“Helping the planet heal, one small mask at a time”

“Helping the planet heal, one small mask at a time”

Virginia Solomon is the Chair of the PA Board of Directors, and a member of the PA Education and Fundraising teams.  In response to the Melbourne COVID-19 restrictions, Virginia started making and selling homemade face masks – with all profits being donated to Permaculture Australia.

 

If you’re wondering what has making reusable face masks got to do with permaculture…. the answer is lots! Permaculture is based on three ethics – Earth care, People care and Fair share. You can’t do one without the other. These masks will help keep people safe (People Care), reduce single use masks (Earth Care) and profits are being donated to assist with permaculture projects and being made by volunteers donating their surplus time (Fair Share).

“It is unfortunate, but I think we may be in masks for a long time to come, so we might as well have beautiful, comfortable and compostable (or almost) ones! I am still seeing a lot of single-use [masks] around, but hopefully most people will be wearing re-useable ones soon. In fact, this was the main motivator for me from a permaculture point of view – reducing waste, using donated fabrics (although we do insist that all materials be new), involving our community in something positive at such a challenging time – and helping the planet heal one small mask at a time,” Virginia Solomon

 

Demand for the product has skyrocketed with the announcement by the Victorian Premier on compulsory use of facemasks.

The Eltham Farmers Market kindly agreed to host a Permaculture Australia stall each Sunday. They have been a huge hit – selling out within one hour on the first day of the market! The PA facemasks are also available via postal order to ensure we can reach as many people as possible safely.

 

 

A team of volunteers including several PA members has formed to assist with the sewing and fabric cutting. More volunteers based in Melbourne to keep up with demand are urgently needed. More details are listed below.

“It has been a lot of work! Very long days but it is all worth it when people are so enthusiastic and appreciative of the quality of our masks. I have had heaps of help from some wonderful volunteers, too, so it is not just me. We are a team of six including a 12 year old! Fantastic socially distanced community experience,” Virginia Solomon

 

Tell me more about the masks

The homemade masks are available at the Eltham Farmers Market this Sunday 2nd August from 0800am until all sold out. You can also purchase via postal order/online using the form here.

The three layer masks are $17 each or two for $30 (plus p/handling for postal orders) and come in three sizes. 100% of the profts are being donated to PA to help minimise the impact of single use masks in the waste stream.

 

I’m keen to volunteer – how can I get involved?

Volunteers who are available to assist with cutting fabric or sewing (chain piecing components) this week are urgently needed. Please get in touch via the PA email: hello@permacultureaustralia.org.au so we can link you up. All fabric is provided and you will need to be based in Eltham or surrounds due to travel restrictions.  Thanks in advance for your support.

 

More information

Virginia Solomon is an active member and volunteer of Permaculture Australia, the national member based organisation. Find out more about Virginia here and here. Growing food, making things from scratch, sharing skills and working locally but thinking about global issues are all part of Virginia’s philosophy, which si captured as one of the featured casestudies on the Retrosuburbia website here.

The Eltham Farmers Market exists to provide trading opportunities for genuine local farmers and added value makers. The local food being sold has all been grown or made by the stallholder selling it. The market is a project of local Community Group – Local Food Connect – and is proud to be accredited by the Victorian Farmers’ Markets Association. The market operates from 8am to midday every Sunday and is following all Covid-19 restrictions.

Permafund grant applications now open

Permafund grant applications now open

Permafund is pleased to announce the 2020 funding round is now open for applications.

What type of projects can be funded?

This year our focus is on the theme of resilient communities.  This means permaculture projects that prepare a community to withstand and recover from disasters such as fire, food shortages, cyclones, drought and disease will be viewed favourably.  Permaculture projects are more important than ever to help keep communities safe and strong. Applications are welcome from community groups in Australia and overseas. 

 

How much can I apply for?

Generally, we will distribute 5 to 10 grants of up to AUD $2000 (about USD $1360) in each grant round. Applicants are asked to be prepared to discuss their proposals and provide referees where required. 

The funds available are limited so please understand that not all applications can be approved for funding in this grant round. 

 

How do I apply?

The Grant Application form and Guidelines are available in PDF and Word documents below.

