APC – those present at the time the photo was made. Others came on a daily basis so not everyone is in the photo.
Story and photo by Russ Grayson, November 2016
We came expecting West Australian warmth. We found winter. 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 permaculture co-inventor, David Holmgren — Western Australia and permaculture’s own Formidable Vegetable Sound System as they blasted the culture back into perma-culture. People came from overseas — Xavier from Chang Mai in Thailand, Graham Bell 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.
Keynotes a Little 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, 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, who spoke about retrofitting the suburbs. David says that future building in our cities is likely to be the refitting of existing structures for energy and water efficiency 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. One of the urban tours following the convergence visited Josh’s home. Maybe it was because this is the southern hemisphere and Rob Hopkins 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.
On the first day of APC13, Ross Mars, one of the organising team, produced and 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. That we were all gathered there in a distant part of the country, getting on for 40 years since he unleashed the design system on the world, was testament to the legacy he leaves. Mt Kembla artist, musician and permaculture educator, April Sampson-Kelly, produced an artful illustration of Bill and, together with some eucalypt foliage, it was placed on a corner memorial table to remind us of one of the practical visionaries who had brought something fresh and new to the world.
A Continuing Conversation — Education
A strong educational theme ran through the days of the convergence. Permaculture Australia’s Virginia Solomon announced the new arrangements that promise to take Accredited Permaculture Training forward. A media release, hastily prepared in the days before the convergence, was distributed [read the media release here]. Central Queensland University, which offers permaculture education, was also present in the form of Keri Chiveralls. The long-running conversation about permaculture education continued with a session early in the convergence about what people include and what could be left out of permaculture introductory and design courses. Even though no decision about courses was made, this is always a tricky topic and it was good to see it handled in a collegiate manner. Click to download the presentation (.ppt file, 340Kb)
Sessions 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. Other sessions focused on: a permaculture approach to organising your life and home using permaculture principles, 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; blogging your permaculture story; community food systems which 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. 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 (Sydney Permaculture Institute) and Permaculture Sydney North, is seeking people to stimulate events for the Day in their local areas and to notify them on the revived IPD website (permacultureday.org). The Next Big Step for permaculture brought the idea stemming from the international convergences in Cuba and the UK to APC13. IPD is in its formative phase, involving people from the UK, Australia and the USA. It seeks global permaculture solutions to the global scale of the big issues that confront us. IPD came from the realisation, as one of its UK instigators said, that ” …permaculture is a global movement but doesn’t act like one”.
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 Sharni and Tim have subdivided a large house as a comfortable, ‘smallhouse’ type development complete with energy efficiency, large vege garden, a chook run and even a couple urban goats. It also functions as a type of community hub. It was refreshing to find permaculture people involved in new ideas in urban development that could house higher densities in human-scale design. The second tour took us into the urban fringe of the Perth hills, an upland area of bush and villages where we visited small-scale rural properties including that of Ross and Jenny Mars with its strawbale buildings, bamboo and nursery. After a sumptuous lunch in the shade cast by trees at a family property, we went on to a diverse, intensively-managed property producing vegetables and chooks. The urban tours demonstrated the potential for innovative urban development in housing and food production that catered for needs ranging from city lifestyles with city-based work to the rural life on the fringe where city meets 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 of 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 the south-east region of NSW, the NSW south coast to Canberra; 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 vote by standing along a line. The first vote eliminated Brisbane and 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, between the NSW south coast and Canberra, with that city likely to be the venue for events. Lots of hard work ahead for the south coast crew.
One Big Thanks
At the final session, some of the APC13 organising crew stepped on stage to receive the applause and cheers of attendees for their hard work in making the event happen.
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, were numerous conversations around the tables. Here, we caught up with people unseen since our last convergence, with people we hear about but seldom see, with people new to us. We learned of their lives, their work, their aspirations. And, here, faces were put to those Facebook friends we have only online contact with. So… this is for the imaginative, hard-working and most likely thoroughly-exhausted crew who organised APC13 — one large THANK YOU! (with exclamation mark) not only from this appreciative person writing this piece, but — can I be so presumptuous? — from all of this diverse, widely distributed tribe we call permaculture.
