Bill’s Gift of Optimism

chicken-laughing-saladMost of the time, Bill Mollison smiled and lied. He led people to believe that change to a permanent culture was “embarrassingly  simple” .
As a result, thousands of Australians were filled with optimism believing they could be instrumental change makers.  Despite the fact that there were few demonstration sites and not much scientific evidence, a lot was invested by everyday people. And a lot of paid off.

Says Who?

The technical limitations of the 70s and 80s were huge. Most people didn’t know what food plants looked like, how to store rainwater in the soil, how to establish local barter systems or how to harness natural energies. But the ‘earth-carers’ of this new era moved with confidence and built a wealth of really handy information.  With confidence, a movement grew to include research councils, academic clout and beautiful demonstration sites.

Unafraid Of The Unknown


Impatient and unwilling to wait for further research papers to prove the theories of permaculture, Bill encouraged people to go out and try things for themselves.

It was a brave stunt and it paid off.  Without any funding or scientific rigor, many people went out and just did stuff.  Although most of city projects were a mix of half-baked weekend projects and ‘so-called hippy’ social experiments, we must not forget the resounding successes in starving nations like Cuba. (Many quiet and hard working Australians like Robyn Francis and Robyn Clayfield went abroad to help people in need. And many are still there). From those bare-faced, naive Australians a gigantic world-wide movement grew.

Bill ‘Let It Go’

Success came by encouraging anyone who would listen and anyone who cared.

Ordinary people began to do extra-ordinary things.

mandala-cubaAnyone and everyone was encouraged to try to build their observation skills, listen to nature, own homes, raise their children with different thinking and defy long held, well promoted customs and laws. Unfortunately, some of these laws and customs remain ridiculously defiant.  (i.e. keeping thirsty, high maintenance lawns or not daring to hang your laundry outside). But other customs have quickly changed.  Many practices such as mulching, harvesting water into tanks or rain-gardens, recycling, composting and worm-farming are now commonplace around the world.
Above all, it was this immense naive optimism that enriched millions of people’s lives. The optimism achieved mundane targets of reduced their waste whilst offering grand hopes for a better future.

That’s how you create a culture!  You aim to question the values and change the habits.


Bill saw the desperate need for action and he led those willing to adapt.

Bill didn’t invent the wheel. Instead, he built the connections and handed us the steering wheel. Whilst he often acknowledged his mentors, he saw how a new set of values and design thinking could shape a new, sustainable, culture. These teachings were timely, insightful and brutally honest.

It’s Our Turn

rooster_coolAt the Sydney National Permaculture Convergence Bill said he ‘stood on the shoulders of giants’. Perhaps his sudden rise to fame after winning the alternative Nobel Prize gave Bill super-confidence. Or perhaps it was because he enjoyed shocking people into action.  Regardless of the root cause, Bill Mollison became Gladwell’s tipping-point salesman.

With his recent passing, it is now our turn to share the optimism, harvest information from the elders, support the new promoters,  and continue to forge ahead.

Ownership is Ours

Bill Mollison and April Sampson-KellyThe 70s change-makers didn’t just follow his ideas. They were enthusiastic about them and owned the results. Yes  they often failed but shared this and made continual improvements.  Because the small successes were so frequent and so sweet they pushed on. Slowly but surely, the work of these lone-wolf pioneers built the huge banks of knowledge and resources we now know as permaculture.

Consequently, this wealth of information and ideas now belongs to us all. This empowerment was conceived by optimism and fed by a sense of adventure. People had food in their bellies and many surprise side-products to savour.

Empowerment is a gift that last for generations.

hearing-aid-mechanicalThis empowered movement gave young people the confidence to build a better future. And many became those new change makers. As we enter each new era we need to keep our focus on empowering the young.

Permaculture is now more than just growing food in the cities to reduce pressure on existing forests. Permaculture is also about the social development needed for a sustainable relationships. Building peaceful relationships with one another and with the earth.

unusual-foodsSince the 80s we have demonstrated how easy it is to grow food in the cities. We now turn our minds to developing the social aspects of Permaculture. This is the new frontier. With a similar  spirit of hopefulness we can generate extra-ordinary action.