2020 Draft Grant-Guidelines (PDF)

2020 Draft Grant-Guidelines (WORD)

2020 Application-Form (WORD)

2020 Application-Form (PDF)

Please send the completed form and any supporting documents to permafund@permacultureaustralia.org.au before the closing date of 30th August 2020 (by Midnight Australia Eastern Standard Time). 

 

When will I know if my grant was successful?

Successful applicants will be notified by October 30th 2020.

 

 

 

Where can I send any queries?

Any questions can be sent to Mr Jed Walker, Grant Coordinator at  permafund@permacultureaustralia.org.au 

 

We look forward to receiving your application. 

 

 

Listen, learn, read & watch – PA members doing great stuff

Listen, learn, read & watch – PA members doing great stuff

Each month we’ll highlight some of the great activities our PA members are up to – in the news, chatting on podcasts, sharing resources, writing blogs and more.

Here is a selection of our favourites below – noting there are many more!

If we’ve missed you or you’ve got some stories to share, let us know via hello@permacultureaustralia.org.au so we can include them next month.

Enjoy!

Listen up

Great to hear Michael Wardle from Savour Soils Permaculture & Northey Street City Farm chatting about Retrosuburbia here

Shani from Ecoburbia in Fremantle talks about co-housing the power of community before and during COVID-19 in this great podcast interview here

 

Join Morag Gamble with leading thinkers, activists, authors, designers and practitioners to explore ‘What Now?’ – what is the kind of thinking we need to navigate a positive and regenerative way forward, what does a thriving one-planet way of life look like, where should we putting our energy. This months interviews include David Holmgren available here.

 

Huge thanks to the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance and Artist as Family for sharing their journey in this interview, including how they build their life and work around belonging and connection here

 

 

 

Read up

 

Eco Resilience. Photo credit: Virginia Solomon

Eco Resilience House: A farmhouse in the suburbs is the home of PA Board member Virginia Solomon and featured as a Retrosuburbia case studyand blogsite with heaps of great ideas to make your household and community more resilient here 

 

 

“Imagination is essential to avoiding existential threats and creating the best of possible worlds. Linda Woodrow’s deep well of imagination helps us in this essential task.”

David Holmgren delves into why Melliodora Publishing has chosen to release their first fictional work, ‘470‘ by Linda Woodrow here.

 

 

Kate from Purple Pear Farm. Photo: Maitland Mercury

PA members Purple Pear Farm have been sharing lots of greart tips for Plastic Free July via their social media and with this great story in the Maitland Mercury here.

Morag Gamble interviewed about incorporating permaculture principles into house & garden design including her family home in Queensland here

 

Watch it

Take a Happen Films tour of the incredible tiny house truck that runs on waste vegetable oil! BEV, the biosphere emergency vehicle, is the mobile home for PA members Brenna Quinlan and Charlie Mgee when they’re on the road traveling in Australia.

 

 

The 470 Book Launch is available to watch with author Linda Woodrow speaking about her new book, along with special guests David Holmgren, Robyn Frances, Starhawk and Charlie Mgee! Buy the book here

 

Enirely online, Costa covered more than 25000km on the virtual road meeting a mix of people carrying out a whole range of projects around food reflecting its importance to our future food security. Check out PA members Northey Street City Farm, Jo from Gentle Footprints Permaculture and many more!

Why permaculture is so hot right now

Why permaculture is so hot right now

The drought, catastrophic bushfires and now the global Covid-19 pandemic. It’s been a bumpy start to 2020 and it’s only July, yikes.  Gaps in community and household resilience coincided with a huge spike in folks wanting to know about backyard food production, sustainable living and permaculture. Social media groups, including the PA Facebook group, had hundreds of new member requests each day. PA members reported overwhelming demand and shared an incredible range of free resources here to support the requests coming in.

In the words of PA member Meg McGowan aka Permacoach “Permaculture is suddenly very popular”!

PA’s Kym asked several of our PA members the question – why is permaculture so hot right now? And will it last?

Exerpt reproduced with permission from ‘Why permaculture is so hot right now‘, Meg McGowan, Permacoach

Meg McGowan (right) with Rowe Morrow, friend & mentor. Photo credit: supplied.

