What It’s Like to go Beyond a PDC

First Diploma Crew in WA

For the past three years Araluen, Renee, Georgina, Fiona and Andrea, have travelled to Candlelight Farm in Mundaring, WA, to complete a Certificate IV and Diploma of Permaculture. We have met at least once a month for the weekend workshops and training sessions.

As you can imagine with any accredited training course, there has been a huge array of units and topics, and we have covered, in this year alone, climate variability issues, soil erosion and sediment control, plant tissue and soil analysis, soil improvement techniques, field research on transition towns, managing projects, natural building materials, Permaculture structures, strategic planning, climate risk management, and providing specialist advice to clients.

This training has enabled us to complete several in-depth permaculture designs and reports for community groups, schools, and private rural and urban properties. Each of us also undertook some field research, and besides examining various techniques for germinating seeds, we also developed questionnaires on the feasibility of a neighbourhood recycling scheme, and people’s opinions on a whole range of topics as part of a study to support the ‘unleashing’ of the local Mundaring Transition Group.

Over the past three years, as our knowledge has grown, we have all developed strengths in different areas. Being a part of this group of women has been great, as we all come from different backgrounds and are at different stages in life, which means we really complement each other, and we bounce design ideas off each other to come up with solutions to design problems. This makes us really look forward to our monthly catch ups. We have also all kept in contact with each other outside of the course, becoming good friends, and keeping ourselves updated with all the latest happenings.

Each of us had a different path until we undertook our permaculture design courses (with different teachers in WA). This course was life-changing and we yearned for more information and sought further study. Well-known permaculture teacher, designer and author, Dr Ross Mars, was offering Accredited Permaculture Training, and this is now we all met and started our journey together.

Araluen, Andrea and Georgina undertook Cert III in Permaculture with Ross in 2009-2011, and this course involved lots of hands-on skills and techniques. We learnt how to weld, lay bricks, screed concrete, build rammed earth walls, lay strawbales, make mudbricks, install irrigation, use dumpy and laser levels, draw to scale, and perform water and soil tests. After graduation in 2011, they were joined by Fiona and Renee for the Cert IV and the Diploma courses.

Cert IV Permaculture is where we focussed on designs for clients, writing reports and undertaking research on appropriate technology, structures, and plants and animals for our designs. We did designs for schools, community gardens and a number of urban and small rural properties. Some of these were paying jobs, so we were able to offset the cost of producing and printing the designs and reports for our clients and ourselves. We all began to realise that our passion for permaculture could become our livelihood.

By the time we started our Diploma we had a wealth of experience, and we put this to good use when we started designing for new clients and new situations. We developed new skills and techniques as we sampled for dieback disease (phytophthora), sent off plant tissue samples for analysis, led discussions with clients, designed silt traps and other erosion control measures, and got a little better at editing and proofreading so that our reports were more professional.

The journey has been amazing in terms of what we learnt, who we have met and the places we have been to. It has also been frustrating as we are studying part-time and a lot of the reports and research are done at home. The treks up and down the highway from Bunbury to Mundaring for two of us have also been a big commitment and have meant we have missed out on time with our families.

We have all loved working on the reports as the different properties and client’s needs make you think outside the box and teach you not to impose your own ideas on their designs. The designs are not monuments to ourselves but to our client’s dreams, hopes and wishes.

Dr Ross Mars has a wealth of experience, has been very generous with his knowledge and his time, and has been very supportive as he understands that we all have very busy lives. We have all thoroughly enjoyed the course and we want to thank Ross for all of his efforts in teaching us skills to become champions for permaculture.

written by Araluen, Renee, Georgina, Fiona and Andrea students of Ross Marr

Dr Ross Mars. Wastewater specialist. Permaculture Teacher, Author, Designer

Water Installations Pty Ltd, Greywater Reuse Systems. www.waterinstallations.com

Candlelight Farm Permaculture Centre www.cfpermaculture.com.au

Mundaring Ecostay. www.mundaringecostay.com.  Red Planet Plants. www.redplanetplants.com

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