Story by John Mckenzie, May 2015
Camping in a large paddock alongside the Penguin High school – an easy walk to the conference venue — a large building built with ‘Building the Education Revolution’ (BER) funding. It’s moveable walls pushed back to make a huge open space, large commercial kitchen offering up great food.
Saying hello to Bob Brown, catching up with Geoff Lawton, many tables and stalls in the foyer filled with magnificent information and conversations, coffee from East Timor being sold to raise funds for the rewrite of the Permatil Guidebook from East Timor, four magnificent keynote speakers, the AGM for PA, watching the dance and spoken word performance, dancing ourselves, about 250 of us in the Robyn Clayfield choreographed spiral dance, having breakfast and saying farewell to David Holmgren at the Reseed Centre as we departed… so much happened in those few short days.
The site and program was excellent for the purpose. All the facilities that we needed and what I loved was how it allowed so many opportunities for informal conversations. That was the icing on the cake.
Bob Brown inspired and challenged us. He affirmed Permaculure then urged us to do more. He was thanked with a standing ovation that seemed to go on for ever.
David Holmgren offered a range of challenging ideas:
- On advocacy and the permaculture voice… he cautioned about over-focussing on calling for governments to act. He cautioned us about shouting our message but at the same time being totally dependant on the corporate system. He asked two simple questions:
- What is our message? and
- How do we advocate? …then offered some answers.
That we be a mass movement shouting for ‘less’, that we don’t forget we are in a culture built on a mountain of debt, the permie message should be about living frugally, that we should be producers not consumers.
DIY & DIO (do it ourselves) — build your relationships, build your community, build your garden. He talked about how he and Su were intentionally low income earners.
He talked about Permaculture as well suited to being an idea not controlled by an organisation, he said permaculture can propagate and spread as other ideas, like a virus, thus bypassing regulatory processes of governments and bypassing the monetary economy.
He spoke about people being more concerned about loosing their money than extinctions of species. He proposed that the misplacement and corruptions of our thinking had been pushed by the emergence of corporations. He talked about the significance of the granting of person-hood rights to companies some 200 years ago.
Then finally in a riff on the permie mantra about turning the problem into the solution he said, be wary, these things are cyclical “the solution will become the problem”.
Nicole Foss maintained her ongoing message about the erratic and unstable economic system we live in. She enthused about local cooperatives, and local government as structures we should consider to put effort into to build and strengthen yield and useful return in local systems.
Stuart Hill cautioned us to keep our minds open, to keep a learners perspective. That there is so much we don’t know. He reminded us to care for ourselves, that we filter life through the lens of our personal experience, and often it’s our bruising personal experiences that influence our opinions and thinking. He invited us to be the best permies we can be, the best person we can be, to attend to self care to keep of capacity to emphasis and to keep learning.
Another standing ovation went to local identity Bruce French from Food Plants International. He’d decorated the hall with 100s of photographs of food plants from around the world, an incredible display. Then at 100mph he spoke about his work across many particularly Africa promoting local knowledge and local plants for their better nutrient density and their local availability. He freely distributed his database and it’s also on his website.
Permaculture Australia had it’s AGM and the primary question was asked – Is it worth continuing with PA? A great session of discussion about the shape and direction of PA including a strong affirmation by David Holmgren for PA. The session was well attended, new members joined PA and new subcommittees were formed and a 2015 Board was elected. The conference also provided an opportunity for an informal conversation between PA Directors and Geoff Lawton to build links between PRI and PA.
So many other great speakers, sessions and memorable moments, Permaculture elders were honoured with a gift of a Huon pine plaque, a dance and spoken word piece was offered by Hannah Cooper & Nick from Poatina, Phil Gall offered a full voice rendition of Bet Midler’s ‘The Rose’.
Some great films were screened, two I saw were:
- Deep Listening: a documentary about intentional communities in Australia. Great interviews with long term residents from some of Australia’s most established communities. View the trailer…
- Tender Funeral: A documentary about a community project at Port Kembla providing services for the aged and their families at the end of life. To live and die in community with dignity.
I didn’t get to stay and do site tours so I cannot report on that, sorry.
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