It’s not just a renewed interest among those of us that have always felt aligned to the ethics and principles of permaculture, but a surge among people that have never heard of it before. Why? At a pragmatic level, permaculture offers people and efficient, low cost way to produce some food. With the isolation restrictions and economic burdens of Covid-19 an increased interest in home grown food is understandable. Growing food saves money, but it’s about so much more than that.

Shortages in supermarkets have brought home to many people the risks of relying upon others for their basic needs. People recognised that being able to feed themselves from their own garden would provide a buffer against the collapse of the industrialised food system. Permaculture can teach them to do that. Local farmers recently saw a huge boost in income as many people woke up to the obvious solution to an insecure model; buy locally grown and produced food and you build food security.

Artwork by Meg McGowan

But permaculture goes beyond growing some herbs and veggies, or keeping some chickens in the back yard. It’s an ethically based pattern for designing and evolving systems that increase ecological health while providing for human needs. I think this is why it’s suddenly so hot right now. We have come through a summer, an autumn and the beginnings of a winter where the destruction caused by human consumption and greed has finally become impossible to ignore.”

 

Michael Wardle, Savour Soil Permaculture

Michael Wardle, Savour Soils Permaculture. Photo credit: supplied.

Over the last few months since the drought, fires and the COVID crisis, which still continues in many areas, I have found there has been a huge increase in not only my design services but the courses offered here. To the point where one sold out in ten hours! As to why?. Well, when we look around at nature, we see permaculture is surrounding us. Things that are in a beautiful symbiotic relationship, the mutualism of living things showing the dynamic equilibrium, supporting each other where the system as a whole grows in wealth.”

“I think people are starting to understand that we cannot keep going on “as normal” and that things can change if we want to or have to. Again, the recent episodes have highlighted this. We do not “do” permaculture, but do things in a permaculture way. The idea of building resilience in the face of these events has become very appealing to many and seeing some of the self-reliance that can be offered by looking at things with a permaculture lens.”

John Champagne, Brogo Permaculture Gardens

John Champagne. Photo credit: Kym Blechynden

Following the wildfires here on the far south coast back in January,there was a steady stream of consultancy work visiting burnt properties and that continues today six months later. Then the COVID-19 lockdown saw an increased interest in household food growing and bookings onto permaculture courses.

It’s interesting that when faced with severe circumstances, a fresh batch of the population begin a process of looking for solutions and permaculture sits well placed as a light on the hill.” 

 

 

 

Artwork by PA Member Brenna Quinlan

PA Life member and permaculture co-originator David Holmgren also wrote about this topic in a recent article stating that:

while we [in the permaculture and kindred movements] have been doing some combination of modelling and teaching about the ways to live better with less, it has remained an option that, until the pandemic, most people had little inkling of or interest in. The current explosion of interest in home-based self-reliance, like previous waves of interest over the decades, is countercyclical to the faith and fortune in mainstream economic values and options. But the intensity of this downturn has acted as a slap in the face for many people dozing in the comfortable cocoon of consumer capitalism.”

So what now?

Meg McGowan, aka Permacoach, offers these final thoughts, as an exerpt from Why permaculture is so hot right now

“If you are new to permaculture then know that this movement is full of people willing to help. There are plenty of online communities but please try to find permaculture people locally and connect with them. Changing human society will require us to be geographically connected and to figure out how to get along with people that don’t share our biases. 

If you already know some permaculture then it’s time to step up. The planet needs you. The task is huge but collectively we each only need to do a little. Start a book club and read any of the great permaculture books together. Set up a produce share, or a permaculture learning circle. Join your local and national permaculture bodies and volunteer some of your time to advancing permaculture. Find your social edges. Where does permaculture begin and end in your local community? Which edges are already closely aligned or supporting what you are doing and how can you each share more with the other?”

More information and resources:

Permaculture Australia is the national permaculture member based organisation. Sign up as a member here today and help us advocate for permaculture solutions. You can also follow Permaculture Australia on Facebook, Instagram and join our Facebook group. If you have skills to share and want to assist with promoting permaculture further, please get in touch via hello@permacultureaustralia.org.au

Brogo Permaculture Gardens, Permacoach and Savour Soil Permaculture are professional members of Permaculture Australia, and offer a range of courses, events and property tours. Check out their websites or follow their respective social media page(s).

