The appearance of books like Margaret Nash’s Rebellious Aging attest to this return to past values to address the present times.
Annie’s comments about the pace of technological change and how emerging generations are different to those that went before are relevant to permaculture educators and practitioners because permaculture is a multi-generational phenomena. Understanding the differences will determine how relevant the design system is perceived to be by younger generations and how it must change to better fit newer priorities and ways of life. During her talk it became evident that Annie has high regard for permaculture.

Change creates fear, people look backwards

To speak of the rapid pace of change today is nothing surprising. We live immersed within it. We try to cope with the disruption to yesterday’s institutions, beliefs and values that it leaves in its wake.
“The rapid pace of change creates fear”, Annie explained. “It impacts on personal life and overwhealms. Because of this, people look to the past and we see a gap between those who are fearful of the future and those who like change”.
Looking to the past is not an alien practice in permaculture. How often do we see comments on permaculture’s social media extolling the value of some past technology or harking back to some past lifestyle? Good things are to be found there, however all too often what is not mentioned is the lack of opportunity, the diseases then without cure, the lack of personal mobility and an unfamiliarity with the world.
Past lifestyles were not all home pickling and bottling, tending the chooks and vege patch. Poverty was as pervasive as it is today, the religious brand you were born into could be a determinant of opportunities open to you, and a university education was the province of the well-off. The middle class was smaller, meaning that fewer were affluent. The industrial working class was large. The parents’ social class usually delineated the opportunities available to their children. A good point, though, was that housing was affordable.

The technological driver

“Technology drives change”, Annie asserted. It accelerates trends.
Yet, despite its disruption technology offers solutions. Technology in the form of mobile telecommunications is now of value in alleviating developing country poverty. Cheap mobile phones enable farmers to monitor prices for produce and to sell at the best time. The internet connects people to the world and in so doing exposes them to useful information and knowledge of what happens elsewhere. That latter point has much to do with why paranoid regimes that are fearful of change block social media and many websites. Now, a growing number of people with access to electricity and telecommunications networks can access the world even though they might live in a village.
In the technologically developed parts of the world, technology has changed how we work. That will be clear to those whose working life began before computing started to change the economy in the seventies. Computerisation created new types of jobs at the same time it automated others out of existence. The question now is whether it will continue to do so. Although it destroys, technology creates new ways of working, such as co-working venues, makerspaces with their computer numerically-controlled machines and platform cooperativism (and here), online platforms structured as cooperatives that are owned and democratically controlled by employees, customers and users.
“Technology has no inherent value”, Annie said. Neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’, it enables people to live in some virtual world because, in some situations, that world is better than the real world. It also blends those worlds. Augmented reality on a mobile device, she said as an example of emerging technology,  blends big data and the real world by adding an augmenting layer of information to the world before our eyes.
The economic system is no longer sustainable, Annie said in positing permaculture as of value because of its focus on sharing and working together. This leads to the question of how platform cooperativism could be used to create an economy around permaculture that benefits practitioners and creates a sustainable economic base and livelihoods in permaculture.

