In Adelaide today, at Central Queensland University, students are making history as they begin a brand new course: A Graduate Certificate in Permaculture Design, the first university-accredited permaculture program in Australia.
On Friday last week, the Hon. Jay Weatherill MP, Premier of South Australia, and CQUniversity Appleton Institute Director and Engaged Research Chair Professor Drew Dawson, officially launched the program.
Based in Adelaide and available to students nationally and internationally, CQUniversity’s Graduate Certificate in Permaculture Design will give professionals the skills of truly sustainable design, and has the potential to revolutionise our transition towards a low-carbon future.
The event also recognised the work of permaculture co-creator Bill Mollison, with CQUniversity bestowing on him an Honorary Doctorate of Science.
Skyping in from his home in Hepburn Springs, David Holmgren, who sits on the Advisory Committee, delivered the following address:
I’m not sure that I can live up to that introduction in a few minutes, but it is good to be able join permaculture colleagues, university staff and the South Australian premier at this launch, without the need to burn precious fossil fuels (and contribute to climate change).
I want to applaud the university in its timely award of the honorary doctorate to Bill Mollison and its role in the Garden of Earthly Delights project. Obviously I could say many things about Bill but just one might be appropriate. Beyond his co-conception of the permaculture concept is clearly, the father of the permaculture movement. His vision that a social movement, based on education through the Permaculture Design Course, was the best way to carry our original and evolving vision out into the world, has stood the test of time (despite my original skepticism.)
It is 16 years since I wrote the section on permaculture in the Alternative Ag unit in the first post grad diploma of Sustainable agriculture, at what was then Orange Agricultural college. That course was part of the wider adoption of permaculture in the late 1980s and early 90’s, that I have identified as the second wave. Of course, the first wave in the late 70s and early 80s, was associated with the energy crises and the huge interest in sustainable alternatives, at that time.
I see this CQU course breaking new ground in the spread and diversification of permaculture education, as part of long, slow third wave of permaculture design, activism and education that is building, not just in Australia but right around the world.
These waves have run counter cyclical to faith in mainstream values, governance and economics. These pulses of permaculture activism reflect a heritage of earlier waves of ecological sustainability innovation in the 1890s and 1930s that coincided with challenging times.
It is highly appropriate that of all the places in the world, this event is in Adelaide. While ups and downs of economic cycles and activist enthusiasm have been as big a factor here as anywhere, I think it is true to say that permaculture has played a consistent role over more than three decades in making Adelaide and South Australia, more innovative than its population size might suggest.
Grass roots household, community and small business activity have been the core of permaculture activism everywhere, but in SA there has also been a healthy interchange with those seeking better policies and institutional change from above. Many people and projects have contributed to that creative exchange but I want to make special mention of Graham and Annemarie Brookman from the Food Forest in Gawler for their tireless efforts in creating sustainable solutions that resonate for radical visionaries, the average punter and policy wonks alike. It is no accident that this course was conceived here in Adelaide, given that post graduate education in permaculture has been part of Graham Brookman’s vision for as long as I can remember.
As one cranky ecological pioneer to another, Brookman knows well my skepticism about University education but he did manage to persuade me to support this course as representing the best of university education. I also acknowledge that Keri Chiveralls infectious enthusiasm and dedication and Drew Dawson’s can do approach to working within institutional structures were influential.
As I concentrate on finishing my book Retrosuburbia: a downshifter’s guide to a resilient future, the world is moving, into what could be described as an economic, geopolitical and ecological convulsion. While most of the outcomes will be bad news, I trust that this course and my book will be part of a tsunami of permaculture positivity about how we can surf a prosperous way down.
More specifically I see huge opportunities for the household and community non monetary economies to grow and prosper to provide basic and even more sophisticated needs and in the process rebuild community spirit that will be so necessary to that prosperous way down.
If there is a simple message for anyone working top down, including the premier, it is to focus on reducing the regulatory and other impediments to flourishing household and community non monetary economies. This is an equally important task to, considering policies that support households and neighbourhoods to be more self-reliant and permaculturally productive.
I trust that one of the outcomes of this university program will be the ideas for the policy initiatives to help that vision unfold over the coming years and decades.