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Fiona's Farewell

Often when something in our lives ends we look back and reflect on what we may have done differently.  I look back on my journey with PEA’s and I wouldn’t do anything differently.

I bumped into Marina at a grant writing event hosted by WasteSorted Schools some time before PEA’s was created.  We were both there wearing our school gardening teachers hats and learning how to apply for more grant funding for our schools.  Before long realized we realized we were both into Permaculture, had a great day chatting and then went our separate ways.

In late 2017 I was contacted by Marina and Martina with a proposal.  Martina at that stage was co-teaching with Marina at a primay school garden.  They wanted to know if I could catch up for brunch to talk about delivering a PDC with them.  A few days later we met and I discovered they were wanting to start teaching Permaculture Design Courses (PDC’s) here in Perth.  I had started doing some guest teaching with Ross Mars on his PDC’s and really enjoyed it, so it was a natural fit and off we went and “Permaculture Educators Alliance” or “PEA’s” for short was born with the first PDC being delivered in early 2018.   Business paperwork was run through Gaia Permaculture until we worked out if this was a good fit or not. 

Three PEAs in the early days

By December 2018 we had registered Permaculture Educators Alliance as a company and became equal Directors, things had gotten real!  For the next couple of years, we enjoyed with great success facilitating together, getting creative, meeting the most fabulous students and it was a natural progression to move into the accredited training with Ross Mars, eventually taking this over with Martina in 2019. 

I delivered AHC10416 Certificate I in Permaculture to a class of 15 Education Support students in Yr 11, 12 & 13 at a high school located on the coast south of Perth.  The following year I was closer to home delivering AHC21716 Certificate II in Permaculture.  These two experiences taught me an incredible amount of understanding, different learning styles, working with teenagers and their “super powers”.  Levels of language, literacy and numeracy called for some seriously creativity around lesson planning and delivery. 

Permaculture designs were done in Minecraft, with Lego, using recycled materials or explained vocally.   Tool handling and working safely involved digging up the school’s beach volley ball court then putting it back together.  Bioregional analysis extended to an excursion to work with SERCUL revegetating a local creekline.  We harvested, prepared and stored permaculture crops into awesome chocolate beetroot cakes, 1 minute microwave zucchini chocolate puddings, broad bean dips with veggies and zucchini & carrot fritters with a herbed yoghurt.  It was amazing to see these young adults take great pride in creating something to eat from food they had grown, often from seed, and then share it with each other, staff & other faculty.  Fabulous! 

There was so much I learnt here that I could bring back to PDC’s with Marina and Martina.  We all had our own ways of teaching a concept and subject matter and really complimented each other well.   By this time, we were running 3 – 4 PDC’s a year and taking students all over Perth to experience what Permaculture would look like on the ground and in Community.  Days at Ross & Jenny Mars’ Candlelight Farm in Mundaring, taking up room at Ecoburbia down in Beaconsfield, being a guest of two of the most generous people you can ever want to meet, Dario & Michele from Jetto’s Patch and somewhere in there we even had a few days at Hilton PCYC behind Hilton Harvest.  It was great fun and even better, we got to hang out with some really interesting and inspiring students who I learnt so much from.

Teaching at Ecoburbia - always joyful!

During this time, I had been lamenting (complaining) to my partner for about 18 months about my frustration that Permaculture needed to infiltrate mainstream and felt I was destined for local government somehow.  I had been running numerous workshops for many throughout Perth and realized there was a real need for more Permaculture “stuff” in the mainstream.  It wasn’t until late 2021 that I successfully gained a 3 month back fill position as a Sustainability Officer with a Local Government.  My job?  Support Community Gardens, run a school sustainability grants program and assist where necessary with tree and plant delivery programs.  The contract kept rolling into another 3 months and when the opportunity came to take on the role permanently, I jumped at it.  What better place to Trojan horse filled with Permaculture ethics, principles and practices to reach people on a broad scale!

Through this I was still designing and consulting, delivering PDC’s with Martina and Marina and running workshops through Perth.  It was then I realized something had to give as I just wasn’t managing and I started to pull back from being involved in the PDC’s and Martina and Marina kept them moving along at a cracking pace.  By this time, Martina and myself had taken on all the delivery of Permaculture qualifications from Ross Mars, who had retired.   However, as my role and responsibilities increased with the local government, I also realized I could not maintain the business end with PEA’s to the level it needed, and with a very heavy heart and after much discussion with my partner and then Martina, it was decided I had to step out of PEA’s.  A year earlier Marina had also left the business to focus her time and energy with family and so it left Martina with a big decision – take on PEA’s on her own or we fold the company.  I am so incredibly grateful and proud of Martina making the big decision to just jump in with both (bare) feet, running the show solo with PEA’s now with her own branding and energy. 

As for what we achieved, I am proud beyond belief of where PEA’s has ended up from a meeting one warm day in the Swan Valley in 2017, countless preparation days at each other’s houses and then the 140+ PDC students who have participated in PDC’s since we launched in early 2018.   It gives me a great sense of satisfaction to know that we have supported this many families to achieve new ways of living, they have inspired us equally if not more than we have inspired them.

I have seen an explosion in the interest around Permaculture and perhaps we have the lovely Hannah Maloney and “Costa” Georgiadis from ABC’s “Gardening Australia” to thank in part for their dropping of the “P” word throughout their episodes.  The expansion in the demographic of people doing the PDC’s and accredited training since first starting out on guest teaching spots with Ross Mars compared to now has really changed.  There are a lot more students from town planning, landscape architecture, engineering, environment, sustainability and other more academic fields of study joining the people doing it for personal reasons.  One of the main things we hear students say time and time again is “we thought Permaculture was about gardening, but it is about a whole system thinking way of living in every area of your life” and they are all 100% correct.

I tried to find an inspirational and philosophical quote to finish this off but none really did it for me so I think I’ll just sign off with a “ciao for now”, keep learning and through the practice of quiet, non- dogmatic demonstration you might just find strangers pushing the Permaculture door open and asking the elevator question “what is Permaculture?”.

Have a safe and happy holidays, see you somewhere in the future no doubt (cause Perth is so small!).


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