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.
PA member Hannah from Good Life Permaculture was back as a guest presenter on Gardening Australia showcasing permaculture principles and tips for winning the (gardening) uphill battle
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?
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.
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.
“I am constantly inspired by how aware people are becoming of their food systems and interested in healthier ways of living”
PA member, permaculture educator and design consultant Tonielle Christensen on living in far north QLD, the importance of sociocracy in permaculture education and how to get started on the permaculture journey.
Growing up in a tin shed with a veggie garden, a composting toilet and one solar panel in south-west WA, Charlie lived the low-impact lifestyle from a young age. In 2011, he completed a PDC at Djanbung Gardens and soon after, formed Formidable Vegetable – with the hope of inspiring people to grow food, keep chickens and make the world a better place. Formidable Vegetable have performed at global festivals including Glastonbury and at the United Nations, and were described by Vandana Shiva as “connecting the creativity of nature with the creativity of music”.
PA’s staff member Kym spoke to Charlie about living at Melliodora, creative collaborations that promote permaculture action, and ‘Climate Movement’, their new song with “a serious vibe and message of hope.”
For those who may not be familiar – tell us a bit about yourself – and how you ended up living at Melliodora?
I’m just a guy from South West WA who did a permaculture course with Robyn Francis once and instead of becoming a designer, started a band called Formidable Vegetable instead! During the session on patterns in the PDC, I had this ‘Aha!’ moment around the possibility of using music as a knowledge system for permaculture and next minute, I found myself on stage at Glastonbury! How did that happen!? After finishing my first album, Permaculture: A Rhymer’s Manual (which is an adaptation of the 12 permaculture principles in song), I sent it to David Holmgren and Su Dennett to see what they thought. I was so nervous showing my work to the very co-originator of permaculture, but when David told me that he’d listened to the whole thing and ‘didn’t cringe once’, I took that as a good sign! After nearly a decade of crazy gigging and international touring, a bizarre chain of events (involving a certain pandemic), has led me to lockdown at their place, which is proving to be the most wonderfully symbiotic situation!
It can be really tricky trying to describe permaculture to new folks – and convincing them it’s more than organic gardening. What’s your elevator pitch on what it is and why it’s important?
OK, I’ll cheat and quote my song, Earth People Fair:
“See yourself as a part of the whole.
Grow some food for your family food-bowl.
Stand your ground, but give up control.
Know the boundaries, but tear down all the walls.
Don’t give up or give in to apathy.
Plant a tree, then plant another three-thousand.
Now’s the time to start feeding the soul, feeding the soil,
believing anything is possible.”
You’ve been involved in lots of projects of late – designing permaculture resources, helping launch the Retrosuburbia e-book, and making global news for turning down Glastonbury & choosing to be ‘Flight free’ [well before Covid-19 stopped the planes].
What does a typical ‘week in the life’ look like – and has it changed much since Covid-19?
Life at Melliodora is wonderfully organic (pun intended, as always) and way less stressful than touring constantly. The pandemic lockdown has turned my life from a hectic never-ending roadtrip (and prior to giving up air travel a year ago – a never ending World tour) into a healthier, more grounded permaculture co-creation opportunity. Apart from joining our community farm-days – where everyone is out in the garden or doing work specifically for the common good of the land and the people here – I pretty much spend the rest of my time dreaming up ideas that inspire me and flinging them out at everyone to see if they’re interested (“Hey Dave, what do you reckon about a livestreamed launch party with Formidable Vegetable for the RetroSuburbia ebook?”, “Hey Brenna, how about I write a rap song about Permaculture Climate Action and we make a clip with your illustrations?”. It’s a daily exploration into the principle ‘Integrate, rather than Segregate‘, which is a dream situation for a collaborative creative like me. I feel incredibly privileged to be here!
You’ve been a long term supporter and donor to PA’s Permafund (thank you!). Why did you choose Permafund to support – and how important is the ethic of ‘Fair Share’ to you?
For the first few years after starting the band, I channeled every bit of income I made back into producing more albums and touring in order to keep spreading the permaculture message. When I started making a small surplus from my music, it seemed like the obvious thing to do was to tithe some of my income to Permafund, so that the music could also directly benefit people practicing permaculture on-the-ground. Just singing and waving my arms around about how great permaculture is, without ever being in one place long enough to have a garden of my own started to feel a bit abstract and disconnected. So for me, Permafund was a great way that I could give back to the community and adhere a bit more to the ethics of Earth Care and Fair Share, while not having much of a built or biological environment available for me to work on at the time.
What do you think is the most important issue(s) we are facing at present – and how is permaculture positioned to respond?
Aside from the inevitable fallout from Covid, I still see climate change and biodiversity loss as being the number one issues of our time. I keep trying to remind myself and others around me that pandemics come and go, but the impacts humans have on our ecological systems is a far greater threat in the long run. I truly believe that permaculture movement (and the incredibly diverse range of people within it) has all of the solutions we need to deal with these problems. We just need to galvanise and integrate more as a whole so that we can take these solutions to the rest of the world, in both a top-down and a bottom-up way.
You launched a fabulous new song ‘Climate Movement’ this week which you’ve described as having a “serious vibe, but with a message of hope”. tell us more, including about the track and how folks can sing/dance along and get involved.
I’m pretty excited about this one! It’s a Call to Permaculture Action on Climate and a collaboration between Formidable Vegetable and our amazing producer, Spoonbill (who’s well-known in the world of dancy electronic beats) as well as renowned animator, Dropbear (who made our first clip for the song, Yield) and the amazing Brenna Quinlan, who has been taking permaculture into the stratosphere with her beautiful illustrations. I’ve been tweaking the words over the past few years as a bit of an ‘introduction to permaculture’, but it all came to a head last year, after reading the IPCC 1.5˚ report, which estimated that we have only one decade left to sort ourselves out, if we want the World to remain a habitable place. I thought ‘damn, we really need to take permaculture to the next level. NOW!’ and the rap turned into a bit of an anthemic manifesto calling for permies everywhere to unite, collaborate and collectively take their message, skills and solutions up the chains of command (in whichever areas they are active) so that we can make some meaningful change as soon as possible.
After brainstorming ideas with Brenna, we decided the best thing we could offer would be a video that we could hopefully send viral around the internet to inspire, motivate and activate people to go out and use what they have to bring the change. So, here’s your opportunity folks! Get sharing! Click here to see on YouTube and Facebook.
What does 2020 have in store for you?
Well, until Covid is over, I’m not planning to venture far from Melliodora, but it would be good to reconnect with the rest of the band (who are down in Melbourne) once things ease up a bit. I think local action with a global focus is the theme of the year, so I’m pretty happy here collaborating with world-famous permie rockstars on educational materials, music, art and gardening until something else calls me! Brenna and I have also been working on creating a deck of permaculture action cards for teaching the principles. There are a few packs left! Check them out and grab a copy here
Photo: Brenna Quinlan and Charlie McGee with the deck of permaculture action cards designed as a joint collaboration. Photo credit: supplied by Charlie McGee
Fair Share and how to support further:
Permafund provides small grants to permaculture projects across Australia and internationally, and the next grant round will be opening soon. To make a tax deductible donation before the end of financial year, or set up a regular tithe like Charlie McGee please click here.