A new leader generation

“It used to be that government looked after people. The job was the most meaningful thing in life. That’s now gone”, Annie told the audience.
This is the reality faced by the generations that are now shaping social trends and assuming leadership roles in society. It also affects many born into the baby boomer generation who are choosing to continue working so as to make ends meet. Many cannot afford retirement. This creates difficulties for newer generations, said Annie.
Annie spoke of ‘Generation Z’, the demographic cohort following the Millennials or, as they are also known, Generation Y. There are no precise dates for when this cohort started, although demographers use mid-1990s to early-2000s as birth years for the generation. Whereas the baby boomer generation, which was the first permaculture generation, it that gave birth to the design system, was once the most populous, Generation Z is now more numerous with two billion entering the workforce in 2015, according to Annie. This generation is driven by morals and a sense of justice, she said, in explaining that this comes from their global online connectivity.
“They have access to other people’s realities and this leads to an understanding of the world. They listen less to media reports and have more direct contact.”
At the same time, suicide and social problems co-exist within this generation. This might be attributable to a despair-without-hope that their world will improve and to the dissonance between the limitlessness of the online world and what they pick up in school and experience in life.
For this generation, said Annie, loyalty to institutions is a concept without sense. This will only be reinforced with the increasing casualisation of working life and the income insecurity of part-time, project and contract work as well as by the impact of workplace automation as robotic systems and software replace even middle class workers, as we already see happening. Loyalty to employer has no place in such a shifting working life. Jobs will be short term stopovers and people will likely have several careers through life.
Generation Z lives in the moment. Unlike previous generations they can operate on more than one channel at the same time, as we see when they are listening to someone while clicking at their mobile phones. This generation is collaborative and connected, Annie said.
It is also the generation that will inherit the permaculture design system, and I deduct from Annie’s talk that the design system, like everything else in society, will have to adapt to retain its relevance.

A changing climate

Annie addressed more in her presentation.
Water will be the challenge in our changing global climate, she believes. Climate change is impacting with “unexpected severity and is speeding-up.” Weather patterns are moving south and extreme events intensifying.
“Nature won’t adapt in time with the rate of change”, she warned. Because of this, ecosystems are changing as species of plant and animal migrate out and others migrate in.
Perhaps this is where permaculture will prove of value. Permaculture mixes species in recombinant ecologies. Through revegetation, permaculture practitioners could create a deliberately designed ‘new nature’ adaptable to changing climatic conditions. While some, especially those engaged in restoration ecology seek to hold ecosystems in some kind of statis denoted by existing species mixes in existing ecosystems, permaculture, by cooperating with a changing nature, could explore new ecosystems adapted to changing climatic realities. Although Annie did not say so, large-scale revegetation of the type proposed by some permaculture practitioners and educators would be a form of geoengineering with potential to affect regional weather and climate.
Annie also warned about the use of statistics. Citing Einstein’s comment that the things that matter most can’t be counted, she warned us to check sources, to “peel the layers back” and find who packages them when it comes to numbers. Sage advise for a time of claim and counterclaim, dubious marketing practices, fake news and ‘alternative facts’ otherwise known as lies.

Upgrading permaculture

Annie’s work as a futurist well-places her to point to emerging trends in society, economy and ecology that are reshaping the world-we-once-knew. With this information in mind when the recurring discussions around permaculture education, organisational structure and the other conversations resurface, we can perhaps adapt our ideas around permaculture to include the trends she identifies.
I was surprised to find a futurist leading the convergence’s keynote speaker list. It was timely, though, because Annie’s was knowledge coming into permaculture from outside. All too often, people in organisations resist change and new ideas, especially if those ideas contradict existing beliefs. People within organisations and systems of belief and practice can form echo chambers in which acceptable ideas are bounced back and forth and challenging ideas excluded and ridiculed. That didn’t happen with Annie. The audience was appreciative of her insights.
There’s a long-lived meme purported to originate with a North American indigenous tribe (though I don’t know if that is true) that proposes we think ahead seven generations when planning something. I think seven generations is a time span too hard for many to envisage. Instead, I suggest we focus on a timeline easier to imagine and plan for the world likely to be inhabited by our grandchildren. I should point out that for many of the baby boomer generation, this is what motivates their social, environmental and permaculture work.
That world is the one that Generation Z will inherit. And just as the world many of us inhabit today is substantially different to that of our youth — it is substantially different to the world we inhabited only 35 or so years ago when permaculture first appeared — so will the world of Generation Z be substantially different to our contemporary world. This suggests detailed planning to be rather pointless. What we in permaculture might do best is work to build that resilient world in which Generation Z can achieve a modest prosperity.


Registrations open for IPC India 2017

Time to book your seat for the 13th International Permaculture Conference and Convergence in India, Nov 2017.
EARLY BIRD rate available for all (Indian and International) until March 31st. Don’t miss out and join everyone on this beautiful Permaculture journey!
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