Author Archive | Maureen

Vale Venie Holmgren

Poet’s Corner, at Melliodora, was Venie’s home since she relocated from Pambula in 2012. On Tuesday many of her family and friends came together to celebrate her full life as a mother, grandmother, poet, activist, hippy traveller, avid scrabble player, friend and much loved community elder.

Friends and family carry Venie’s handmade coffin

Venie was laid to rest at the Franklinford cemetery in a hand-crafted coffin made by son David, grandson Oliver and friend Stephen Oram in Stephen’s workshop. You can read more about the making of the coffin and the significance of the materials used, here.

A number of family and friends eulogised Venie’s 93 year long life with poems, memories, anecdotes, tears and laughter. Among those who spoke were fellow poet Peter O’Mara whose beautiful eulogy can be read here.

Venie’s son David addressed the crowd with stories from his mother’s youth, and how her decisions and life view helped shaped his own. You can read some of David’s eulogy here.

Kevin Childs, in The Local magazine, wrote a beautiful tribute to Venie and a great account of her funeral. You can find it here.

After laying Venie to rest in Franklinford, her family and friends returned to her home to enjoy a feast of local produce, as well as the small extravagances that Venie loved to indulge in: prawns, salmon and oysters.

Thank you to everybody who came along to celebrate Venie’s long and colour-filled life. And thanks too, to friends from afar, who have filled our inbox with notes of condolences and wonderful memories of a woman whose spirit and tenacity will always be remembered.



Samuel Alexander interviews David Holmgren

Get yourself comfortable and settle in for a thorough look at David Holmgren’s latest thinking on the prospects for our future. In this interview Samuel Alexander of the Simplicity Collective poses written questions which David addresses over an epic 90 minutes.

For the last few months (and before) David has been absorbed in writing a new book, so there may be hints of some of the book’s contents in the interview. David’s thinking is informed by his daily work in the garden, even while keeping the water up to the food production system, the complex ideas are forming, being reorganised and constantly critiqued. The book is about retrofitting society for a quite different world. It elaborates and extends David’s 2015 Aussie Street Presentation, and Retrofitting The Suburbs essay .

The Aussie St story that traces four adjacent suburban houses and their inhabitants from the “1950s Golden Age of Suburbia” to the “Second Great Depression of 2020” has been particularly powerful at engaging with Australians who live in or grew up in suburbia. The new book will build on this and take  a wider perspective.

David will be launching “RetroSuburbia; a downshifters guide to a resilient future” in the new year with a website to match so watch out for the website going live, a book launch close to you, and associated workshops all over Melbourne.



Our Climate is Our Health

In the run up to Our Climate Our Health / Paris COP21/ People’s Climate March  Climate HEALTH Alliance is hosting a full day seminar on 19 November 2015  “Our Climate is Our Health: Integrating health in policy and decision-making for our low carbon world”

It’s 2030, and the world is firmly on a path to low carbon economies and societies. Governments across the world have introduced low carbon policies for energy and transport, zero carbon homes and buildings are commonplace, and many individuals and businesses now generate their own energy from the sun and the wind. The health of people was a key factor in motivating this shift.

At the seminar an advisory panel will describe how the 2030 scenario described above, happened, outline how different things are from 2015, and offer insights into the healthy future that lies ahead. Panelists include Grant Blashki (Nossal Institute), Susie Burke (Australian Psychological Society), Matthew Wright (Zero Emissions Australia), and Monique Conheady (Chair of Moreland Energy Foundation, founded Flexicar) and our own David Holmgren (Vision for energy descent),

The panel session is at 11am and is entitled  Imagining our low carbon world: a thought experiment

This seminar will bring the CAHA members and broader healthcare sector stakeholders together to learn from one another on advocating for action on climate change, will strengthen relationships and build understanding between health and environment groups, and work towards developing a collaborative national strategy on climate change and health – with the goal of getting policy outcomes within two years.

