…wet but convivial — PA’s annual gathering and AGM 2017

Not even the rain and mud could deter the 150-200 people who made their way along Showground Road to Djanbung Gardens for the Permaculture Open Day on Saturday 13 May.
People mingled, attended workshops on a range of topics including working with bamboo and were fed by Mel and crew’s fabulous food from the kitchen. The day ended in Djanbung Garden’s hexagonal, earth construction building with a meal celebrating 30 years of Permaculture Australia.
Prior to the dinner, veteran permaculture educator and international development worker, Rosemary Morrow, and host of the ABC Gardening Australia TV program and permaculture promoter, Costa Georgiardis, joined the festivity via skype video presence. As they finished, Fiona Campbell, a permaculture and sustainability educator prototyping the application of permaculture in local government in Sydney, stood up and encouraged those present in person and online to thank Robyn Francis for her substantial service to Permaculture International Ltd since it’s inception 30 years ago.
Launched as Permaculture International Ltd, as the entity for publishing Permaculture International Journal when it was based in Sydney on Enmore Road (the premises continues its sustainability role as Alfalfa House Food Co-op, Sydney’s longest-running, member-owned food co-operative), the trading name of the organisation became Permaculture Australia following Australian Permaculture Convergence 10 in Far North Queensland in 2010. Following the demise of the journal in 2000, the organisation sought a new role and developed the Accredited Permaculture Training while its tax-deductible donations and small grants program, Permafund, continued.
Now, Permaculture Australia links permaculture practitioners, educators and groups around the country as a major hub in the geographically distributed network that is permaculture in Australia.

New teams

The open day was one half of a full weekend of permaculture celebration and activity at Djanbung Gardens. Sunday brought the annual general meeting of Permaculture Australia at which a new board of directors was elected and — something new — an interim representative council was set up.
The new Permaculture Australia board of directors is a diverse crew:

  • Dylan Graves — Stanthorpe, SE Queensland
  • Robyn Francis — Nimbin, NSW north coast
  • Virginia Solomon — Melbourne
  • Ronnie Martin — Brisbane
  • Steve Burns — Victoria
  • Eric Smith — Tasmania
  • Kym Blechynden — Tasmania.

New crew to spread the workload

To date, it has fallen to the board to take action on decisions and other matters. That has become something of a burden, however, as it is usually busy permaculture people who put up their hand to join the board. The representative council, or whatever it is eventually named, will assist the board by spreading the workload and take initiatives of its own.
This is an interim representative council that will clarify its role and processes.
It will be revisited at the next Permaculture Australia general meeting when the council will be formalised.
There was discussion about whether the council is actually a representative council or a working group of Permaculture Australia, however the decision was to continue with the ‘interim council’ name as that would allow the team to keep the main thing the main thing and get on with the substance of their work.
Questions were raised about the role of the board. Would its purpose include support for permaculture groups? Engagement with permaculture’s emerging global presence via the Next Big Step for Permaculture? Would it use the sociocracy model of decision-making? How would it relate to Permaculture Australia’s existing teams around Accredited Permaculture Training, Permafund and communications?
A member-accessible discussion space for the representative council has been set up in the Buddypress part of the Permaculture Australia website. Unlike email which can be lost down the timeline unless users catalog their mail, the Buddypress function, which works like a social network/conversation space, keeps the stream of communications together.
Members of the council are drawn from different parts of the country:

  • Yvonne Campbell  — NSW, north coast
  • Renee Bailey — Ashgrove, Queensland
  • Ian Lillington — Castlemaine, Victoria
  • Bruce Zell — Cairns, Far North Queensland
  • John Champagne — Bega Valley, NSW south coast
  • Chris Carroll — Sunshine Coast, SE Queensland
  • Wendy Marchment — Highton, Victoria
  • John McKenzie — Melbourne
  • Robyn Francis — NSW north coast
  • Leah Hattendorff — Ipswich, Queensland
  • Russ Grayson — Sydney.

The annual meeting was a calm and relaxed affair in the building-in-the-forest-of-useful-species that Robyn and her team have built in what was an old, cleared cow paddock on the edge of subtropical Nimbin.

Some thank you’s

Thanks to last year’s board of directors (Richard Pang, Megan Cooke, Mike Hayden, Annaliese Hordern, Robyn Francis, Virginia Solomon and Kym Blechynden for your dedicated work during the year.
Thanks to Robyn Francis (and for her long role in Permaculture Australia) and Permaculture College Australia and Djanbung Gardens for hosting the weekend with the venue and for raising funds for Permaculture Australia.
Thanks to Mel from Abundance Cafe and her crew for the food.
Thanks to all with the foresight and enthusiasm to make their way to Nimbin for the open day and general meeting and to those who participated by telepresence from parts distant.

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The weekend was hosted by Permaculture College Australia and Djanbung Gardens


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