My permaculture journey started way back before my consciousness of what permaculture is – began.
At my Nana’s knee in fact. My grandmother was a classic Depression gardener. Everything left over, spare and not needed went into her garden.
As a child, I delighted at the treasure trove of goodies to be found whilst digging in the sandy soil of her seaside garden. Oyster shells, tea leaves, rusty iron bars, paper and newspapers, old toys, bits of brick and lawn clippings … a veritable ocean of lawn clippings!
She would go on evening walks around her suburb snipping a cutting here and there which had made its way over the fence of some unsuspecting neighbour. That time-honoured tradition of what’s hanging over the fence is fair game, still exists today I am sure, but for Nanna it was a fait accompli.
Hers was a large urban block of some 1200 square metres, with garden all around the perimeter and a large soft rolling couch lawn in the middle. A mature date palm edged with a circle of liver-coloured bricks sat just near the Hills hoist, waving its fronds in the sea breeze. A man would come every year and collect seed from that tree and I’m sure half the date palms in Australia are related to that one, such was the abundance of seed it produced.
Certain habits were a ritual, such as tipping the tea leaves from the pot each day over the Christmas bush that sat at the back stairs or procuring manure for the lemon tree down the back with the cover crop of strawberries underneath.
Her habits must have been catching because I can recall family tales of her daughter (my aunt) growing garlic under the roses in the front yard of her home in a very conservative Australian country town. Yes, it was companion planting. It wasn’t quite the scandal, but almost!
Years later I can recall papering my entire front yard with newspapers to suppress weeds and old grass, much to the neighbour’s surprise – before laying a new lawn.
It worked a treat. I had the best lawn in the street bar none!
A few years later I heard a story on the radio about two Australians who had invented a new way of growing food called permaculture. Bill Mollison and David Holmgren inspired me to plant a large vegetable garden and fruit trees.
The ground was hard packed clay and the climate was cold and frosty, so results were mixed. And I had my losses, birds devoured the grapes as soon as they ripened, and the dog got into the rockmelon patch and chewed through every piece of ripe fruit. But the chillies grew amazingly well, as did the cherry tomatoes. I was hooked.
Next, I moved to a windy, salty beach side suburb where everything seemed to struggle. I persevered. And bit by bit success came. I composted, I wrapped young trees in hessian against the wind, I watered constantly from the bore under my backyard – the citrus, passionfruit and a mango did well. Even the bananas fruited under my watchful eye aided by a liberal dose of coffee grounds donated by a local barista. A good crop of tamarillos one year encouraged me to order a few sub-tropicals from Daley’s to try.
They hated the salty winds and one by one they turned up their toes. The vegetables were woeful. Nothing liked the black acid soils. It was very discouraging.
The neighbours were discouraging too. They loved their lawn monocultures, devoid of any trees or shrubs.
Each February when the heat hit, the whole suburb would brown off, except my little patch of green, with its fruit trees, gingers and tiger grasses framing a lawn longer than what was fashionable, with chooks pecking around at the edges.
One day I asked myself… “Am I the weirdo here?” It was then I knew it was time to move. I simply didn’t fit anymore. I wanted to be somewhere where people gave a damn about their environment, where when the topic of soil came up, their eyes didn’t glaze over and where everybody knew what a swale was and what it was for.
At the time I was working as a journalist for a metropolitan newspaper. It was long hours, inside at a computer. I lived for the weekends when I could go to the garden. I am not religious, but that garden was my church. It fed my body and my spirit.
So, when redundancies were offered, I thought long and hard about my life, and then put up my hand.
I decided I was going to study permaculture. But before I left, I left my readers a legacy, a feature story on a local permaculture couple, Mark Brown and Kate Beveridge of Purple Pear Farm.
A visit to study their setup and systems convinced me I was doing the right thing. An intensive deep dive into Geoff Lawton’s amazing videos following that, had me enthralled.
From the very first, a new world unfolded. What was to follow was three immersive semesters of project-based study with supportive and knowledgeable teachers. Along the way, I moved again, this time to the Northern Rivers area of NSW where I supplemented my Diploma studies with additional training at the Permaculture College of Australia with permaculture pioneer, Robyn Francis.
Again, I was amazed by how much support and knowledge Robyn gave me, offering me the use of her extensive library at any time with which to complete my diploma studies.
While I was doing my diploma, I completed several courses with Robyn including Advanced Design Skills and Teacher Training.