For more info see


APC12 recap


Oliver and Richard were really energised by APC12 !

The 12th Australasian permaculture convergence held at  Penguin in early March was a milestone in the return of permaculture to its Tasmanian origins. 

With a few too many great distractions I missed 75% of the sessions but was lucky enough to see Kat Lavers Skyping from Melbourne with her caring for your worm-farm presentation (watch those hot days). My partner enjoyed a workshop with Hannah and Steve Cooper interpreting the Principles through art. A highlight for me was the cheerful display of edible foods from around the world on the venue walls. Burnie local, Bruce French presented the Food Plants International database with stories of his times overseas teaching people to eat their local food (fresh, free, and many times nutritionally superior) rather than the western food in the supermarket. Bruce likes ‘helping hungry people feed themselves’ and to do this he insists on at least 50% female representation in his overseas (aid) work (as it works). Another local from nearby Somerset, Con Rhee, gave a talk which I found very helpful, practically, about designing the solar system for your needs. Minimise your needs first, says Con, invest in what you need, and keep the embodied energy investment in the hardware to a minimum….with the added benefit that you will be more likely to understand the system and may even be able to fix it yourself if anything goes wrong. Our local Castlemaine team Ian Lillington & Marita Zeh posited a ‘permie diet’ (no grains)! Their wonderful examples of fermented foods had a huge crowd trying them out at the end of the talk (no problems getting these living organisms across the border). These sessions were just a few of the 50 odd on offer.

David Holmgren looking short with tall poppies of Tassie permaculture  Hannah Moloney and Anton Vikstom

David Holmgren looking short with tall poppies of Tassie permaculture Hannah Moloney and Anton Vikstom

One of the presenters, Rosemary Morrow, couldn’t get to the convergence which also meant that the follow up Permaculture Teacher Training Course with she and Hannah and Anton of Good Life Permaculture had to be postponed. The course has been rescheduled and the new dates are 19-25 April.

Rowe Morrow, one of the world’s most experienced permaculture trainers will help build on the energy generated by the convergence. Rowe’s past history in teaching and training some of the most effective permaculture activists around, combined with the organisation and facilitation skills of Good Life Permaculture hosts Hannah and Anton, promises a great course, rare and not to be missed if you’re starting up in permie teaching, invigorating for those already teaching. Highly recommended.

says David Holmgren.

Each of the key note speakers deserve their own posts, meanwhile read David Holmgren’s keynote speech here,


Beautiful sunny Penguin and ~200 happy permies

I left Penguin with a huge appreciation for the creativity and energy alive and thriving in the aussie permie world and several month’s worth of top web links to explore.


How to create a resilient community

Back in 2009, the Black Saturday bushfire season rekindled a major focus of David’s permaculture design work, with a discussion paper for the local community, the reprinting of Flywire House and a series of presentations in the bushfire affected regions with Joan Webster, renowned bushfire educator and author who coined the strategy “stay and defend or leave early” to communicate the complexities of rational responses to bushfire threat. Those events were organised by permaculture colleague and Black Saturday  survivor Daryl Taylor.  Local bushfire forums organised by Hepburn Relocalisation Network followed with David, Joan and Daryl as speakers. In 2011 David and Daryl joined forces running workshops and further presentations on bushfire resilient landscapes and communities in NSW fire prone communities. In May 2013 Daryl hosted a two day  event,  Regenerating People..Place..Prosperity…Preparedness that brought together an incredible range of scientists, educators and activists all involved in various aspects. One of the highlights for both David and Su was the presentation  by another  local, bushfire scientist Kevin Tolhurst

This forthcoming HRN forum on Friday 17th October  brings together these three dynamic central Victorians to deepen local understanding of Firestorm Physics, Household Fire Planning and Personal Resilience ahead of the rapidly approaching bushfire season.

Both of Joan Webster’s books the Essential Bushfire Safety tips (3rd edition) and the Complete Bushfire Safety book are available from our online shop.