Learn more with a personal mentor. Enrol Here






























Leaders In The Hot House

Finally, climate change is on the mouths of babes.

When Enough People Lead,
The Leaders Will Follow

we-can-do-it-chickWhen politicians and religions leaders such as Pope Francis start discussing the environment it is essential that we bring the gap between the enlightened elders and mainstream. Those aged aquarians, greenies, gurus and pacificists have a lot to teach us. They represent decades of failure as well as progress. Actually, it is the years of failures that are more precious than the small successes that have been adopted by mainstream (composting, pet chickens, mulching, rain-gardens, solar panels, rain-water tanks, biochar). This wealth of knowledge equips mankind to build a sensitive path to a cleaner future.

It’s Not About The Planet, It’s All About Us

ostrichLet’s be honest, the issue is not about saving the planet. This global call for action is about saving ourselves. Mankind has a very sensitive set of climate comforts. We can’t bear hotter temperatures. Most of us at sea-level but our homes don’t float. The food we eat also needs particular climate conditions. In fact, most of us only eat 12 different types of food plants. So we are enjoying a very fragile set of cultural conditions. And those conditions are indeed changing. There are very few people who continue to challenge the science. And there are many more enjoying an enriched and empowered lifestyle.

Quiet Permaculture Leaders

raspberryPermaculture leaders are usually humbly working and living on their sites. They rarely get out and would rather be designing than advocating. Being an advocate is not their strength, they are out of tune with modern propaganda. But they are very much in tune with design, efficiency and laws of nature and energy. They live by the principle of obtaining a yield. Screaming at the deaf is not something they would enjoy.  But when the objectors quieten down, they can hear the singing.

Sometimes, the permaculture leaders leave their native habitat to go to convergences. They pack away their day-to-day musings, half finished projects, rare breeds and quirky experiments. They pack a bag, maybe scribble a presentation and venture out. In fact, most elders at the convergences don’t even present. You have to walk up to them and ask them about themselves. It is their curiosity in the mainstream world and trust in sharing that brings them to invest in others.

building no-dig garden beds

At these rare moments you get a glimpse of the philosophy behind the showcases of best practice in sustainable living. Once or twice in a decade a leader will join a permaculture convergence. It is at this moment you may get the chance to meet a real leader. Then you can see them demonstrate how permaculture can bring about positive changes in many people’s lives.

Get On Board!

paul_silvia_loretta-3-shy-birdsCome and join the upcoming convergence in Perth, Australia in a few weeks. You can share your story and part of the solution. One of the best experiences in permaculture is being able to go and visit mature sites. There are some great tours after this convergence with rare glimpses into abundant, tested and functional permaculture gardens and homes. You will also get to meet many permaculture leaders and discover how it works in their unique bio-region.

Find out more at and join us on facebook to keep up-to-date with the program and events. You can also volunteer for the event here. You can also support an elder to get to the convergence here.








Immerse Yourself in a Permaculture Design Course

we can do itWhy Do a Permaculture Design Course?

There is a truck load of free information about permaculture today. There are videos and specialist pages, consultants to do the designing for you and associations with newsletters, field days and conferences.

Is a Course Really Helpful?

get empowered“Isn’t there an ap for this? Surely it would be faster and easier to hire a designer. The designer could design our lifestyle for us”.  Er, yes! You can get a designer but it would be handy to be able to understand how it works to how to operate the design. A permaculture design is as flexible as a bicycle it will hum along in basic mode or you can ramp it up to a higher production mode whenever you want to. [Bill Mollison]

Get Empowered

It would be wonderful to be able to steer the permaculture design as your needs change. It would be paradise to understand how the design functions, know how to connect with it and build the abundance. Yet the ultimate permaculture experience is the empowerment.


The permaculture design course gives you more than a design.
It gives the skills and tools for empowerment.

In the earlier years of Permaculture interviews London asked: Short of starting a farm, what can we do to make our cities more sustainable?

