This year, vocational training in permaculture turns 20. Affectionately known as APT (Accredited Permaculture Training), these courses have been part of Nationally Recognised Training since Permaculture Australia registered an accredited course with Queensland Training in July 2003.
Since then APT has had its ups and downs, and a huge amount of work has been done (largely by volunteers) to bring us to now. In February 2023, the newly reviewed and updated components (units of competency, qualifications and skill sets) were published on the training.gov.au website.
APT falls under what is known as Vocational Education and Training in Australia, meaning that the qualifications and skill sets have met certain standards under the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) which means that a Certificate III in Permaculture is equivalent to a Certificate III in Agriculture, or Hospitality, or Childcare etc. Permaculture components, with PER in their codes are part of the Agriculture, Horticulture and
Conservation & Ecosystem Management (AHC) training package. Training Packages are nationally recognised, although some aspects of their implementation are State-based – such as funding.
The recent review of the AHC Training Package has coincided with the Federal Government’s Skills Reform initiative. These reforms have ensured that students and employers are central to the training approved by the industry sectors themselves (in the past, the training sector- the providers of the training such as TAFEs – had greater influence over the training provided and this was often at odds with what was needed in the workplace). The new Jobs and Skills Councils (replacing “Industry Clusters”) include opportunities for industry peak bodies to have a seat on the Council. Permaculture Australia will have a seat on the Agribusiness Skills Council.
The review of Permaculture (in conjunction with Organic Production and Composting) was completed in 2022, after 18 months of work and consultation. Qualifications, skill sets and units have been restructured and updated to reflect the skills required to provide for human needs in a way that works with natural processes and ecology. Updates have been made to remove barriers to training delivery and better reflect job tasks. In addition, skills for permaculture have been incorporated throughout agriculture qualifications, as they are useful and necessary across a range of job roles and environments.
Key changes in a nutshell:
Five qualifications were revised and updated to incorporate unit changes including merging of content and adjustments to Australian Qualification Framework alignment for some units. Although the Certificate I in Permaculture was initially proposed for deletion it will be retained, as there are successful programs currently delivered and the enrolment trend is increasing.
Twelve new skills sets were developed to meet industry needs related to permaculture fundamentals, including structure, water systems, design, planning community governance and developing strategic plans for permaculture projects.
One existing skill set for a Permaculture Demonstrator was revised to include updated units of competency.
Forty nine permaculture (PER) units of competency were reviewed, including:
o Forty eight were revised, with clarification around assessor requirements and rationalisation of knowledge evidence to ensure essential underpinning knowledge required for carrying out permaculture job tasks is captured.
o Four units were merged into two.
o One new unit was developed based on a previously deleted permaculture unit.
o Five units deleted. Two diploma level units that were proposed for deletion at earlier stages of the project were retained.
o Selected units are to be included in Certificate I to Diploma level Agriculture qualifications.
Guidance for RTOs for engaging trainers and assessors was included in a newly developed Companion Volume User Guide released along with an updated version of the AHC Companion Volume Implementation Guide and the newly endorsed permaculture qualifications and units.
Accompanying the reviewed Permaculture courses, an Implementation Guide has been written to support the roll out and inform RTOs and trainers, as well as employers, as to how these courses should be understood.
There have been many opportunities for engagement with the review process and lots of permaculture people have participated which is great as it means the Units, Qualifications and Skill Sets are now ‘fit for purpose’. Not only that but you will have the chance to participate in and benefit from the roll out of the reviewed courses, if you wish.
Training providers, including those offering the PDC, might be interested in partnering with RTOs to offer some components of this training
There will be funding available for some programs in some States
There will be opportunities for those with current qualifications (including Certificate IV in Training and Assessment) to deliver this training
There will also be opportunities to work with the Education Team of Permaculture Australia to update assessment tools and training materials
And of course there will be opportunities for study and professional development
It is exciting to note that many of the barriers between the PDC and the accredited training have been removed, and it is now much easier for teachers and trainers to find work in the accredited system (with a TAE qualification, of course). It is also exciting to note that two of
the new skill sets have been specifically developed to bridge gaps:
AHCSS00142 Permaculture Designer Skill Set – corresponds to the core skills and knowledge of the PDC
This skill set describes the skills and knowledge for working with clients and community to design and develop private, community or enterprise based permaculture systems in rural and urban environments. Comprised of units:
AHCPER417 Investigate and recommend species for a permaculture system
AHCPER418 Provide advice on permaculture principles and practices
AHCPER419 Design a rural permaculture system
AHCPER420 Design an urban permaculture system
AHCPER421 Select appropriate technology for a permaculture system
AHCPER422 Identify and analyse bioregional characteristics and resources
AHCSS00140 Advanced Permaculture Skill Set – bridges the gap between Diploma of Permaculture and Bachelor Degree in the Higher Education system. This skill set describes advanced skills and knowledge to help individuals to transition into higher education. The units provide skills and knowledge for planning community governance and developing strategic plans for permaculture projects. Comprised of units:
AHCPER601 Develop a strategic plan for a permaculture project or enterprise
AHCPER602 Plan community governance and decision-making processes
AHCPER603 Prepare a sustainable community and bioregional development strategy
If you are interested in the process or want to familiarise yourself with what has been done, please go to the Skills Impact project page and click through to the areas that interest you.
You can find the documents that correspond to earlier stages in the process by clicking on the arrows in the flow chart.
Finally, Permaculture Australia would like to acknowledge the work of the following people and organisations who participated in the Subject Matter Expert Working Group:
Lis Bastian, Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute
Fiona Blackham, GAIA Permaculture
Sue Brunskill, Permaculture Australia
Rob Fenton, TAFE NSW
Robyn Francis, Permaculture College Australia
Graeme George, Permaculture Yarra Valley
Megan Hall, South Regional TAFE WA
Julianne Hartman, Byron Regional Community College
Martina Hoeppner, Permaculture West
Keri Hopeward, Permaculture SA
Lachlan McKenzie, International Permaculture Educators Network
Ross Mars, Water Installations Pty Ltd
Janet Milllington, Miltech Services Pty Ltd
Kushala Prem, Natural Systems Permaculture
Nicole Steel, Byron Regional Community College
Karen van Huizen, Van Huizen Design
Aaron Sorensen, Elemental Permaculture
Virginia Solomon, Permaculture Australia
Richard Vinycomb, Byron Regional Community College
And our amazing professional training consultants from Skills Impact
Ruth Geldard, Industry Skills Standards Specialist, Skills Impact
Ron Barrow, Writer, Skills Impact and Nestor Consulting
We all look forward to rolling out our new courses and to energetic participation and enthusiasm from permies everywhere. For further information on the Review and the new components, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org