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Pip Permie Of The Year 2018

This is our inaugural Pip Permie of the Year Award. We started this award because we wanted to celebrate dedicated people making change in the world with permaculture.

NOMINEES

Callum Champagne, Che Hall, John Champagne, Karen Lenehan, Kat Lavers, Kate Venning, Kelly Ryder, Oscar Woods, Peter Axisa, Phil Shanny, Remus Avramides, Tania Brookes, Tom Speldewinde.

AARON SORENSEN (NSW)

WINNER

Interview by Robyn Rosenfeldt

aaron

Aaron Sorensen is our Pip Permie Of The Year for 2018. Aaron’s dedication to permaculture has made a huge impact in the schools he is involved with and the students he has taught. Aaron works with kids, teenagers and adults to teach them how to practically implement permaculture into their lives and gardens. Aaron is creating lifelong learning pathways for students from kindergarten to year 12 with career opportunities at the end.

What permaculture related work are you involved with and what’s your role?

I’m fortunate to be working on a number of progressive local and regional projects that are not only transforming parts of the urban landscape but also local culture. The first is Elemental Permaculture’s Living Classroom program. What’s unique about this project is that it’s a partnership born out of two local community gardens, local industry (BHP, Blue Scope Steel and other businesses), local primary schools and high schools, and a group of talented community members. The aim was to remediate the environmental impacts of heavy industry on schools and students in the fallout of the steelworks.

I have also helped Five Islands Secondary College develop the curriculum for permaculture to be offered as a HSC subject. The curriculum was adapted from Elemental Permaculture’s Permaculture Design Course. The unique aspect of the subject is that the students implement theory with practical activities in their Living Classroom, which is a Permaculture Demonstration Site.

The second area of work is with Elemental Permaculture on our Spring Permaculture Design Course. This is a hands on, highly practical PDC delivered at a working high school Permaculture Demonstration Site, with participants getting to see the theory in practice. They also get to build gardens that integrate the topics of earthworks, soils, trees and water while benefiting the school.

The third area of my work and the most fun is with community gardens. There’s a fantastic permaculture demonstration site on the Wollongong PCYC grounds. What I love about The Garden is the freedom to trial ideas, the spontaneity of the monthly gatherings and the legacy local gardeners carry with learned permaculture practices and the distribution of unique plant material.

Why permaculture?

The inspiration was always there to do something positive. Permaculture provided the vehicle to start something. It gave me permission to just go for it. It has a solid foundation with its ethics and principles that sets it apart from other design sciences and land management. It’s powerful because it sets a framework when engaging and working with people. It’s positive and solutions-based.

What is your greatest achievement in permaculture?

It’s hard to choose but it’s probably the various successes of my students from high school permaculture, the Permaculture Design Courses and other mentoring programs. For example, two young people aged 18 and 19 starting a business designing and building suburban permaculture systems.

What is your most memorable moment of your permaculture journey?

The first was during the build of The Garden and the infancy of my permaculture journey. We planted around a keyhole bed, using it as a pioneer windbreak and dynamic accumulator to build soil, and attracted the attention of a couple of fervent bush regenerators. After being labelled an irresponsible environmental vandal for planting a weed species adjacent to a creek, it was apparent not all plant folk embraced permaculture. Over a couple of months and long conversations we were able to demonstrate our rationale for using ‘environmental weeds’. The Garden thrived and I gained a couple of bush regenerator friends. For me it confirmed permaculture as a holistic and logical tool for design and practice.

The second, Dan Deighton and I were invited as permaculture consultants on a master-planning project for an eco-development in eastern Lombok, Indonesia. The other people were very experienced, with some internationally known experts in development, architecture, landscape design, waste management, water, renewable power, ecology and facilitation. We were simple grassroots permaculturalists who worked with schools and on community projects. The group was separated into respective teams according to our area of experience and were required to develop recommendations. Around ten different sets of recommendations were produced; very few of them were connected with each other. Not only did permaculture have its place in the design process, it was fundamental in achieving the client’s needs. For me it was a realisation that as a permaculturalist I had something valuable to offer. Trusting in the experience I have, regardless of how humble it maybe. Don’t be afraid to speak up even in the company of esteemed experts.

What’s next for you?

Offering the Living Classroom in other parts of regional and urban Australia. Working abroad such as in South East Asia and Africa where people could use my skills, either delivering PDCs or grassroots projects.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

My two year old tugging on my arm to play.

LIS BASTIAN (NSW)

FINALIST

Interview by Robyn Rosenfeldt

lis

Lis Bastian keeps busy thanks to her work with the Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute (which she co-founded with Rosemary Morrow) and her organisation The Big Fix. Lis came to permaculture wanting to find solutions to empower people instead of alarming them about the serious environmental issues we face. Inspired by what she has learned, Lis shares her passion and knowledge about permaculture with others.

