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PacificEdge | November 18, 2017

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The building where it all began

The building where it all began
Russ Grayson

The artefacts of our permaculture journey…

With a story spanning close to 40 years, the permaculture design system has left a trail of artefacts. Sometimes in plain sight, sometimes hidden and forgotten, these we explore in our archeology of our design system…


WE FOLLOWED the narrow, gravel road as it climbed into the hills where people had established small farms of cleared land and forest and small, ageing timber houses in which they lived. This was the backcountry, we knew, and it felt like it.

After making our slow but steady way for some time, the road came to an end and there, in front of us, were two buildings whose timbers were aged to that grey colouration that comes with decades in sun, wind and rain, years the heat and the cold.

It was in those buildings, an education department field studies centre at Pappinbarra in the NSW mid-north coast hinterland that the first ever international permaculture convergence was to take place. It was 1984.

Those making their way up that rough road camped in tents or, like us, in their vans. It was a convivial gathering, an exploratory one that discussed this emerging thing called permaculture. Those attending from other states and other countries seemed to offer promise that it had a bright future.

I had journeyed there from the city with my newish partner in her clunky old white Kombi van. At the end of the event she said that there were all these interesting people there going on about this interesting thing called permaculture and she just had to be involved.

She did that. As did more people over the following years. That event was the birth of something that has endured — the periodic international permaculture convergences held in different countries.

So, that modest old building you see in the photo is directly linked to permaculture’s early history and, through that, to a history on the design system that is ongoing.

Truly a historic artefact.


Photo: Russ Grayson. iPhone copy of a colour transparency film image made somewhat grotty by age.

Other stories in The Artefacts of Our Permaculture Journey series…

The building where it all began

The building where it all began

Artefact a list of global permaculture organisations of the past

A community that never was

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