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Permaculture Design Certificate

NB: We have restructured our education modules to create a FREE Introduction to Permaculture course as a prerequisite to enrolment in the full PDC described below.

To register for the Free Intro to Permaculture course, fill out the form here.


The purpose of this study program is to help the student to develop a broad understanding of values and propositions implicit in contemporary notions of sustainability of human society, and of the various disciplines which inform the sustainability debate. This is achieved through a comprehensive exploration of key concepts and ideas of permanent or sustainable culture. (Permaculture)

The study program will assist the student in developing conceptual tools and techniques necessary to define common environmental and social problems in terms that allow the synthesis of workable solutions. (Design)

Through a series of theoretical and practical modules, the student will become familiar with contemporary approaches to a variety of domestic and organisational design problems in their relevant social and environmental contexts. Primary emphasis is given to the design of management-intensive and therefore information-intensive systems as opposed to work- or input-intensive systems.


1.0 Oeco-Literacy I

State of the Planet

Overview of global oecological crises: deforestation; runaway greenhouse syndrome; biodiversity loss; war, poverty and famine. Explores feminist and queer perspectives of key oecological issues.

Permaculture Ethics

Care of Earth; Care of People; Give Away Surplus


Overview of geo-thermodynamic processes and introduction to nomenclature of climate zones and weather systems.


Introduction to hydrology and the multiple paths water takes through landscapes.


Overview of the bio-geological processes creating soils and the importance of soils as the basis of all oecological systems. Earthworks and processes of earth repair.


Explores the roles and influences of trees in biological systems, as soil builders and climate moderators.

Energy and Food Webs

Introduces the concepts of energy tracking in oecology beginning with energy capture by autotrophs (trees and other plants) through photosynthesis and chemosynthesis, and their energy transactions with heterotrophs (eaters) such as animals and fungi.

2.0 Home Oeconomics I

At Home in the Environment

Explores how households work by examining the habits and energy transactions of domestic groups in traditional and modern societies. Considers models and applications of use in design for a low-energy future.

Costs of Household Activities

Considers households as organisms that eat, metabolise food and excrete waste.  Energetic and environmental costs and opportunities involved in keeping these systems alive.

Heating and Cooling

Overview of available technologies and their respective costs and benefits.

Hot Water

Overview of available technologies and their respective costs and benefits.


Oecological costs and opportunities represented by food production under various agri/cultural models.

Living Lightly

Synthesises the insights generated in the previous sections and provides a prioritised checklist of steps towards domestic conservation and self-reliance.

3.0 Compost & Soil Building I

A Sense of Humus

An introduction to the dark art of composting.

Aerobic vs Anaerobic

Composting organisms can be broadly divided into those that prefer aerobic or oxygen-rich conditions in the compost, and those that thrive in an oxygen-poor or anaerobic environment, such as underwater or in waterlogged conditions.

Hot and Cold Composting

Thermophilic (heat-loving) bacteria are easily harnessed for composting organic waste.

Sheet Composting

In forests we often find a thin layer of decomposing plant material (leaf litter) spread out across the forest floor.


Vermicomposting, the use of annelid worms to compost and convert organic waste into valuable organic fertiliser, can be applied on a small- or large-scale and is a potentially lucrative industry as well as a way of decentralising waste disposal and reducing reliance on industrial food-supply-chains.

Biomimicry and Bio-utilisation

In our perennial polycultures (food forests) we attempt to imitate a forest, and route all organic matter through the soil as a way of sorting and storing the various compounds that we routinely produce as wastes in a minimal, environmentally frugal way of life.


When our internal ecologies are healthy, we are healthy and our waste can be safely assimilated by specialised microbiological communities which we cultivate in our composting toilets and (hopefully) other bodily-waste disposal systems, and re-routed back to the gardens and food forests that support us.


Nitrogen in green, sappy plant material, urine and fresh manure is rapidly lost through oxidation to air or leaching to groundwater if not utilised by metabolic (microbial, i.e. composting) processes at or near the soil surface.


The student will demonstrate basic understanding of soil processes and the oecological functions of soil by documenting the construction of a compost system to process domestic organic waste. The system can be meso-thermophilic (such as a worm farm) or thermophilic (hot or aerobic compost) but must utilise only found or salvaged materials.

4.0 Patterning & Design I

Patterns in Nature

The study of patterns and their applications is an essential component of a permaculture designer’s training.


Symmetry is a commonly encountered perceptual and mathematical property of objects and events.

Curves and Geometry

It is often said that nature abhors a straight line, however it might be more accurate to say that lines (curves) in nature are only ever approximately straight at certain scales.


Spirals in nature can be found in the webs of the master weaver spiders and in the growth pattern of many plants and animals including the shells of some univalve molluscs.


From the Latin tesserae (tiles), tessellation describes the property of some geometrical objects and constructs that fit together like jigsaw puzzle pieces or tiles in a mosaic.


Dendromorphs, or tree shapes, are very commonly seen in nature in gully systems and other drainage patterns, vascular and neural networks, conceptually in decision trees and other stochastic patterns as well as, of course, in trees.

Landscape Interpretation

Explores patterns in nature, reviews nomenclatures proposed by various key permaculture researchers/designers. Outlines landscape “reading” techniques and modes adapted from various traditional and contemporary natural resource management systems.

Permaculture Design Tools

Zone and sector analysis, geographic information systems, functional placement of system components and multiple use.

5.0 Oeco-Literacy II

Science, Reductionism and the Future of Knowledge

A crash course in epistemology (the study of ways of knowing).  Examines the modes of thinking which have contributed to our great evolutionary success and greatest historical failure.

Genes, Memes and Oecosystems

Genetics and its influence on modern science, culture and oecology.

Communities, Guilds and Niches

A look at the fundamental building blocks of tomorrow’s oecosystems.

6.0 Home Oeconomics II

Architecture and Aiki-tecture

Living in a machine - epistemological and ideological influences on the built environment.

Usefulness vs Busy-ness

An examination of the concept of “right-livelihood” and how it relates to contemporary models and ethics of business.

Scarcity and Oeconomics

Considers popular paradigms of economics and their contribution to our current oecological crises.

7.0 Compost & Soil Building II


The student will demonstrate their understanding of the primacy of soils in all living systems by developing a soil building strategy for a particular site of their choice.  The student must focus on long-term, non-technological solutions for creating soil and must also establish independent systems capable of functioning without human input.

8.0 Patterning & Design II

Principles of Permaculture Design

Summarises principles used by permaculturists and other sensible people to reduce ecological impacts of their activities and sustain yields of useful resources.

Invisible Structures of Permaculture

Investigates alternative economic strategies and technologies to promote sustainable, peaceful, global communities.

9.0 Internship / Project (special credit module)

The student must undertake a design project either on their own property or as an intern at an approved Permaculture education facility.  Certificates are issued upon assessment of final project design report.

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