What permaculture related work are you involved with and what’s your role?

I’m the founder of The Big Fix Inc. which is a non-profit arts, community and media development service working cross-sector to build social, economic and environmental resilience according to permaculture ethics and principles. I co-founded the Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute with Rowe Morrow and coordinate the website, social media and teach Introductions to Permaculture, PDCs and permaculture teacher training courses. I’ve also developed my own permaculture property with a cold climate food forest in Blackheath (which is often open to the public) and I established and coordinate Blackheath Community Farm.

Why permaculture?

I recognised how seriously we were damaging the planet and how urgent the climate crisis was. I became desperate to find a way to create hope for their future, rather than the dystopian scenarios being predicted. It became clear that filling people with fear didn’t lead to the action required, so I began to look for solutions that would mitigate climate change at the same time as helping everyone adapt to it. None of the solutions that people were suggesting were enough to tackle the complexity of the problems, until I studied permaculture with Rowe Morrow. Permaculture’s ethical whole system approach to designing a better future was exactly what I’d been looking for.

What is your greatest achievement in permaculture?

Inspiring other people to adopt permaculture thinking and strategies to change the system, whether via permaculture classes or community projects, media, my work as a Climate Adaptation Officer in Central NSW or my lecturing in Operations and Environmental Management at Torrens University.

What is your most memorable moment of your permaculture journey?

When I was the Climate Adaptation Officer for 17 Councils in Central NSW, I wrote a short story imagining Central NSW in 20 years if all its towns had adapted to climate change with permaculture. I then worked backwards from the story to develop a 103-page Regional Resilience Strategy Options Paper which I worked through with all the mayors and general managers. When it came time for them to decide on which options to select, I was hoping they’d agree on at least one option in every resilience category (e.g. energy, water, food, transport, etc.). Instead a manager said, ‘If we’re serious about looking after our communities into the future, we have to select everything in here, don’t we?’

What’s next for you?

I am currently establishing local Big Fix groups and alliances.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The joy of still being alive.

LISA FERRIS (WA)

FINALIST

Interview by Robyn Rosenfeldt

lisa

Lisa Ferris loves to empower her community, something she does in both of her roles at a community garden and in a gardening group. Lisa did an Introduction to Permaculture course at TAFE many years ago and found its principles aligned with her own. Since then, she’s been living by the principles of people care, earth care and fair share.

What permaculture related work are you involved with and what’s your role?

My ongoing project for the last five years is volunteering as the coordinator of Thommo’s Community Garden in Bunbury. The garden is not for profit and is run by an amazing man, John Thomson, with the help of a few workers from the Work for the Dole scheme. One of the most rewarding aspects for me is being able to coordinate the planting and harvesting of the produce we grow for Foodbank in Bunbury—we deliver an amazing amount of seasonal organic produce each week to them. I’m also the founder and an active member of the Dardanup Edible Gardening Group. We aim to build people’s confidence in living and gardening sustainably.

Why permaculture?

Permaculture resonates with me because it embodies all that I believe in. To be able to provide my family and others with healthy fresh produce grown without the use of chemicals, all the while improving the soil, environment and health of our animals, feels so right.

What is your greatest achievement in permaculture?

By applying the permaculture principles to the three properties we’ve lived in, we’ve been able to leave them in a more harmonious state. And permaculture is a vehicle to connect communities—one woman (me) can make a difference and have a ripple effect. If you see a need, get in there and get going with it. That doesn’t mean you have to always be the driving force; empower others and help them learn the skills to make a difference.

What is your most memorable moment of your permaculture journey?

Are there sufficient words to describe the joy one receives from empowering others? It’s a special moment when someone shares something they’ve grown in their garden. You see them beam with pride, and rightly so, for they have begun a journey. Guiding them on their way and helping build a community of like-minded people is always a pleasure.

What’s next for you?

We held the inaugural Ferguson Valley Open Garden Trail last October and we’ll continue to develop this event, showcasing the fabulous gardens in our area. This year my aim is to raise the profile of edible gardens and I hope in the not too distant future to have several permaculture gardens open to the public for this event. I’m also collaborating on a local seasonal cookbook with my wonderful permie daughter, Wink.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The joy of life! The early morning walk around our garden with my husband, cuppa in hand, admiring and planning.

MICHELE FRANZINELLI (WA)

FINALIST

Interview by Robyn Rosenfeldt

mich

Michele Franzinelli’s garden has an estimated 200 food-producing trees, 168 seasonal vegies, 144 herbs and edible native plants, and 23 vines. Pretty impressive for a suburban Perth backyard! Michele and her husband Dario call their garden Jetto’s Patch, and they regularly welcome PDC and Transition Town participants, gardening groups and visitors to come by. Michele also runs a thriving Facebook group where participants share their knowledge and tips for growing and preparing food.

