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Permaculture Design Course (PDC)

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Event description

Course commencing July 15th is at capacity. February 2021 course date announced soon

** Our upcoming course will feature a mix of online and face to face learning

Next course commences 15th July 2020 Click here for schedule

What is Permaculture?

Permaculture is a design science, philosophy & lifestyle that merges natural principles with human management systems. The aim of Permaculture is to design regenerative and productive landscapes, communities & households. 

Created from a combination of traditional wisdom, modern science & technology and a detailed understanding of natural processes, Permaculture provides practical solutions to current unsustainable living standards, empowering people with the tools to create a better world and to generate lifestyles which minimise our impact on the environment.

Permaculture Design is based on ethics and principles which can be used to establish, design, manage and improve all efforts made by individuals, households and communities towards a regenerative future.

CERES Permaculture Design Course (PDC)

The CERES PDC is a classroom-based, theoretical course. This is not intended to be a hands-on, practical or gardening course. Primarily, this is an ecologically-inspired design course that is contextualised within socio-political & environmental systems.

The PDC is intended to producetrainee Permaculture designers, ready to apply their Permaculture knowledge in their own lives and to continue self-directed learning into their individual areas of interest to improve their design skills..

The extensive course material covers the whole design course curriculum within the context of urban & regional landscapes of cool temperate south-eastern Australia. The course pivots around a 3 hr, weekly class/presentation, with additional weekend classes, site visits and tours. The course also requires students to complete an individual project and a groups Permaculture Design project to demonstrate their learning throughout the course.

This 100+ hour course is delivered by a range of passionate, professional Permaculture teachers and practitioners from urban and regional areas.

There will be 15 week-day evenings 6.30pm - 9.30pm and 6 additional individual weekend days (either a Saturday or Sunday from 9.30am - 4.30pm)

CERES PDC graduates may be able to gain credits towards components of accredited Permaculture qualifications subject to a relevant RTOs’ RPL policies and procedures. You are encouraged to speak directly to RTOs to clarify this.


  • What is Permaculture: Ethics, Principles & history
  • The Ecological basis of Permaculture: Global Climate, Weather & Ecology
  • Patterns in the Landscape: Major patterns of Geology, Flora, Water & Land use
  • Permaculture Design Methodology: Permaculture design process and practice
  • Land use and Nature Stewardship: Soil, cropping, water use and animals in Permaculture systems
  • Social applications: Permaculture design in the broader contexts of communities.
  • Finance & Economics, Land tenure & economic reform: Permaculture design in the broader contexts of Economies, business & settlements
  • Permaculture in built environments and technologies: Appropriate technology & building techniques for a energy-descent future.
  • Implementing Permaculture: Business strategies, personal strategies and practicing Permaculture beyond the PDC.

Study load:

The PDC is a commitment.

Appox. 4-6hrs per week of project work

Appox. 2-3hrs per week of reading time 


This course includes study beyond the class hours. Students are required to complete two projects (one individual and one group) . Approximately 4-6 hours per week should be allocated to these projects throughout the duration of the course. The projects are not graded, but are an essential part of learning Permaculture design.

Self-directed learning:

To gain the most of the PDC, students are encouraged to read further materials before and after each class topic. Reading materials and online learning resources are provided and students are encouraged to be self-directed learners in using the PDC as a launching pad into topics covered. Recommend 2-3 hours per week of additional reading & research.

Each course will have an individual schedule

Compulsory requirements to complete the course and obtain a Permaculture Design Course certificate:

  • Students are required to attend 90% of the course content, and must complete the core subjects of Permaculture  Ethics, Principles and all design subjects
  • Students are required to complete both design projects during the course
  • The PDC facilitator will use discretion to make the final decision.
  • Students who miss critical sessions are welcome to sit-in on future classes to catch up

Course outcomes:

  • An appreciation of the fundamentals of permaculture and the historical context in which it was developed.
  • Ability to incorporate ecological and energy literacy/understanding in the design process
  • An ability to read patterns in landscapes and understand how they influence design choices
  • An understanding of the design processes and the conceptual design tools used in permaculture, as background for later application topics.
  • An ability to design food production and other agricultural systems in appropriate landscapes
  • An understanding of how communities function and how permaculture concepts can be used to build functional communities.
  • An understanding of how trading functions and how permaculture concepts can be used to build more equitable economic systems.
  • Understanding of how settlements can be designed to meet human needs on a sustainable basis
  • An understanding of how buildings can be designed to meet human needs on a sustainable basis.
  • An appreciation of the technologies that are available to assist in building sustainable lifestyles - renewable energies and conservation of non-renewable resources.
  • Confidence in one’s ability to make a difference at the individual level.