A list of all PA members events and businesses can be found here and here and many offer a generous discount to PA members. Information on permaculture education can be found here

 

 

                 

 

Limestone Permaculture: permaculture principled homesteading

Limestone Permaculture: permaculture principled homesteading

PA professional members Brett, Nici, Trae & Bronte from Limestone Permaculture Farm, are based in the picturesque Stroud Road Village on the mid-north coast of NSW. The property kicked off in 2010 initially as a project to move rural, design & create a productive small acre permaculture farm. Ten years on, the farm demonstrates that a thoughtful design process, based on permaculture ethics & principles, is essential to achieve a balanced, healthy & bountiful farm, homestead & garden.  PA’s Kym chats with Brett and Nici about permaculture living, the importance of community networks & the determination to continue to build resilience, skills and sharing

 

Tell us about the journey of Limestone Permaculture.

Our awakening began around 2003 when Nici became increasingly unwell with an immune-related illness whilst we were residing in Newcastle. This fuelled our need to provide a more organic life for our family & re-ignited Brett’s childhood gardening upbringing. So it started with growing, eating & living organically and grew ‘in abundance’ to encompass sharing, community gardening, researching and not long after… permaculture! In 2020 we are enjoying working as a family on our beautiful farm providing permaculture principled education & demonstration, homesteading skills & farmgate Co-op fresh produce. We also implement permaculture principled projects within our community, schools & wider region. For us at Limestone Farm, permaculture means embracing a ‘Whole of Life’ living system with an essential ‘Evolving Design Process’ at its core, fundamentally striving for a naturally sustainable & resilient life, guided by Permaculture Ethics & Principles. In addition, permaculture organically & mutually integrates human needs with climate, landscapes, plants, animals, structures & community.”

 

There are many examples of permaculture principles at your property – what are your favourites?

Some of our favourite principled design elements include: Catch & Store energy: our outdoor woodfired oven that gives us at least 3 days cooking from one initial burn. Design from Patterns to Detail: the orchard on water harvesting contour swales, provides a range of fruit year-round and is an evolving habitat for our farm’s wildlife. Use Small & Slow Solutions: the duck pond doubling as a silt trap that overflows into a series of smaller swale silt traps for slowing water movement, collecting nutrient dense silt/soil for re-use in surrounding gardens. Use Edges & Value the Marginal: the Hybrid Shade House for tender sub-tropical production that doubles as the Quail Amazon. Integrate Rather than Segregate: the main poultry run that integrates duck layers, duck breeders, chicken layers, exclusion grow tunnels, firewood storage and micro food forest.and not to forget Produce no Waste: the ‘Gentleman’s Pissatorium’ that inoculates hay bales in readiness for hot composting.

 

Your website talks about building a positive future for yourselves as well as the community. How important are community networks and what activities are you involved in?

Permaculture micro farm, Gloucester High school. Photo credit: supplied by Limestone Permaculture

Our regional network groups are the anchor to build community resilience & a skilled & sharing community! We have many hard-working groups including other permaculture educators, Permaculture Hunter, Young Farmers Connect, Hunter Organic Growers, Slow Food Hunter Valley, local Landcare groups… just to name a few. These groups along with Limestone Permaculture & our local town groups underpin our community engagement, inclusive planning, local skill development & volunteer strengthening. Our latest community initiative is the design, planning & implementation of a Permaculture Micro-Farm at Gloucester High School (NSW) with stage one earth works nearing completion.

 

It’s been a rocky 2020 so far for many. How has this impacted on your property – and did you make any changes in your property design?

Aerial photo of Limestone Permaculture. Photo credit: Limestone Permaculture

There is no doubt that the last twelve months has many reassessing their current way of life and future goals. Debilitating drought, devastating bushfires & pandemic isolation has proven to be an important time for observation, analysis & interaction. The pandemic reinforced our determination as a family unit to continue to upskill & educate ourselves, make & create, grow, produce, preserve and share all that we do. It also further emboldened our passion for resilience, yet reaffirmed the importance to be part of a supportive & regenerative regional network. During the drought & bushfires, the overall design held true and it made for a great opportunity to take note of the farms various systems & elements, what survived, what thrived and what failed.