I met incredible people through my studies and learned so much that I could apply in my own life.
Today a few years on, I am doing permaculture on an old gravel quarry and I work as a country real estate agent in a village where permaculture is as normal as breathing. I even list and sell properties in a dedicated permaculture community.
My gravel quarry is coming along nicely and while it has a long way to go, I would say if permaculture can work on a gravel quarry, or green a desert – it truly can work anywhere!
I have been able to pair my work and my study together beautifully, because now I can read a landscape easily, understand and design water systems effortlessly, assess issues by the weeds that grow there and along the way, sprinkle my clients with a healthy little dose of permaculture!
It’s my way of giving a bit back to the discipline which has given to me so much already.
Western Australia educator Dr Ross Mars has announced that students can now enrol in the online Certificate IV in Permaculture course (AHC42115) through Perth-based Skills Strategies International.
Skills Strategies International is the first Registered Training Organisation (RTO) in Australia to offer Certificate I, II, III, IV and Diploma in Permaculture as well as the 4-unit Permaculture Demonstrator Skills Set.
For those interested in becoming a teacher of accredited permaculture courses the Permaculture Demonstrator Skills Set is also available as an online course.
Certificate I and Certificate II in Permaculture courses are being delivered in several West Australian schools as Vocational Education and Training (VET) programs.
Setting up nursery irrigation
Permaculture qualifications can be obtained through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). Email Ross to be sent details about this service.
Our permaculture past revealed through stories from Permaculture International Journal.
In this article from edition 72, September-November 1999 of Permaculture International Journal, Lisa Mollison (1) and Kathy Jack outline the idea of furthering permaculture education with a Permaculture Academy. Authors: Lisa Mollison, Kathy Jack. Mining the archive series editor: Russ Grayson.
Towards an integrated education
MANY PERMACULTURISTS can relate to the frustrating experience of dying to obtain an integrated education. Some have pursued an education in costly institutions which foster specialised and disconnected courses of study, others have taken proliﬁc workshops and many have read books and conducted extensive independent research. While this has led to many interesting adventures and creative pursuits among permaculturists, most can see the usefulness of having our own school.
In 1985/86, Bill Mollison visited fellow academic Bob Macoskey at Slippery Rock University, Pennsylvania. Both lamented their dissatisfaction with the status quo of current education. In their experience as university professors, university systems were not producing people who were of use in society. Only two percent of graduates work in the ﬁeld of their degree. What could be created which would be of use to the needs and realities of the world? From these discussions the philosophical foundation of a Permaculture Academy emerged.
An ‘academy which attempts to unify knowledge and action towards a life enhancing goal’, a centre of ‘free enquiry’ with no ﬁxed location…
Building an Academy
In 1993, Bill published The Foundation Year-Book of the Permaculture Academy (FYB), summarising the intention, form, development strategies and operations of the Permaculture Academy. Bill sought to build ‘An academy whose purpose is to pursue the goal of excellence in the integrated design sciences’. An ‘academy which attempts to unify knowledge and action towards a life enhancing goal’, a centre of ‘free enquiry’ with no ﬁxed location.
In the FYB, Bill gave shape to an academy that will be accessible to anyone and will issue globally recognised degrees. Permaculture Design Course (PDC) graduates with postgraduate degrees may register as regional vice-chancellors. Vice-chancellors may appoint regional supervisors to work with students or serve as supervisors themselves. Supervisors must hold the level of degree that the student is working towards.
Fields of study include:
architecture and building
ﬁnances and business
resource development and research.
The supervisors and vice-chancellors oversee the academic process. A Diploma in Permaculture is required for admission to the Academy. All students register with the Academy registrar.
In 1995, Bill commissioned Inger Myer of Texas, a PDC graduate with a law degree, to research the establishment of the Permaculture Academy. Her extensive research included the incorporation, licensing and accreditation processes of other non-traditional schools in the US.
In 1996 the Permaculture Academy was incorporated as a 501 (c)(3) non proﬁt tax exempt corporation in the state of New Mexico. As a 501(c)(3) the Academy can apply for grants and receive donations. The Academy is currently on the path of becoming licensed and accredited.
Being an accredited school means our degrees will be recognised by other educational institutions as valid. To become accredited, the Academy must ﬁrst become licensed by:
Clearly deﬁning the bachelors, masters and doctorate programs, which are approved by the High Commissioner of Education.