*Thanks to Anja Williams for the photo - PDC 2018

Trainer Profiles

Graeme George

Graeme lives on a 5 ha property near Healesville in the Yarra Valley where he  runs a small market garden and heritage fruit orchard in a bushland  setting. He has a background in conservation biology and the captive breeding of endangered wildlife, has been teaching  Permaculture Design and Applied Permaculture courses since 1994 and is  compiler of the Permaculture Educators Guild “Syllabus for Permaculture  Design in South Eastern Australia”. He served on Permaculture  Melbourne’s Committee of Management for many years, was a founder of Permaculture Yarra Valley and the weekly Organic Farmers Market at  Healesville.

In  2004 he developed and for several years taught Permaculture by Distance  Education as a second year subject for Charles Sturt University’s  degree in Ecological Agriculture based at Orange. He has been a Seed  Saver for many years, and is also a member of Birds Australia, the  Australian Mammal Society, the American Society of Mammalogists and  local landcare and environment groups. His publications on the  evolution, zoogeography and conservation of New Guinea’s marsupials  earned him a Master of Applied Science degree in 1994.

Graeme  has a passionate interest in the application of Permaculture concepts  to land use patterns and has travelled widely across Australia studying those.

Joel Meadows

Joel Meadows is an energy auditor, sustainable transport consultant, environmental educator, designer and maker in steel and wood, cooker of food, avid gardener and musician. Joel has worked for private, government and not for profit organisations and runs his own business – the Green Hand Institute. Joel lives with his family in Castlemaine – Central Victoria, where he is working on a permaculture house and property.

Kat Lavers

Kat Lavers is a passionate gardener, permaculture designer and facilitator. She has taught permaculture in Australia and with nomadic herders and aid agency staff in Mongolia. In her former role at Cultivating Community she used a bobcat and 500000 compost worms to compost café food waste in the City of Yarra. She currently coordinates the My Smart Garden program for Hobsons Bay City Council and offers freelance permaculture and gardening coaching and classes. Her award-winning house and garden, 'The Plummery', is a 1/14th of an acre urban permaculture system that produces almost all the vegies, herbs, fruit and eggs consumed (more than 350kg in 2016), as well as recycling all organic waste on site and harvesting the majority of power and water used by the household. There is also a retrofitted light earth studio made from onsite clay and scavenged materials. Kat is a volunteer coordinator of Permablitz Melbourne.

Monique Miller

Monique is a bushland management contractor; Permaculture, edible weeds & fermentation workshop facilitator and avid gardener. Monique came to Permaculture via a Philosophy/Arts degree and a year spent overseas. To Monique, Permaculture is the toolbox with which we can tackle the issues of a late-capitalist world. Monique completed her first PDC in Portugal (2012) and second at CERES in 2016. Since, she been built veggies gardens, growing food at home, designing human-scale & mind spaces based on Permaculture principles, been a market gardener, taught workshops at CERES and facilitated the PDC since 2017. She is passionate about harnessing the energy of & guiding new PDC graduates, social permaculture, and permaculture-inspired life design. You can follow Monique at Monique Eve Miller on Instagram & Facebook. 

Donna Livermore

Donna Livermore is an educator, biologist, permaculture & gardening teacher and community activator. She is passionate about living a life of good health, sustainable abundance and with a strong connection to the environment and local community. Donna has an on-going commitment to school education through her work in sustainability and biodiversity education.

With chickens, worms and a productive food garden in the front yard of her tiny suburban block, Donna is reimagining what it means to live a good life in the city and shares this with others in her local community and through her Instagram page A Good Life in the City.