New tour season at Melliodora

Spring is a wonderful time to be in nature, also a great time to visit Melliodora. Make sure to book well in advance, as they are very popular.

While taking in the blossoms, daffodils and new green shoots, visitors on the tour also learnt about the practicalities of creating an interacting, productive food garden, maintaining a system that supports goats, geese, chooks, and humans, and how the four people who live here (plus visitors) are sustained through the Melliodora plants and animals on the property.

IMGP9565   Melliodora-goats

The bunya pines in the nearby gully, planted a mere 28 years ago, are starting to produce cones. They, along with the fire resistant blackwoods, are part of the long term regeneration of the gully. Come back in ten years and taste the deliciously edible fruit (nuts) of the bunyas!

IMGP9585   Free ranging chicken help manage pests

Melliodora is in full bloom. We look forward to the next eight months of tours held monthly from now until winter, and hope you take part in them.



Pip number 2

shop_pip2_800s1-400x400Australia has a Permaculture periodical called PIP Magazine. The second edition of this new magazine on permaculture and sustainable living is now available here. It includes informative feature articles on various aspects of permaculture as well as profiles on people, projects, gardens, farms, houses and businesses. It is full of practical ideas, recipes, reviews, a directory containing permaculture related businesses, courses and people and a classifieds section. Gorgeously designed and printed in colour on 100% recycled paper, this magazine brings to life the incredible diversity of Australian permaculture and displays cutting edge activity of the moment from all over the country.


Aussie St Suburbia Retrofit


David Holmgren looking short with tall poppies of Tassie permaculture  Hannah Moloney and Anton Vikstom

David Holmgren looking short with “tall poppies” of Tassie permaculture Hannah Moloney and Anton Vikstrom

Hobart July 19 was the final gig of the Foss/Holmgren around Australia speaking tour. With Nicole Foss back to NZ David took the opportunity of extended presentation time (80 minutes) to expand on some of the financial issues covered by Nicole and to add more creative ad lib flourishes to Aussie St.

Described by Brisbane permaculture pioneer Dick Copeman as “the permaculture soap opera” Aussie St is a light hearted but gutsy look at opportunities for creative in-situ adaptation in suburbia to the emerging crises of contracting economics, geo-political instability, peak oil and climate change.

This event hosted by Good Life Permaculture  at Sustainable Living Tasmania was broadcast live on YouTube. Despite the less than perfect visuals (and David being tired from teaching all day on the Good Life Permaculture Design Course)  this broadcast is well worth viewing for anyone who missed the Foss/Holmgren tour.


Note this video has been edited to begin with a brief intro by Hannah before the presentation that runs for 80 minutes with 15 minutes of Q&A



Travelling Australia without money

Natalie & Marielle GroupHolmgren Design regularly welcomes interns who come to add their energy to the maintenance of the house and garden systems and experience the Melliodora low-impact permaculture lifestyle first hand.  Melliodora interns share with us their permaculture experiences from their own country and from the places they have visited around the globe. Recently two unique young people from Sao Paolo, Brazil, brought a special gift, something that’s difficult to put into words, so let them speak for themselves:

Natale: I’m not much different from anyone else. I come from a traditional middle class family, grew up in a big city [Sao Paulo] and studied Law at university. The only difference I can see is that I’ve always been aware of social and environmental issues which make me feel as part of a small (but growing) minority of young people disillusioned with the conservative consumer society.
When I first thought about living without money I was living in the United States and working for Disney. I had been feeling very uncomfortable with the situation of the world for a long time and already wanted to do some traveling since I finished school. I didn’t know what exactly I was going to do or how I was going to do it, all I knew was that I wanted to travel around the world and spread love.
Just after this I read the books Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein and The Moneyless Man by Mark Boyle that I came up with the idea of doing this travel without any money. I still didn’t know what I was going to do or how but I knew it had to be without money.
I had two main reasons to start this journey in Australia. First, because it was here where permaculture was born – I always had a great interest in permaculture as the best way towards a sustainable living. Second, because Australia is 15,735 kilometers away from Brazil and only here I would find the freedom I needed to do what I had in mind.
I didn’t know that one week before I was coming to Australia I would meet someone and fall in love. What I also didn’t know was that instead of changing everything, she was going to make everything happen. Today I can say that I couldn’t have done these 10 months without money without her.IMGP7943
Marielli: My view and attitudes about money started to change when I traveled to Europe. The first 9 months I was making just enough money to pay for my food and accommodation but all the same I was still doing everything I wanted. It was during this time that I realised how much money I spent when I was in Brazil. In Europe I was consuming less and at the same time enjoying life as much as or maybe more than when I was in Brazil.
The last 3 months in Europe, I had my first experience of living without money. A friend of mine had invited me to live at her family’s hotel in northern Italy. They all knew that because of my visa I couldn’t work, but they insisted that I go and live with them. I had a room just for me, and was eating from the hotel’s restaurant. And in exchange they wanted nothing. I was so grateful for what they were doing that I couldn’t just do nothing so I helped with small jobs when they let me. I have no words to describe how important this moment was in my life.
I came back to Brazil with a different mindset. I was shocked with how much money my family and friends spent. I had decided I would spend only what was necessary.
On the 3rd day after I came back from Europe I met Natale at a music festival happening in a museum (a free-entry event). I remembered we were talking about my trip to Europe, which lead to a conversation about money.
A few days later we were cycling in Sao Paulo and Natale explained to me about his trip to Australia. He said he wanted to spread love to everyone and the best way to do that would be with no money. I thought it was a fascinating idea but I was still asking if it was really possible to live completely without money. Two months later I was in Australia living without money with him.

natale, hamish, marielli, maureen

Marielli and Natale:
To help with this journey we chose to do the WWOOF program. The WWOOF book was the last thing we bought in 10 months. It’s definitely not the only way to do a moneyless experience but it was certainly of great help. By WWOOFing we would cover our main needs of food and shelter and at the same time work at something we really believed in.
When we weren’t WWOOFing we relied on the love and generosity of people who always offered us food; and on the stupidity of a society that supports mass production and wastes thousands kilos of food everyday. To be honest we’ve been very picky in our “dumpster diving” – visiting most of the time local and organic veggie shops. We always find some kind of fruit or vegetables and with luck sometimes we find nuts, cheese [still cool from the fridge], and beautiful loaves of bread.
We never in our whole lives had such a good and healthy diet. We believe that about 95% of the food we eat is organic and most of it comes straight from the garden.
During the last 10 months we passed through permaculture schools, permaculture farms (well developed and on early stages), communities and attempted communities and private homes, all of which contributed enormously to our learning experience.
We also volunteered for a month at the Woodford Folk Festival. Woodford is not only an incredible cultural event; it also gives a really good feeling of community. In total there were 2000 volunteers that lived, worked and shared meals together weeks before the festival had started. We had the opportunity to work in an amazing bamboo construction: a 100m long bamboo tunnel and 20m high log/bamboo tower. All with guidance of the Taiwanese artist Wang Weh-Chi and the team of experts from Cave Urban.
For transport we thought hitchhiking would be the best way to do it and we’ve been proved to be right. Not only because of the environmental issue but also because by hitching we had the chance to meet the most amazing people, each one with a unique story to share. We hitched from Mullumbimby to Sydney, from Sydney back to Mullumbimby and from Woodford all the way to Melbourne.
We have many stories about all these rides but one in particular was very special. We were coming from a Sea Shepherd event that happened at Brunswick Heads going to Burringbar; a thirty-five minute drive. It was late at night and at night is always more difficult to hitch. We were very tired and about to sleep by the side of the road when a car stopped. We told the driver we were going to Burringbar; he didn’t know where Burringbar was but told us to jump in the car. The driver introduced himself as “Cosmic Dave” and he not only took us home but on the way stopped at his place and gave us a bowl of homemade granola bars!
In these 10 months we’ve had the opportunity to do things we had never done before. We lived in a train wagon, in a caravan, in a bus and in a tipi. We went to circus and music festivals, cinemas, theatre, museums and concerts. We went to beautiful beaches, waterfalls and have done surfing, snorkeling and even skydiving. Recently we also did the Great Ocean Road all the way to the 12 Apostles.
Sometimes we don’t believe what’s happening. It’s like we’re living a dream. Everything we wish somehow comes to us. We don’t know why that is, but we think it’s because we’re doing what we were supposed to be doing, because we’re doing everything with all our heart. It’s more about living from love than living without money.
One day we were cycling from Hepburn Springs to Daylesford when Marielli’s bicycle punctured. At this exact moment a truck stopped to check what happened. The driver took her (and the bicycle) to Daylesford, fixed the bike and didn’t even ask for money. We still don’t know if it was a person or an angel.
One very important thing we noticed is the degree of relationship between people. When there is money involved, the relationship can be very superficial or sometimes could be no relationship at all. But when there is no money the relationships are much stronger and true. In what could be considered a short period of time (ten months) we’ve made friends who will be in our lives forever, people we know we can count on whenever we need to.
Living without money also showed us how to value every simple thing in life. We are always very grateful for everything that comes to us. From a simple slice of bread, having a place to sleep, or even looking at a beautiful starry sky.
Living without money is just one way to disconnect from the current system that governs our societies. It’s not about being independent, it’s actually the opposite; it’s about community. All these things we’ve done in the last 10 months couldn’t have been done without the help of many people.
Going moneyless: it’s been a gateway to connection, intimacy, adventure and authentic experience of life. Far from being a path of sacrifice to qualify oneself as good, it’s being a path of joy and – dare we say it – a path of wealth.


