is a PA professional member who teaches Certificate III Permaculture at the South Regional TAFE
in Albany, Western Australia. Martina Hoeppner
from the Permaculture Australia Education team chats with Andrew about teaching accredited permaculture at TAFE and how permaculture qualifications & skills will be in demand jobs over the next decade.
How did you get involved in Permaculture?
I first came across the idea of Permaculture as a year 12 student in 1978 (the year Permaculture One was published) and still have that very tattered book in my library. I was fascinated by the ideas of Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and as a bit of a frustrated farmer I read up a lot of the books that were their influencers at the time. I also have 1978 editions of Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution and Yeoman’s Water for every farm in my library. I got married in 1985 and my wife Andrea, who was from a farming background, was also interested in sustainable living, vegie growing and preserving. When we bought our first house in York we started implementing permaculture practices on our block. We had no formal training through this period but read and absorbed whatever was published, we watched the Global Gardener series and designed integrated plant and animal systems on our ¼ acre block. By this time, I was working on a farm and my boss was open to doing some pasture renovation using a Wallace soil conditioner, holistically planning tree lines and fencing, keeping water high in the landscape and to using rock mineral fertilisers in places.
We have now ‘permacultured’ six properties, including a 255-hectare farm. We currently live on a ¼ acre block in Albany with an aquaculture system, rabbits, guinea pigs, chickens, ducks and worms integrated with raised vegie beds, ground cover crops and fruit trees. I also co-ordinate the Good Life Community Garden in Albany
(permaculture oriented) and the Permaculture courses at the South Regional TAFE.
What formal permaculture training have you completed?
My formal education in permaculture didn’t start until 2017 when I raised the idea of starting a permaculture section at South Regional TAFE (SRTAFE) with my manager. She agreed I could investigate it and when my wife Andrea raised the idea of doing a PDC at Fair Harvest Permaculture in Margaret River,
I realised this would be a good start to getting the qualification on our scope of registration. We completed the PDC and inspired I enrolled to do the Certificate III at Candlelight Farm
in Mundaring with Dr Ross Mars. Traveling from Albany to Mundaring (900 km round trip) each month for a year was challenging but Ross and his team taught a great course and I obtained my Certificate III at the end of the year. Bitten with bug I enrolled in the Diploma course and once again made the trek up and down every month for another year, completing it in July 2020 amidst Covid-19 lockdown.
South Regional TAFE in Albany are offering several permaculture opportunities – can you tell us about the different courses?
We offer two separate Certificate III courses at SRTAFE
. Our mainstream course runs two days/week over three terms, with five units of competence being offered each term. Students have the option of completing the course one or two days/week – if they enrol for both days they can complete the Certificate in nine months. Our facilities include a fully equipped horticultural training site with a separate area for us to develop a permaculture space from scratch. We also do some of our course work at the Good Life Community Garden where there is an established food forest and integrated animals as well as the community engagement aspects that are important for an understanding of the Permaculture principles. We also offer the Certificate III in Permaculture as a series of weekend workshops for those who work or find weekends easier. The 15 units that make up the qualification are divided into eight workshops that are offered over a year. People can enrol in one unit or all of them. Some workshops will be offered more than once during the year depending on demand.
Where are students working after completing the Certificate – are there any jobs in permaculture?
Most of our students are on small to medium sized properties and are wanting to integrate permaculture principles and practices into their farming enterprises and lives. A couple are doing the course for interest and some are Ppermaculture practitioners who want to obtain a formal qualification. A couple are interested in becoming permaculture teachers in schools and in the community. There are no advertised permaculture jobs in our region at the moment, but there is a strong sustainability push in the Great Southern and a number of schools are implementing sustainability into their curriculum, including creating permaculture gardens and spaces for kids to learn in. I think people with permaculture qualifications will be well set up for the new wave of sustainability jobs that will become part of every forward-thinking organisation over the next decade.
Do you think the emergencies of the last year have changed these job prospects?
