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What happens in a PRI Sunshine Coast PDC course?

An overview of what we do during our Permaculture Design Certificate course here at PRI “Maungaraeeda”, Sunshine Coast.

On the 26th of January we started another Permaculture Design Certificate course here at the Permaculture Research Institute Sunshine Coast. This article is to give you more of an idea how our PDC is run and what we do.

We ask all students to arrive the afternoon before the start of the PDC course, so they can set up their campsite and settle in. Students are then invited to eat dinner with us that night. We go through some logistics on the night, and people can have a chance to get to know each other and us a bit. The group is divided into smaller groups and they are shown the list of jobs that need to be done every day. This means that one group for example is on dishes for breakfast and lunch, another group needs to sweep the common areas and light the fire to heat the water for showers etc. Students enjoy being part of the routines of the property and they find the jobs a bonding experience, which usually breaks the ice very quickly.


Volunteers and students at breakfast

The first morning of the course everyone gets introduced to common routines they can be involved in. They can get up early in the morning and be involved in feeding and looking after the animals, cutting forage, watering the nursery and other jobs that need doing before breakfast. These are not compulsory by any means, but they give students an opportunity to learn as much as possible during their time with us. Animal routines start at around 6am, which is then followed by breakfast at 7.30am. For breakfast Zaia prepares dishes like scrambled eggs, garden greens, grilled tomatoes and zucchini, homemade nut bread and homemade butter and mayonnaise; a berry, banana and paw paw crumble (crumble is made with nuts); sausages with pumpkin and kale, garlic mushrooms, baked madagascar beans, homemade cheese, nut loaf and mayonnaise and other wholesome whole food dishes (for recipes see


In the classroom at PRI Sunshine Coast’s Permaculture Design Certificate course

After breakfast students do their jobs, then class starts at 8.30. On the first day everyone gets introduced to each other and where everyone comes from, then Tom starts teaching the course, which goes through the chapters of Bill Mollison’s Permaculture Designer’s Manual, and sets it out in an easy to understand format. Morning tea gets brought into the teaching space at 10.30am and consists of cakes like hazelnut and chocolate, chai spice and sultana, nut and honey slice, jaffa (orange and chocolate) and many more varieties, all catered towards gluten free, vegan and paleo diets, but even those without dietary requirements love them!


A different cake every day for the Permaculture Design Certificate students at PRI Sunshine Coast


PRI Sunshine Coast serves whole food meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with scrumptious cakes for morning tea

The course continues until lunch time at 12.30pm (with dishes like butter chicken, curried pumpkin with cauliflower rice; frittata with ratatouille and salad; roast beef with mash and steamed veg etc), after which a number of jobs are done again before class. Afternoon tea break is fresh fruit at 3.30pm, then class finishes at 5.30pm. Dinner is at 6.30pm. Dinner is reasonably light, like thai fish or other soups; roast vegetables or vegie bakes. After dinner on some nights, there will be a movie to watch which is relative to the material dealt with that day.


As part of the PDC, students make an 18 day hot compost


Students learn to survey during the Permaculture Design Certificate course at PRI Sunshine Coast

During the course, students get to move the chook tractor and plant out the prepared patch for a food forest, make an 18 day hot compost (and turn it regularly), survey contour lines and do a tour of the Permaculture Demonstration Site. Our site has alternative energy systems (biogas, solar, wood water heaters etc), animal systems (goats, chickens, geese, cows, dogs), food growing systems (vegetable gardens and food forestry), water management systems (swales, dams, water tanks, grey water systems etc) and many more permaculture systems which are all seen in action. We actively encourage people to get involved with as many things as possible on the property outside course hours, so they can get an idea of a permaculture farm in action.


PDC students work on their design for their Permaculture Design Certificate

In the second week of the course, students get to work on a design for a property they are shown, with a brief about the needs of the owners. They are divided up into groups of 3 or 4 and on the last day they present their design to Tom and the rest of the group. After their successful presentations they get presented with their certificates. A special end of course dinner is prepared for that night (that’s a surprise!!) with an even more special dessert. After dessert there is a little party to close off the course.


PDC students are keen to do practical jobs outside class hours at PRI Sunshine Coast

We have found that most of our PDC groups form a wonderful bond with each other, they create facebook groups and stay in touch, asking for support with permaculture projects and share their experiences. The atmosphere is always positive and supportive. Students here enjoy that they can experience life on a Permaculture farm whilst they are studying the principles and methods underlying what they see in practice. Students and volunteers integrate well, and everyone feels part of our little community. If you would like to see comments from previous students, please go to the feedback page.

We always enjoy having these wonderful PDC groups on the property, and we would like to thank our PDC students for their positive energy. If you have any further questions about our PDC or any other courses we run, please contact Zaia on info [at] (replace [at] with @ in the email address).


Group photo of one of our wonderful groups of PDC students!

©2015 Permaculture Research Institute Sunshine Coast – What happens in a Permaculture Research Institute Sunshine Coast Permaculture Design Certificate course

Zaia Kendall

Zaia grew up in a family of musicians in Holland, and has a background in top sport and web development and design. She co-founded the PRI Luganville and PRI Sunshine Coast Inc with Tom, and runs all the background stuff, like finances, business administration, website design and maintenance, writes articles, records and edits videos and also organises the cooking and the kitchen on site. She has been researching and studying nutrition and health for 20+ years, has a certificate in Nutrition and continues to study by research, reading and daily observation. She is a certified member of the International Institute of Complementary Therapists and is a holistic food, health and lifestyle coach. She is also an active member of several musical projects and bands, involved in community music and runs occasional percussion workshops. Visit Zaia's website at DIY Food and Health.

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