Tag Archives | David Holmgren

Advanced Permaculture Design Process Course

This workshop is a deep exploration of permaculture design process as a living unfolding reality.

In the fourth iteration of a unique collaboration, David Holmgren and Dan Palmer further explore, deepen and share their understandings of sound permaculture design process.

Not only has much of the content of this workshop emerged in recent years, it will continue to develop during the workshop itself. This means that attendees are participants in a live conversation, where David and Dan hope to meet people where they are and support their journey forward with permaculture design.

You can read a detailed report Dan wrote about the first (2017) iteration of this workshop here.

Image: Sonja Leigh

“I can’t wait to share these ideas and tangible approaches with my partner, permaculture colleagues and students. I know that this enhancement of my existing human design capabilities will greatly support my ability to design my home site, educational organisation and ongoing projects. I think this course unearths design abilities that all people have” (Pippa Buchanan)

As co-originator of permaculture, David Holmgren has been working with permaculture design process for forty years. In this workshop David shares his long history learning, practicing, and teaching permaculture design along with how his understandings are continuing to evolve today. Much of what David shares in this workshop you will not find anywhere else.

“A beautiful way to dive deeper into our own living design processes as humans and investigate all the possibilities of how we can create in the world. An abundance of resources to support people at their level” (Past participant).

Dan Palmer helped found Permablitz, Very Edible Gardens, Making Permaculture Stronger, Holistic Decision Making, and Living Design Process. Actively and continuously involved in permaculture design projects for the last twelve years, Dan is deeply passionate about the evolution of design processes that support the full expression of permaculture’s potential.

Illustration: Brenna Quinlan

“I have done few things in my life that have been more worthwhile. The design process was something I never knew was so universal” (Ryan)

Alongside high-level design process frameworks and how permaculture ethics and principles apply directly to design process, this workshop covers:

  • Reading people (Dan)
  • Reading landscape (David)
  • Distilling and synthesising observations (both)
  • Designing and implementing as things that best unfold together over time (both)
  • The evolution of design and implementation over years and decades (both)

Lecture-based and interactive classroom sessions will be complemented with time outside reading landscape walk and in-depth design-process-based tours of Melliodora and the Mayberry Woodend project.

Participants will have the opportunity to share their own design projects with the group for discussion and feedback.

“This course gave me a deeper understanding of permaculture and design processes, in and beyond permaculture. It provided candid insight into both David and Dan’s jounryes and an inspiring tour of Melliodora. I have made amazing connection with like-minded people. Best course ever!” (Past participant).

Here is the timetable from 2018 (Though details will change the overall pattern will likely remain similar).


Session One (8:45am-10:30am) – Introductions, housekeeping, course context and program

Session Two (11am-12:30pm) – History of Design Frameworks

Session Three & Four (1:30pm – 5pm) – Ethics and Principles / Dave’s journey with permaculture design

Session Five (7-9pm) – RetroSuburbia’s Work-Life quadrant


Morning prac: TBC

Session One (8:45am-10:30am) – Check in & recap, Dan’s journey with permaculture design, focusing in on design process

Session Two (11am-12:30pm) – Reading people and holistic decision making

Session Three & four (1:30pm – 5pm) – Reading Landscape

Session five (7-9pm) – Dave and Dan share stories and personal reflections on reading people and landscape


Morning prac – TBC

Session One (8:45am-10:30am) – Distilling, evaluating, synthesising observations

Session Two (11am-12:30pm) – Moving toward concept design / patterning / overall strategy

Session Three & four (1:30pm – 5pm) – Melliodora walk and case study

Evening meal and then fire at Pear Tree


Session One (8:45am-9:45am) – TBC

Morning tea and Session Two, Three & four (10:30am – 5pm) – Mayberry Woodend field trip

Image: Sonja Leigh

“This course was a shining example of though-provoking inspiration in an environment that was inclusive and safe. The humility and wisdom of the facilitators has touched my heart and mind” (Debbie).