It’s all getting very exciting! We have just secured Keynote addresses from Permaculture co-originator David Holmgren and ABC Gardening Australia presenter Josh Byrne. David will be speaking on “Retrosuburbia: revitalising the landscapes and communities that will raise the next generation”. His talk will focus on the following questions:
Why retrofitting, not new build, should be the focus of most permaculture design.
Why the suburbs should be the focus of most permaculture design.
Why building better households rather than houses should be a strategic focus of permaculture activism.
Why garden and urban agriculture has such a strong future in a world of climate chaos, peak energy and economic contraction.
David will highlight a very diverse range of DIY action in the suburbs with and without the permaculture label.
Josh Byrne, Keynote Speaker at APC13
Following on from David Holmgren’s opening address, Josh’s talk will focus on “Mainstream application of Permaculture principles in commercial and civic projects”. Josh will showcase some of the projects his team have designed and implemented – from community gardens, adventure playgrounds and recreational playspace to large-scale housing developments and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. These keynote addresses will take place as the first sessions on Wednesday morning at APC13. For more details of the program and presentations visit www.apc13.org.
And now you can follow us as we invent the thirteenth Australasian Permaculture Convergence — APC13 in Perth, Western Australia. We’re going to add new information as it becomes available, including how to register to attend this event that will bring together permaculture practitioners from across the country. You can already apply to register a workshop and we’ll soon be posting info on courses and tours. So… what are you waiting for? Click… read… think… plan — and we’ll see you in 2016. [button_link url=”http://www.apc13.org” target=”blank” style=”blue” title=”” class=”” id=”” onclick=””]Visit APC13’s new website[/button_link]
Update 23 December 2015…
You can now register and subscribe to the APC13 News and Updates. At least subscribe then you can be sent relevant info as it comes to hand. Please also join up on our facebook group, as we intend to post regular info about the program of events. While you can register you can’t finish by paying for things such as the convergence, tours and courses. We are still sorting out the payment gateway and hope to resolve soon. The website now has some info about the four different tours on offer, as well as the various courses before and after. We are not offering a PDC beforehand, as part of the formal APC13 program, and would encourage everyone to attend a local one in their own state or region. However, Greg Knibbs is organising one just before, in case overseas visitors need to do PDC. You can now send in your abstracts should you wish to present. The guidelines and deadlines are listed on website. We are looking at presenters and workshops for the public open day on Sunday (The Expo). If you have suggestions or can run a hands-on workshop please let us know. There is an early-bird registration (end June). If anyone has words of inspiration please send them along to me to add to the fantastic statements already on website. Hope everyone has a safe and wonderful Xmas and New Year.
Air travel is recognised as one of the highest producers of carbon dioxide, and so contributes significantly to an individual’s greenhouse gas emissions. Most airlines offer customers a chance (and choice) to pay a little more to offset their travel. Unfortunately most people seem to ignore this offer and I also suspect the (small) cost increase in an airfare is really well below the true cost. While it would be great if all permaculture practitioners automatically considered accepting the carbon offset addition to a fare, it may not be possible to do so for a large number of reasons. While all such schemes are registered by the Australian Government and the funds raised are given to legitimate organisations for tree planting and other endeavours, Perth is considering donating part of a participant’s Convergence fee to local organisations to enable worthwhile food-based and other revegetation projects to be funded.
Applications are invited…
Applications are invited for consideration for any planting schemes that require funding. Please write and submit:
a short description of your project
funds sought and timeline for implementation.
Your proposal should be submitted before June 30, 2016 to…
You can go online and find any number of calculators to work out the carbon produced by travel from one city to another and to also give you some estimate of cost. We intend finding ways in which we can reduce everyone’s carbon footprint to attend the Convergence in Perth October 2016. Won’t you join us?
