Permaculture Education

In Australia, Permaculture education is being offered in many different formats. The following overview summarises the various formal and informal courses students of permaculture can undertake, from a short workshop to a nationally recognised formal qualification. The range of offerings present opportunities for students being introduced to permaculture through to those who are seeking accredited training, professional development or recognition of prior learning.

Facilitators, teachers, trainers, community organisations, Institutes and Registered Training Organisations can be found delivering these various offerings throughout Australia.

Introductory Courses

Introductory courses are usually very short courses running from a few hours to a few days introducing people to the basics of permaculture.

General Interest Courses

These are courses which often provide an entry point to Permaculture, contain some permaculture knowledge and/or skills but are not marketed as ‘permaculture’ primarily. Skills in self-reliance and homesteading, gardening, food production and craft are all included here.

Permaculture Design Courses

The Permaculture Design Course (PDC) is the heart or ‘home’ of permaculture and the most widely offered and recognised form of permaculture education. PDCs are often presented as intensive courses (sometimes residential) over two weeks (from 72 to 100+ hours of course delivery), but there are many variations and many approaches. We recommend you do your homework to ascertain which course meets your personal requirements.

Advanced Courses

Advanced courses generally are seen as a follow up to the PDC. Often they are provided by well-known PDC providers and build extensively on the skills learned there. This is a relatively new area and is sometimes associated with additions to the permaculture literature, such as David Holmgren’s works Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability and RetroSuburbia.

Specialist Courses

Courses that require a high level of prior knowledge of Permaculture and/or build on the knowledge and skills provided by a PDC. Many of these courses result in some sort of certification or acknowledgement of participation in a course at a high level.

Accredited Training in Permaculture

In Australia, the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system, and the Higher Education (HE) system, constitute regulated and registered offerings related to the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). These courses may or may not be available to international students, but the qualifications obtained are often recognised overseas. The AQF should not be viewed as a staircase with Certificate I as the bottom rung progressing all the way up to PhD at level 10. Rather, think of it as an outcomes-based system where the content of courses relates to the skills - and therefore jobs - that graduates are qualified for. Click here for definitions of each of the levels of the AQF.

Some universities and higher education providers offer courses or subjects in permaculture within another degree.

Certificate I in Permaculture AHC10416

This is an entry-level qualification aimed at individuals entering the permaculture industry. It is suited to VET in Schools programs or learners with no previous connection to permaculture or relevant employment history.

RTOs which currently have scope to deliver Certificate I in Permaculture can be viewed here.

Certificate II in Permaculture AHC21716

This qualification provides an occupational outcome in permaculture where work is carried out under general guidance and supervision. This qualification is suited to VET in Schools, TAFE, labour market programs and environmental skills programs. It provides  a range of technical skills and knowledge in supporting food growing programs and community programs and is suited to learners with an interest in permaculture as a practical solution for sustainable living.

RTOs which currently have scope to deliver Certificate II in Permaculture can be viewed here.

Certificate III in Permaculture AHC33816

This qualification relates to those individuals who work either independently or in teams to establish and maintain permaculture systems for private clients, organisations or community entities. This qualification is suited to learners who wish to work at the skilled tradesman level within permaculture projects and enterprises, and may involve supervision of others and working with people of diverse backgrounds and abilities.

RTOs which currently have scope to deliver Certificate III in Permaculture can be viewed here.

Note that at Certificate III level there is also another qualification:

Permaculture Demonstrator Skill Set AHCSS00048

These competencies meet the industry requirements for those providing practical instruction to small groups of learners and qualify trainers to provide permaculture instruction and demonstration at Certificate I and Certificate II levels.

RTOs which currently have scope to deliver the Permaculture Demonstrator Skill Set can be viewed here.

Certificate IV in Permaculture AHC42116

This qualification relates to individuals who work as project supervisors and designers for private clients or organisations. They require a high level of permaculture design skills, and knowledge in a broad range of areas in keeping with permaculture’s multidisciplinary nature.This qualification is suited to learners who wish to work at the supervisory level within permaculture design projects, and may involve the supervision of others and working with people of diverse backgrounds and abilities.

RTOs which currently have scope to deliver Certificate IV in Permaculture can be viewed here.

Diploma of Permaculture AHC52116

This qualification provides occupational outcomes for individuals to work in a leadership capacity for organisations, groups or enterprises. They require a whole system approach to planning, designing, managing and implementing integrated permaculture projects and programs, permaculture community programs, and the operation of permaculture enterprises. This qualification is suited to learners who wish to work within organisations and enterprises where skills in strategic planning and project management, natural systems and land use planning, and specialist permaculture design are required. Work is likely to involve working with teams of people at the strategic level as well as working with people of diverse backgrounds and abilities.

RTOs which currently have scope to deliver Diploma of Permaculture can be viewed here.

Please note, in Australia, the word Diploma tends to be used for accredited programs, however we are aware that diplomas of permaculture exist in other countries, and in other forms (i.e. outside of the AQF system).

Advanced Diploma

There is currently no Advanced Diploma of permaculture.

Bachelor Degree

There is currently no Bachelor of permaculture, but some universities recognise the Diploma of Permaculture as evidence of completion of the first year of a bachelor’s degree. Credit for a Diploma of Permaculture would normally require negotiation on a case-by-case basis.

Graduates at this level will have broad and coherent knowledge and skills for professional work and/or further learning. Graduates at this level will apply knowledge and skills to demonstrate autonomy, well-developed judgement and responsibility:

  • in contexts that require self-directed work and learning
  • within broad parameters to provide specialist advice and functions.

We are not currently aware of any providers in Australia offering a Bachelor of Permaculture. However, several Universities around Australia and the world offer permaculture subjects as part of their Bachelor degrees.

Bachelor Honours Degree/Graduate Certificate/Graduate Diploma

Graduates at this level will have advanced knowledge and skills for professional or highly skilled work and/or further learning. Graduates at this level will apply knowledge and skills to demonstrate autonomy, well-developed judgement, adaptability and responsibility as a practitioner or learner.

We are not currently aware of any providers in Australia offering Graduate Certificate or Graduate Diploma programs.

There are various universities around Australia and the world offering permaculture subjects at the Bachelor level as part of their bachelor degrees.

At the Honours, Masters and PhD level it is possible to conduct permaculture research projects within various disciplines at the University level.

Masters Degree

Graduates at this level will have specialised knowledge and skills for research, and/or professional practice and/or further learning. Graduates at this level will apply knowledge and skills to demonstrate autonomy, expert judgement, adaptability and responsibility as a practitioner or learner.

We are not currently aware of any providers in Australia who are currently offering courses in this space. However there are opportunities to complete Masters programs in other disciplines with a permaculture component.

PhD - Doctorate Degree

Graduates at this level will have systematic and critical understanding of a complex field of learning and specialised research skills for the advancement of learning and/or for professional practice. Graduates at this level will apply knowledge and skills to demonstrate autonomy, authoritative judgement, adaptability and responsibility as an expert and leading practitioner or scholar.

As far as we know, there are no providers who are specifically offering PhDs in permaculture. However, there are opportunities to complete PhDs in other discipline areas while exploring topics of relevance to permaculture.

Article by the Permaculture Australia Education team April 2019.

For more information please contact the Education Team: [email protected]

Learn more at this link: Accredited Permaculture Training (APT)

Graphic by Taj Scicluna, The Perma Pixie.