See their latest story in hypness (in Brasilian).


Harvest Tours – food is IT

IMG_9227Coming to visit Melliodora is an eye opening experience. If you want to see permaculture in action, this demonstration site is the place for you. See how the well designed house stays cool in the middle of a hot summer. When we had to cancel the tours in February, because of the heatwave conditions and high fire danger, the afternoon temperature outside soared to over 40 degrees. Outside it was unbearable, even in the shade. But inside the house, the temperature was slightly warmer than usual, a relatively cool 28. Would you like to find out how it can be done? The easiest way is to see a working model, like the one at Melliodora. Come to the morning tour guided by David Holmgren and experience the unassisted coolth of the house When it’s cold the same principles create a passively warm house.

Ever thought about life without trips to the supermarket? Dreamed about minimising your ecological footprint and going locavore, building a more  resilient household economy? Throughout the morning tour, David and his partner, Su Dennett can show you the strategies and tactics they employ to these ends and other ideas that can be achieved in your home.

In the afternoon tour (fingers crossed that it won’t be too hot), David will take you around their garden farm system. What are some of the key strategies to employ to maximise the yield from your garden? How can you incorporate animals in your garden? How can you design the famed “food forest”?  Your hosts will show examples as well as explain the guiding principles which you can take home and adapt to your own conditions.

Tour participants will be treated to yummy morning and afternoon teas, prepared by Su. Also on the day, our extensive catalogue of hard-to-get-hold-of books and other resources, will be on sale at special prices.March 2005 Richard Telford placing racks of cut fruit on roof to sun dry.

Remember, the tours in March will be the third last opportunity to see Melliodora house and garden, before the end of the season. Do not miss out on this opportunity. The March Melliodora tours are on March 2. See more details including the address on our Events page. Book early so that you don’t miss out.

(Attention those people who made bookings for the cancelled Feb tours, please get in touch with us if you can to rearrange your bookings.)