The course venue is yet to be confirmed but it will be somewhere in the picturesque hamlet of Hepburn, which is close to Melliodora, the premier permaculture demonstration site of David Holmgren and Su Dennett.

Melliodora is not central to the course content but is accessible to the students over the four days for additional learning and inspiration.

Please note this is an advanced course and it is strongly advised that all students have completed a PDC.

The course fee is still TBC.

Numbers are limited to 30. Bookings, when they open, are essential.

Please email us to register your interest for this course.


Permaculture Tour at Melliodora – February 2 2020

There is no better way to learn how the household economy works than to take part in the whole day guided tour at Melliodora. Situated in the Victorian central highlands, Melliodora is one of the best examples of working cool-temperate climate permaculture in the country. At Melliodora you can see how permaculture can produce an abundance of food and other yields from a beautiful living environment.

The one hectare property has been transformed from the blackberry covered wasteland in 1985 into a model of small scale intensive permaculture. David Holmgren and his partner Su Dennett will show you how their passive solar house, mixed food gardens, orchards, dams and livestock, as well as creek revegetation, have been developed and maintained. The Melliodora garden farming model is most relevant to large town blocks and small rural allotments, but you don’t have to have a large block to gain a huge amount from the tour. All people will discover ways that they can apply the underlying principles and strategies to their own situation.

The Whole Day Tour includes morning + afternoon teas, while the Garden Only Tour includes afternoon tea. Participants are encouraged to BYO lunch to enjoy under the 100 year-old pear tree or to visit one of the local cafés in Hepburn or Daylesford during the lunch break from 1pm.


Perth 2019 – Retrosuburbia Roadshow with David Holmgren

David Holmgren will showcase his latest book, Retrosuburbia where he will share the possibilities for communities now and into the future.

Ticket prices include catering and the chance to engage and be inspired by one of our greatest Permaculture idols.

PAWA Members & Early Bird tickets $20 until 20th July. Tickets thereafter $30 or unless sold out. (PAWA Members $20)

VENUE EVENT LOCATION: https://goo.gl/maps/riGY5zbPWty6T4oR8



Event Collaborator: The Enkel Collective and Globalactive ~ Karun Cowper. Karun is a P2P/Commoner, Neohumanist, PROUTist. He is co-founder of Globalactive, is a cooperative member of enkel, is on the team at Friends of the Earth Perth, is administrator and holistic counsellor/educator at the LiFE Academy RTO, is organiser of rad ‘New Economy’ and Postcapitalist events and is long time ratbag activist and citizen journalist in Perth.

6pm – 7pm ~ David Holmgren

7pm – 9pm ~ An immersive collective game experience “How to survive the Zombie Apocalypse”

We will play a version of the “Sarkar Game” – a foresight role-playing game designed to glean insight into social reality and help players discover other ways of knowing, thus to better understand and appreciate alternative futures. The Sarkar Game specifically helps players (individuals and organizations) comprehend macrohistory – the timing of the future – as well as the structured shape of the future(s). The game also helps players scrutinize the leadership characteristics for themselves and for their organization or institution.


Permaculture Tour at Melliodora – February 17

There is no better way to learn how the household economy works than to take part in the whole day guided tour at Melliodora. Situated in the Victorian central highlands, Melliodora is one of the best examples of working cool-temperate climate permaculture in the country. At Melliodora you can see how permaculture can produce an abundance of food and other yields from a beautiful living environment.

The one hectare property has been transformed from the blackberry covered wasteland in 1985 into a model of small scale intensive permaculture. David Holmgren and his partner Su Dennett will show you how their passive solar house, mixed food gardens, orchards, dams and livestock, as well as creek revegetation, have been developed and maintained. The Melliodora garden farming model is most relevant to large town blocks and small rural allotments, but you don’t have to have a large block to gain a huge amount from the tour. All people will discover ways that they can apply the underlying principles and strategies to their own situation.