Mollison answered: Catch the water off your roof. Grow your own food. Make your own energy. It’s insanely easy to do all that. It takes you less time to grow your food than to walk down to the supermarket to buy it. Ask any good organic gardener who mulches how much time he spends on his garden and he’ll say, “Oh, a few minutes every week.” By the time you have taken your car and driven to the supermarket, taken your foraging-trolley and collected your wild greens, and driven back home again, you’ve spent a good hour or two — plus you’ve spent a lot of money. Permaculture can be as simple as sitting down and drawing the plan then a little effort in implementing it and then some time in harvesting the rewards.

before and after permaculture design

If you have always wanted to do a full permaculture design course, this is a great way to do it. Jump in. Immerse yourself in a full permaculture retreat with local and international participants of a range of ages and backgrounds.

Time to retreat and plan

students on winter Permaculture Design Course Bandusia 2015

Take time to slow down, think deep and plan for a busy growing season. Perhaps you have already been learning heaps about Permaculture but not yet finished your PDC, this is a good chance to push through.  Retreat and Renew. Learn about practical elements of growing food, social aspects of building resilience in your community and become more self-empowered.

Upcoming Permaculture Design Course Retreat

We research, share, and teach permaculture online. Thanks for supporting us.Learn permaculture with experienced and mature elders in St. Albans near Sydney Jan 2018

Permaculture Sydney Institute engages only highly experienced and professional trainers for the Permaculture Design Certificate Course. All are practicing Permaculturalists deriving an income from Permaculture. Each has over 15 years experience in the movement, and vast experience in work and training. They also come highly skilled and qualified in a range of related professions and specialist areas.

Book yourself in and join us.  April Sampson-Kelly of Permaculture Visions International teaches face-to-face in a PDC only once a year.  In this Permaculture Design Course there will be the chance to learn from great mentors.

April and Snowy her hand-raised goose
April and Snowy the hand-raised goose

If you want your stay to be super comfortable then be quick to book yourself a room. If you want to connect with nature and bring a tent there is the option to camp beside the pool and join in for hearty meals.

Lots more information at

Bandusia - how to get there
How to get to Bandusia


Postcard from IPCUK: International Permaculture Conference

Energy affects everyone IPCUK Recently, we went to IPCUK – International Permaculture Conference and Convergence in London.  Permaculture Conferences are a great chance to exchange ideas and get a sense of where the movement is headed.  This conference had a bright confident atmosphere and there was a deep sense of maturity and belonging at the convergence. Congratulations to Permaculture UK. The hosting association was strong, purposeful, empowered and well-organised with great teams and buckets of enthusiasm.

Great Cultural Icons

What I loved most about this conference was the was bright and tangible cultural flavour.  Of course, the meetings were openly welcome for all the international delegates, but always there was a lovely English cultural flavour.

There was a touching sense of pride and value in:

Richard Webb sharing the knowledge of the landscape, pollarding and native foods.
Richard introduces us to centuries of pollarding
  • Native foods (such as apples, berries, cider, beer, sandwiches, cheeses)
  • Traditional folklore such as wreaths for crowning the hard-working-well-deserving volunteers, and traditions such as natural plant dyes. We enjoyed reading the landscape,  learning about ancient forest animals, the shaping of the forest by horse riding, hunting and tree management.
  • The Arts – Theatre, poerty and song.  Three Acres and a Cow did a fantastic play that sang about the clearances and the value of ‘a people versus the land.’ This made me surprisingly sad because I am descended from people those very same people who were undervalued and shipped off.  Later, as I left the English Autumn, I realised how blessed I am that my people landed in a rich and creative culture.  A behind-the-scenes session by Charlie MacGee was magical, personal and fun. I was so proud of you and pleased our little crowdfunding donation was very well spent in your early years!!
Epping forest, London IPUK delegates from Africa and Hong Kong marvel at the wasted abundance in a major city
Epping forest, London IPCUK delegates from Africa and Hong Kong marvel at the abundant wild food in a major city
  • Tributes to the local history: even the venues were of cultural significance. The Conference venue [The Quakers Friends house] is an old English Society that has changed the notion of peace around the world. The Convergence venue [The World Scout Headquarters] is also an English international movement and has taught many young people world-wide life skills. (including myself).  We enjoyed a guided talk through Epping forest by permaculture teacher, Richard Webb. It was great to see these cultural icons. (people, traditions and places)

A Clear Future for the Permaculture Movement

Keri Chiveralls (left) is heading up a Permaculture Graduate Diploma with world-wide recognition.

