My background

My Background

I am a semi-retired natural resource manager with 30 years’ experience in diverse environments ranging from coastal areas in the far east of Russia, through Chinese wetlands, the mountains of the Laos-Vietnam border, peat swamps in Indonesia, and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to Antarctica.  This work was at a diversity of scales, from development of national policies (e.g. wetlands in the Philippines and China), to protected area management, and working with small coastal communities to develop participatory management of their resources.

My interest in permaculture grew out of this work with  people in developing countries.  The assignments that I particularly enjoyed typically involved helping communities or stakeholder groups to analyse their situation in order to separate out actual problems from the symptoms arising from those problems, and then to identify feasible and sustainable solutions to those problems.  Often the issues were related to movement away from a sustainable lifestyle as a result of pressures to “modernise” (which often meant acquisition of the possessions that aid agencies counted as measures of development), or pressure on resources from increased population levels.  Of course, this is a vastly simplified description of varied and complex situations, but the overall effect was that I came to recognise that traditional approaches (e.g. food forests) often held the clues to establishing sustainable futures.

A three-year break from consulting to work with my wife and friends to build a house and workshop on our land at Vinegar Hill provided time for reflection on my priorities and a rethinking of my approaches to sustainable development.

Qualifications to Teach Permaculture

I have completed a PDC course (under Tom Kendall – whose permaculture training was under Bill Mollision and Geoff Lawton), and this is the only qualification required for teaching permaculture, including PDC courses.  It also allows me to use the term “permaculture” professionally.

My experience with permaculture includes (over a period of six years and in partnership with my wife) the ongoing development of our property at Vinegar Hill using permaculture principles, with the aim of its becoming a sustainable source of food for us and others, and a demonstration of successful permaculture land management in the driest part of Southeast Queensland.

The theory and application of permaculture draws on expertise from many fields.  Few permaculture teachers have theoretical or practical backgrounds in more than one or two of these fields.

On the theoretical side I have relevant university-level training in biology and geology.  On the practical side I have relevant professional experience in: conservation, including multiple-use management of special natural areas; natural resource management; wetland management, ecology, hydrology and conservation; catchment management, including maintenance of catchment ecosystem services, riparian restoration, water quality management and planning; participatory approaches to problem identification, problem solving and natural resource management (at scales ranging from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to small rural communities); surveying; strategic planning; social and environmental impact assessment; and stewardship of natural resources.

I am well qualified as a teacher, having received professional training in teaching/training techniques over a period of two years while working as a trainer in the Commonwealth Department of Social Security.  I also have an extensive background in training in many different situations over the period 1980-2011, including with:

  • Queensland Institute of Technology -1980 (part-time lecturer in communication for science students);
  • Australian Department of Social Security – 1981-82 (training officer);
  • Queensland Department of Environment – 1997 (various training roles as part of consultancy projects);
  • Indonesian Forestry Training Institute (Balai Latihan Kehutanan, Bogor) – 1991 (course on wetland management); and
  • various international aid projects where the assignment included training, sponsored by:

– World Bank -1998 (2); 1995-2000;
– Asian Development Bank – 1992; 2004;
– AusAID – 1993-1994; 2000; 2000-2001; 2001; 2002; 2003-2004;
– Swedish International Development Assistance – 1997; and
– The Turtle Foundation (Schidlkröten-Stiftung) – 2002.

My two years as a trainer with the then Department of Social Security  was one of the most formative experiences of my life.  The organisation was willing to fund any trainer-training that I wanted to undertake, so in addition to gaining the confidence to stand up in front of a group, I also developed a wide range of training skills.  These came in handy during my consulting work where I conducted many courses, mainly in the use of participatory processes to enhance natural resource management.

2 thoughts on “My background

  1. Hi Mell. Thanks for the nice words about the blog. I’m not currently running training courses -still figuring out how to do it in a way that matches with my ethics, the positives and negatives of our site, and what people need. However I’m always happy for people to drop in here and have a look at what we are doing and talk about their properties. If you are in Ipswich that isn’t too far from here, and not out of my way on infrequent trips to Brisbane. You can contact me on smokespotters at gmail dot com if you want to take it further. I don’t charge for discussion or advice.

  2. Hi, your blog is excellent, it’s refreshing to read about permaculture with a good grounding in reality. Are you currently training? I’m based in Ipswich with what sounds like similar climate and soil type to where you are in the Lockyer, so it would be good to learn from some one who,is working with these conditions first hand.

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