Jun 20, 2011

Permaculture Down Under

Take the Green Road

Australia is the birthplace of permaculture. In the late 1970’s Bill Mollison and David Holmgren put pencil to paper and coalesced the ideas and practices of indigenous farmers and modern experimentalists into a series of books, most notably the Permaculture Designers Manual.

The Big Black Book

Some have said that if information was density, then this book would be a black hole. 700 pages of very small text and wonderful illustrations, this is the Bible of Sustainable Design. Each sentence is a book unto itself.


Northern New South Wales is where permaculture took root, with communities like Crystal Waters sprouting up to put into practice the theories and techniques espoused in the Good Book. We had the pleasure and honor to visit two other sites, both designed and managed by Permaculture Legends and Pioneers.


Djanbung Gardens is located in the town of Nimbin, New South Wales. Djanbung means platypus, and is the name given to the site by the local Bundjalung people. Though we never saw a platypus, this area is indeed perfect for the amphibious marsupials, as it is full of water and muddy ponds.

A djanbung, or platypus, graces the walls at Djanbung Gardens

Robyn Francis, the First Lady of Permaculture, and steward of Djanbung Gardens

Djanbung is the home of the Permaculture College of Australia and the leading lady of PC, Robyn Francis. With her patient and able hands, along with the help of her many students, Djanbung has been converted from a once boggy site to a verdant farm with orchards, gardens, and giant bamboos towering overhead.


SWoBs attended the Djanbung annual Open Day themed “Simple Steps to a Better Tomorrow”, for a series of short workshops on everything from BioChar, community development, bamboo construction, compost tea, and last but not least the incredible work in the Amazon by Nicola Peel. SWoBs also had the pleasure of giving a short demonstration of our work, including our video “Plastic Seas”.

BioChar made from Eucalyptus twigs and macadamia nut shells

Bamboo construction

Compost Tea demonstration

Organic vegie seedlings for sale

Treats from the garden including Robyn's Own Tabasco Sauce- delicious!

SWoBs gave a short presentation to the group

Just over the hill to the east lies another inspiring example of sustainable design on the ground- The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. Started by Geoff Lawton in the late 1990’s, the farm known as Zaytuna is over 60 acres of rolling hills now dotted with ponds and swales, harvesting every drop of rainwater falling on the site.


SWoBs Founding Director Loren Luyendyk attended a 5 day Teachers Training Course held on site, along with other interns participating in a 10-week program. In between and before classes students had a chance to tour the site and see experimental permaculture techniques, including a rocket stove powered hot shower!

The rocket stove shower rocked!

Chris with the super beefy solar power system

Nursery to propagate fruit and native trees

The graduating class!

Zaytuna is a veritable encyclopedia of earthworks. Swales catch rainwater and channel it into many ponds, which connect in series to become its own watershed. Ponds are stocked with fish, including perch and bass. Native eels make their way into the artificially natural system, and bamboo and fruit trees are planted along the edges to take advantage of the moisture and microclimate.

A new swale before planting

After planting...

The ponds are connected by swales, and are filled with fish

This area is perfect for permaculture. Plenty of rain and fertile soils make the region possibly the most productive and diverse climate, supporting a range of crops from apples to mangos. Plus there is heaps of surf. Pretty much heaven…


SWoBs have returned to NZ for another stint, to tour more permaculture sites and catch a few more waves. Stay tuned for round 2. Hope you had a great International Surfing Day!

2 comments:

permaculture.biz said...

G'day Aubrey and Loren,

Nice report: are you still going to go down south to check out some of the sites down there?

Love, Daz

Linda said...

Super report - thanks! Hope you'll tell us all about it at a Permaculture Guild meeting when you return...

Linda