The Whole Day Tour will start at 10.45am and the Garden Only tour will start at 2pm. Both will finish at 5pm. Morning and afternoon teas will be provided. Please BYO lunch.

Holmgren announced as MSSI associate

David Holmgren has just been named an associate of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute.

MSSI facilitates interdisciplinary sustainability research across faculties and centres at the University of Melbourne, and promotes research in a way that maximises engagement and impact. MSSI emphasises the contribution of the social sciences and humanities to understanding and addressing sustainability and resilience challenges.

David is thrilled with his appointment and looks forward to continuing his working relationship with the MSSI. This is an acknowledgement of the importance of David’s work around sustainability and re-imagining the urban and suburban landscapes.

While the book RetroSuburbia has been successful in engaging those interested in making changes at the household level, David’s MSSI appointment will further his engagement with policy makers and academics interested in working towards a more regenerative future.

David is particularly looking forward to continuing his relationship with Dr Samuel Alexander and Prof. Brendan Gleeson, who have advocated and promoted voluntary simplicity, and sustainable urban planning, respectively.

Other current associates include:


Is David Holmgren on Facebook?

Is David Holmgren on Facebook?

The simple answer to this question is no. The reasons are complex and relate to his ambiguous relationship to new technologies through the decades. David has been inspired hearing about the thriving RetroSuburbia Community Facebook group and is very pleased that it is enabling people to share their stories, make connections and support each other in their retrosuburban journeys. However, he has decided that he will not be participating directly. He explains his position here.


Since my teenage years I have been skeptical of the faith that new technologies are always an improvement on the past. Further, my view of the future suggests that recently evolved technologies may be the first to fail as society is impacted by multiple crises from climate change and resource depletion to financial and geo-political instability.

But I have also long recognised that the spread of permaculture has been global and networked, rather than local and parochial, and that information technologies have greatly assisted in that process.

I have thus woven a path between skeptical disconnection from information technology and early adoption for strategic use in spreading permaculture thinking and solutions.

I grew up without television and my partner Su Dennett and I have maintained a television free household ever since. On the other hand, I adopted my father’s habitual listening to Radio National to stay connected to world news.

Su and I moved from Melbourne to country Victoria in the 1980s, long before the internet overcame the tyranny of distance. At the same time I became an early computer user and self-publisher using desktop publishing techniques.

In the nineties, my consultancy business, Holmgren Design, and the company that created the Fryers Forest eco-village, Fryers Forest Research and Development, operated without a fax machine, but in the late nineties I was an early adopter of email for business communications and created the first Holmgren Design website in 2000. With the publication of my Permaculture: principles and pathways beyond sustainability in 2002, our book launch tour of the east coast of Australia saw Su (temporarily) adopt a mobile phone even though she had always maintained a much stronger scepticism of technology than I. Around the same time, after more than a decade of innovative use of information technology on a shoestring budget, I handed the reins of IT admin to our self-taught teenage son Oliver.

Over those years we very deliberately minimised Oliver’s childhood exposure to computers, which may have accelerated his adolescent interest and expertise but led to self-regulation. In RetroSuburbia, I give the following strategic response sequence for dealing with children and adolescent exposure to media technologies and social media: ‘Prohibit’; ‘Limit’; ‘Negotiate’ and ‘Accept, but provide no support’. In Oliver’s case, this sequence was followed by a ‘Reward and collaborate’ stage, illustrating the oscillation between selective disconnection and wholehearted adoption that has characterised my relationship to information technology.

Oliver, Su and David at Melliodora November 2002. Photo: Christian Wild

These days Su uses her mobile phone to stay in contact with far-flung family, organise her food share, and take card transactions at RetroSuburbia book events, while I remain phone-phobic but am reluctantly considering the possibility of getting one rather than depending on Su.