Thanks to Ian Lillington for sharing — a nice 5 min grab from the IPC people…
Filmed at the 12th International Permaculture Convergence, where people from over 70 countries came together. Thank you very much to all the people interviewed. Visit the IPCUK’s YouTube channel and see their playlists for great content from the convergence and the conference. Many thanks to Jacob Redman and Ana Sany, producers of this video.
Head Chook at PermacultureVisions.com P: 02 4228 5774 A: 280 Cordeaux Rd Mt Kembla Village 2526 Australia E: firstname.lastname@example.org W: permaculturevisions.com
Story by April Sampson-Kelly, 27 October 2015
Recently, we went to IPC UK – International Permaculture Conference and Convergence in London. I have been going to Permaculture Conferences since 1996 and they are a great chance to glean new ideas and get a sense of where the movement is headed. This conference had a bright confident atmosphere and there was a deep sense of maturity and belonging at the convergence. Congratulations to Permaculture UK – the hosting association was strong, purposeful, empowered and well-organised with great teams and buckets of enthusiasm.
Great cultural icons
What I loved most about this conference was the was bright and tangible cultural flavour. Of course, the meetings were openly welcome for all the international delegates, but always there was a lovely English cultural flavour. There was a touching sense of pride and value in:
Native foods (such as apples, berries, cider, beer, sandwiches, cheeses).
Traditional folklore such as wreaths for crowning the hard-working, well deserving volunteers, and traditions such as natural plant dyes.
Epping forest, London IPCUK delegates from Africa and Hong Kong marvel at the abundant wild food in a major city.
The Arts – theatre, poerty and song. Three Acres and a Cow did a fantastic play that mentioned the clearances and sang about the value of people versus the land. This made me surprisingly sad because I am descended from people those very same people who were undervalued and shipped off. Later, as I left the English Autumn, I remember how blessed I am that my people landed in a rich and creative culture. I really enjoyed the magical personal and fun session by Charlie Mgee, so proud of you and pleased our little crowdfunding donation was very well spent!!
Local history was honoured. Even the venues were of cultural significance. The Conference venue [The Quakers Friends house] is an old English Society that has changed the notion of peace around the world. The Convergence venue [The World Scout Headquarters] is also an English international movement and has taught many young people world-wide life skills (including myself). We enjoyed a guided talk through Epping forest by permaculture teacher, Richard Webb. It was great to see these cultural icons. (people, traditions and places)
A clear future for the permaculture movement
Keri Chiveralls is heading up the first Permaculture Graduate Diploma with world-wide recognition.
Since the last Permaculture International a lot of social aspects of the movement have been addressed. The movement is getting more skilled at finding the balance between people care and earth care. We are seeing a lot of strategies that were once touted as alternative-living or hippy practices (composting, solar power, growing your own food, supporting local markets, fixing things and having a go at doing-it-yourself) are now recognised as common-sense and even good business strategies. There is a huge passion in building scientific based research and a world-wide scientific research community to investigate, document and publish findings. There is also incredible growth in permaculture education at university level (The new Permaculture Design and Sustainability Program at CQUniversity looks very exciting). The eductation and training for young people is also growing (including the fantastic energy from Charlie Mgee). Finally, the most promising development for me was the emergence of co-operation overcoming the competitive corporate thinking that rules most of the western world and building a new community of resilient, intellectual harmony.
Co-operation on the world-wide permaculture stage
April and Wes Trotman discussing the value of getting together at International Conferences and Convergences.
The Next-Big-Step project got hundreds delegates together listening to one another and talking about their passion and challenges and we saw the beginning of a plan to bring permaculture together as truly cohesive and aware — documenting one another’s projects:
This Convergence demonstrated the incredible potential of co-operative projects rather than competitive permaculture. Competitive behaviours sometimes rear their ugly heads in permaculture. This is all part of a democratic, empowered society. It was a joy to see the maturity of a movement that can sit together and learn from one another regardless of how famous or successful each individual has become.