Some of the changes we made and are still making include:

  • Additional north to west facing deciduous trees to eliminate afternoon summer sun
  • Additional bio-fertiliser barrel spreaders & overflow water storage to enhance water security & soil life
  • Overhead Animal Arbours to promote shade in summer and expand growing areas
  • Additional exclusion tunnels to assist shading annual crops as part of the function.

 

You’ve been doing Zoom presentions for community groups during the pandemic and in lieu of payment, asked for groups to donate to Permafund instead – thank you! Why did you choose to donate to Permafund? 

Apart from charitable groups & individuals, Permafund offers those making a living from their Permaculture Ethical & Principled Businesse to share the abundance on another level, not unlike sharing produce and knowledge within your community. We may not always have the opportunities or capabilities to assist with projects outside of our region but donating through Permafund, which is part of our Fair Share Ethic, is a way we can help to support those that can. This support assists projects to ‘Care for the Earth’ & ‘Care for People’ & life in general.

 

What is coming up for the rest of 2020 – and any final messages?

With only one PDC to complete this year due to restrictions & our shortened time frame, we are undertaking various on-farm projects & expanding upon our food production. We are constantly upgrading the farm to also enhance the experience for future students & visitors alike. Our usual busy schedule of farming, homesteading, educating, consultation, regional projects and community support continues as does our passion for knowledge & experience! We see 2020 as an opportunity for reflection and positive change for many. Daily life is no longer as dependable. We all feel the need for safety & degrees of self-reliance. From healthy soils to a healthy gut (and everything in between), we are making it our business to pass on as much of our knowledge & skills as possible to hopefully enable others to live healthier & happier lives.

Additional information

Limestone Permaculture are a professional member of Permaculture Australia, the national permaculture member based organisation. Not a member? Sign up and join us here today.

PA’s Permafund has provided dozens of small grants to permaculture community projects in Australia and internationally. Donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia and can be set up as recurring or one off donations.  Find out more including how to donate here

Limestone Permaculture provide property tours, design consultancy, permaculture courses (PDC and intro courses), school farm tours and a farm gate stall. For more details check out their website, Facebook and Instagram page(s).  Watch and listen to more about Limestone Permaculture via the Happen Films podcast and short film below.

 

 

 

 

 

Robyn Francis: permaculture pioneer, designer, educator, presenter & innovator

Robyn Francis: permaculture pioneer, designer, educator, presenter & innovator

PA’s Kym chats with Robyn about preparing for the changing climate & pandemics, the importance of respecting Indigenous knowledge and local food security projects to build community resilience.

Can you tell us a bit about your long & varied career, including how you got into permaculture?

I came across permaculture in 1977 when I heard Bill Mollison speak at an Organic Festival near Sydney, promoting the soon to be published, ‘Permaculture One’. I had just returned to Australia after five years travelling and living in Europe and Asia learning about traditional cultures, farming and survival skills. I was back in Australia looking for land to do the self-reliance thing. Permaculture was a natural next step, bringing all my ideas and interests together as an integrated philosophy and methodology. Over the next six years I experimented from the book on my herb farm on the NSW mid-north coast, where I was also involved in numerous community projects and the Rural Resettlement Task Force (multiple occupancy & intentional community movement). In 1983 I left the farm, did a PDC (which was the first women’s PDC) then moved to Sydney in 1984 to get permaculture going there – the rest is history.

Opening the EPICentre in Enmore, Sydney 1986 Bill Mollison & Robyn Francis (Damian Lynch in background)

What have been some of the highlights, and also the challenges?

