Awesome Gathering of Members

by Bronwyn Chompff-Gliddon

On Saturday 19th August 2023, the Permaculture Association of Western Australia, at Earthwise in Subiaco, held the Awesome Gathering of Members!

We began with a shared lunch, which was very well catered for with marvellous talents on show from all the contributors. However, the wonderful didn’t stop at the food. The weather was perfect for sitting in the sunshine while we ate, and the 19 of us there chatted together to become better acquainted with both familiar and new faces. 

Then it was time to get down to business in the Think Tank Workshop. This concept, inspired by Robina McCurdy, aimed at looking back to move forward. Review our past, and discover what the future may hold. We did this by creating two timelines of events. 

Led by PAWA Convener Tanvier Fowler, we split up into two groups to note the significant events that took place in the Permaculture world, and then alongside that, the significant events in Western Australian culture and society.

On one end was the team working on the permaculture timeline, starting in 1978 when the Permaculture Association of Western Australia was first founded by Denis McCarthy (although there was a note prior to this of the WA Nut and Tree Crop Association forming in 1967 which was a noteworthy fore-runner to PAWA). What did people remember from back then? What events were we able to look up? Some of the highlights through the decades were: the visits from Bill Mollison every couple of years between 1978 right through until 1990. There were conferences, convergences, and blitzes. There were significant books being published, magazines coming out, and at one point, in 1992, PAWA was the largest permaculture organisation in the world with over 1200 members. The pinnacle of this period of time was in 1996, when PAWA hosted the International Permaculture Conference & Convergence, which remains to date as the biggest event PAWA has ever undertaken. There was education in the form of lectures and series through Curtin, Murdoch and Edith Cowan Universities. The general PAWA meetings ended in 2008, and then 2009 saw the first International Permaculture Day (first Sunday in May), followed by the organisation of local groups, including support for the Community Gardens network. Even Charles Otway gets a mention, leaving PAWA after 7 years or so on the committee when he and his family moved to Pemberton. In 2021, there was the introduction of online workshops showcasing the wealth of talent and experience of our local permaculture personalities, as well as a lecture series held at the State Library.

Flip over to the other side, and we see the significant events that shaped our history in Western Australian culture and society. We start with the relaxing of the White Australia Policy and the migration of Vietnamese boat people. At the time that Western Australia won the America’s Cup, interest rates were at 18%, and the average house price was $50,000. Significant organisations started up that ran alongside PAWA, such as APACE, the Men of Trees, and Perth City Farm. The Dawesville Cut was completed, and there was a change in government on the back of their promise to end the logging of old-growth forest. Then there’s the internet at home just before everyone survived the scare of the Y2K bug, and there’s water restrictions, and before you know it, interest rates are at 8% but now the average house price is $250,000 in 2001. We had the Global Financial Crisis, Kevin Rudd delivered the apology to the stolen generation, and between 2011 and 2021 we had bushfires in Roleystone, Margaret River, Waroona, Yarloop, Boramup, as well as the big fires over east. There was a decline in volunteering, Greta Thunberg delivered her “How Dare You” speech, and then the world shut down for Covid (but the environment flourished!). And still, even in these enlightened years, the government spends $369B on defence, and the Ocean Reef marina gets approval to destroy native bushland and marine areas for development.

We then put these two time lines together, to see what patterns may emerge. What connections could we make between the two lines? What patterns can be identified? What can we expect from the coming years?

We discussed what we could see, and determined that this is not something that we can explore fully in the time we had available to us, so it will continue to be shared and observed. This was a fascinating exercise, and as we look back at how these events have shaped our world, we can appreciate what we have.

We wrapped up the project for further analysis, and the Annual General Meeting was held. 

All positions were declared vacant, and the same committee was then re-formed, with the addition of two new committee members filling the vacant positions.

Our committee for the 2023-2024 year is:

  • Convenor and e-Newsletter editor – Tanvier Fowler
  • Co-Convener – Anne Warman
  • Secretary – Noala Degasperis
  • Treasurer – Jenny Hanna
  • Membership – Peter Austin
  • Local Groups – Julie Neil
  • Community Gardens – Bronwyn Chompff-Gliddon
  • General Committee Member – Paul Lambert

On behalf of the Permaculture Association of Western Australia, we look forward to serving you, the Permaculture community of Western Australia, in promoting the teaching and implementation of permaculture everywhere.

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