Ian Lillington

Ian first studied permaculture on a three day intro in England in 1985 and then, while on a contract in Melbourne, met and worked with David Holmgren on a CERES social enterprise project in 1989.

Back in the UK in 1990 , he decided to do a PDC [a 14 day residential with Graham Bell and Nancy Woodhead.  In 1991 he attended at Bill Mollison’s 4 day advanced course in Gloucestershire, and edited Graham’s ‘Permaculture Way’ book and Patrick Whitefield’s ‘Permaculture In a Nutshell’ and was then [early 90s] a contributor to the UK permaculture news.

Much of his permaculture work from 1992-now has been in Victoria and he taught PDCs with David Holmgren and Su Dennett from 1993 to 1996 and at the the Food Forest, Gawler from 1996-2004.  He was also was a guest on early PDCs at CERES around 1994.

In early 2000s’ he wrote The Holistic Life - a book that is an intro to permaculture [now only available as a PDF].   Since 2007 he has been involved in developing and teaching the Castlemaine PDC [on day per week format], now in it’s 15th version and co-teaching with Holmgren/Dennett and Beck Lowe at other central Vic courses.

In 2015-17 he was involved in the Green Education movement via Green School Bali, teaching a PDC there and in Shanghai. He is also a leader with our SE Australia permaculture educators guild, that dovetails with the fledgling IPEN [International Permaculture Educators Network].  

He has also written for PIP magazine and is researching the financial and economic aspects of permaculture. 

Peta Christensen

Peta Christensen has worked in the areas of urban agriculture and community food projects for the past 20 years.  In the early 2000s Peta was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to explore community gardens and markets in low income communities which took her to the USA, Canada, Brazil, Denmark and Cuba. Peta and her family are part of a small community in Fish Creek where they are trying to make their grander permaculture dreams come true.

Ben Habib

Dr. Benjamin Habib is a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. Ben is an internationally published scholar and blogger with research and teaching interests including the political economy of North Korea’s nuclear program, East Asian security, international politics of climate change. He also teaches on global environmental politics, Australian politics and contemporary China.

Ben is a board member of OASES Graduate School in Melbourne and is an Asia Literacy Ambassador for the Asia Education Foundation.  He has worked previously for Flinders University, the University of South Australia, the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, and has spent time teaching English in Dandong, China.  In June 2014, Ben completed a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) at CERES Community Environment Park in Melbourne and is now a contributing facilitator within the CERES PDC program, focusing on the application of permaculture design principles to socio-economic systems.

Ben completed his PhD candidature at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia in 2011, after graduating with a B. Arts (Hons) from Flinders University and a B. Arts from the University of South Australia.  He has also studied at Keimyung University in Daegu, South Korea.

What you will learn

  • Introduction to permaculture ethics, principles and design processes
  • Reading the landscape, patterns in nature and communities, economic systems & reforms, energy use & flows in design and more
  • How to create a permaculture design for an existing site and client

What you will get

  • A selection of expert CERES Trainers providing expert theory and advice on real life applications of permaculture
  • Access to an online portal with resources, resource folder and permaculture texts
  • Classroom theory, practical examples, site visits and weekends away to permaculture properties
  • Whole design course curriculum including rural and urban systems and reading the landscapes of cool temperate south-eastern Australia

What to bring

  • Be prepared for classroom work and work in the field. Field days require you to dress for the weather
  • Appropriate weather gear eg sunhat for site visits and weekend days
  • Pen and paper
  • Dinner for evening classes - fruit, tea and coffee provided.
  • A yearning for learning!

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Refund policy

CERES reserves the right to cancel workshops due to insufficient numbers. If we cancel the workshop you will be entitled to a 100% refund, or you may choose to transfer to another date, subject to availability. If you decide to withdraw 7 or more days prior to the workshop date CERES will retain a 10% administration fee. If you decide to withdraw less than 7 days prior to the workshop date CERES will retain 100% of your workshop fee. Should CERES have to cancel the course due to Government changes relating to the COVD-19 response, we will let you know as soon as possible. Affected participants will be sent notification which includes details on how to re-book another date or workshop. While cancellations on our part remain refundable within the specified time period, we do hope you will consider bearing with us in these precarious and trying times, and consider the rescheduled date where possible.