Are you keen to make positive changes towards a holistic lifestyle, be more engaged with your community, live sustainably, and develop a better relationship with the environment, but are unsure where and how to begin? All that you hear about leading a green lifestyle sounds like daunting stuff, and you are already pressed for time.
Take heart, you are not alone and you don’t have to do it all on your own. A global movement, called Permaculture, has been at the fore-front of bringing about this change. It is a fast-growing community of thousands of individuals dedicated to leading environmentally conscious lives, while helping others to take the green plunge.
Here are a few organisations running Permaculture courses, events, and workshops in Australia that can help you start on your green journey:
1) Permaculture Sydney North: Permaculture Sydney North Incorporated (PSN) is a non-profit environmental community group, based in Sydney, Australia. Formed in 1992, it covers the eleven councils in the northern region of Sydney; Hornsby, Hunters Hill, Ku-ring-gai, Lane Cove, Manly, Mosman, North Sydney, Pittwater, Ryde, Warringah, Willoughby. The group, run by volunteers, is organised into local groups and specialist teams which take on different types of activities related to Permaculture. They organise monthly meetings featuring speakers to raise awareness of sustainable living, deliver quality, affordable Permaculture Design and Introduction Courses, and offer affordable workshops on a wide range of topics, including composting, balcony gardening, bee-keeping, bamboo construction, grey-water treatment, pest control, bread and cheese making, pickling and bottling, weaving, repair, bicycle maintenance and soap-making from scratch. One of their local groups, Permaculture Northern Beaches, has its own website also.
2) Noosa Forest Retreat: Noosa Forest Retreat, co-founded by Ian Trew, is a grass roots holistic permaculture community and education centre in the United Nations biosphere awarded Noosa hinterland on the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland. As a 162-acre permaculture managed property and teaching centre, surrounded by Woondum National Park, Noosa Forest Retreat is one of largest and longest running permaculture community and teaching centres in Australia. It is a community of specialist presenters and provides the standard 72-hour world famous permaculture curriculum while offering a unique focus on personal ecological awakening and teaching, designed not only to produce food but have a complete integration to live as one with nature. They also offer a free online Permaculture introduction course and publish a free permaculture info magazine.
Apart from this, they also provide Natural Building Course and Workshop to teach building houses utilising natural, local and sustainable materials, permaculture internships, permaculture volunteer and work exchange programs. You can even buy or lease a share of their organic, fertile land, next to a fresh water stream or rent accommodation for short to long term and be fully supported in your natural health journey to grow organic or permaculture food with fertile land, abundant fresh rainwater, irrigation systems, tools and support provided.
3) The Food Forest: In 1983, Annemarie and Graham Brookman attended a design course with permaculture concept developer Bill Mollison and within a few weeks had documented a design that is now The Food Forest, a 20 hectare permaculture farm and learning centre in Gawler near Adelaide, South Australia. They offer a consultancy service and run courses on permaculture, building with straw-bales, organic farming, fruit and nut production, sustainable house design, growing mushrooms and micro-greens, food preservation, and poultry-keeping, to name a few.
The centre provides people in Adelaide with 150 varieties of certified-organic food, wine, cider, vinegar etc., sequesters 300 tonnes of CO2 annually (in increased soil carbon) and welcomes interns from around the world to experience sustainable design in action. It runs on stormwater and the composted green waste and delivers largely-unpackaged food to urbanites via the Adelaide Farmers Market.
Awarded as one of Australia’s top certified organic properties, prime exemplars of landcare, environmental education, and sustainable business, as well as one of the best medium-scale permaculture properties in temperate Australia, the enterprise educates school and university groups and conducts human-scale research and development. They even have a movie made on their Permaculture journey, called “Design for Life - The Food Forest Story”! Check out their YouTube channel too.
4) CERES: CERES is an award winning, not-for-profit, sustainability centre located on 4.5 hectares on the Merri Creek in East Brunswick, Melbourne. Pronounced ‘Series’, the name stands for Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies, but is also inspired by Ceres, the roman goddess of agriculture.
The land it stands on used to be a quarry, and then a rubbish dump site, before its transformation into the ecological heaven it is today. A community organisation, CERES runs extensive environmental education programs, urban agriculture projects, green technology demonstrations and a number of social enterprises including a market, grocery, café, community kitchen, organic online supermarket and a permaculture and bush-food nursery. They not only offer a complete Permaculture Design course and short duration Permaculture workshops but also have several other sustainable education courses, like Urban Farming, Horticulture Therapy, Landscaping & Gardening, etc. They also run a huge range of workshops on bread-making, cheese-making, plastic bag up-cycling, vegetable pickling, fermentation, mushroom cultivation, ancient basketry, edible weeds, and many more interesting topics, round the year.