What permaculture related work are you involved with and what’s your role?

We cultivate a four-season edible garden, Jetto’s Patch, and open this to permaculture/Transition Town groups and sections of the general public to encourage wider interest in learning about sustainable suburban living and food growing. We provide information and identification of unusual edibles that are able to be grown in Perth’s climate. We show it is possible to grow a diverse collection of plants from varied climatic conditions and adapt them to Perth’s aquaphobic soils. Additionally we run a Facebook group focused on food growing and gardening named Jetto’s Patch (www.facebook. com/groups/JETTOSPATCH/) which focuses on gaining localised growing and homesteading skills and gently working with nature, for a wider community. Members are encouraged to share information from their own gardening/preserving/ husbandry experiences, problems and solutions, relevant articles, seed and surplus, and connect with local communities and events

Why permaculture?

Permaculture teaches all the elements needed to live well and in good health, tread lightly and kindly on our planet, and work in harmony with nature. It brings people together and also links us to our collective past of food growing, collecting and sharing with traditional skills.

What is your greatest achievement in permaculture?

Sharing plants and knowledge with others. Watching the seed

of enthusiasm grow and bear fruit in others to set up their

own edible paradise.

What is your most memorable moment of your permaculture journey?

The humbling realisation that we are all but a tiny part of the same natural system but can make a massive difference by our actions.

What’s next for you?

To continue the work of sharing our place with the public, to showcase plants and trees, no-dig gardens, composting, small animals in urban settings and encourage others across Perth to do similar. I’m looking at starting a local permaculture group as well.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

What gets me out of bed each morning is looking forward to the sun on my back, the seeds and plants to be tended to, chickens to be fed, the insects and birds to be studied, scents on the breeze, new life, new harvests, small joys. These things unfailingly brighten each day, filling me with a million reasons to love life and care for the earth.

STUART MUIR WILSON (VIC)

FINALIST

Interview by Robyn Rosenfeldt

stuart

Stuart Muir Wilson discovered permaculture at an early age and grew up working on his grandfather, Bill Mollison’s, farm. Stuart went on to do a Master of Architecture degree at the University of Tasmania, with his Honours focused on a permaculture- based project. He has taught and worked extensively with permaculture projects overseas. Stuart is now based in Melbourne where he runs the Seedwell program across two sites, and still regularly travels overseas to collaborate on various projects.

What permaculture related work are you involved with and what’s your role?

I run the Seedwell program which is a partnership between Jesuit Social Services (Brunswick) and The Salvation Army (St Kilda). This is one of three social and environmental justice programs I run from both sites. It covers an intro to permaculture, mushroom growing, tiny homes and garden to kitchen programs. I work with volunteers and the most vulnerable in our society to form resilient permaculture communities based on environmental stewardship.

Why permaculture?

Permaculture for me represents hope and resilience to the world’s most pressing problems. The strength of the permaculture grassroots movement has cultivated community empowerment and resilience in some of the hardest areas to work in (Northern Mexico, Zimbabwe and Jordan to mention a few). Permaculture transcends race, culture, language, society and ego, and directly addresses spiritual poverty and environmental disconnection. This is a fundamental strategy for addressing the root causes surrounding climate change and pollution; bringing people together from whatever walks of life to be part of an inspiring vision for tomorrow that’s healing a broken planet.

What is your greatest achievement in permaculture?

Finishing my Master of Architecture degree with Honours with a permaculture-based project. The project was based on a new post-peak oil and climate change proposal for Launceston, Tasmania. It centred around social housing, urban food production, growing biofuels and creating meaningful livelihoods for everyone. I presented this to the Australian Institute of Architects in 2012. Continuing taking permaculture to a professional design level, where the systems of design intrinsic to the systems thinking best demonstrate their full potential.

What is your most memorable moment of your permaculture journey?

Learning from my grandfather Bill Mollison for 11 years from the age of 12. This deeply shaped the person I am today, from my ethics, critical thinking, pattern language, observation, perspective, drive and passion for permaculture.

What’s next for you?

Working in Nepal with the National Permaculture Movement. Teaching Permaculture in Germany in June. Continuing to develop and run the Brunswick Eco Skills Centre (where Seedwell, the tiny homes project and mushroom growing workshops operate out of) for Jesuit Social Services as a community resilience centre.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Working and collaborating with amazing people on incredible permaculture projects across Melbourne (plus coffee). To learn more about Seedwell, read our article on page 74.

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