Since the last Permaculture International Conference  and Convergence (IPCUK ) a lot of social aspects of the movement have been developed. The movement is getting more skilled at finding the balance between people care and earth care.

  • On the grass-roots level we are seeing a lot of strategies that were once touted as alternative-living or hippy practices (composting, solar power, growing your own food, supporting local markets, fixing things and having a go at doing-it-yourself) now recognised as common-sense and even good business strategies.
  • There is strong direction in building the evidence-based research and a world-wide research community to investigate, document and publish findings. There is also incredible growth in permaculture education at university level (The new Permaculture Design and Sustainability Program at CQUniversity looks very exciting).
  • The education and training for people of all walks of life and backgrounds is also expanding and a clearer map is forming of global best-practices which include mature and bountiful demonstration sites and communities.
  • Finally, the most promising development for me was the emergence of co-operation, overcoming the competitive corporate thinking that rules most of the western world and building a new community of resilient, intellectual harmony.

Co-operation on The World-Wide Permaculture Stage

The Next-Big-Step project got hundreds delegates together listening to one another and

Andy and Naomi presenting the Next Big Step goals. IPCUK
Andy and Naomi & The Next Big Step.

talking about their passion and challenges and we saw the beginning of a plan to bring permaculture together as a truly cohesive, aware (documenting one another’s projects: successes, failures and goals) and well-researched movement.  Here is a link to their working papers if you want to be involved.

This Convergence demonstrated the incredible potential of co-operative projects rather than competitive permaculture.  Competitive behaviour will sometimes rears it’s ugly head in permaculture This is all part of a democratic, empowered society.  It was a joy to see the maturity of a movement that can sit together and learn from one another regardless of how famous or successful each individual has become.

April and Wes Roe discussing the value of getting together at International Conferences and Convergences.


Permaculture and The Emergence of Big Business

Permaculture has achieved what the movement wished. In just a couple of decades it has been embraced by mainstream.  It has become a common word and is now having to shine its boots and pull up its socks.
In the early years, businesses in permaculture was frowned upon. It didn’t seem fair to allow commercialism to profit from a grass-roots movement that had ethics and empowerment at it’s heart. In some cases the frowning came most unfairly from people who had secure paid work in permaculture-related fields (teachers, writers, lecturers in sociology, mental health advocates, organisers of festivals and conferences etc).
If it is ok to have a job related to permaculture, then surely it is ok to have a business in permaculture. In fact it is more than ok, without people in small permaculture businesses, we wouldn’t have the magazines, the news articles, the suppliers of rare plants, animals, biochar, worm-farms etc.

Most of the functions that are needed for the permaculture movement today have been filled by enterprises such as Permaculture businesses and social media enterprises (google, facebook etc).
A few impressive tools have come out of community-based projects such as wikipedia, libre-office, farm-hack, TED (and other online communities)

The activities that have truly helped permaculture flourish in the last decade include:

  • the creation of large data-bases with records showing providence of teachers
  • standards for the Permaculture Design Course and Diploma courses,
  • networks for guilds,
  • good demonstration gardens and villages.
  • good marketing strategies,
  • promotion, funding, organising and facilitation of guest speakers, talk-tours etc
  • Information/resources including magazines, news articles and books
  • video clips, animation to document sucesses over time and how these came about.