Establishing an Institutional Advisory Committee to review the programs and standards of the Academy; and
Being operational. This means having an ofﬁce, a full time administrator, a curriculum and employed teachers.
Currently, the directors of the Academy are working to meet these standards. Lisa Mollison has been a managing director of the Permaculture Institute since January 1997.
The Foundation Year Book (FYB) is available from Tagari Publications for $6 plus postage and handling. The last article on the Academy was Published in P1J 47, June 1993.
(1) Lisa Mollison was the wife of Bill Mollison.
Rowe Morrow & Hannah Moloney will lead a permaculture teacher training in Ballarat from Saturday evening Nov 17 to Friday Nov 23, 2018.
Rowe will also then be attending the Yandoit Shindig and PEG gathering on the 24th & 25th. Most of the regular permaculture teacher training events on the permaculture calendar are in NSW so we’re very pleased to create this event in Victoria. Permaculture Australia will receive the majority of funds raised from the event, which is being run by Ballarat Permaculture Guild Inc.
To apply, email firstname.lastname@example.org for an application form. Registration will not be through the BPG website but by direct application. This course is designed to provide the necessary skills and confidence to deliver the internationally recognised Permaculture Design Certificate curriculum to students anywhere. Students will be able to develop a curriculum, structure a short or long course to maximise student learning, and design effective learning resources. By the end of the course all participants will have had the hands-on experience of a range of teaching methods and strategies, and will understand how to inspire and engage learners in a way that results in deep and meaningful learning.
Rowe has a very student-centred approach so if your experience so far has been lecture-style delivery, this could be a great opportunity to learn some new approaches. Even if you’ve been teaching for some years and are quite comfortable with your own teaching approach & style, attending this training could be a fabulous networking & collaboration opportunity as you’ll be working in small groups with the other students. You’ll learn more about existing colleagues and get to meet some of the ‘up-and-comers’! There are two scholarship places available at the reduced fee level of $400. These will be awarded based on additional information provided by students who can show how their completion of this training will advance permaculture and their communities. What that looks like will be different in every case. Students might, for instance, show how they will create significant community benefit or introduce permaculture to a new cohort of learners. Letters of support from relevant stakeholders will strengthen a scholarship application. Scholarship applications will be received until October 1st and successful applicants will be contacted shortly thereafter.
Please note that if you enrol, you are required to attend ALL sessions. There have been issues on previous courses with students opting in and out of various sessions depending on their interest, perceived competence or need to deal with other business or pressures. If you know in advance that you can’t attend all sessions, please don’t enrol. Make arrangements to have pressing business dealt with by others so that you can focus fully on this great opportunity. Course fee is $800 and includes:
6 days training & group work, including evenings (9am – 9 pm)
class notes & resources
morning and afternoon tea & supper
catered lunch & dinner on-site
Course fee does not include accommodation or breakfast. There are nearby accommodation options ranging from camping to hotels.
More about your teachers… Rowe Morrow is an internationally renowned Permaculture Teacher who has written numerous permaculture books, including The Earth User’s Guide to Teaching Permaculture and Permaculture Teaching Matters. She has taught the Permaculture Design Course (PDC), and her popular Teacher Training Course, throughout Australia as well as in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. She has co-taught with Lis Bastian, co-founder of the Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute, for the last decade. Both she and Lis are passionate about teaching permaculture in a range of contexts, from communities and organisations, to business and government. Rowe is particularly interested in teaching permaculture in war-torn countries like Afghanistan, as well as countries facing major social or economic challenges, like Portugal, Spain and Greece.
Hannah Moloney grew up on a city farm in Brisbane (QLD) growing herbs and has over a decade of hands-on experience in designing, building, managing and doing projects around urban agriculture, small-scale farming, permaculture and community development. She has a post-grad diploma in Community cultural development, completed her Permaculture Design Course in 2008 and since 2009, has been teaching permaculture across Australia with the likes of the Southern Cross Permaculture Institute, the Permaforest Trust (which has since closed) and Milkwood Permaculture.In 2011 she completed a Diploma of Permaculture with Eltham College. In recent years Hannah has had the pleasure of teaching alongside some of the most celebrated permaculturalists in the world including David Holmgren (co-founder of permaculture), Rosemary Morrow and Dave Jacke (US author of Edible Forest Gardens). In 2015 she was awarded the Tasmanian ‘Young Landcare Leader Award’ for her work with Good Life Permaculture and co-establishing Hobart City Farm.