Some of the highlights in the early years would have to be the IPCs (International Permaculture Convergences) I attended, especially a) IPC-1 in 1984 with the earlier pioneers, collectively laying the foundational agreements for the permaculture movement, the PDC and role of the Permaculture Institute b) IPC-2 in 1986 which brought together Fukuoka, Bill Mollison and Wes Jackson.
Another highlight were the two visits to India as Bill Mollison’s assistant, including co-teaching India’s first PDC in 1987, and Bill’s mentoring throughout the 1980s.  The exchange visit to Cuba in 2008, visiting 40 projects throughout the country, designing Jarlanbah (NSW’s first community title ecovillage), working with Aboriginal communities in NT and on the Murray River, teaching the first PDC’s translated into Mandarin in Taiwan and China and so many more. My life has been overwhelmingly full of exceptional experiences and opportunities to meet, learn from and work with amazing people and to see inspiring projects in so many parts of the planet.

 

There have been many challenges along the way, working long unpaid hours with sporadic income; turning up to teach PDC’s elsewhere with little or no basic resources and finding creative solutions (like the time I was provided with a little toddlers blackboard and half a chalk!); having the courage to jump into unknown and precarious situations and think on my feet; being let down and having to extend myself even further to get the job done; and recovering from a couple of major burnouts which helped me find more balance in my life and establish clear boundaries. There were also the positive, yet very demanding challenges of negotiating the labyrinth of bureaucratic requirements to create the Accredited Permacuture Training and deliver it successfully for 11 years here a Djanbung Gardens. I accept challenges as an opportunity to grow and even the most difficult have provided valuable lessons to take forward.

 

You’ve been active in food and seed sovereignty projects in your local area –  why are projects like these are so important?

Building bioregional and local resilience is critical for moving forward, and as we’ve experienced, for surviving shocks. Over the years I have sought to balance my national and international work with grassroots action in my local community. I’ve used my community facilitation skills to guide collaborative processes and especially the initial meetings in 2009 that launched ‘Sustainable Nimbin’. The three priority areas identified were food security, energy and transport. I joined the Nimbin Food Security Group and mentored the involvement of my APT diploma students in these initiatives including raising awareness and conducting community surveys and consultation. The Nimbin Food Security group was a dynamic team of committed people under the umbrella of the Nimbin Neighbourhood Association. It has brought exceptional results including two local weekly farmers markets, a food processing library, seed exchange. With Robina McCurdy a series of workshops brought together farmers, food producers and retailers to identify challenges and opportunities. We formed a food co-op within a week to take over the local organic green grocers store in town when the owners closed it down.

We see much more local produce in local stores and cafes, farmers and growers that once struggled to make ends meet are earning a sustainable living, and a there has been a surge in small food processing enterprises. For the past five years we can source 80-90% of our food from within a 30km radius, including staples like our local Nimbin Valley Rice, Nimbin dairy products, local grassfed meats, tofu from local BD soybeans, coffee and a long list of fresh fruit, veg and other produce. During the fires last November and the pandemic lockdown, the community has been exceptional in the many ways people and organisations have pulled together, helped each other and ensured everyone was cared for.

 

Djanbung Gardens, from a barren cow pasture in 1993

Bushfires, droughts and the pandemic have shown community resilience and preparedness are crucial. Can you describe how you’ve designed Djanbung Gardens to cope with disasters and also any changes being made?

When I was searching for land, the capacity to design for disaster resilience and climate change were key factors. Not just the property but the location, climate, and community were all top considerations on my list. Where I am in the Nimbin valley is well above 1:100yr flood level, classified as low fire risk, sheltered topographically from severe wind loadings, has the highest rainfall area in NSW and I am easy walking distance from the village.  Although I designed fire breaks into the property, fire has not posed a major threat or concern until last November, when Gondwana rainforests on Nightcap that have never burned were on fire and hundreds of friends evacuated from the Tuntable valley, just over the hill. This was a wake-up call and for the first time in 25 years we went through a full fire prevention cleanup and preparation, and are revising our plans regarding future fire vulnerability.  We can experience massive rainfall events around here, with the greatest so far being 515mm in 24 hours. I designed our water systems to cope with this degree of flow through the property to prevent flash flooding and water damage. The water collection systems  (dams and tanks) are designed with the capacity to get us through historic droughts however we will be augmenting water tank storage in the future as dry seasons are lengthening and getting hotter.