Most of these functions would never have been able to be organised and funded by an independant centralised global Permaculture Association. Luckily, existing skilled business people have had their finger on the pulse and jumped in to build these assets.
But it is important that we remind permaculture businesses that there is more reward in their efforts than just money and power. They can become leader in world business practices by building good business ethics into their permaculture businesses.
Without business ethics a successful business quickly rises to become a powerful corporatehood. Corporations crush competitors by undercutting, restricting supply and flooding the market.
Corporate-hood has become a business phenomenoa recognised well in the USA with vocal, massive backlash from communities. Corporations in the USA have become so powerful that they have earnt almost equal rights as individuals. They certainly can afford better legal representation, and have the funds to campaign for the things that will make them bigger.
Bigger is not always better. In permaculture we talk about limits to growth as well as fair share and valuing diversity.
Good permaculture business practise

  • enables all the workers to obtain a local and enriching livie-hood,
  • shares excess by supporting other permaculture projects,
  • does not demand exclusivity at the cost of limiting a supplier to work elsewhere,
  • sets up systems that acknowledge the good work of others,
  • has marketing that is honest and fair (do your research before making bold claims of “being the biggest or the first or the only”)
  • reflects the ethics of permaculture
  • sets limits to growth
  • reinvests earnings in local people and environment
  • acknowledges we are all standing on the shoulders of giants and nurtures others to follow them by establishing honorable practices
  • holds the torch for sustainable [ISO14000] and ethical practices.
Permaculture Principle: Set limits and redistribute surplus
Permaculture Principle: Set limits and redistribute surplus

About the author:
April Sampson-Kelly began her main small permaculture business [] in 1993, she presented a paper at the Perth International Permaculture Conference in 1996 to open discussion and help to infant businesses. She comes from a long line of women who have had their own businesses. She learnt how to run a business by listening to and joining in conversations around the kitchen table as a child. Her mother’s last business was as systems consultant and quality auditor. She learnt about systems whilst working part-time for her mother. She never borrows money nor seeks funding for a project. She demands that the income from a project be much more than just cash earnings. She invests in local suppliers, employs others casually and supports them in their own side ventures. She always starts small and sets limits so she can have a life outside that business and includes a succession plan.  She is presenting a paper on Art of Permaculture at the next national conference in Tasmania, then facilitating a think-tank at London IPCUK. She is also involved in “Next Big Step” Global permaculture group.

Cicadas Singing

cicadaCicadas are the loudest insects in the world and there are more than 200 species in Australia [AM]. -The intense noise is thought to scare away predators and can reach 120db.

Here is an elderly Black Prince (Psaltoda plaga) found in our permaculture garden as he was lying in his death roes.

“Cicada facts:

  • Only male cicadas sing. They do this in an attempt to find a mate.
  • Different species have different songs to attract only their own kind.
  • Adult cicadas have short lives, usually only a few weeks.
  • Most of their lives are spent as nymphs underground. For some species this can be up to several years.
  • Cicadas feed only on plant sap using their piercing, sucking mouthparts.
  • Cicadas feed on a huge range of plants, including eucalypts and grasses.
  • Birds, bats, spiders, wasps, ants, mantids and tree crickets all prey on cicadas.”

– See more at:

India To Host International Permaculture Conference 2017

IPC17India“Close the Gap. Open the Circle”. [1]
At the recent International Permaculture Convergence held in Los Cocos in Cuba, India was voted to host the 2017 International Permaculture Conference IPC. In Late November through to early December 2017 India will host the IPC in Hyderabad, Central Southern India.  The petition for India was lead by Narsanna Koppula Secretary on the Board of Directors of Aranya, the hosting organisation. The bid for India was researched, prepared and supported by a team of permaculture activists from Australia – April Sampson-Kelly, Pete the Permie, Sylvia, Arresh, and Miranda. We also very grateful to Tierra Martinez, Rodolfo Almaraz for your brave support,  knowing that Latin American, especially Argentina, will indeed hold a wonderful Conference in the future but still you graciously accepted that Asia deserves the opportunity.

“Aranya”, the name of the Indian hosting organisation means ‘the forest’ and their mission is to research and implement alternative agriculture through permaculture practices. Narsanna is also on the board of director of Permaculture Association of India.  Aranya has hosted the National Indian Permaculture Convergence, has over 70 full time staff members and many people trained and experienced in hosting conferences. It also has over 1000 permaculture gardens and 100s of farms to demonstrate good permaculture projects in India.

India is an economically resilient country, neither dependent on imports or exports. Hyderabad has recently hosted two major international conferences on Biodiversity and World Agricultural Fair. which was attended by 62 countries. Hyderabad is the silicone valley of India so there will be no technological restrictions and ample professional assistance for all levels of the process.

