The Youth Permaculture Challenge – Educating NSW, Australia

Editor’s Note: A recent post gave us a good look at where permaculture stands in education today in Australia. In short, there’s a lot of work to do yet…. The effort outlined in this post, however, is a very positive step in the right direction. I put it up both to encourage the organisers, but also to give inspiration to the rest of you — for what you could try in your own region.

There are many ways to address a sustainable future for our region, Byron Shire, NSW, Australia. The youth Permaculture Challenge aims to do exactly that.

The Youth Permaculture Challenge (YPC) will engage 15-17 year olds who may have an interest in or passion for a sustainable future.

It will provide an opportunity for up to 50 youth to reconnect with the power of nature, learn the principles of permaculture and investigate future pathways in the 2nd fastest growing industry in Australia.

We have secured significant funding to create this program in collaboration with our youth, our schools and our community.

The program provides tangible life-skills in communication, leadership, food production, permaculture and self sufficiency and a Statement of Attainment towards a Certificate II in permaculture.

The Permaculture Youth Challenge is a collaboration between:

Program Overview

This skills based dynamic package takes students through 4 phases:

Phase 1 Wilderness Immersion

We begin with a compelling two day journey. Through a series of trekking, kayaking and camping activities in the wilderness, participants are led through a succession of team and individual challenges to build their confidence, commitment, assertiveness, communication skills, initiative and leadership.

Phase 2 Permaculture Certification

Students work towards a Statement of Attainment covering units from the Certificate II in permaculture. Accredited Permaculture Training is a nationally accredited vocational training pathway leading to opportunities in further training and employment in primary production, horticulture and sustainability services. The units that make up the Statement of Attainment are experiential. The hands-on components are also designed to develop initiative, collaborative decision making and teamwork capability.

Phase 3 The Permablitz Challenge

The project culminates in two site transformations, which not only serve as a permanent community reminder of the youth learning in action, but importantly provides ongoing nourishing, organic, healthy food for the community from these two sites.

In consultation with the community, students will select two high-profile sites around the region and will work in two teams to showcase the skills they have acquired to date. Interaction with the community will engage students in a range of communication skills: inter-personal, phone and email communications to achieve their outcomes. They will be mentored in communication protocol, project management and facilitation to work together for this end.

The project will be covered by both regional and state media and filmed using digital media by the students themselves for distribution across social networking sites. (Facebook etc.)

The Permaculture Challenge in local news

Why is this project needed?

Byron Council’s Social Plan 04/09 identifies that the Shire has a proportionally higher population of 10-19 year olds (7.1% compared to 6.7% NSW average) and significantly higher unemployment rates: 11% compared to 5.6% NSW average)

It calls for “the development of a network of tutors / mentors who can support young people and students to achieve set goals" and addresses the need for “an increase in training and further education opportunities, employment opportunities and accessible, affordable activities”.

"Organic farming is in the top two growth industries in Australia and has experienced growth of 14.8% from 2009. Employment in the industry is expected to grow by 2.6%.” (IBISWorld, 2009) While the Australian Government is investing $2.5 billion in Trade Training Centres in Schools program. We are providing a low cost, accessible alternative — providing skills and qualifications in this growth industry for youth in the region.


This program creates a group of young leaders who have a positive influence on their peers and have generated relationships at multiple levels of our community – local council, community organisations, local business, citizens and neighbours. This builds youth empowerment, inter-generational cohesiveness and community good will.

We see this project as a significant step in the transformation of our disengaged rural youth culture towards a proactive, creative and engaged youth culture.

The Youth Permaculture Challenge makes permaculture fun and cool, and changes the image of agriculture and horticulture in this rural area among the target group and their peers, creating a new generation of keen environmentalists and food growers. The acquisition of these skills are fresh and current and provide a much needed skill base for a region moving rapidly towards self-sufficiency and local food production.

This project in all its facets supports a growing trend locally and in fact worldwide for sustainability. Our students will be empowered to engage with the increasing employment opportunities associated with industries and enterprises that adopt these practices.

Download the brochure for more information (270kb PDF).

One Comment

  1. I applaud the notion of providing this opportunity to youth.
    I am not sure of the aspects of the statement of attainment towards a cert 2 in Permaculture – what’s that about?
    I like that the overall project will give very real skills to the youth. Well done.

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