Our greatest disaster challenge is climate breakdown, these other shocks are simply symptoms of the big one. Climate resilience has been a guiding factor in my design and our operations, however the rapidity of climate change and it’s manifestations is relentlessly accelerating. The last three summers have been exceptionally severe with extreme dry and heat, and progressively more severe each year — even tropical vegetables have shrivelled despite regular watering. Most of our summer production now needs to be under shade so we’ve built bamboo shade structures over part of our gardens. This is a big topic, and apart from what we doing on Djanbung, the most critical part of disaster preparedness is collaborating on a community level.

There has been a lot of media coverage about cultural burning and the importance of First Nations and Australian Indigenous knowledge for caring for country. How do you incorporate learnings from the local Indigenous communities into your permaculture activities?

I think local knowledge is incredibly important and unfortunately so much has been lost. This bioregion has been intimately micro-managed for tens of thousands of years and there’s much for us to learn. Relationships with our local elders and original communities need to be developed with deep respect and it’s not simply about taking their knowledge for our own use. Relationships need cultivation and nurturing over time to build trust. Here we have been in contact with our local mob since the outset, being gifted the name of our permaculture centre by the senior Lore/Law) keeper of the Bundjalung Nation. Part of building this relationship is getting to know some language, the ‘real’ names and stories of local mountains, rivers and special places, our local bushfoods and their seasonality, these are all integral to cultural learning, it’s not only about fire.
Caring for country, which includes cultural burning, demands an intimate daily relationship with the land, the local plants, animals, seasonal cycles, it’s not a one-size fits all or single cart blanch recipe. In this part of the country there was historically very little burning, mainly used to maintain marsupial pastures in the open forest of wider valleys and small targeted burning of the walking trails along the ridges to keep them open. Here we are in wet rainforest country and many of our forest ecosystems have never been burned culturally or by natural causes (until last year’s fires). In drier country there’s already strong evidence that cultural burning is effective and reduces fire vulnerability while keeping the ecosystem healthy and wildlife abundant. Listen, learn and observe.

What are the most important issue(s) we are facing as a at present – and how do you see permaculture positioned to respond to these?

This is a big question… our biggest challenge is halting the accelerating biospheric destruction favoured by governments and their corporate sponsors/beneficiaries. The problems we face, such as climate, social and economic breakdown are symptoms of the deeper rot of the growth-obsessed consumer society. As permaculturists we can respond on many different levels and in many different ways. We mustn’t lose sight of diversity, including the diverse situations people find themselves in and what factors they can immediately influence and change in their daily life, in their work, in their community and on a political level. We have a huge opportunity right now to reach out on a community level, especially as we deal with the aftermath of drought, fire, flood, pandemic, and we know there’s more in store. The single most important thing we can do is to reach out to our neighbours, regenerate community, not only for self-reliance and resilience, disaster preparation and response, but for abundance, conviviality and inspire through creativity and celebration. And we can all lend our voice to support others regionally, nationally and globally as ambassadors for the earth and for justice.
What does 2020 have in store for you and Djanbung Gardens and your other ventures?
2020 has been a difficult and challenging year with the pandemic forcing cancellation of some major courses and events and we seem to fall between the cracks regarding eligibility for government financial support. Despite some financial hardship, we have so much to be grateful for and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else during such times. I feel safe here and know we have created a place to survive these shocks and am surrounded by a caring and supportive community.
This is an important time of transitional change for me on both personal and professional levels. We now have three generations living here at Djanbung so there’s the inevitable ongoing adjustments in living arrangements and our physical environment for my twin grandkids as they grow. Most of my peers have retired many years ago and I’m not ready for that yet, although on some fronts I intend to slow down to make space for other things I’ve not had time to complete or embark on. We are in the process of planning our collective priorities for the coming years and decades here at Djanbung, it’s a work in progress. The one constant in life is change, it’s how we respond that’s important.

Where can I find out more?

Check out the range of permaculture courses (online and face to face), property tours and events by Djanbung Gardens and Permaculture College Australia here. Permaculture Australia members get a 10% discount on courses offered by Djanbung Gardens and the Permaculture College Australia.

Not a member of PA? Sign up here to access a great range of member discounts and to help us advocate for permaculture solutions.