Meanwhile my internet presence has grown and is now supported by colleagues with a far greater depth of experience. The complexity of the web design, maintenance and security for the book publishing and distribution systems is well beyond my comprehension and management.

As always, I have watched the rise of social media from my skeptical permaculture perspective.

Balancing time at the desk with time in the garden, farm, workshop and forest is always important to me. There are limits to how much time I’m prepared to be mediated through technology.

Even more important is balancing the power of social media to create and accelerate network community with its potential to inhibit the redevelopment of local geographic community. Long before social media in the early nineties, I would get the occasional casual contacts comment on my fame when recognising my name and connection to permaculture. To this I would reply:

Well, sort of. You know how back in the 60s Andy Warhol famously said that “in the future”, as in now [90s], “everyone will be famous for 15 minutes” – a great insight into the rapidity of cultural change. Well my version of that is: in the future everyone will be famous to 15 other people. So yes, I am famous within a global permaculture network of perhaps many thousands of people at the same time that I am not, to more than a handful of people in our local community. That’s the world we are heading into – networks of interest groups that function like parochial residents of isolated mountain villages responding to each other’s social signals but ignorant of the rest of the world.

I feel this was prescient of first social media, and now, the breakdown of mainstream media into giant echo-chambers repeating competing and antagonistic views of reality.

From its beginnings more than a decade ago, I was aware of the potential of social media to empower a surveillance state. I have never been obsessed with personal privacy and I’ve always been upfront and public about my permaculture lifestyle.

Just as RetroSuburbia: the downshifter’s guide to a resilient future is written for an Australian, even local, audience, I am always trying to use the power of global networks to stimulate their relocalisation in real geographic neighbourhood communities. Such neighbourhoods are essential if humanity is to have a chance of ameliorating climate change impacts, let alone adapt to an energy descent future where local will again be the norm rather than the exception.

Which brings us to the RetroSuburbia Community Facebook group set up and moderated by Meg Ulman, who manages the web and social media presence for Holmgren Design and Melliodora Publishing.

While I don’t contribute directly to the group, Meg keeps me updated and consults me on curly questions and issues as they arise. It is great to have such a social media savvy operator moderating the rapid growth of retrosuburban action and exchange happening on Facebook.

Meg and her partner Patrick Jones have themselves empowered and aided many people to live better lives by their radical home-based life (documented at Artist As Family), which has for a decade been a powerhouse of positivity through social media. Meg Ulman’s capacity to communicate practical permaculture at the household and community scale means I have great confidence in her ability to contribute, answer questions and effectively moderate in ways that reflect what I am on about.

On the technical side, supporting Meg and the rest of the team are Holmgren Design’s IT and website support Ostii Ananda from Flowji, and partners Richard Telford and Oliver Holmgren at Permaculture Principles who manage book distribution. With this depth of web and social media savvy business and activism all powered by permaculture ethics and principles, I’m confident that the social media side of my role as a public intellectual is in good hands without resorting to a fake presence as so many prominent people do by getting staff to ghost write on their behalf.

After a lifetime of applying DIY to everything in life and business, I’m learning that I don’t have to do everything and in any case, like the fax machine, if I hold out for long enough Facebook could be in the rear view mirror of history.


RetroSuburbia crowd support campaign

To offset the cost of printing David’s forthcoming book in Australia, we are excited to announce that we have just launched a crowd support campaign.

RetroSuburbia: the downshifter’s guide to a resilient future will be self-published by David’s micro-publishing house, Melliodora Publishing, which has published David’s previous books plus a handful of other titles including the best selling The Art of Frugal Hedonism.

To print the book offshore would save $23,000, but no matter how enticing the monetary cost, David is completely committed to local printing, supporting sustainable forestry in Australia, and a truly viable paper chain. The paper stock, ink and the printing must be in accordance with the content.

There are a number of different support levels, as well as the option to pre-order the book to be launched by Costa Georgiadis on February 10 2018 at the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne.