Not yet, but I think they will. Designing for disaster (civil unrest, fires, power loss, water shortages as well as pandemics) is a key concept in permaculture thinking. Although ‘preppers’ and fringe groups have caught the headlines in this area over the past ten years, preparation for some of these disasters has already lead to people wanting to learn skills in growing and preserving food, going off the grid and developing resilient community networks.
Where do you see Permaculture skills needed most in the future?
The bulk of our food production will remain on conventional farms, but progressive farmers are already moving away from whole of farm cropping programs and reintroducing grazing animals because of concerns around weed resistance to herbicides. Concerns about health effects associated with some chemical usage is prompting more people to seek out healthy food options. The Good Life Community Garden hosted David Holmgren during his Retrosuburbia tour of WA and had a tremendous response with over 100 people wanting to learn more about growing food in their backyard. We have the capacity to reduce the pressure on our farmers to harvest unsustainable levels of food from their land by turning some of our lawns and underutilised soil in back yards into productive food forests and even developing small businesses based on permaculture principles and practices. These are skills not only for food production but for a more resilient permanent culture. Organisational culture is a buzz word at the moment and the Permaculture ethics, Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share are the best conversation starters about culture that I know.
How do you think the Accredited Training in Permaculture (APT) compares to the Permaculture Design Course (PDC) in the skills taught?
The PDC course is an amazing overload of information and mind-expanding experiences over an intense 14-day block. There is a little practical hands-on stuff, a lot of observation (with not much interaction) and the opportunity to work with a group of people to put together a concept for a design. An experience with food, camping and permaculture knowledge that I would recommend to anyone.
Accredited training (APT) is much more practically based with the course broken into 15 units that all have a knowledge component and a practical component – and because it runs over 60 days in total there is more opportunity to explore in depth the subject matter and to implement large scale practical projects. At SRTAFE we are building a permaculture garden from a patch of grass, and students are involved in all aspects from site investigation, design, construction of the gardens, food forest, paths, reactional spaces through to maintenance of the finished areas. If you have been inspired by doing a PDC, I recommend you consolidate your knowledge and skills by doing a Certificate III in Permaculture. The Certificate IV of Permaculture is for people who already have some skills and would like skills to supervise and manage permaculture installations from a design, and the Diploma of Permaculture provides in depth training in consulting, interviewing clients, developing permaculture designs to industry standard and researching permaculture principles and practices.
Should more training organisations offer Permaculture?
Yes. I would like to see every region across Australia offering Permaculture. The way to create permaculture jobs is to develop a groundswell of qualified practitioners who are competent, inspiring workers in horticulture, sustainability and agriculture. Hiring a permaculture graduate gives you not only someone with growing and nurturing skills, but analytical and researching skills, community engagement and social cohesion skills as well as a passion for the planet and robust human societies. They are ethical and inclusive, sharing and cooperative, they are the workers this rapidly changing world needs and the more we train, the faster the world will realise this.
There was a Permaculture surge in the nineties after the Global Gardener came out and I think we could be at the start of another surge if more RTO’s took up the challenge of delivering Permaculture. I have been lecturing in the fields of horticulture, conservation land management, sustainability, forestry and agriculture for 25 years at SRTAFE and my most satisfying and enjoyable training times have been with my permaculture students over the past two years. I love it.
Martina Hoeppner holds a Diploma in Permaculture and a Certificate IV in Training & Assessment, teaches PDCs and Certificate III in Permaculture in Perth and is the current Co-Convenor of Permaculture West. She contributes to Permaculture Australia’s Education Team and tries keep alive her own garden and three sons in her spare time. More information on the different types of permaculture education completed by both Martina and Andrew can be found here.
Martina and Andrew are professional members of Permaculture Australia, the national member based organisation in Australia. Sign up as a member here today to join hundreds of members across Australia advocating for permaculture solutions.
Southern Regional TAFE delivers accredited vocation education and training, working with industiry to build the capacity of current and future employees through training and skills recognition in the region. There are several options to study Permaculture at the Albany campus with more details available here.