Apart from this, they also run other outreach programs like, Teacher Professional Development, workshops for schools and early childhood centres, Youth and Adult Disability Program, Excursion and Incursion Programs, Vocational Education, Training, and a CERES Global program which lets people travel across the world on unique participatory, cross cultural, educational and skill sharing programs.
All images courtesy of CERES
5) Sustainable Education: Sustainable Education, founded by Melissa Cooper, offers an online Sustainable Living Certificate Course and several informative, affordable, fun and interactive homesteading workshops for all ages. These range from workshops on growing your own veggies, raising chickens, backyard permaculture, composting, natural fertilisers and pest control, etc. From humble beginnings, and Melissa’s desire for change, Sustainable Education has grown into a professional organisation, offering one of the best trainings in sustainable living practices. She also runs sustainable food tours, that educate communities in the importance buying local, through farmer’s markets, co-op’s, local industry, organic shops, and boutique farms, where you begin to love your food, reduce waste, inspire healthy change and create jobs.
The Sustainable Living Course Certificate is an online program, delivered over a series of live webinars and online downloadable content. Therefore, you can study at your preferred pace, at any time of day, from anywhere in the world. With a recommended commitment of just 3 to 4 hours per week, the course has been designed with an 18-month time frame in mind to allow time for you to grow at the same pace as your newly nurtured environment. You can also find resources like climate-based planting guides and a journal on their website.
6) Milkwood: Milkwood, at Melliodora in southern Australia, is a beautiful permaculture smallholding designed by David Holmgren, co-originator of permaculture, and is run by Nick Ritar.
They have a large crew of educators, facilitators and doers, who teach everything from permaculture design to market gardening, bio-intensive growing, natural building and mushroom cultivation. The courses are run in Sydney, Melbourne and, regional NSW and Victoria, and also online. They also provide free online resources and offer world-class training to give you the confidence to create permanently sustainable systems and help develop resilient and abundant households and communities.
7) Zaytuna Farm: Situated on a 66 acre property that fronts Terania Creek in Northern NSW, Zaytuna Farm has numerous swimming holes and abundant wildlife. Operated by Geoff and Nadia Lawton, it is a working permaculture education and demonstration farm with ever -evolving on ground research in practice. Apart from the residential Permaculture Design Course, they also run several permaculture and sustainable living events and workshops all year round. And also offer permaculture volunteer and apprenticeship programs.
The students get an opportunity to learn while experiencing a real life permaculture farming and gardening live-in working experience situation. In addition to classroom time, students train and work on daily farm duties interacting and caring for farm systems which can include animals, crops, trees, nursery, aquatics, irrigation, renewable energy, waste and recycling.
They also run the Permaculture Research Institute at the farm site. The mission of this institute is to work with individuals and communities worldwide, to expand the knowledge and practice of integrated, sustainable agriculture and culture using the whole-systems approach of permaculture design. And also provide daily permaculture news and info through www.permaculturenews.org.
8) Permaculture West: Established in 1978, Permaculture Association of Western Australia (PAWA) is one of the oldest such organisation in the country. Rather than being an institute that provides permaculture courses, it is a state support group for a decentralised collection of local permaculture groups and brings together people from several different permaculture groups in Perth and across Western Australia. The association’s activities have largely been to conduct field days, run a free seed-bank, publish a monthly e-newsletter, and allow members to gain more information and access to permaculture resources.
They have also teamed up with Perth Green Events to bring out a calendar of permaculture events across the state every year that range from workshops on energy efficiency, reducing plastic usage, permaculture, water harvesting, waste reduction, and mushroom cultivation to movie screenings centred around environmental issues.
9) Permaculture Cairns: Permaculture Cairns is a non-profit community group that aims to implement sustainable design systems throughout the Cairns community. They regularly hold permaculture workshops and Working Bee sessions. Workshops are designed to educate members and the community, on a wide range of topics that fit within the guiding ethics and principles of permaculture, like backyard gardening, growing nutrient dense foods, aquaponics, and composting, etc. Working Bees sessions, on the other hand, give members an opportunity to learn about Permaculture and its practical applications by working on each other’s gardens.
10) Accredited Permaculture Training (APT): Accredited Permaculture Training (APT) is nationally recognised vocational training in permaculture. APT courses are offered by some TAFE colleges and Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) and range from Certificate I to IV in Permaculture as well as the Diploma of Permaculture. The courses are recognised by the federal government’s Vocational Education and Training (VET) scheme and are part of the Agriculture, Horticulture and Conservation and Land Management Training Package.
While APT does not replace the Permaculture Design Course, these courses are competency-based training and can be viewed as either an alternative or an addition to the PDC. The courses are designed to offer further training to develop a person’s knowledge and skills in permaculture practices and techniques, and help them gain a qualification recognised in Australia and linked to job outcomes.
Whichever course you choose, we wish you luck on your Permaculture journey and be sure to head to our social media pages to keep us updated on your progress too. Happy growing!