Thank you for your support, and for sharing the link among your networks!



The 2017 Venie Prize Winners

Firstly, thank you to the 141 entrants in the 2017 Venie Holmgren Environmental Poetry Prize. Each and every poem that was entered was a pleasure to read. A big thank you also goes to Fiona Hile + Ross Gillett for judging the Prize and for coming along to Sunday’s Words in Winter event where the winners + shortlist were announced.

Without further ado, we are thrilled to announce this year’s winning poems:

Michael Farrell, Melbourne, Vic: Hamlet in the Mind of a School Teacher
Mark Miller, Shoalhaven Heads, NSW: Journey, the South Coast

Highly Commended
Brian Purcell, Green Point, NSW: Painting Trees at Valla
Stuart Barnes, The Range, QLD: Black Swan Polyptych
Geraldine Burrowes, Melbourne, Vic: How We Get Through  Accidentally
Jeff Guess, Gawler, SA: Transgression of the Trees

Packing Room Prize (as chosen by the Holmgren Design office staff)
Gary Smith, Melbourne: Death of a Gardener

Thank you to Juanita from Broderick Photography for capturing the spirit of Sunday’s event so eloquently:

David Holmgren announces the winning poems

Fiona Hile discusses why Michael Farrell’s poem was selected

Ross Gillett discusses and reads Mark Miller’s poem

David congratulates Michael Farrell

Michael Farrell reads his winning entry

David congratulates Brian Purcell

Brian Purcell shows his painting his poem was based on

Brian Purcell reads his shortlisted poem

David congratulates Geraldine Burrowes

Geraldine Burrowes reads her highly commended poem

Su Dennett reads Gary Smith’s ‘Packing Room’ poem

If you’d like to find out when the 2018 Venie Prize is announced, please subscribe to our very infrequent email newsletter or like us on Facebook.


Is there a doctor in the house?

QUniversity has awarded an Honorary Doctorate to the co-originator of the permaculture concept, David Holmgren, during the launch of the Graduate Diploma in Permaculture Design.

David Holmgren accepts his Honorary Doctorate from CQUniversity Associate Vice-Chancellor (SA region) Professor Drew Dawson.

The event at The Joinery in Adelaide, on 19 April, echoed the launch of the Graduate Certificate program (by South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill) which took place early last year and included the award of an Honorary Doctorate from CQUniversity to the late permaculture co-originator Bill Mollison, accepted on his behalf by Geoff Lawton.

This year’s event featured a speech by State MP for Ashford Stephanie Key and also introduced a new David Holmgren book titled RetroSuburbia.

State MP for Ashford, Stephanie Key.

Published by Melliodora, RetroSuburbia highlights changes to our residential landscapes to make them ‘fit for purpose’ before the world slides into energy descent.

As author David Holmgren remarks that “the incremental and ongoing retrofit of the built, biological and behavioural domains of the household is recognised by many as the best bet to weather the storms of uncertain times and contribute to a better future for the next generations”.

The recent event in Adelaide also enabled a showcase of the first year of the Graduate Certificate in Permaculture Design. It featured presentation of ‘capstone projects’ which have enabled Graduate Certificate students to apply what they have learned to a specific idea.

Projects presented by the CQUniversity students ranged from conventional permaculture designs for food production through to the application of permaculture ethics and principles to projects in existing disciplines like the ‘perma-psychology’ project, and permaculture education projects.

Permaculture Design and Sustainability Program Leader Dr Keri Chiveralls congratulates David Holmgren

The projects also included development of proposals for new start-up businesses like ‘Companion Planting’ (a sustainable/regenerative pet memorial service involving pet burial via container gardening) and The Food Print Experience (a food van that sells delicious permaculture food while also providing educational permaculture workshops).

From here.

You can read David’s acceptance speech in its entirety, here.

Pedro Souza has been kind enough to translate David’s speech into Brazilian Portuguese, which you can read here.