International Permaculture Day at the Hub — a celebration

The Permaculture Interpretive Garden at Randwick Sustainability Hub.

THE FIRST SATURDAY in May proved the best for International Permaculture Day at Randwick Sustainability Hub in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs because the following day it was cold, windy and raining.

People came to the Hub for sessions in:

  • energy and water efficient renovating with solar-specialist architect, Terry Bail, who did his Permaculture Design Cerificate course in the 1990s
  • seed saving with horticultural educator, Jon Kingston; John looks after the Permabee community volunteer program at the Sustainability Hub; John also works at the rooftop garden at the Wayside Chapel in Potts Point
  • beekeeping with Doug Purdie from Sydney Bee Club and the Urban Beehive; the Club maintains honey and native bee hives at the Hub
  • the sharing economy with Annette Loudon; Annette is an online systems maven who was instrumental is setting up the online Sharing Sydney Map
  • decluttering your home and life with Cecelia Macauley, a permaculture educator specialising in the domestic and personal application of permaculture design principles.
Cecilia Macauley leads her workshop on decluttering your home and your life.

The sessions were repeated twice so people would not miss those they wanted to attend.

It was good to see the mayor of Randwick, Kathy Nielsen (ALP), sitting in on the sharing economy session. Unlike the independents and other parties (including The Greens, although Greens councillors appear in their official role to open events and new works) which have been noticeable for their absence at sustainability-focused events at the Randwick Sustainability Hub , over the years Kathy Nielsen has been present as a participant.

Horticultural educator Jon Kingston with some of the participants in his seed saving workshop in the Permaculture Interpretive Garden.

Farewelling Fiona

Addressing people during the afternoon tea break, the mayor expressed sadness at the departure of sustainability educator, Fiona Campbell. In over ten years in the job, Fiona was behind the development of the site as a regional urban park and, including the community education program, as the Randwick Sustainability Hub.

From left: Pater Maganoff, Randwick Sustainability Hub manager; Fiona Campbell, sustainability educator Randwick Sustainability Hub; Kathy Nielsen, mayor, Randwick City Council; Julian Lee, sustainability educator.

Fiona’s legacy includes:

  • the retrofitting of the Randwick Community Centre for energy and water efficiency
  • design and landscaping around Munda Street Reserve as a multiple-use public open space
  • the Permaculture Interpretive Garden, a demonstration and educational facility
  • the Permabee volunteer program, designed for social contact and horticultural learning
  • the community resilience education program including courses in organic gardening, small space gardening, forest gardening, garden design with native plants (for people who want a low-maintenance and biodiverse garden but who don’t want to grow food), community leadership and the Living Smart course
  • the pre-and-primary schools basic science program (energy, water, seeds).

The Permabee volunteer program, community leadership course and the community education program are implementations of ‘social permaculture’. They are supplemented by recharge events to bring participants together again and boost their motivation. Social permaculture is a core focus of permaculture in the Sustainability Hub’s program because, as well as being a way to implement permaculture ethics and principles in a medium density urban environment, it is seen as a component of community development which engages people in improving the built and natural environments and in building their personal skills, especially those in personal and community resilience.

Fiona used to teach the Permaculture Design Certificate in Sydney and taught permaculture at Ryde TAFE, a specialist horticulture college, as well as for the Eastern Suburbs Community College. She won a number of professional awards for her work and for the Sustainability Hub although applying for them was more the work of her colleagues as Fiona does not like promoting herself. Her work in sustainabilty education spans 30 years.

To create employment for permaculture-trained people, in her council role Fiona employed permaculture-trained people as specialist consultants and educators.

Afternoon tea was taken outside the Classroom, the education centre paertially built of resused materials.

The mayor’s farewell to Fiona was also the opportunity to introduce the person replacing her as sustainability educator, Julian Lee.

Julian is well-qualified for the job, having qualifications in science, science communication and social enterprise.

Cecilia Macauley (left) and Fiona Campbell.

He is a small-scale farmer who operated a CSA (Community-Suppported Agriculture) in the Hunter Valley and who started Sydney Food Connect, a food hub connecting Sydney region farmers with urban eaters. Julian operated the Brainchild Academy, a science education program for primary schools. He obtained his Permaculture Design Certificate in the 1990s.

Taking permaculture mainstream

Both Julian and Fiona, as well as the people hired as consultants and educators, provide examples of taking the permaculture design system into working life and the social mainstream. Their work answers the oft-heard demand to ‘mainstream permaculture’. At Randwick Sustainability Hub it was mainstreamed more than a decade ago.

Fiona has organised International Permaculture Day at Randwick Sustainability Hub for the past ten years.


International Permaculture Day (IPD) is an annual, global event during May. Events are listed at: IPD has a presence on Instagram, Twitter and facebook.

Architect Terry Bail takes a tour of the design of TheClassroom on International Permaculture Day 2019.