The proposed theme for the Indian Conference and Convergence is “Close the Gap. Open the Circle”. [1] There will be a strong focus on the plight and power of women in creating change to close the gap between rich and poor and open the circles of understanding, knowledge and wisdom of the elders. Recently Vandana Shiva has supported permaculture and she will be invited to be a Key note speaker at this conference.  Robyn Francis has promised to help teach the PDC leading up to the Conference because 2017 celebrates 30 years since the first PDC taught in India, indeed in Hyderabad by her and Bill Mollison.

[1] The proposed theme was created and designed together by Permaculture activists April Sampson-Kelly and Loretta Buckner, and Film director Gillian Leahy who collectively hold the copyright with permission for use solely by Narsanna Koppula and Aranya, as the hosting organisation for IPC17-India.

Here is the website for the Indian International Permaculture Conference and convergence and permaculture tours. You can now register your interest to help or attend.

Looking With Fresh Eyes

The most valuable Permaculture skill is observation. With observation we can learn about natural energy sources and how we fit in to the natural world. We can discover opportunities and notice our impact.

fresh_eyes_frogThis week, whilst watering the worm farm gardens, we found this frog on one of the food pipe covers. This is native to our area. It is called a maniacal cackling frog and a distinguishing feature is the cross shape in the eye.

Prunings and Cutting Your Time

This week one of our Mulberry trees was over ambitious and bore a heavy crop. The wind came and broke a branch. So now we have feed for the poultry (near-ripe mulberries and leaves), and mulch for the garden. Some people might chop it all up where it falls, then cart it to where you can use it. prunings_Permaculture_Visions1-682x1024We move it first then cut it up as it lies where we need mulch, the leaves fall to make mulch and the stems and branches are propped up drying ready to use as fuel later. We can cut it to size for the living room fuel stove or if it is slightly too long we can use it in the office combustion stove or if is too long for there we can pop it in the pizza oven. Nothing is wasted in the garden. Even weeds become liquid manure.

How To Save Your Pets In A Heat Wave

Climate change means there will be more freak weather events and more sudden stresses. Some events, such as heatwaves are slow enough to give us a chance to be prepared and act.  Sadly, a lot of people don’t know what to do when they and their animals suffer. Don’t wait for the heat wave to arrive, there is plenty we can do in preparation.

Here are some easy tips:

  • Give your animals self determination in timechickens_self_determinations of stress. Fencing offers security from predators and enables us to manage the animals and plants but fencing can also limit a creature’s choices in difficult times when they really may need to find alternative habit.  Leave the gates open in a heat wave, or heavy rain and risk of flood.
  • Check there is a range of habitat choices including high ground, marshy ground (you can use a sunken dish or fill a pond with earth, water and plants, fresh-water ponds, water-dishes, grasses, shrubs, trees, shade and patches of full sunlight with fresh air (to help kill fungi). Keep trees, shrubbery, nooks and elevated structures within the enclosure to enable you animals to find refuge during floods or to hiding during a heatwave, fire or predator attack.
  • Create shade.  In a heatwave there are many things you can do to make life more comfortable for animals in the heat.    You can get immediate shade by using hessian sacks which you can get from free from many retailers such as coffee grinding outlets, take-away shops or wholesale fruit and vegetable suppliers.

hen_chick_permaculturevisionsUse a natural cooling system based on heat transfer which occurs during evaporation of water. You can hang wet sacks on the walls of their enclosure and have the tail end of the sacks soaking in a trough of water. The water will be drawn slowly up the sack and dry off in the heat. This makes the surrounding area much cooler. This works most effectively in dry climates. In the tropics, this system would not be as effective as designing the space to catch breezes and funnel them for best use.
If the enclosure has a metal roof, hose this down and then cover it securely with cardboard, hessian, old carpet or woven matting. Add a ventilation device at the rooftop peak to allow hot air to escape or simply cut a hole in the top of the wall to let the heat out.  Domestic farm animals are creatures of habit and will return to a roost when they are exhausted and ill even if it will kill them so check that the roost is ventilated.